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Oh Games

March 28th, 2016 Comments off

Update: I haven’t played any new games.

 

Seriously, I went back to check on The Witcher 3, and I can’t stop playing it.  I’m on a mad quest to get platinum on PS4, and that requires me to win all the gwent cards.  I don’t know what else it will entail, but I know I must get all the gwent cards, and I had to cheat to get enough money to allow for that.  All the sites I checked had notes like “I had a bajillion dollars when I finished the game”.  That’s great.  I didn’t finish the game and I’m just barely going through it, so cut me some slack.  I cheated my way to 20k gold and I’ve already spent half of that on cards.  I hope 10k is enough to get the rest.  Also, I found an interesting twist within the game.  Instead of playing through as a ‘hero’ or a ‘villain’, I’m playing through as a ‘horny old man’, who’s only real quest is to bed some lady.  I spent like four hours trying to get Keira to sleep with me, and then I did.  What a relief.  Now I am on the new quest of getting Triss to sleep with me, as well as anyone else who happens along.

For the foreseeable future, I will just be playing The Witcher 3.  This means I haven’t purchased an Occulus Rift for $600, nor have I pre-ordered the Playstation VR thing.  I have very little time lately anyway, with a baby on the way and my own game to make, so I hope I can still post stuff up here, but I apologize to all the regular readers on my own lack of time.

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The Division Beta

February 22nd, 2016 Comments off

I was never going to play the Division until a friend of mine said it was a Destiny killer.  I am here to say it is NOT a Destiny killer.  In fact, I spent more time during the beta of the Division playing Destiny.  The controls are fine.  I’m not great with third-person shooting games (as mentioned before), and the Division didn’t change that.  The Division is a cover-based game where you push X to hide behind stuff.  You can open car doors for cover and move between cover types.  You can push O to jump over cover and hold X to dive into the next cover.  You can hold X and run to the next cover.  This portion of the game was fantastic.  You could see the path your character would take to get to the next cover.  My problem with this system was that I was in cover a few times and just getting murdered.  It makes sense that enemies above you can shoot down into cover and get you.  That makes perfect sense, right?  However, if you can’t pop out of cover and see them, then it is a little unfair.  We’re not talking game-breaker here, I’m just pointing out that I was killed a few times because some sniper could shoot me, but I couldn’t shoot him.  Also, there were a few times some guy on the stairs in front of me could shoot down into my cover and a few times when he couldn’t.  That just seems a little inconsistent.  The rest of the game was really nicely done.  The graphics are truly amazing.  I played on the PS4, and I was very impressed.  The weather and time passing was fantastic.  It snowed on me a few times, and the snow falling was a great effect.  The bullet damage was spot-on.  I saw individual shots through glass, metal, brick, wood, and tile.  The game is set in New York City, and the map is supposed to be true-to-life.  I wasn’t sure of this, but I did walk around a ton.  The map feature was one of my favorites, as the graphics pop up through the street below you in 3D and surround you.  As a mapper by trade, this was really awesome to see.  The inventory system was a little iffy, and when I went to sell my stuff to a vendor, I had to select each individual item, sell it, then go back into the sell tab, choose the next item, sell it, then go back into the sell tab, ad nauseam.  When you start running out of backpack space, this selling problem can be bigger than you think.  I liked the coloration of items because it was familiar to me (white=common, green=uncommon, blue=rare, pink=epic, gold=legendary).  I only saw a few blue items and never a pink or gold.   You get the normal item stuff: guns, gloves, armor, kneepads, facemasks; but then you also get pure display items like hats, coats, and shoes that add nothing to your armor.  You can get modifications to guns like scopes, laser pointers, grips, and silencers, but I didn’t find they added much.  If I had a silencer and shot one guy, every single enemy knew where I was and started firing on my position.  That was kinda lame.  There are set pieces where you go in (like a Strike in Destiny, or a raid in World of Warcraft) and have to battle the same types of enemies across the same level.  You can increase the difficulty on these missions to get better items, but increasing the difficulty is punishing.  For player versus player (PvP), there is an area called the Dark Zone.  You can shoot other players in here, which marks you as a rogue agent, and then steal their ‘dark’ items.  The dark items have to be extracted by helicopter and ‘cleaned’ as they have traces of some sort of debilitating virus.  In the beta, you aren’t really told what the virus is or what it does.  There are also enemies in the Dark Zone who have basically 100% more health and cause 100% more damage.  When killed in the game (whether Dark Zone or not), you can select your respawn point and your previous death spot is marked on the map.  This is useful if you are in a Dark Zone and need to pick up your junk.  A few times, I was in the Dark Zone and saw a player die and I just went up and robbed their corpse.  This also happened to my dead corpse a few times.  People are just jerks.  All in all, I didn’t really enjoy the Division, and this highlights a sticking point of allowing potential customers to play your game in beta.  I will not be purchasing this game.

