Saturday, February 28, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Expect an interview soon that's composed over some of my conversations over the net with Venbrux over the past couple weeks. So, stay tuned with that project for some neat little ideas and check out the rest of his games for some more lengthy and meaningfull enjoyment.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Yes I know, SR2 came out in October. I'm lazy though, and I can't get F.E.A.R. 2 until I return SR2 (or buy it, because I've got a discount deal on Gamefly and quite a bit of gameplay left).
I can't claim this to be a completely objective review, since I have yet to actually finish it, but my conscience is hurting after taking off last week, so I'll just do the best I can.
On first impression, Saints Row 2 is Grand Theft Auto 3.5. After three or four days of gameplay, I feel pretty much the same way. However, while that fact has remained the same, my overall opinion of the game has improved with time. If any of you follow game news and reviews, you'll probably have some idea that SR2 is a bad game, mostly because it has “bad graphics.” Of course most real gamers will have some perspective, and recognize that these “bad graphics” are flabbergasting by the standards of two years ago. Of course they aren't up to GTA4's standards, but I've come to realize that that isn't necessarily a fault. GTA4 suffers from a severe case of “graphical modernization,” as demonstrated by the fact that the game is dark and gritty to the point of being unintelligible. SR2 strikes a nice balance of color while still being realistic. Some of you will be perplexed by that statement, but look at it this way: The world is not entirely made of mud. The sun shines, buildings and water reflect that light, grass is green. Darkness does not necessarily go hand in hand with a lack of clarity. I'm currently sitting in a relatively dark basement, and can still see clearly into the completely dark pool room some distance away. Sure the nights are still dark, but you don't get the same problem with GTA4 where you leave a dark building and the bright sunlight causes your screen to... get darker.
You will also likely have heard that SR2 is chock-full of bugs. Honestly, I never had a problem. Compared to Web of Shadows, the game ran like a dream. Like GTA4, it had the same AI path finding glitch where, upon receiving the order to enter a vehicle, your character decides that an obstacle is in the way of the door, runs around to the other side of the vehicle, and then decides that the other door would have been a better choice after all. Frankly, it happened less often than in GTA4.
My main problem with the game is the control scheme. Being used to GTA4, it took me some time to get used to especially the driving controls. SR2 doesn't do as well with what I suppose I'll call simulated realism as GTA4. I say this because obviously the driving and collisions in GTA4 weren't realistic, but they felt very close, putting aside the fact that you could slide at fifty miles an hour into a telephone pole and emerge unscathed. I at first was irritated by the driving system in SR2, but I've since gotten used to it and realized that, while simpler, it can be just as effective. Furthermore, each vehicle has a more individual feel than in GTA4. There is a much wider gap between the good cars and the bad ones, and you'll find that you'll soon start choosing which vehicles to jack based on something more substantial than the paint job.
On a related note, the customization is in all ways an improvement over GTA4, and not only because of the fact that there was none in the latter. Of course there is in the beginning a character customization screen, allowing you to choose from different skin colors, genders, body types, weights, voices, movement styles, combat styles, insults and compliments. Once in game, you can further customize your character and add to your “style value” by buying clothes, jewelry and tattoos. Also, there are a number of cribs to purchase. Some are just for vehicles, such as docks and one airport hanger. Other cribs can be customized with beds, bigger TVs, and decorations. All of these things add to your style value, which gives you a respect bonus upon completing activities.
I realize that this is in a rather illogical order, but it fits together in my head, so I'll continue.
The aforementioned respect system is used to unlock missions. Each time you want to play a campaign mission or a stronghold (side missions used to kick gangs out of certain areas), you have to spend one respect bar. The respect bar is filled by performing stunts in driving and combat (two wheels, near miss, gang kill, slice n dice, etc.) which are ranked based on the duration of the stunt with one to three stars in either bronze, silver or gold. For instance, spending some time driving in the left lane will give you a bronze star in the opposing lane stunt, and staying there longer will add another star, and then a third, and then one silver star. Similarly, killing an enemy while holding a human shield will give you a bronze star in shield kill, and each subsequent kill within the time frame will add another. More stars means more respect.
