Ryan Davis

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Ryan Davis was perhaps one of the greatest games journalists ever in the short history of that profession. Up until his sad passing on the 3rd of July at 34, he was one of the lead minds behind Giant Bomb, one of the most different yet most informative websites on the internet about video games. It was a website that pushed out new and funny content daily and helped to revolutionise coverage of events like E3 with their live podcasts that brought together a true meeting of minds with all sorts of games industry people chatting about everything they could think of. Giant Bomb also led the way with their live shows inviting us to sit down and watch them play their way through some of the newest games once or twice a week. We laughed alongside them at terrible games or terrible play. Although each and every staffer played their part, Ryan was the forefront, the MC of MCs who helped to direct and push on the rest of the staff to make the best video content you can find on the web.

I first encountered Ryan back in the days of Gamespot. Even before his appearances on the Hot Spot podcast where he truly shined, he was a truly talented writer that made even some of the worst games still interesting to read about. He was someone who I looked up to as a style I wanted to be like and although his skills didn’t quite rub off on me, Ryan made games writing interesting and exciting. Alongside his partner in crime Jeff Gerstmann he made all of the various projects he did within Gamespot, from the podcast and On The Spot to some of the unusual stuff like Time Trotters, superb. When Jeff was sadly let go due to a variety of reasons, I was saddened. But seeing a group of people including Ryan leave alongside him to various other things raised my heart a little bit. Then seeing Jeff and Ryan go off to make Arrow Pointing Down (now a host for some of his many in jokes formed over the course of the many podcasts) raised my heart even more.

But in 2008 (as I started Sixth Form), they made Giant Bomb alongside some of the other standout people from Gamespot like Brad Shoemaker and Vinny Caravella as well as other great guys like Patrick Klepek, Dave Snider and . Giant Bomb became a rock in the middle of the hard times of Sixth Form. Many a revision session echoed to the sound of their voices every week talking about games and other things (primarily other things) and their video content was second to none. Quick looks became my window into gaming at a time I was having to curb my own to get on with the work.

Giant Bomb is one of the few sites I pay money for each year and this is only because of the talent of everyone involved. And although i have never met any of them face to face, the thousands of hours of video and audio helped to make me feel like I know them even a tiny bit. So hearing one of them die at such a young age and at such a tragic time (only a week after his wedding) feels like a bit of my soul has been torn out. I know if this is how I feel, as someone who only barely knew Ryan, his friends and family must be even more torn up. My thoughts are with them.

I didn’t say much in the car on the way home from work. I just sat and thought back on all the good times we, the gaming community and the world, have had with Ryan over the years. I’m going to miss him on the podcasts, on the live shows even just on twitter or live streaming his journeys into work like he used to do. I hope we can celebrate his life and remember all the things he has given us over the years.

Going to miss you Ryan.

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My Gaming History


In the process of writing my Longbow 2 review , I started to think back on the games that really made me the gamer/person I am. It may sound really nostalgic and like I’m old or something but as a historian once said “its in the past where we find the future”. So what the hell! Might as well delve back in time!

First things first – my first console was the PS2 and I have never owned a handheld console. Once you have got over the shock let me explain – all my gaming influences were from PC users.

I Blame The Grandparents

I may blame my Uncle Mike in my Longbow 2 review for my gaming habbit, but the facilitator came in the shape of my Granddad. For as long as I remember, there have always been two PCs in my grandparents house, one for their business and the other for keeping the grandkids quiet when the British weather decided to wreck any plans for playing in the garden. This machine was a gateway, which led me to play bad clones of breakout and missile command. As time passed, my grandparents then decided to attempt to use the PC to actually teach us something by using Aidi, Gizmos and Gadgets and a typing teacher that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of. These games held our attention for a while but I hated them, instead playing the Flight Simulator games my Granddad bought over and over again. One Christmas he got a Sidewinder Force Feedback joystick which changed everything. Gone was the waggly stick I’d used up until this point, now we had a joystick that bloody hurt when you dropped it. I soon go hold of it and used it every week to play such classics as Microsoft’s Combat Flight Simulator and Mechwarrior 3.