In other news, I couldn’t play the Dreadnought alpha this weekend because my computer didn’t reach the insane specs to play.  Sadly, my i7 computer doesn’t have the DirectX 11 video card with 2GB dedicated memory since it’s a laptop and I can’t just throw a new video card in there.  Also, I don’t have a video card that supports DirectX 11 with 2GB dedicated memory anyway.  I was really excited about playing the game, but I guess I will have to wait for lesser specs.  That’s my bad, Grey Box.  However, if you’re looking for a gaming job and live in Texas, this is the link to jobs.

Let the Steaming commence!

February 11th, 2016 Comments off

For those of you following along at home, I have 372 games in my Steam library that I have NEVER PLAYED.  Well, I am going to spend some time every day trying to play through some of those games.  This is the documentary of that endeavor.

 

Game #1: Banished

I know I said I would start with the letter ‘A’, but that was a lie.  I’ve always like the look of Banished, so I thought a simple city-building strategy game would be first on my list.  I always liked SimCity, and simulation games in general.  I spent about a half hour going through the very thorough tutorial system.

I loved the idea of creating a little town and seeing if my people would survive.  As I started playing the actual game (on Medium difficulty), it started raining.  Basically it would rain every few hours on my poor people.  The first step was to get a house so they had a roof over their heads.  To build a house, I needed them to cut down some trees.  So, I sent my poor people, who have ended up exiled to a new land, out into the woods.  They were hungry and cold, but they powered through and I built them a house.  However, I also wanted to build a bridge, because they looked so pretty in the screenshots I had seen.  So I set them to build a bridge as well as a house.  Then I had them collect rocks to make streets.  Then I realized I had no builders, so I assigned my new flock to build the magnificent streets, house, and bridge.  I played a little longer than my allotted hour, but I had a prosperous community who would all die from starvation long before they would build another house.

 

Game #2: Critter Crunch

I had played a demo of this game a while back, and I bought it.  Now, I’ve finally played the real game.  It’s hilarious.  You control a little creature (called Biggs), who uses his tongue to grab smaller creatures and feed them to larger creatures in order to generate jewels, which Biggs lovingly regurgitates in rainbow fountains to his son, Smalls.  The game is reminiscent of Tetris Attack, with some Bejeweled thrown in.  The artwork is lovely, and the game is a blast to play.  After an hour, I could have played another hour easy.

 

Other stuff:

Destiny launched the new Crimson Days event thing.  I was able to log on and play with one of my many PSN friends.  The event is a PvP 2v2 deathmatch with revives.  First team to win 5 are the champs.  Our first match went badly 0-5, but we started picking things up quickly.  I’m not a great team player, but I know my role.  I run in and while I get killed, my teammate cleans up.  We had one match (remember there are basically 2 kills per round for a total of 10 for a win) where my teammate had 16 kills and I had two.  That was pretty embarrassing, but most matches we both had 7 or 8 each.  I got a special shader and a new emblem, but I will have to play again tonight in order to finally achieve the coveted ‘chocolate ghost’.

candyGhost

Super Mario Maker Bookmark

December 27th, 2015 Comments off

If you’re a fan of Super Mario Maker, make sure to check out Nintendo’s awesome website that allows you to track your favorite courses and share your own with a single link.

https://supermariomakerbookmark.nintendo.net/.