The better way to gain respect is through activities, however, and this is where SR2 shows its true stripes. What really makes it an improvement over GTA4 is that it doesn't try to take itself seriously. This manifests itself in a more interesting plot, more colorful characters (both literally and figuratively) and most importantly, truly absurd activities. These include Septic Avenger, which calls for the character to devalue property by spraying sewage on houses, Insurance Fraud, which involves getting into violent car accidents to collect health insurance, and Fuzz, a parody of the show Cops, in which the player disguises him or herself as a cop and commits random acts of police brutality to be caught on film. These activities each have six levels, with each subsequent level granting more cash and respect, sometimes up to two or three full bars. At present, I believe I have nine bars, but I recently had thirteen.
I'll wrap up the review now, as I fear it's become too verbose. I will add that my sole real complaint about the game is a lack of split screen cooperative play. Sandbox games would always be vastly improved through a coop mode, including Assassin's Creed, GTA4 and SR2. It seems foolish to me that Volition would decide how I play my coop, since of the best friends of mine that play video games (pretty much the people on anyButton), only two of them have 360s, and neither of them have Gold XBL accounts. Games are often improved by adding a social component, and that's always better done in person than online. Setting this complaint aside, I have ultimately decided that I agree with Yahtzee's assessment. SR2 is so far a more enjoyable experience than GTA4, and it seems that it will have more replay value once I finish it. I may very well buy it.
One last thought: Why isn't there an apostrophe in in the title?
Okay here's the last one: If you're one of those people who reads a page and skips over all of the hyperlinks, make an exception and check out Yahtzee Croshaw's Zero Punctuation. Seriously, he's a critical genius, and my personal idol when it comes to reviews.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Who are you, and what company(s) are you apart of, and could you give a brief explanation of both?
Alex: I'm a designer/programmer, right now I release my games under the Cryptic Sea label. From 2001-2005 I was a part of Chronic Logic.
Edmund: Edmund McMillen, i make games. im an design and artist for Cryptic sea and my own personal side projects.
How did you get in to making games?
Edmund: I had been doing basic interactive flash projects from 2000-2003 and started working on a game with Tom Fulp Called Cereus Peashy. Shortly after starting the project i got a job doing freelance art for Chronic Logic, a company that alex founded a few years earlier.
How did Cryptic Sea/the partnership between Alex Austin and Edmund McMillen start?
Where did the name Cryptic Sea come from?
Who are some other people you've worked with?
What games have you made (I know there's a very long list, so, just some highlights/series would be good) also, how would you describe your style?
Edmund: Gish, Meat Boy, Aether, Coil, Triachnid and Blast Miner are the games im most known for. Id describe my style as "awesome".
What are some of your influences? (Other games/outside of gaming)
Edmund: Game wise ive been influenced by all the classics, Zelda, Mario, Street fighter 2 and so on. outside of gaming id say my major influences come from film makers like Rod Serling, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Lloyd Kaufman and Comic writers/artist like Jack Chick, R Crumb and Sam Keith.
What's your favorite game (if not answered in the last question)?
Edmund: Probably the first Zelda.
What's your favorite game that you've made?
What game(s) are you working on now?
Edmund: Im currently working on 2 flash games, No Quarter, Super Meat Boy and Gish 2.
How do you feel about your fan base?
What are your future plans?
Do you plan on making any games or ports on a console?
On Gish/Blast Miner:
Who came up with the idea for Gish and how?
How is Gish 2 coming along/when can we expect to see a final product or at least a beta?
Are there any plans to make a Blast Miner 2?
On No Quarter:
When is the planned release date?
When will you post a new video?
How is the game development and beta testing going?
When will you get the next beta out?
How much will the whole CD cost?
Is there any way to pre-order it?
How was the Global Game Jam?
What's the story with you and Tyler Glaiel, you two seem to be working together a lot?
Where do you get the idea for such strange games?
Do you plan on making more art games (like coil) or more fun games (like meatboy)?
When can we expect Super Meat Boy and how is it going?
Can you tell us anything about your current and future projects like spew and your untitled game that you're working on with Florian?
For Alex Austin (sorry for doing yours second, no prejudice)
When can we expect a finished product of A New Zero?
How is Golf? Going/when can we see an update or final product (you are part of that team, right?)?
What's your role at Chronic Logic?
You seem pretty hard to get information on, is this on purpose, or am I just missing something?
Do you plan on making A New Zero playable over the internet instead of just LAN?
23: oops... I guess nobody has been on much lately...
How did you develop such a unique style?