“Hmm, Medicinal Herbs”

At home the story was very different. For most of my life up until my last year of primary school, I was playing games on a laptop with a 4 MB graphics card which my Dad had got from his work. It was alright, though it struggled with a load of different things. At this point, my games at home were ones my Uncle showed me, such as Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (review coming soon) and Longbow 2. My Dad, who still plays games, played through most of Indy and to this day still says lines from it. Longbow 2 on the other hand was what I played for most of my time on that PC. That is until 2001 where my attention swiftly changed to my first foray into Strategy gaming – Microsoft’s Close Combat series starting with the best, A Bridge Too Far.

“We’re Under Heavy Fire!”

Close Combat was the first time my mind had to actually work hard at. In Longbow 2 I’d flown around shooting people. In flight simulators I’d simply go full throttle and crash into things. In Bridge Too Far, I had to start thinking about the grand scheme of things. I had to lead a collection of guys through an entire campaign full of death. This game also introduced me to several key gaming laws:

  1. Flamethrowers are awesome –The Churchill Crocodile was king
  2. British dialogue is always bad – Bad but hilarious
  3. German tanks are bleeding terrifying
  4. It it goes boom, all is good – Churchill AVRE was also the king

I also got the sequel which threw out the Western Front and took me to Russia. This was the first time I learnt anything about the Eastern Front and all the battles like Kursk and Stalingrad. Most of my early interest in history comes from these two games -  thus leading to a lifetime of being known as a historical war nerd. But hey, I known all about World War 2, do you?

A Tiny PC – A Big Break

In my first year at high school, my Grandparents decided to upgrade to Windows XP and so bought themselves a new PC from Tiny, the worst possible name for a PC manufacturer. As part of this came a game pack, which always worries me when manufacturers throw this stuff in. The pack was a little bit generic with games like Pacman, Sonic, a random Sega collection, Lemmings and two other games I played the hell out of. The first was Gunlok, a rather unusual sci-fi rpg which I have fond memories of getting nowhere in it despite spending hours on it. The other was slightly more effective in entertaining me. This was a buggy and grimy mess of an RTS called Earth 2150 but I still loved it. Being young, I ignored the plot and simply skirmished and made maps. I always played Eurasian Dynasty, the closest to modern troops available with tanks and helicopters as opposed to walkers or hovercraft. And I always pimped out my vehicles with as many upgrades as possible. The beginnings of my military tactics I’ve used in games from Command and Conquer to Company of Heroes all start from this game.

Sleep? We Don’t Need No Sleep

Now we come to more modern times and my first real experience of online gaming and sleep exhaustion. At this point I was still on the crappy laptop although the family had bought a Dell desktop which sat downstairs. And yes, following the “Michael-and-new-PC Syndrome (which says that within seconds of touching a new PC I’ll stick some games on it), I slapped on two multiplayer shooters America’s Army and Wolfenstien Enemy Territory. Enemy Territory lead me down a dangerous road of getting up in the middle of the night to play it online with the Yanks while my parents slept. I was never caught despite spending hours on it but America’s Army was the game that led me to getting a PC of my own. As an aside, I also played the first IL2 game on this PC thanks to a friend of mine buying it for my birthday. This was the first of a series of games that absorbed my life for several years spent flying over the steppes of Russia

A PC for Me? There goes Half my Life!

So at this point I got my own PC. And around this time I also got my hands on three games that introduced me to some of the key things of PC gaming. The first was Half Life 2 which my friend lent me before we realised it had a one use key. This game first led me to use Steam, which is now home to most of my games. It also made me a life long fan of Valve and made me go back to play their older games while also buying every single one of their games going into the future. Half Life 2 brought me into the new generation of games, and was the first I actually critically analysed in frantic discussions written during school lunchtimes on various forums. I still maintain that Ravenholm was scary as hell and that puzzles were some of the best, despite both these opinions being formed in around 2006

I’ve never been the most social or creative of people but at this point gaming helped to bring me out of my shell slightly. I joined up to a Battlefield 2 clan called EAU, who was formed from various teenagers in the UK and USA. I felt right at home. We each became good friends constantly on Teamspeak or playing BF2 on our own server. We jumped into Project Reality when it was released and loved it. It was one of the best times of my life, spending a summer with a group of fun and talented people who made me my first sig (see above). However, I eventually left to get on with my life yet I still remain in contact with a few to this day even playing Bad Company 2 with them. One of the reasons I left was another side project which was testing for the Steel Legion mod for DoW. I am still genuinely proud of my time spent with that mod. I loved playing it, balancing it out and sending off reports to the mod leaders. Even  now when I find my emails about it in my inbox or see the mod online I sit back and smile to myself with the pride of having helped to make something that good. I keep the banner below in my pictures with pride. This was also the first of many beta tests I took part in which included games like Battlefield 2142 and programs like Office 2007, Vista and Windows 7.