SMMB

Super Mario Maker Bookmark site.

And to get you started, here’s my profile. No self-playing levels, no hidden glitch blocks, just some fun and some hard but fun levels. If you like a level, please give it a star! :)

Besiege on Steam

December 21st, 2015 Comments off

I love the destruction and the idea of little vignettes.  Seriously, the game actually has the vignettes as gameplay.  It makes me want to open up my Unity laptop and make little levels that you destroy.  Of course, that would be silly since the whole point of the game is doing just that.

The video had some lovely music to go along with all that destruction.  Steam has the game here.

Of course, Humble has it on sale: Besiege.

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Fallout 4 Review

December 16th, 2015 Comments off

Get the game.  End of review.

 

Ok, seriously, the game is good.  I’ve been feeling rather plucky in the game lately because I see a quest and I just go do it.  I’ve upped the difficulty a little since I started, since this was my first Fallout game.  My build went really well and I had some very nice armor drops.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I will explain in a bit.  If I still need to sell you on the game, I will compare/contrast to a few other games.  Fallout 4 is made by Bethesda, so the first comparison is to Elder Scrolls.  I loved Elder Scrolls.  Loved it.  I even bought the MMORPG and convinced some good friends to buy it.  The MMO was not as good as Oblivion or Skyrim, so we really stopped playing.  I personally stopped playing because I was a level 25 warrior who got killed by a level 11 wizard in some quest and I was so pissed off.  I actually logged back into the game just recently and found my still lifeless body on the ground in front of the wizard.  I love the commitment, but I’m angry about the results.  Fallout 4 continues the awesomeness of Skyrim (which was way better than the MMO and in my top ten games of all time) except you have guns.  I spent an hour in the character creation screen getting my character’s (Benjamin’s) lips just right.  For reals.  Then I unleashed him upon the world.  He was super strong, very charismatic, quite lucky, and moderately intelligent.  He was just OK at looking around and fighting and stuff.  I knew I wanted him to carry all the things (I heard there is basically a hoarding mentality with FO4 before I started playing it…that part is true).  I didn’t go for quite a melee build with the character creation, but I wound up with one anyway.  Once I started leveling up, I added in sneakiness, since stealth was one of my favorite builds in Skyrim.  I loved shooting a single arrow and having a dragon crash into the ground at my feet, dead.  Sadly, FO4 does not have any dragons, but Bethesda did re-use a few things I noticed, like the sound it makes when you pick up a bottle of liquid (or potion in Skyrim), and the way the sun looks with clouds passing between you.  That’s pretty cool.  There are swords, but I tend to stick with my silenced sniper rifle.  You can build better swords (like adding chainsaw blades or electrifying them), so there is a wonderful crafting element, like in WOW and other games.  I saw a minigun with big swords on the front and barbed wire wrapped around it.  That was pretty cool.

So, I’ve wandered the ‘Commonwealth’, as the world in FO4 is named, and I encountered Legendary (very strong) enemies who dropped stealth armor (remember the chameleon effect in Oblivion?  Same thing).  So, now I have a nearly invisible character who can snipe enemies from afar or sneak right up next to them and punch them to death.  If none of that sounds good, I have another comparison.  Do you like the Sims?  FO4 is basically the Sims in first-person (or third-person) with guns.  You encounter followers who you can impress or disappoint.  You can build your own home base (or multiple home bases) and decorate it just the way you want.  I have spent at least a dozen hours building up my ‘settlements’ and trying to romance my followers.  So, you could also compare this game to Mass Effect (Bioware game), because you can do some similar stuff there with the romancing, plus the conversations are like Mass Effect, where you pick ‘Sarcastic’ and don’t know what your character will end up saying.  FO4 doesn’t have a ton of selection when building, so it’s not as cool as the Sims, but if you go to the library to get a new book (I don’t know why this ‘quest’ is so prevalent in Sims games, but it is also in FO4), you get to bring a gun and shoot enemies before you get the book back to your ‘house’.  Also, the game isn’t really turn based, so Mass Effect still holds that distinction (and KOTOR, another Bioware).  It has been rumored that modifications to the game (mods) built by normal people will be fully integrated with both the PC and console versions.  It might be the first time this has happened with console games.  Mainly because as soon as you open up that stuff, some guy decides he’s going to use it to hack your console and control it or something.  Bro, nobody cares that you stole my Yahoo account.