Alex: I'm not sure I have a style really, but I create graphics and physics engines for each game which I think helps make them unique.
Is there any hidden games (other then what's on Cryptic Sea and Chronic Logic, and Golf?) that you've made or are working on that you can tell us about?
Monday, February 16, 2009
Nicklas Nygren (Nifflas) (NN): I'm mostly into very atmospheric games. I really wish there were more of those
NN: An "Ico" isn't released on a regular basis
23: yea, defiantly, the only one I can think of like it are abstract puzzle games
NN: Ah, those can be great
23: they can, but it's defiantly a different feel, usually art games, I see yours as more... a mix between the art and fun games (for lack of better terms)
NN: heh, a bit like the Shellblast / Acidbomb games.... Basically a slightly more complex take on Minesweeper, but the atmosphere makes it so exciting
23: yeah, definatly
23: you mentioned "Ico" before, what is that?
NN: It's a PS2 game. I guess my fans are tired of hearing that whenever I'm asked to mention a favorite game, I mentions that. It's an adventure game that lacks almost everything a good game is supposed to have. It features minimal dialogue, almost no music, only 3 or 4 enemy types, almost no weapons, no stats or levels...
NN: so you pretty much explore a large castle, solve puzzles, and enjoy an awesome atmosphere
NN: It's still the game that have affected my own games most.
23: cool, sounds neat
23: I'll have to look it up
NN: It's neat, because they took almost everything away from what a game is expected to have, and still made something really beautiful
23: I love when games can do that, also, what else do you consider your influences?
NN: I take a lot of inspiration from places around where I live
NN: mostly the sounds, deep forests 'n stuff
23: that defiantly explains the relaxing and isolated yet not lonely atmosphere
NN: Yeah :)
NN: Personally, I think that if you get away from the city and either into the forest or to the ocean around where I live, either at early spring or fall, the atmosphere should be a bit similar to Knytt somehow :)
NN: I don't know.... I've always been interested, as a child I used to make drawings that I pretended was video games
NN: At early school I learnt qbasic and attempted to create some ASCII games (all failures)
NN: Later with Visual Basic (also failures)
NN: Then my parents gave me Klik & Play
NN: and well, I failed for a series of years to create games with that too (I upgraded to The Games Factory and Multimedia Fusion 1 during this period)
NN: I basically tried to create too large games, that I never had a chance to finish
NN: so I gave up completely, and started to create music instead until many years later when I decided to try creating small platformers instead of huge RPG's and adventure games X)
NN: ...and well, since then I've released games at a quite regular basis (although NG is taking a little longer than my previous games)
23: so, how would you describe your games? (or at least knytt)
NN: The main focal point of my games so far have been atmosphere
NN: Basically, I want the games to feel more like a place than a challenge
NN: if that makes sense :)
23: hmm, yeah, alright, it definitely feels that way
NN: So far my games have been non-violent and have a rather cute and helpless (but brave) character exploring a large world.
NN: I don't know why, but that express me best
23: so, where'd the name Nifflas come from?
NN: Well, I once sat in a car with my uncle and his girlfriend, and a debate started between me and my uncle about how to spell my name
NN: As everyone knows, I spell it Nicklas, but on the paper it's actually Niklas
NN: so my Uncle doesn't fully agree about that extra c, thinking it makes it sound like "Nisklas" or something
NN: So my uncle's girlfriend got tired of our debate and told us to spell it with f
NN: and well, it was nailed pretty instantly
23: haha, that's pretty funny
23: so, where do you get the names for these games?
NN: That's always problematic. I'm really horrible with names, but it have still always worked out somehow.
23: haha, alright, I think they fit pretty well
NN: My ex-girlfriend designed the Knytt characters, and named them Knytt from Tove Jansson's children's books.
NN: so I didn't name Knytt
NN: and it took me months to figure out that I could call the second one "Knytt Stories"
23: so, you mentioned that your ex designed some of the knytt characters, did she design all of them?
NN: She designed around half of the characters in Within a Deep Forest
NN: And those from WaDF that I used in Knytt were hers
NN: She didn't draw any characters specifically for Knytt, but she did the patterns for the Knytt startup screen and credits screen
NN: both with are lovely :)
23: yea, who designed the rest?
NN: I designed most of the game, but I also asked at the forum for help with character designing. In the game credits list, a few people are mentioned who created extra characters.