Up until this point I have hardly mentioned the other consoles. This is because I only played them at friend’s houses, never seeing the use because of my trusted PC. However, I eventually asked for a PS2 due to all the peer pressure but mainly because I wanted something else to play. This brought me into contact with Jak and Daxter, which is a game I love to this day. But more importantly it brought out 007 Nightfire and MoH Rising Sun, both games that played a key part in my childhood, my cousin’s opinion of me and the focal point of my birthday parties which consisted of games, pizza and films till late in the night. Some of my happiest memories come from that black box. But more importantly it bought my Dad back into gaming – many a time I’d come home from school to find him on his lunch break playing through Harry Potter or the later Jak games. It added something else we could talk about or do together. We always took it on holiday to the various part of the British isles (I hardly ever went abroad but that’s a different story) as insurance against the weather. My main memory of the PS2 was in a house on the coast of the isle of Skye – playing Indiana Jones while looking out the window as the seals flopped onto the beach literally feet from the patio door. Gaming has brought beautiful moments to my life.

There are other more recent stories to tell, like how Call of Duty 4 made a brilliant birthday or how I came to play MMOs but they are other stories to be told in the future. I hope this article has illuminated just where my gaming life comes from and how my family and friends brought me into this hobby. Oh and also why I still buy games on PC despite having an Xbox.


Press Tickets and Eurogamer Expo Leeds

Is anyone on this site going to the Eurogamer Expo in Leeds on October 27th and 28th? Just wondering as I'm going to it and wondered if anyone is intrested in a meet up.
Another thing about it is that I've got press tickets for both days for free based on my site http://hntdaab.co.uk/blog . Do blogs really class as press?


Wanted: Contributers!

As some of you may know, I run a games review over at http://blog.hntdaab.co.uk. At the moment its running fine, but its a bit monotous being the only one who writes on there almost constantly.
Thats were you lot come in. I am looking for more articles on games, be they reviews, previews or opinions. If your intrested drop me a line at blog@hntdaab.co.uk . If me and the team all like it then it will be posted up and you'll be given a contributor profile and the chance for free stuff


“This is Team Razor – The LZ is potentially still hot”

(This is a retelling of a Teamwork Comes First ([TCF]) Op I took part in earlier today (28/06/09). It should be pointed out this was from the viewpoint of a forward special forces unit so some of this report may not be accurate. Any TCF members, feel free to correct me. Also pics were not taken by me. This will not be the case next time)

This was the first mission by the Marines in this area of Chernaus. Two fireteams (supported by transport helicopters) and elements of Team Razor had be ordered to capture a village in the central area. In addition, they had an optional objective to eliminate an insurgent motor pool, to prevent a possible counter attack. The two fire teams would arrive via a UH-1 Venom into an LZ that had been cleared by Team Razor. Then one group would break off to attack the motor pool and the other would get to a meeting point and prepare for an attack on the village.

Team Razor were already in the LZ, and had supplies including a US launchers equipment box. TR2 (Team Razor 2) collected a SMAW and then the combined group set out to sweep and are. And here we encountered a problem. The LZ was a mixture of thick woodland and open grass areas. Insurgents were scattered throughout the area. For all we know, a whole platoon of the bastards could be behind the scattered houses close to the road. So we set off up the hill. Suddenly, we spotted a ghillie suited figure out in the open. Dropping to our bellies, me and TR2 waited before engaging making sure he hadn’t spotted us. After dropping him, we carried on. Until a crack rang out across the valley. Hitting the deck and turning, I looked for my squad mate. I couldn’t see him. Next thing I knew, a sniper round had ripped my head open.