If you still aren’t convinced because you play sports games or racing games, then I have failed you.  You should still play Fallout 4, but I have a big spoiler warning: the game is sad.  Like, I’m not ruining anything for you, because the story is nuclear holocaust, but the problem is that people will be people even after a nuclear holocaust.  You encounter horrible stories of love and loss, of revenge and penitence.  Bethesda is very good at making you feel sad for people.  For example, I stumbled upon a Raider hideout.  Raiders are bad guys, because they hurt other people and steal their stuff.  Well, it turns out that this Raider group was only trying to get back the leader’s sister, who had been kidnapped by another Raider group.  Of course, I didn’t know about this noble cause until after I had wiped them all out and started reading some sad e-mails on a leftover computer terminal (they all look and sound like Apple IIe desktops, which makes me laugh).  Turns out that the leader had been trying to get the little sister back, and the kidnappers were forcing them to do bad things to try and ‘win’ her back.  That’s pretty sad.  I also saw some children’s toys left behind in an abandoned house, and chalk had been used to write a sad note, ‘Goodbye’.  Or the sad story of a skeleton I found with a note explaining how she was running away from home because her parents weren’t going to be happy that she was pregnant and the boyfriend was going to dump her, so she died alone in a shack in the middle of the woods.  See?  Sad.  Oh god, there’s also the Railway Rifle location.  That might be the saddest.  There isn’t a happy ending to any of the stories I’ve come across in Fallout 4, but I haven’t finished it yet.  Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel or something.  Anyways…you should play it.

School of Interactive Design

November 30th, 2015 Comments off

I don’t plug stuff all the time, but I like the folks at the School of Interactive Design.  If you use the code PACMAN, you can get in there for free for a week.  Spend each day and night watching videos ranging from video game design to 3D artwork.  I think there’s even a Photoshop class in there and digital painting.  If you want to start building video games or 3D assets, you can’t go wrong with a video series.  The videos they make are easy to follow and understand, and go over many of the basics that others may ignore.  However, they aren’t slow.  You can blow through the whole 2D game design class (all 5 sections) in a matter of hours.  If you sat down on a Saturday, you could have your first 2D game by late afternoon.  I recommend them for both beginners and experienced users alike as well as both Mac or Windows users.  Every once in a while Groupon will sell a year’s worth of time for $99 (a savings of $1089!), so that’s totally worth it if you can find it.

 

Love, Ben.

Fallout 4 is full of bugs, future updates to resolve issues.

November 11th, 2015 2 comments
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Mario Maker Levels

November 10th, 2015 Comments off

After sludging through loads of crummy Mario Maker levels, I finally decided to post the levels I’ve made:

4e2e-0000-00d6-5ec1
9d29-0000-00a6-9e45
87d4-0000-007f-f421
a418-0000-006c-da77
0f3f-0000-0033-dfcc
aca1-0000-0029-733c
ee9f-0000-0019-d4cf
09f8-0000-0018-c072

Give them a try, and let me know what you think in the comments below.

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New Live Action Battlefront Commercial

November 10th, 2015 Comments off

I laughed.  I laughed and laughed and laughed because I thought there were suddenly a bunch of naked people playing Battlefront somewhere:

 

 

Then it turns out to be a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi, which I never once picked up.  I just kept thinking of naked people playing video games.  What does that say about me?

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Xbox One Backwards Compatibility

November 6th, 2015 1 comment

November 12th, 2015 you will be getting a big update to your Xbox One.  This will redefine the importance of the console in your home.  That’s right, they’re bringing in a Windows 10 dashboard!

 

Ok, that’s not the real deal.  Microsoft is adding a backwards compatibility module to the Xbox One on November 12th.  For now, there has been a leaked list thanks to Dr. Windows of all the Xbox 360 games that will be completely playable on your Xbox One.  Notice all Halo games, all Gears of War games, all Assassin’s Creed games, and many others.  If there’s a game you wanted to play on a next-gen console, go get it!