23: cool, it's a nice and unique design
NN: Evil-Ville, TheoX and Mr.Monkey
NN: regulars of either my forums or music communities I've been into
23: alright, and do you have any plans on what you want to do after your current projects?
NN: I have, at this moment it's all pretty secret
NN: but I sure have :D
NN: (and it's game related)
23: alright, that's good
23: I think we would all like to see more games from you in the future
23: alright, well, I think that pretty much covers it
23: do you have anything else to say?
NN: Not that I can think about, but it was great doing the interview! Thanks :D
23: yea, thank you
NN: no problem :)
You can find the whole transcript at this post on bluGrey if you want to see more. So go to his website and download your own free copy of Knytt, Knytt Stories, and Within a Deep Forest. You can also go here and get some of his older, less known, works. Expect a review of Nifflas' games soon and then an interview with Alex Austin and Edmund McMillen from Cryptic Sea. Have fun!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
ThatGameCompany releases Flower: ThatGameCompany (yes, that's really their name), makers of flOw, released a very unique and tranquill game yesterday (2/12) name Flower (you might have seen this on GERARDAMO's release date list) for the PSN (Playstation 3's downloadable content). This game looks beautiful, and so far has had fairly good ratings. I personally would like to see ThatGameCompany do more for PC and Wii, but that might just be because I don't have a PS3.
Plain Sight's beta extended: Plain Sight, an indie game made by Beatnik Games, has decided to extend their open beta testing for just a little bit longer. I highly advise grabbing up this game (even if it is a beta) before they take it off-line (or however they decide to close the beta). Plain Sight is a 3rd person action game with robots and points and blowing yourself up, so, really, there's no reason not to try it!
Half-Life 2 gets an indie live action series: Purchase Brothers have made the one thing all Half Life 2 fans have been waiting for (well, other than Half Life 3 and their own companion cube). Anyway I'll embed it below, because really, for a $500 budget for the first to episodes (according to escapist), it's really amazing. I admit the gun fights could have been a little better, but really the special effects and filming are amazing, so, just click the play button!
"Violent" computer games can help with fire safety: According to Science Daily people have actually realized you can mod Half Life, who woulda thunk it! Seriously though, researchers are starting to use FPS's such as Half Life 2, CS:S, F.E.A.R, Doom 3, and more for use in training fire fighters and civilians for dangerous fire situations. Anyway, I'm glad these games are being used for more than entertainment, I think education in any field could vastly improve by implementing some of the numerous technologies available (I'll probably end up talking about virtual reality and improved computer interactivity in the class room in a later post). Anyway here's the citation, to make us look all official n' stuff:
Durham University. "Violent Computer Games Have Role In Fire Safety." ScienceDaily 13 February 2009. 13 February 2009
Expect more links to be added within a couple days as well as maybe a couple more stories if I find anything
Thursday, February 12, 2009
So, you might remember my review a couple weeks back of the game Toribash. Well, Hampus "Hampa" Soderstrom, the maker of Toribash and CEO of Nabi Studios, let me do a little interview. While this one isn't as extensive as my last i think it provides some pretty nice information about Hampa and Toribash. Some of the questions may seem repetitive, but it's hard to predict the answer of the last one, so I try to cover all my bases. Anyway here's a pretty picture and a nice little review:
Could you give us a brief introduction as to who you are and what company you're a part of?
Hi, I am hampa. I work at Nabi Studios where I develop and run the online game Toribash. I am originally from Sweden, but enjoy the weather and food of my current residence Singapore.
What games have you made?
I've made Toribash, an online turn based beat-em up.
How did you get in to making games?
I did software development for a couple of years. Being a programmer making a small game is a fun exercise that I recommend everybody to do.
How did you come to work at Nabi Studios?
Having a company to run the game makes things much easier. It is really a necessity when you start dealing with payments, contracts and staff.
Have you worked for/with any other game developers?
Nope, I worked with other IT related work, such as telecom, before gaming.
How would you describe Toribash?
Toribash is an online fighting game featuring full body dismemberment and cartoon blood.
If you could place Toribash in one or more genres, what would they would be?
Best described as a beat-em up.
What are some of your influences? (other games/outside of gaming)
I am a fan of the books by Ayn Rand.
What's your favorite game?
The game I have played the most besides Toribash was Quake World.