Respawing, I met up with my squad to attempt to retry our clearing op. Before we could continue though, the Venom swooped over our head, obviously on a landing run. I reported the situation into all the fire team commanders and the pilot. “This is Team Razor – The LZ is potentially still hot”. Everyone took it in their stride – there were no cries about Razor’s failure. The first fireteam moved out of the LZ, while the helo returned to bring the second fire team in. Razor met up with the 1st FT before advancing towards a meeting point, near an electrical substation. However, before we could get there fully, the damn snipers opened up on us forcing us to attempt to fight back. Unfortunately, I was trying to spot the snipers and so grabbed a bullet with my forehead. Again, respawn.

Finally, we get to the meeting point. Worryingly, the area was covered in US marine dead. However I managed to meet up with my buddy and we set off to recon the objective. Over the radio we heard the second fireteam had eliminated the motorpool. Some technicals had escaped, but US firepower forced them back. We came close to the village and into a pitched gun battle. At this point, due to a lack of communication, I accidentally shot my team mate, confusing him with the local insurgents scattered amongst the tree. After meeting up again, we reached the south side of the village. The rest of the group was scattered, with fire teams intermixed, but at least we were on top of the objective. After fighting the insurgents out, we captured the centre of the village. Then a radio message appeared.

An armoured column of T-72s tanks and BRDM armoured cars had heard the gun battle and so had come to push us back. Both fireteams grabbed all the AT ammo they good. Most troopers picked up RPGs and disposable AT-4s. Me and TR2 had found ourselves in the possession of a Javelin AT missile and a SMAW, the beefed up tank killing weapons. We sat and waited. Unfortunately, I was killed again by a sniper in the woods. So I had to trek back to the village. Thankfully, a Blackhawk managed to pick me up, meaning less walking time. From it we started to attempt to workout where the enemy armour would arrive from. I exited the vehicle before we spotted them and took up my position in the back garden of a cottage.

The Blackhawk pilot suddenly saw the armour moving along the southern road. Before he could exit the area, a MG burst ripped off the rear rotor, forcing him to crash into the grass near the orginial LZ. This distraction revealed their position. As one, everyone’s AT weapons turned towards the road. They crept over the top of the hill and started towards the village. Our commander was on the radio saying “wait, wait, let them get closer… FIRE”. My Javelin fired and flew towards the lead tank. It hit, lighting it up. Seen as my only round had been fired, I bade a hasty retreat. TR2 attempted to fire at another tank with his SMAW, but was cut down. Intending to administer first aid or at least take the AT weapon, I ran out to him. Realising he was dead, I took the SMAW and turned around. A T-72 had edged round the corner and was rotating its turret. I didn’t even have enough time to aim before it’s main gun ripped me to pieces. When I respawned I was too far away from the fight to be effective. Judging by the leaders chat I could hear, we almost were overrun. But we held off, knocking out all the T-72s. By the time I got the the village, I had picked up an AT-4, hoping to be useful. But the other teams had knocked out all the BRDMs apart from one, whose crew had bailed out. Seen as nearly no one else had an AT device, I asked permission to destroy the last BRDM as it was to damaged to be useful despite our downed pilots best effort. Having been granted permission, I made sure the area was clear. Once it was, I pulled the trigger. The rocket flew and exploded. At first I thought I’d missed. But then a dull crump, followed by and explosion ripped it apart. Mission Accomplished.

(This is the first part of a campaign we are running at TCF with mission being made by Chargat and/or Cheditor. I intend fully to continue relating our tales of military brilliance and incompetence each week)

Original Post at http://hntdaab.co.uk/blog


A Beginner's Guide to ARMA 2

I love realistic military games (as you might have guessed) and have converted a few people to buying ARMA 2 (see impressions here)

Now if you try to play ARMA 2 like COD or something similar you will die. Very quickly.Instead, you should think of yourself slightly differently. Here’s a few pointers:

  1. You are not God. It takes a single bullet to kill you. Now don’t say “headshot kill in one in COD!” to me. In ARMA 2, one shot to a vital organ and you are on the ground, bleeding. A round in the head or lungs, and you can kiss the idea of completing a mission goodbye.
  2. Guns are not your friends. In other games, bullets fly exactly where you want them to. In ARMA, bullets act like real bullets. Expect them to drop slightly when fired and at long range be affected by the wind and eventually the coralis effect (ask MacMillian about that)
  3. Don’t be a lone wolf. Unless the mission forces you to be, you need to follow your squad leaders commands. Act together with your squad members, and you will be fine. Well fine-ish
  4. Be smart not stupid. If your hid behind a wall and thinking of running towards a haystack, think about what you are doing. If there is a MG spraying the wall above you, don’t stand up.
  5. Learn how to play before going online. Go messing around in the editor with all the different peices of kit, especially personal weapons. Learn how to shoot assault rifles through iron sights and reflex sights. Also learn how to snipe (its a bit harder than in COD) and use AT weapons to knock out vehicles at 300m. Once this is done, you can easiler jump in a game.
  6. Use VOIP. Anyone who has played in clans in COD games will know about how useful this is. ARMA has VOIP built in. Its easier to shout “SNIPER” than to frantically use the crap ARMA interface
  7. Lean!!! If your in cover, use the oft-ignored lean keys. Rather than sticking your entire body out, just put your gun out
  8. Vehicles without infantry support die. Wait for infantry if in a tank or provide support to the angry houses
  9. Read this full guide. Some points are not useful (like those about ACES  2), but most of it is brilliant

I intend to do some more on this guide at some point, but this is a good introduction for anyone coming onto ARMA 2 from other FPS games


ARMA 2: First Impressions

Like Armed Assault. But better.

Oh so you want more details, as opposed to a single line? Okay then. ARMA 2 is the sequel to Armed Assault, a milsim released in 2007, which in turn is based upon Operation Flashpoint released in 2001. These games are all very realistic games based off the programs currently being used to train both the US and British militaries. We have mentioned this series previously. Well today my copy of ARMA 2 turned up in the post.

After managing to almost knock myself out with the rest of the post, I rushed back upstairs and ripped it open. First thing that struck me was the weight of the game. Its actually quite heavy due to the extra thick manual. While not to the standard of Civ 4’s table top horror, it is still quite large. And it needs to be. ARMA 2 is still as complex as the other games.

Once its installed (DRM is simply a keycode the way it should be), the game has a lot of content to play with. As well as the free form campaign, there are 9 single missions. And on top of this, there is a quick mission builder and a more in depth full editor. And then there is multiplayer and the Armoury feature. So far, I’ve tried some of the campaign, quite a few quick missions, an  in depth look at the editor and a tiny look online.

First up the campaign. The first mission is pretty good and shows off the rest of the campaign well. The situations are a lot more realistic than those in ARMA and also more realistic than COD 4.  It is a lot more enjoyable than the first campaign. The quick missions now include a new mode called “Combat”. This simply drops you in Chernarus (the setting of the game based on part of the Czech Republic) and then feeds you mission like rescuing downed airman or destroying key targets. Its a nice idea, but it can show up the flaws in AI system. Or more likely you have to run a couple of miles to get to an objective only to find it has been captured by a bunch of local bastards who then proceed to shoot you. However, due to its randomness its a gift that keeps on giving. The full editor has had a few updates but the best thing is the introduction of the “Ambient” game logics. This makes it ridiculously easy to add civilians, animals, parked vehicles and even full blown warfare by adding a single item. Also of interest is how the factions are split up: BLUFOR (US Marine Corp and CDF), OPFOR (Russia and Insurgents) and Independent (Guerrilla). Finally, online. The ideas behind it seem really good and with 50 players it would be brilliant. But there are some flaws. First is the lack of players. Admittedly, I am playing before European and American release dates (its currently only properly released in Germany (the home of insane PC gamers)), bu there are hardly any players. And even worse they are spread out on too many servers leaving most servers lagging out while other lie empty. Also the game is setup so players HAVE to forward ports in order to host. For some people this can’t be done. So no co op for us.

As well as overall changes, there are also some gameplay changes. I’ve talked a lot so I’ll do this quickly. Knee high walls are no longer a threat (you can climb over them), injured soldiers can be dragged out of the way or hoisted over your shoulder and the new control system is much improved. Guns sound better, new units look better (the new independent troops are especially good) and the controls are better.

So far, I’m really enjoying ARMA 2. Its a big improvement over ARMA and I’ll be playing it instead of the original from now on. Review should be coming at some point next week.