 

Xbox One backwards compatibility list.

 

 

Tribes Universe FREE

November 6th, 2015 Comments off

If you ever played Tribes, you know it’s awesome.  Well, Hi-Rez Studios decided they liked YOU, and now you can download the entire Tribes catalog of games for FREEEEEEEE!!!

 

Just navigate to this link, click a game and then the download button.  It includes a CD key if needed (like for Tribes 2).  I’m planning on setting up a server to host games, although I don’t know how that works anymore.  Who knows if I can get it working.

 

Love, Ben.

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Xbox One Bundle Deal

November 6th, 2015 Comments off

If you’ve been waiting on an Xbox One, here’s the new deal.

 

It’s the standard 500GB with one controller, headset, and HDMI cable, but includes the Kinect and Forza 5 for $329.99.

 

There’s also a non-Kinect bundle for $299.99.

 

Considering I bought one for basically this same price, I’m a little sad I didn’t wait a few more weeks.

 

Love, Ben

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Battlefront New Gameplay

October 28th, 2015 Comments off

If you haven’t seen it already, here’s the link for the new Battlefront gameplay footage.  I will get this game, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to be my number one.  I love the idea of dropping into battles, but I am pretty sure I’ll be up to my neck in Black Ops III like I was with Battlefield 4.

 

Battlefront Gameplay

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Cheap PS4

October 27th, 2015 Comments off

Woot! is selling PS4’s for $299.99.  It’s a 500GB version with one controller and a wired headset.  Plus the $5 shipping.  Get it!

 

http://www.woot.com/offers/sony-playstation-4

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Destinyween

October 27th, 2015 Comments off

If you haven’t seen it already, Destiny is doing a new event to celebrate Halloween.  The event is called the Festival of the Lost and will be available only from October 26th, 2015 to November 9th, 2015.  You can go to the Tower and start the mini-quest to collect masks and candy.  You get to trick-or-treat around the tower, and the interactions are pretty funny.  Everyone is wearing a mask.  The important things to know: if you get a Legendary (purple) mask, you will be able to keep it after the event.  If you get a Rare (blue) mask, you must upgrade it using paper pieces and glue (yes, really…these masks already look like they’re made of paper and glue, so it’s pretty fitting) to get it to Legendary status.  Paper and glue is available as a possible reward in the Treasures of the Lost for purchase from the Eververse Trading Company in 1, 3, or 6 stacks.  You will also get at least one paper/glue from the first bag of candy you get from Eva Levante.  If you need more and you have duplicate masks, you can dismantle them for paper and glue.  You will also get one guaranteed Legendary mask you get to keep after the event no matter what.  Sadly, mine was pretty lame and I’ve already thought about dismantling it.  If you want to see your mask in the Tower, make sure to go to your Settings menu and check the little box for “Always on” under the Helmet tab.  The important part of the mini-quest is to always have an empty bag for collecting candy (Empty Candy Satchel from Eva).  You get candy from opening chests, killing baddies, completing public events, strikes, and PVP all while wearing a mask.  This can make the completion of these tasks harder because you’ll drop to around 200 light (which is apparently how levels are measured now or something).  When your empty candy satchel is full, bring it back to Eva to trade for more masks and additional items.  You can get consumable candy items (like Fruit Motes, which generate Glimmer for killing Fallen).  Bonus: you can buy a new emote only available during the event that has you dancing like Michael Jackson in Thriller.  It’s called the Zombie Dance and is only available on Xbone and PS4 (not 360 or PS3).  Is it worth the extra real-world cash to buy it?  Probably.  So far my favorite mask is Xur, but I got Atheon, the Speaker, Eris, Petra, and the Warden.  I plan on keeping Xur and Eris.