Why did you decide to make a fighting game that wasn't just another button-masher? (question courtesy of GERARDAMO)
I just thought the game mechanics would be fun to play with. That most other games in the genre are button mashers didn't really concern me.
Who came up with the idea of Toribash and how?
I came up with the idea but since then it have evolved quite a bit and many people and players have been contributing to making it what it is today.
On my spare time I enjoy practising Judo, having a hobby besides a gaming can be good when coming up with ideas for games.
What project(s) are you working on now?
Toribash for Wii
What new features are you planning to put in the next version of Toribash?
Version 3.7 (release feb 2009) has a new particle system and some GUI updates.
How well are your current projects coming along?
At a steady pace. I want the game to be perfect, and that doesn't always go hand in hand with good enough for release.
How do you feel about your fan base?
It is a nice mix of highly creative and fun individuals.
What are your future plans?
I am mostly concerned with finishing the current project we are working on.
Do you plan on making any games other then Toribash?
Yes, I have a prototype for a game called GlitchRacer. It is great fun and I hope to be able to release it some day.
Do you plan on making any games or ports on a console?
Yes, Nintendo Wii coming up!
Alright, well, that raps it up. You can check out Toribash, Nabi Studios, and Glitch Rider for more information. Once again we would like to thank Hampa a lot for the interview, and we can't wait for more Toribash!
P.S. Thanks for GERARDAMO and Kevin from It Came From /dev/null for editing and helping coming up with questions! Also, expect one more question to be posted soon that I forgot to ask.
Why did you decide to give Toribash away free of charge?
Check out the Toribash blog, they actually blogged about us! So, if you're coming from there, thanks for the visit!
Anyway expect some more interviews and reviews to be posted soon, I do like to stay on our front page :P. Expect interviews of Nicklas Nygren, Jesse Venbrux, Hampa from Toribash, and Edmund McMillen (Some of his stuff is NSFW), and reviews of some of their games within the coming weeks!
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Sonata Arctica is making a video game. If any of you out there asked, “What is Sonata Arctica?” then I have two pieces of advice. First, find something blunt and hit yourself in the jaw with it. Next look them up. Allow me just to clarify that I am not so much of a fanboy that I expect this game to be awesome. It's a game inspired by an obscure Finnish power metal band, and developed by a company that has never made a game before (Zelian Games). However, I still intend to follow it slavishly, because SA is doing the soundtrack, and they're one of the best bands ever.
The game is called Winterheart's Guild, named after SA's breakthrough 2003 album. It was originally intended as a post-apocalyptic action RPG, back in 2006. Videos and screen shots suggested a setting in a cold, tundra-like area, perhaps representing a nuclear winter. There was little to be seen as far as gameplay, but it looked like a typical third person, Elder Scrolls-esque RPG. Also there were wolves (little surprise, if you know much about SA's image).
It seems that at some point in the past, however, Zelian became concerned about the game stagnating, and diverted their attention into a new game, xOrbic, to test their ZelianX engine before using it in Winterheart's Guild. This apparently signaled a genre shift for the game into puzzle RPG territory. When I learned about this in the SA forums (earlier today) it concerned me. I've never been a huge fan of puzzle games, and I certainly don't believe I've ever payed for one. However, being the SA zombie that I am, I decided that I would hold out hope. So I wandered over to the Winterheart's Guild website and downloaded the xOrbic demo.
It turned out to be, as I described to GERARDAMO earlier, “Fun, in a flash game sort of way. Not the kind of fun that I'll pay thirty dollars for.” It had a relatively engaging RPG leveling and inventory system, and a combat system that's somewhat reminiscent of Bejeweled. The player is required to match certain tiles in order to attack the opponent in a turn based battle. I didn't actually get that far into the game, mostly because the only time I had to play it in was the fifteen minutes in between Physics and Music Theory, but I saw enough to know that unless the system is modified significantly for the final Winterheart's Guild, I probably won't bother paying for it. As it stands, I'm most excited about the new song that SA is writing for the game. Of course, by the time it comes out, I certainly hope they'll have a new album.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Although it continued to be amusing, the game was too full of problems for me to enjoy it for more than five minutes before thinking, “Wait, how does that make sense?” The plot was a convoluted mess, that was not only inconsistent with the books and films, but didn't even hold true to itself. This became first apparent in the second level, when Gandalf kills Saruman during the destruction of Isengard. Then, at the beginning of the evil campaign, Sauron arbitrarily “resurrects” every evil hero that had been killed, including Saruman, the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, and the Witch-king of Angmar. He also summons Balrogs on several occasions, which should have been well beyond his power.