Podcast: 12/06/09 – Now with Added Guest

Our first podcast back since February and the first podcast to feature someone whose name isn’t on the side bar. Please welcome, Daniel Rivas

We cover:

  • Modern Warfare 2
  • Left 4 Dead 2
  • Crackdown 2
  • Our favourite games from E3
  • Prototype
  • ARMA 2
  • and finally the game we have been playing
(Warning: Spoilers for Fallout 3)

Here it is!

For everyone on GiantBomb, this is a podcast done by my blog at http://hntdaab.co.uk/blog)


Soapbox: The best stories are those not written

I have a problem with stories in games. Primarily because the vast majority are crap or exactly the same as the last 5 million games in that genre. The most popular games in the world lack stories that can compare with a good book or film. And for this reason, we will never have an artistic classic to rival Citizen Kane until developers realise this. Take for example Halo 3. Not the best story in a game, I admit, but its popularity makes it a valid example. It’s story shares many of its aspects with other FPS games (like Half Life 2 and even Doom), that of a person or group of people fighting against overwhelming odds to stop another group of evil people from taking over/destroying/screwing with the world. Its a stock storyline repeated a million times over in games and movies. But whats worse is the lack of connection to it. At the end of Half Life or Halo, I had absolutely no overwhelming emotional reaction. I didn’t care a monkeys if Gordon Freeman had had his brain eaten by a headcrab or if Master Chief was still alive. All it was was a set of levels stringed together with some dialogue (admittedly in some cases great (like the Gman at the very start of Half Life 2)). Even Bioshock, with its mindfuckery, still managed to ruin its own story at the end. Development teams on games need to learn that games require a different form of writing to films and books.

Games are better when the stories haven’t been scripted by the development team. Multiplayer games allow some brilliant experiences and stories that you can share with your friends. Like the time you held out in the farmhouse on Left 4 Dead with everyone only holding pistols or the desperate last defuseal in a game of Sabotage in Call of Duty or even that time in Company of Heroes, where you and your friends created a masterpiece of defensive engineering, only for one of your Allies to drop an artillery round on it by “accident”. These stories are the ones you will tell your friends excitedly the next day, not the story of some singleplayer game unless to compare your opinions on it. Games are a new form of media and so delight in making their own stories. My personal favourite for its story telling ability is the Total War series. The grand campaign allows you to weave a complex web of betrayal, treachery and pure bloody warfare in your own way, rather than following a set path. I could go on about the heroic defence of Texas by the Black Watch in my Empire campaign or weave the unhappy tale of Sir Talbot from my Medieval 2 story and (to be honest) you might actually find  it quite interesting (there isn’t enough time for those tales now, maybe later). Games like Total War (for example Civ 4) conjure up brilliant stories, many of which you went through with your friends. And this makes those stories even better, as you get multiple viewpoints on the same events. The victor and the loser, the man on the frontline and the man above in a plane, the rogue and the warrior. This different viewpoints add an extra layer to everything. One of the best games for this is Left 4 Dead. When the four of you just finish a campaign and sit back in your various chairs afterwards, you’ll be finishing each others sentences about what just occurred. Someone might start up one story about burning the witch with a fuel tank, which leads to someone else reminding everyone how they almost died by the same event which in turn starts a long, drawn out going over of what just happened. Then the next day at school or on a blog, you’ll tell other people who weren’t playing what happened. Comparing this to analysing someones else story, this lasts longer and feels more personal

I’m not saying all games have terrible stories. Classics from the past include Baldur’s Gate or the Sam and Max games. But these stories were back in the ’90’s where story was more important than graphics due to the technology. This decline in the quality of stories matches up with the improvement in technology. As graphics improved, the necessity of having a good story went away, as people were distracted by the pretty pictures on the screen. Recently, one of the most frequent complaints about games is that the stories are weak. This is due to development money being spent more on getting the graphics looking perfect rather than looking at a more important aspect, the story.

Tim Schafer is a genius who knows how important story is. Psychconauts is one of the greatest stories ever told in my opinion. Not only is the basic plot perfectly fine by itself, but Schafer also puts hints and links to the backstory alongside  the game. These are never thrown at you like in other titles, instead they are up to you to find them and look at them in your own way. Cruller appearing in different role? is it just one crazy man? or is it something much darker, maybe his fractured mind or schezophry. Schaffer is someone who knows how to use games to tell a story. Unlike (and this will be controversial) the creator of Metal Gear,Kojima. He creates games with a good (although crazy) story but mostly fail as a game. Someone want to play MGS has to sit through long cutscenes just to get to the action.