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The Taking King

October 14th, 2015 Comments off

Ok.  I still like Destiny.  I’m not a play-every-day Destiny fan, but I will pop it in and fly to Earth and wander around a bit; maybe pick up some bounties and complete some public events.  However, yesterday I was quite dismayed to find that without the new DLC, The Taken King, I was unable to play PVP.  Yes, I have screenshots of my inability to PVP even though I have Playstation Plus.  I also can’t play any of the daily strikes, weekly strickes, or strike playlists.  It looks like Bungie is finally forcing us to download their newest DLC.  They are just taking and taking from the fans.  There have been endless complaints about how they’ve handled their largest update (18GB), and this is just more fuel on that fire.  My biggest problem is the cost of buying the new DLC is still the same price as purchasing the original game.  Now, I need to show some math.  Destiny cost $59.99 when it originally came out.  However, I purchased the collector’s edition for $79.99, which included the first two DLC packs, which are normally priced at $19.99 each.  So, I’ve saved $20 so far.  The Taken King costs $79.99 for the collector’s edition, which includes the first two DLC packs, the Taken King, and the original game.  So, it costs the exact same as what I’ve already purchased and includes the new DLC.  This would be great for someone who hasn’t played Destiny yet.  However, for someone who already shelled out all the money to Bungie, I can get JUST the Taken King DLC for $39.99, which means I end up paying an extra twenty bucks over what I saved.  This means the actual cost of the Taken King for a previous purchaser of Destiny is $99.99 (without the $20 savings).  Thanks, Bungie.  I am loathe to say this, but GameStop came through for those fans.  If you purchased the collector’s edition for $79.99 and traded in your previous copy of Destiny, you got $20 back.  This would be great for people who got the actual disk; of which I have seen zero copies ever.  I don’t even know what the disk looks like.  Nobody I know could cash in on that, so we didn’t.  GameStop still sucks.  Hooray.

In conclusion, Bungie really screwed all the die hard fans of their game by offering them nothing.

If the Taken King was $20, I would buy it in a heartbeat.  That is all.