Of course, I can't focus exclusively on the plot, because then the review would be over, and you (anyone reading this) would be feeling betrayed and bitter. Or not. Regardless.
Ignoring the holes in the plot, the game actually managed to be pretty enjoyable. At least enjoyable enough that I felt like picking it up again after I had put it down. It did, however, have a somewhat rushed feel. This game, like Silent Hill: Homecoming, had been on my radar, slipped under it, and then released much sooner than I expected. Also like Homecoming, it suffered from the quick release. The campaign mode was very, very short. I picked it up late Friday night, and we beat the good campaign in a few short hours, went to sleep, woke up on Saturday, and beat the evil campaign in a few even shorter hours. Each level felt the same, and none of them had the replay value of Star Wars: Battlefront, Pandemic's magnum opus. I was interested enough to make it through the campaign, but I can't see myself ever going back.
The classes were interesting, but not particularly original. There's a warrior, archer, scout, and mage. The scout actually looked like the most noteworthy, but it didn't fit my play style well enough. You would have to talk to Biscuits about that. Otherwise, the archer felt slow, the mage felt weak, and the warrior felt overpowered. One thing that struck me from the demo was that the warrior is given a set of special attacks that cause his sword to glow with fire and give the player an absurd edge. Also, the enemy ranks are bolstered with the “grunt” class, which isn't playable. This seems to defeat the purpose of the Battlefront style game, in which the player is no more or less powerful than the enemy. Also, it meant that once I got to the point in the game when I was fighting real enemy warriors, it was infinitely frustrating that they block almost every attack I threw. It could take two minutes to defeat a single enemy. Biscuits also complained endlessly about how useless the scout's cloak ability was, even though enemy scouts seemed to become completely invisibly. In addition to the base classes, either side has a “vehicle,” for lack of a better term. For the Alliance, this unit is the Ent, and for Mordor it's the troll. The two play the same, with a heavy attack, a light attack—which is just as good for splattering little infantry units all over the ground—a health regeneration ability, and the ability to pick up enemy units, crush them, and then use them as projectiles.
Then of course there are heroes, which all felt exactly like the base classes, but with more health. Their special attacks were changed aesthetically, but not functionally. They are mostly modified warriors, except Gandalf, Saruman, the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr and Legolas. The three wizards are perhaps my favorites, because they combine the basic mage's spells with an actually functional melee attack. Of course there are a couple of super heroes (pun intended): Sauron and the Balrog, both of which are amazingly fun, just because they make people go splat.
In summary, the game is short, the replay value is nonexistent, the plot is scattered, the classes are broken, and the evil heroes include the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, the Witch-king, the Balrog and Sauron. Make with that what you will, though since Gamefly asked, I gave it a 4 out of 10. Just don't hold me to that.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
Studies show that college males play violent video games, watch porn, and that water can quench your thirst.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I was hoping to have rented Lord of the Rings: Conquest this weekend, to play with Biscuits and review for this week, but... well I suppose I won't bother with my weekend story. I didn't get around to it, and that's that. Maybe next weekend, though if the XBL demo is any indication, there isn't much to look forward too.
In lieu of doing a review that's pertinent to, well, anything, I've decided to look back on a rather under appreciated game from back in '05.
The hook to Advent Rising is that the story was written by the well known sci-fi author Orson Scott Card. This didn't mean much to me, however, since I've never actually read any of his books. Really, the plot isn't anything all that special. It's well done, but the idea has been done before. In short form, the human race, living on some planet that I can't remember the name of, is visited by an alien species called the Aurelians. The Aurelians worship the humans as gods, and have been searching for the last remaining human refuge to pay homage. Unfortunately, they have been unwittingly followed by another race, called the Seekers, who are trying to wipe out the human race. I won't explain why, but it does get rather interesting by the end. There are a couple choices you have to make that will affect the ending in small ways, and a very interesting scene after the credits, so don't you dare quit when they start rolling.