So I say this. Development teams of the world, think about how you are telling the story. Don’t throw events at the player. Allow them to savour the world they are in and discover the plot events by themselves. Don’t give us a long exposition at the start. Use the technolgy avalible to lead us through an experience. And then let us make our own and then share them online.


E3: Microsoft Press Conference and Other Things

It was the first day of E3 today and as usual, Microsoft grabbed the first press conference. And I have to say, it was a big improvement over last years E3.

First up was “the Beatles Rock Band” which is coming out on 360 and PS3 this Autumn. After a performance of “Day Tripper” by the Harmonix team, some news was announced about it. First of all they announced a song exclusive to the 360, then confirmed 10 of the 45 songs  and announced Abbey Road would be downloadable for it and then dragged all the remaining Beatles and Yoko Ono on stage to say how much they were excited by this. Excited by the amount of money they will have in their wallets soon no doubt. ( you might have guessed i have no interest in this) Then we moved on to Infinity Ward as they carted out both a trailer and a gameplay demo of Modern Warfare 2. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see this due to the live streams being busted, but by the sounds of it, MW2 will be like more COD4. Which is a good thing. Also they announced the first two pieces of MW2 DLC will be 360 exclusives.

Then they moved onto a demo of Final Fantasy 13 of which i caught the last few seconds. It seems like a final fantasy game, but a lot nicer looking and (hopefully) a bit more playable. Again this is something I have very little interest in, so if you want impressions go look somewhere else. They also confirmed a Spring 2010 release date for it, so it will be released around the same time as the PS3 version. Finally my video showed, allowing me to watch the stream properly, as opposed to crouching over live blogs. Epic Games (makers of the Unreal series and Gears of War) then turned on stage with an exclusive for 360. I first presumed it to be a new GoW but it was infact a new XBLA game called Shadow Complex. It looks like a very Bionic Commando Rearmed style game, being a side scrolling shooter. According to the guy who was narrating (the great Cliffy B wearing a Bill Gates t shirt) the game is based around “Big Guns and Big Bosses”. Looks interesting and also quite pretty. I guess it will be using Unreal Engine 3 which of course makes everything pretty. Immediately afterwards, the presentation continued on, with the announcement of two new 360 exclusives.

The first was Crackdown 2, which was heralded by the agility orb sound from the original. After a brief trailer, showing one of the agents chasing a criminal through the streets, it suddenly mentioned another threat to you, the player and finished the trailer with the sound of a monsters roaring. Possibly the freaks that you freed in the first game have become a danger to the entire city? This trailer was then followed up by one featuring zombies. At first it seemed like a random game. But after a bit the zombie sounds and models seemed familiar. And when a Tank showed up, it left me amazed. Valve are producing Left 4 Dead 2 already! With a new set of survivors and the introduction of melee weapons, as well a different setting (the Deep South) and also a linking story, Left 4 Dead 2 will becoming out in November (around a year after the release of the first one). I think i’ll be keeping my eye on it. At this point, several Ubisoft members arrived on stage to demo the new Splinter Cell Conviction. This looks to be a huge change for the series, making a bit more shooting based than previous entries. For example, the stealth was all about getting in a good position to kill someone rather than avoidance.

Microsoft then announced a new XBLA game called Joyride. By the sound it, Joyride is a Korean style cart racer, free to download and play, but payed for with microtransactions. Based on the success of these in Korea, it might be a big hit over here. Or at least, a nice distraction. From Forza 3, which was finally confirmed after being leaked. By the sounds of it, Forza 3 is a big update, with a focus on the community as well as being better than Gran Turismo.