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Star Wars Battlefront Beta

October 12th, 2015 Comments off

Yes.  I played the beta.  In fact, I played the hell out of the beta.  I logged approximately 20 hours on the beta in the last three days across three different consoles.  I played on PC and two different PS4’s (one mine and one not mine).  Some of you may know that I frequent a cigar lounge.  Last year, I bought them a PS4 and we’ve seen some awesome stuff on there.  We had the beta for Rainbow Six:Siege, which was not something I was excited about, but that’s just me, I’m sure.  However, you tag ‘Star Wars’ on something and I’m there.  Anyway, I ranked up to level 5 at the lounge in about an hour and twenty minutes.  That’s the extent of the beta: lvl 5.  That being said, I had a great time getting there.  I sniped Luke Skywalker in the face while a bunch of cigar-smoking bros watched.  Most of them were disappointed that I was the Empire and I had murdered Luke Skywalker, but I think everyone was impressed.  The gameplay was pretty good, but I had a ton of problems starting out.  You have special skills you must unlock like the ability to throw a thermal detonator, or carrying a sniper rifle with a 1 shot every 7 seconds cooldown.  Once you get used to that (and playing the single player actually helped out a lot), there are also issues with the vehicles.  The first time I jumped in an X-Wing, my ship crashed straight into the ground.  After changing the controls so flight was inverted (which is actually how 99% of flight simulators are set, so I was pissed), I crashed into the ground again.  This was a constant: if you are near the ground, you will clip into it and die.  So, I had to fly high above the troops and try to take out the enemy ships.  This was hard because the ships all move at different speeds.  The snowspeeder is as slow as a semi truck while the A-wing is a Ferarri.  The X-Wing has an average speed and the TIE fighters have above-average.  The problem is that there’s no way to slow them down.  You can speed them up, as I found out when I accidentally pushed a button and crashed my TIE fighter into the ground, but I am unsure what button it was or how to replicate it.  I don’t even know if every ship has that.  Aside from the control issues (which I diligently reported after every game), the only other thing to talk about is the graphics.  The graphics are real.  On Hoth (a frozen planet), you could actually see snowflakes sparkle on the textured ground.  As a game developer hobbyist, I have absolutely no idea how they did that.  I only experienced a few lag glitches, and thinking that forty people are playing together with that level of graphic detail (and most of them are shooting guns and/or flying ships around), I was blown away.  I did have some weird clipping issues where I would line up my sights on a guy and fire just to have the rock cover in front of me spark with my bullets, and then die from the guy I was aiming at shooting me.  There was also an issue with the vehicles crashing into the ground even though I appeared to be far away from it.  This happened on a number of occasions and I eventually gave up my piloting career.  The last problem I had with the beta was transforming into a Jedi.  I was both Luke and Darth Vader at points in my gameplay and I have to say the problem is the spawn location of these heroes.  If you are running down towards an AT-ST walker and pick up your Luke powerup, you spawn a mile back from where you were, rendering you almost useless.  Of course, if you do manage to catch up to the chicken walker, don’t cut it’s legs out from under it.  It will fall on you and kill Luke.  I did have one awesome moment where I spawned as Darth Vader and made it into the Rebel base.  I cut down a dozen guys before my time as Darth ran out.  I felt pretty good that I wasn’t killed that one time.  Overall, I am unsure I will run out and pre-order the game.  I enjoyed it, but after maxing out on three systems, I was kinda over the whole thing.  Yes, being a Jedi was cool.  Yes, getting your first headshot with the Cycle Rifle is cool.  Yes, the graphics were mind-blowing.  Heck, I shot down a TIE fighter with my Cycle Rifle, just like this guy.  But, it doesn’t seem like the game has the staying power to keep me playing for more than an hour or two.  This reminds me of the Destiny beta.  I maxed out both PS4’s again and had a great time on Earth.  When the game came out, I didn’t want to leave Earth and the game forces you to.  I knew Earth.  I knew every inch of every sector on Earth.  It ruined the game for me to leave Earth.  When I play now (though I am not purchasing the Taken King expansion), I only really want to stay on Earth and snipe dudes and collect treasure.  With Battlefront, I know every inch of Hoth (ok, maybe not every inch, but I can say I never went negative K/D), and I’m not sure I want to go back.  This can be the drawback with a beta: some people will get crazy about the game and others will certainly cross it off their list.  Does this help or hinder the game industry?  I have a game I’ve been working on and I know the second I put it in beta, people will flock in to play and then walk away with no intention of buying it.  Sad face.

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Global Game Jam 2015

October 7th, 2015 Comments off

The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is a worldwide game creation event, and I was able to participate this year in Denver.  The idea is that in today’s heavily connected world, we could come together, be creative, share experiences, and express ourselves in a universal way.  The process is simple: you sign up for a site and show up Friday evening to meet people and form teams.  You and your team then spend the next 48 hours making a game from scratch.  At the end, you present your game to the other teams, post it to the website for all to see, and bask in the accomplishments or failures you faced.  I think that’s right…you face accomplishments, right?  Anyway, I had heard about the GGJ a while back and thought I didn’t have the chops for it.  Yes, I have been playing video games for a long time.  Yes, I have an advanced degree in Video Game Design (or at least I have worked on it for a while).  Yes, I have been a professional programmer for many years.  But this is the big show!  These are people who have many more years of experience and have dozens of games (some of them AAA titles!), and they won’t want to work with someone who made his first game just a few months ago (you can access the game here)!  So, I was quite hesitant to go.  In fact, I was downright terrified.  Before I unravel my tale, I will say this: it was the most fun I’ve ever had and maybe also the most stress.

Weeks leading up to GGJ:
I wanted to hone my skills, so I got the following books from the library – Sams Teach Yourself Maya in 24 Hours, Sams Teach Yourself Unity in 24 Hours, and The Art of the Video Game.  The art book was great, but focused on some games that I had never played with great artwork.  As far as Sam’s goes, they warn you that 24 hours is not an accurate description of the time needed to follow through the entire book and actually grasp any of the concepts.  It took me about a week for each book, and I still use them for reference.  I would say that they are really great reference books.  I also took an online class for Blender, another 3D graphics program that is open-source.  I actually got my work to pay for it, claiming that I would use the knowledge for creating special work-related graphics.  I doubt that will ever happen, but at least I took the class for ‘free’.  As I neared the deadline for GGJ, I took an old laptop and wiped it to have a GGJ laptop with Unity Pro, GameMaker, GameSalad, Blender, Maya, and Python.  With my experience regarding these software packages, I was feeling slightly better going in.  I also did a ton of research on previous game jams, what a game jam consisted of, and what I should expect from a game jam.  The biggest point I took away was to bring extra deodorant.

