Friday, April 29, 2011

Do You Want to Start a Game Dev Company? Sure, We All Do.

If you're anything like me, you've wanted to create your own game development company (and travel to space, but I digress).  Now you can with the help of Game Dev Story on the iPhone.  Game Dev Story allows you to take the reigns and be the boss of the next Valve, Blizzard, or BioWare.  You have control to name your company, pick the name, genre, and platform of your games, and hire/fire staff.  The game also has big events similar to E3 for you to participate in, and it lets you control what you spend and where for your advertising.

I enjoy the game's clever names for the people that you can hire for your company.  Many names are similar to those who work in the gaming/technology industry.  You'll see some famous musicians scattered throughout the sound designers, and of course, the amazingly talented programmer Gilly Bates.  The better your staff, the more successful your game.  It's a good idea to pick genres that work together when developing your games.  They tend to be more successful, but it is a challenge in the beginning of the game.  Sometimes you get developers that have very different styles/capabilities.

This game isn't fresh from the AppStore, or free, but it is worth picking up.  Though this game was developed for the iPhone, I strongly suggest you play it on an iPad if you've got one.  Since the game is in the style of 16-bit graphics, it still looks great stretched to the iPad's display.  Just to warn you, this game causes mild cases of time travel.  I started playing this on a Tuesday, and now it is the end of April.  Pick up Game Dev Story for $3.99 on the AppStore today.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Zombie Week is Slowly Shambling Towards You

You've read correctly.  Next week will be Zombie week on this blog.  I'm going to feature a different zombie game each day of the week.  I'll be posting information about the games, and giving my opinions.  If there are any games that you would like to see talked about, feel free to comment on this post.  Grab your shotguns, axes, assault rifles, and crowbars, and don't forget to remove the head.... Zombies are coming...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Age of Empires Online Open Beta

Age of Empires Online has opened their beta today for anyone who would like to receive a key.  The keys are limited, so hurry.  I managed to get a key today, and I sank a few hours into it.  I will be giving my impressions in the coming days.  From my limited amount of time with it, I must say that I'm having a lot of fun.  I'm at level 6 with my civilization.  It took me a while to figure out the tech trees and everything, but that's what happens when you jump into the game without reading anything.  Try to pick up your key here.

Talking Plush Portal Turret

Picture is capture from original video source.
Two Portal fans by the names of Jonathan Guberman, and Leigh Nunan, created an amazing plush Portal turret.  It also needs to be said that this squeezable gadget is interactive.  It will respond to you picking it up, toppling it over, or moving within its view.  Check out the video link and see for yourself.  Now if only these went into production.  I'm sure people like me would be throwing their money at it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nostalgia Review: Grand Theft Auto

Thirteen years ago, one afternoon during English, my friend Justin, began telling me about this game he had just received.  It was a game that you could walk around, drive a car, carry a gun, mow down pedestrians, and have high-speed chases with the Five-O.  He kept going on about how he loved mowing down people on the sidewalk and stealing various vehicles.  As he spoke more and more about the game, I came to realize that the things that he loved doing in the game weren't the objective of the game.  They were things that you could just do.  You could play the game the way you want to play it.  This intrigued me.  I wasn't so much excited for the shooting and vehicular manslaughter, as I was for the prospect that the game would let me do whatever I wanted to do.  This was a new concept to me.

That day, after the bus ride back from school, I followed Justin home.  He had recruited another one of our friends for the trip.  We made our way up to his bedroom, where we found his Playstation primed and ready for our afternoon.  Justin gave us a demonstration on how to play the game, or at least how he played the game.  We began taking turns trying to wreak as much havoc as possible before the police killed us.  It was hilarious.  It created intense moments where we were sure that a kamakazi police car would take us out at any moment.  We created our own game within the game; Run down every person in a red shirt (a la Star Trek).  The hours quickly passed, and dinner time was nearing.  One thing was clear when I left and made my trek home. I must own this game.

The next weekend I had my parents take me by the local game shop.  I used money that I had recently received for Christmas to buy Grand Theft Auto and Syphon Filter (Syphon Filter has no relevance to this story.  I just had an incredible "ah-ha" moment when recalling this day.  I also wanted to give a nod to anyone who remembers that game.).  I got the games home and dove right in to GTA.  Many people wearing red shirts were ran down that day.  Once I tired of my "killing spree" game mode I had created for myself, I decided to just drive around and explore.  I obeyed traffic laws, and was polite to other cars and pedestrians.  I continued to play this game for months.  I don't think I ever finished the story in the game.  The missions were played until all the areas were unlocked, or until my thumbs hurt.  I just wanted more places to explore.