Halo 3: ODST

Then one of the crazies from Bungie jumped onto stage and started demoing Halo: ODST. It looks a lot like Halo 3, but with silenced weapons and in a much darker setting, surrounded by rubble. Combat looked solid and the idea of using stories from multiple squad members will help to vary the settings rather than just being in a wrecked city. This was then followed up with an announcement of a new halo game, entitled Halo: Reach. Based on the name, its sounds like a prequel to the first Halo game, as Reach is where most of the Spartans getting killed by the Coveant turning the planet’s surface to glass (nice one guys). The only other information was that a multiplayer beta would take place and was open to those who purchased ODST in September, using the same sales grab as Crackdown did with the Halo 3 beta. Just after this, another game was pulled out of the Vapourware pile. Alan Wake appeared, in a playable form and looks quite good. By the look of it, its quite similar to Resident Evil 4 with the controls but depending on light as a weapon against the creature in the dark. Plot seems a bit familar though (Guy starts writing novel and it comes true)

After this, Microsoft announced some updates coming to the 360 Dashboard. Lastfm is going to be integrated into the dash, allowing access to the radio setup and to stream U2 (awesome). Then some Netflix upgrades were detailed for the US users, stuff like being able to add more movies to your list without going onto your pc. And so us UK users won’t go mad, they just properly announced the new Sky feature coming soon. After this, they carried on by talking about the changes to the video marketplace. Video will now be under the Zune marketplace name and will now be avalible almost instantly even in full HD which sounds good on paper, but i think in practise this probably will not work very well due to most peoples internet connection. Additionally, video can now be watched in a party with other XBL users, allowing emotes during playback. This includes the Sky stuff such as the live football.

Facebook on your 360

After this, Felica Day (of the web series The Guild) turned up on stage to announce (in the fake “i don’t care about this but i’m being paid so what the hell” sort of way) that both Facebook and Twitter are being integrated into the dashboard. Facebook will also allow some integration with certain games, starting with Tiger Woods. This allows you to upload scores, info and pictures from inside the game. Which sounds ok. All that we need now is email support on the 360 and i won’t have to turn my PC on in the morning.

Then the moment we were all waiting for. Hideo Kojima appeared stealthily on the stage (complete with MGS sound effect) to announce Metal Gear Rising, a new MGS game rather than just a MGS 4 port. It also appear to be a Raiden game as opposed to one based around Solid Snake, complete with a new tag line. Could be quite interesting with less focus on stealth me thinks.

Natal in Action

At this point, Microsoft unleashed the next part of their Wii-ification of the 360. Codenamed Natal, they announced a motion controller. Don’t panic though, it actually looks a lot better than the  Wii’s wand waving. This is instead 2 cameras and a microphone, placed underneath the TV. This allows you to use the whole body as opposed to just the wrist. Also it can differentiate between multiple people very easily, as shown in a quiz show example in the trailer. The trailer also showed a racing game where one person drives, before pulling into a pit stop where another player actions unscrewing the tires and then putting a new tire on. The microphone allow for voice control on the dashboard, such as selecting a movie. And the trailer also showed them shutting off the console by voice command (probably artistic licence, but if its true its also awesome). After the trailer, one of the design leads came in and ran a demo through some features in realtime. First of all, Natal allows for facial recognition, meaning the 360 can work out who you are and auto login your profile. The dash can then be controlled by swiping you hand to navigate or you can just move around to control your onscreen avatar. Then, and XBLA game that use Natal was used and it actually looked like a proper workout as opposed to the Wii Fit thing. It also seemed very, very accurate. Finally in this section, a drawng game was shown off, with a mixture of both movement and voice commands which looked interesting but not gripping. Before the design lead left, he made a nice dig at the Wii.

And then Peter Molyneux unveiled the thing that will end the world,

Named Milo, the project Molyneux has been working on since the end of Fable 2 development is a quite scary piece of software. Its actual an ingame child that reacts to to you talking to it and is able to react to the way you say something or the way you are standing. It can tell your emotions as well as showing some its own. Its seems to be a way of string together some tech demos, like playing with fish done by waving your hands. It looks interesting, but how much of the demo was preplanned and how much was actual gameplay we are yet to see

And the the conference ended and the stream cut off. But there were other 360 announcements. A remake of the original Monkey Island will be coming to XBLA soon with new high res art and improved voicework, as well as a glut of arcade titles have been announced. The avatar system will be improved with the introduction of both pay for and ingame unlocked avatar clothing and props (like a remote control warthog from ODST).

Overall, Microsoft’s Press Conference was filled with promise. Everything shown was exciting and innovative and establishes the 360 as the console for both the casual and the core. And I just spoke in market speak. Eurrgh. I’m very excited about the next year for the Xbox 360. But where’s my G4WL and Zune information?

Post Originally appeared on http://hntdaab.co.uk/blog

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