The game's real greatness comes from its gameplay. Once again, it's nothing terribly new, although you can dual wield any weapon in the game, including rocket launchers. However, after a couple levels, the Aurelians help our protagonist unlock the innate potential that apparently makes humans worthy of being worshiped. Essentially, you become a Jedi, and its damn fun. Every few levels, you unlock a new ability. Each ability has two forms, and the game maintains the two hand system, so you can equip a power to either hand, or two forms of the same power, or a power and a weapon.
Powers, weapons and combat skills are leveled up through use. If you're in the mood, you could max out most of the weapons, the jump ability, and your melee skills, in the first level. Of course that's hardly efficient, but it can be fun on a second or third play through. And yes, you will play it a second and third time. It's certainly fun enough, and the simple leveling system is just enough to allow players to customize their playing style. You could play through the game using only the plasma pistol and assault rifle, or you could max out Lift and Surge by the time you reach Aurelia, and never switch powers again.
The game has very pretty, if not really realistic, graphics in the cutscenes, and otherwise they're acceptable by today's standards. The environments are varied enough to be interesting, the powers look cool, and occasional use of slow motion highlights the cooler attacks and abilities. The characters are also fairly well developed, especially compared to the cardboard cutouts that infect most big games nowadays. Unfortunately, Advent Rising had a very small budget, and it can be seen in the number of glitches there are. Most of them are easy enough to overcome. However, if you've played through a couple times and want to feel more powerful, be advised that the cheat console occasionally causes the game to crash.
The game is great fun, and easily worth the $9.99 it costs on Steam. Be warned however, it ends with a terrible cliffhanger, and it's no longer likely that a sequel is ever going to made, because of the poor critical and popular reception. I've never been one to take a critical viewpoint, or especially a popular one, as the final word. If you're looking for some inexpensive fun, and you don't mind fighting through a few bugs, you should definitely take a look at this gem. Don't expect it to change your life, but it will certainly stay with you longer than, say, Gears of War.
It's apparently really hard to find a good gameplay video of Advent Rising. Here's a trailer that gives an okay presentation of the powers and combat system. It's a little too heavy on the cutscenes, but it's better than most of the other options. Also, in case you're wondering, the contest mentioned at the end of the trailer was canceled, so don't bother.
P.S.: It occurs to me that I should mention, apparently the Xbox 360 hasn't been updated to support Advent Rising, and probably won't be. This means that if you don't have an old Xbox, you'll have to get it on PC.
Wolfire, the makers of Lugaru (the last game i reviewed) were nice enough to actually let me send them some questions, which actually isn't very surprising seeing how they have a very open communication with their fans. The questions aren't the best (especially the first one), but John managed to meet them with some pretty good answers. So, read the review, and maybe pre-order Overgrowth, or even just check out some of the links, cause these guys are pretty cool. Anyway with no further adieu, here's my first interview:
First I'd like to thank you for accepting my offer of an interview. I know that anyButton is very small right now, and Wolfire is very big (over 1000 followers), so this will probably benefit us more then you. So, lets start with the intro.
Who are you and what company do you stand for?
Hehe, that's a pretty intense sounding question. Is this an interview or an interrogation? :) I'm John. I work for Wolfire Games and we stand for making innovative games and being very open with our community. We definitely appreciate you taking the time to arrange an interview.
How did Wolfire start and who are the members?
Wolfire was started by our fearless leader David Rosen. We recently posted a picture on our blog that shows David using a computer at age 3. By age 7, David had made his first game in Hypercard. It was a stick-figure, choose-your-own-adventure war game complete with gunshot and explosion sound effects that David made himself by blowing on his computer's microphone. I had the good fortune to be going to school with David at the time and watched in awe as his game became very popular. Unfortunately his game spread to the library computer cluster and was then quickly banned from school. Librarians aren't too receptive to the sounds of gunfire and explosions going off in their library.
From there David went on to make a series of games with increasing complexity. He switched to pong, realized it was boring, and made Firepong which added fireballs and razor blades that could punch holes in the paddles or cut them in half. Next came GLFighters, then Black Shades, then Lightning's Shadow. The Wolfire site as you see it today was born when David decided to make his award-winning games available online in one location.
David made his most ambitious game Lugaru, 5 years ago, all by himself, while he was still in high school. He has since been recruited by companies like Crytek but decided he would rather start his own company where he maintains creative control.
After graduating from college, David is joined by his twin brother Jeff who is a web coding guru and has been selling commercial software since high school, Aubrey who is an amazing all around artist that has worked with David on previous projects, Phillip who majored in computer science and did his senior thesis on computer graphics and me who majored in economics and am focusing mainly on the business side of Wolfire.