Though I never "completed" GTA, it remains as one of my favorites.  It spawned an amazing series of games, and was a lot of fun in its own right.  If you'll excuse me, Steam just finished downloading Grand Theft Auto, and I have people in red shirts to run over.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gears of War 3 Beta Access For Pre-Orders

For all of those who have pre-ordered Gears of War 3 at GameStop, beta access begins today.  This begins a full week after beta access was given to those who purchased Bulletstorm.  Correction.  For those who purchased Bulletstorm on the Xbox 360.  There is a webpage put together by GameStop that details all the information about the beta.

Gears of War 3 looks to be heaps of fun.  I'll have to stop by a friend's house to check out the beta, and chainsaw someone in half.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gearbox Helps a Fan Propose

A video recently surfaced online that depicted a character from the game Borderlands, helping a fan propose to his girlfriend.  It is a minute and a half long, and is rather entertaining.  It is awesome to see a game developer do something very nice for a fan.  There are links to the video itself, and to the response from the bride to be.  Kotaku has details on the back story.  Ahh, love and video games.  Here's to Gearbox, and to the happy couple, Ben and Tora.

The Making of Portal 2. There's an App For That

Recently on the iTunes App Store for the iPad, there was an app released called "The Final Hours of Portal 2".  This app is an interactive book, if you will, for the iPad.  It provides you with back story on the developers, and the processes behind the making of Portal 2.  

You get a pretty good look into the backgrounds of the developers of Portal and Portal 2.  It also delivers a great interactive experience.  There are polls, photos, and videos.  There is so much jam-packed into this app.  Some may argue that content like this should ship with the game, but for $1.99 you won't find any complaints from this gamer.  

To pick up your own copy of this app, click here and enjoy.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rumors of Nintendo's Next System

It appears as if our old friend, Nintendo, is trying to jump ahead of the competition.  Many online sources reference "Project Cafe" as the codename for Nintendo's next gaming system.  IGN is reporting of a new CPU that is superior to that in the Xbox 360, and a GPU superior to the PS3's.

Project Cafe, or the Wii 2 as some call it, is rumored to have two different kinds of controllers.  One of which is supposed to have a 4" touch screen display in the middle of it (other sources say up to 6.2").  The folks over at IGN have made a concept design of the controller.  The other controller is to be in the same style of the Wii.

With the hardware advances we're looking at, we should expect the console to cost somewhere in the $350 to $400 range.  Nintendo may be trying to break away from some of the pre-conceived notions that people have about them nowadays.  Most people refer to the Wii as being a casual game console.  Nintendo may be trying to win back some of the fans that left them for a more "hard core" gaming experience.

The earliest we could see Nintendo's next console could be by the end of this year.  It may be more likely that we see it sometime early in 2012.  Only time will tell.  Old-School Nintendo fanboys rejoice!

How I Fell Back In Love With PC Gaming

One night in December of 2006, I cruised around the local Best Buy with money to burn.  I was 22, had a new credit card, and was looking to put it to work.  I decided to spend $399 plus tax, on an Xbox 360.  What led me to my purchase, was a recent history of my gaming pc having problem after problem.  I was sick and tired of troubleshooting driver issues, re-installing games, and reformatting and doing a fresh install of Windows XP.  I was doing what I swore I would never do.  I was giving up my mouse and keyboard to be a console gamer.  I knew that at least with a console, I wouldn't have to worry about anything.  You put the game in the console, you play the game.  Done.  I simply wanted to spend more time playing the game than troubleshooting it.  I got my wish.  The experience was simple.

The coming months were bliss. I played hours and hours of games on my new Xbox, and I cared about my Gamerscore. It seemed that my new love affair would never end. I was playing Crackdown when disaster struck.  There was artifacting on my screen, and a loud beep came from my TVs speakers.  I then was witness to the "three red rings of death".  I was sad, yet simultaneously happy.  I was sad because my new console was broken, but happy because I knew that Microsoft would foot the bill to fix my new companion.  I filed my claim with Microsoft on the same day, and they sent me a box to send back my defective Xbox 360.  The turn around time was somewhere around two weeks, and I was back to playing all my new games.  I was back to my console gaming lifestyle.

Months later Rock Band entered my life.  My time spent playing my Xbox 360 skyrocketed.  I was obsessed with the game.  I played so much that I had made it up to playing expert drums within a few months.  If I'm not mistaken, I also did not have a girlfriend during this period of time.  It was also during this period of time that my Xbox 360 broke yet again.  I had the same speedy, and friendly service from Microsoft.  Another box.  Another two weeks.  Back in business.

This cycle would go on to repeat itself three more times.  They kept replacing it with the same generation Xbox that was known to fail.  I have had six Xbox 360s since 2006.  My last one broke a bit over a year ago, and has been broken ever since.  The last one was not the red ring issue that was covered under Microsoft's warranty.  My particular issue is that it simply will not read discs.  It tells me to place my Xbox 360 games into an Xbox 360.  It is rather infuriating.  I refuse to pay Microsoft $120+ to fix my sixth broken unit.   This was no longer the simple experience I was looking for.

What was a man to do?  I plugged in my old PC, installed Windows 7 and Steam, and caught up on some of my older games.  I came to realize that some newer games would still play fine on my aging machine.  It seemed that my whole time playing console games, PC games hadn't become that much more demanding on computers.  I was up and killing zombies with Left 4 Dead.  I was building sentries and capturing intelligence in Team Fortress 2, and questing in World of Warcraft.  I was also re-connecting with my PC gaming friends.  As time passed, I became decreasingly upset about my broken Xbox.

Since then I have added a few upgrades to my machine so that it could be my Hackint0sh/Gaming PC.  My experience has been much the same on my PC as it was on my console.  I now can just install, and play.  I don't seem to have the same issues I used to.  Maybe it is because Windows 7 isn't a steaming pile of crap.  Many games even support an Xbox 360 controller, which is great for my casual games, or for times that I want to sit back in my chair and put my feet up.  The PC gaming experience has become much more streamlined, and accessible to the average user.  PC gaming is also a cheaper hobby than its console counterpart. During my adult, console gaming years, I also began to see that you are charged for everything.  Any download content that would be free to the PC community, was between $5 and $20 for console gamers.  At the time I thought it was an ok price to pay for the simplicity of everything.  I dumped a lot of money into Rock Band DLC, and other various upgrades and expansion packs for my other games.  Now none of this was accessible. Games are also cheaper at launch for the PC/Mac platform.  There are new sales on Steam every week.  Overall it is a more wallet friendly platform.

The lure of console gaming still exists.  In fact I still want to purchase one of the new Xbox 360s so that I can play Rock Band 3.  I still have friends on Xbox Live to earn achievements with.  That day will come soon enough.  In a way I do feel fortunate that my Xbox broke when it did.  I have enjoyed a lot of games with friends and strangers that I wouldn't have had the opportunity to otherwise.  I appreciate how far PC gaming has come.  It is not dying like many claim.  It is in fact thriving, so please speak up if you are with me.  I raise my mouse and keyboard to you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Moving Science Forward

Since the First of this month there has been a lot of a buzz within the gaming community.  Gaming websites and forums everywhere have been littered with posts, or advertisements for Portal 2.  This is a game, that for many, needs no introduction or explanation.  If you don't fall into that group, it's ok, I'll catch you up.

On April 1, 2011, The Potato Sack bundle of games went on sale on Steam (a digital method of distribution for computer games).  This began the ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that was created by Valve Software to promote the release of Portal 2. (more about the ARG here)

Now, the good stuff.  Portal 2 is a fantastic game.  The characters, environments, and dialogue are incredible.  If you enjoyed the first game, you may find yourself grinning quite a bit throughout the sequel.  For fans of the first Portal, Portal 2 does not disappoint.  The new elements added to the puzzles are a very welcome addition.  In the first game you had your portal gun to get you from point A to point B.  Now you must use your environment and Gels that are hiding deep within the Aperture Science Laboratories.  Portal 2 adds a propulsion gel, and repulsion gel.  One helps you take flight by bouncing you into the air, and the other assists you in speeding along the ground to build momentum.  The learning curve isn't too steep if you're familiar with the first game, but it might offer a bit more of a challenge to someone who is completely new to the series.

Level design in Portal 2 is done rather well.  It truly feels as if you are in an abandoned research facility.  Windows are shattered, panels are falling from the walls, and vegetation is overtaking the facility.  Computers, turrets, companion cubes, and rubble are strewn about.  There are even hidden rooms to find with cryptic writings and drawings on the walls; all of them trying to give hints as to what used to be, and what is now.  The puzzles are clever, and at times you'll think they're impossible.  You do experience a few different environments, and the pacing for the levels feels pretty good.

Dialogue in Portal 2 will keep you engaged throughout the entire single player game.  It's great to have GlaDOS back wishing death upon you, and to have Wheatley (voiced by Stephen Merchant) bumbling along, helping you through the facility.  Cave Johnson (voiced by J.K. Simmons) is the founder of Aperture Science, and you hear recordings of his voice periodically throughout the game.  He tells you about past test subjects, and the need for danger in scientific research.  "We do our science from scratch."

The gameplay of Portal 2 can be summed up into one word: Fun.  This game will definitely warrant more than one play-through.  You'll want to go back and look for things you may have missed the first time around.  There is so much to look at, that if you beat the game in less than 8 hours on your first go-around, you surely have not seen it all.  The completion time varies for lots of people, but it would be fair to say the game is between 6 and 10 hours long for the single player campaign.  Portal 2 also offers a co-op experience.  In the co-op campaign you play as either Peabody or Atlas.  You have to work with a friend to complete the puzzles.  You can't just leave it to your friend to do all the work; it actually takes real cooperation.

Portal 2 will continue to steal my time in the coming months.  Hopefully it will do the same for you.  The videos below showcase some of the game elements, and the voice actors as well.  Go play the game, or buy it.... for science of course.