What are some of your influences (other indie game developers, mainstream games, etc.)?
Working for a game development company does entail some competitive analysis. It's funny to think that playing games counts as work in this industry (as long as you don't do too much research on the competition). David has been playing, breaking and dissecting games his whole life. That's why we're really glad that he started doing design tours. So far people seem to really appreciate the way he thinks about games and game design.
David has stated that Lugaru's influences were the viking deathmatch game Rune and the 3rd person shooter/close-quarters-combat hybrid called Oni. David took his favorite parts of both games, added a bunch of his own new features and produced the wonder known as Lugaru. Recently we really enjoyed Little Big Planet and used it as inspiration for Phillip's map editor features.
Our indie hero at the moment is probably 2DBoy, specifically Ron Carmel who made time to come visit us for lunch. He and Kyle took a simple concept, polished the heck out of it, and broke into mainstream. The story of 2DBoy's success is very encouraging to indie developers everywhere.
What game are you making now and how is it going?
We are currently making a sequel to Lugaru called Overgrowth. While Overgrowth will inherit the essence of Lugaru's tried and true combat system, it will also be benefiting from every cutting edge feature that Wolfire's brand new Phoenix Engine has to offer. With better graphics, better physics, more moves, more characters, huge mod support and multiplay, Overgrowth promises to be Lugaru on steroids.
Development is coming along well. Overgrowth looks better and better everyday. We recently made an Overgrowth alpha map editor tutorial video that showcases all of Overgrowth's latest features. You can check it out here.
How do you feel about your followers/why do you choose to be so transparent in your development?
Without the support of our fans, we would drown in the noisy and crowded space of the internet. We have been in awe of how much help the community has given Wolfire.
Perhaps the first major demonstration of the power of fan support was that even though David designed Lugaru with virtually no editing tools, fans went in and created two entirely separate single player campaigns (Empire and Temple) that rival the quality of Lugaru's original story. Since then it's been clear to us that our fans are too smart, creative and capable to be kept out of the loop.
For Overgrowth we've rallied fan support in our Overt Ops program. Visitors from around the world have helped us translate the Overgrowth fact sheet into over 20 languages and have gotten us exposure on foreign news sites and even Europe's biggest magazine.
Also because we make the weekly alphas available to preorderers, they have already been using the map editors to build things. One of our proudest moments was when our fans created the Wolfire and Overgrowth logos in engine (see them here).
Probably our biggest recent fan success though is the Overgrowth ModDB page. Not only is the page itself a demonstration of our commitment to mod support, but it has been fan-run for a few months now.
What makes you/your games unique?
All of David's games tend to have design elements that make them stand out. Firepong wasn't just pong, it was pong with weapons and magic spells. Black shades wasn't just an FPS, it was was a procedurally generated city system that kept the player on the edge of his seat guessing as to where the next enemy would come from. Lugaru became so popular because of its streamlined movement and fighting system. Overgrowth will be recapturing Lugaru's fluid movement and intuitive combat and adding a lot of fun new content.
As a company I think Wolfire is in a very interesting position. We have both the agility of a small company yet enough raw developing power to create high end assets.
Why did you decide to charge for your games?
Well if you're planning to make game for a living, the bills need to be paid somehow. By charging money, we can afford to put 12 hours a day, 7 days a week into Overgrowth, make it a much higher quality product and still be able to put food on the table (we hope :) ). Preorders have definitely been helping.
Do you have any plans for the future of Wolfire?
We mainly want to focus all of our efforts on Overgrowth at the moment so we don't want too spend much time thinking too far ahead of ourselves. When we finish Overgrowth, then we will think more seriously about what our next step is.
Thank you for taking the time to interview me.
23: oh, and I think I left out one important question: How did you get the idea for Lugaru?
John: oh I'll try to remember to add that, David Rosen came up with idea
23: yea, it seems kinda strange the whole idea for an anthropomorphic adventure/fighting game (that's the best description I could come up with)
John: so there are a few things going on, David wanted to create a universe that wasn't cliche like barbarians or space marines, he wanted to avoid the "Uncanny Valley" by using non-human characters
John: also you can make things really violent without them being as traumatic
23: hmm, good point
Now the show's really over. Till next time!