The Day Before GGJ:
The GGJ 2015 was held January 23rd-25th, and I was scared and excited.  I planned out my Friday.  I would leave a little early from work (I eventually decided on a half day), ride the light rail to the nearest stop, and then ride my bike to the actual site.  The site I signed up for through the GGJ website was the University of Denver (DU).  They’ve hosted in the past and had great reviews, but the previous organizer had decided to hand off the reigns.  It turned out OK for me, but I heard a lot of grumbling about previous years being better.  I mapped it all out, charged my laptop, and was ready to go.

The First Day:
On Friday, I left work early, went to lunch with my lovely wife, got my bike, and hopped on the light rail.  I reached my stop, arranged my laptop and bicycle, and took off.  The site was about a mile from the light rail stop, but DU is a pretty bike-friendly school.  When I reached the location, I locked my bike up and wandered in.  I vowed I would not ride my bike the next day.  I was covered in sweat from the ride, and I’m sure people were eyeing me with disdain.  Luckily, I was super early, so there weren’t too many folks.  I estimated ten or so.  The final count for our site would be 139.  I tried to find a quiet corner to cool off and just watch people.  The DU site was constrained by the organizer to include only DU students first, followed by other students, and then non-students.  As a professional student, I was not turned away, but I quickly realized that there was a severe age gap.  I was easily a decade older than the people who were already there, and I started to sweat again.  Would I be the weird old guy?  I’m pretty social, so I quickly gathered some people to talk to, and I noticed that certain attendees avoided me.  That was fine because I was soon entrenched in the defense of Ocarina of Time as the best game ever.  It is.  If you disagree, you are wrong.  Eventually, we were ushered into the opening presentation (a live simulcast across all the sites).  It was interesting, but I knew from my research that the most important thing they would divulge to us was the theme of the event.  The 2015 theme was “What do we do now?”

I immediately started brainstorming games, but I didn’t know how big or how detailed this thing was going to be.  I came up with five games right off the bat and dismissed them all.  I also knew from my research that this is typical and a correct way to do it.  After the presentation ended, it was time to meet some folks and discuss game ideas.  I was struck by how many people had good ideas and also by how many bad ideas were fielded.  Now, this is where it gets a little weird.  The folks I had befriended were quickly tossed away except for one, whose ideas were just fantastic.  I knew this was the guy I wanted to work with, no matter how little or much I could contribute.  We shopped around and eventually built a team with an Oculus Rift!  We were going to do a VR game!  How awesome is that?  We found some space to work in right away and got started with some of the obvious design ideas.  The first was story.  Luckily (and eventually unluckily), we had a movie producer on the team.  We also has a 3D artist, a Unity programmer, a second programmer, a sound guy, and me.  We established roles and began laying out the foundation for a collaborative programming and information dissemination environment.  We used gitHub as a central repository for the game code and assets (by design, Unity contains all the assets in the project, but it can cause issues if you manage to get in there and edit them with Maya, so they needed to be separated and imported every time).  We also used Atlassian SourceTree to duplicate the repo across all the working computers.  Then it became time to work.  Actually, it became time to eat, so we adjourned for the evening to a nice middle eastern eatery, went back to lock up our computers and decided to meet up the next day bright and early.

The Second Day:
On Saturday, I thought it would make sense to drive in and park at the building we were occupying.  This proved to be correct and I got a great parking space only a tiny walk from the front doors.  Awesome.  I brought in some donuts and OJ for the crew and DU provided some coffee to get us up and running.  We had a lot of work to do.  Our final plan from the previous day was to have a game where you are playing as the sole survivor of Earth.  As an astronaut working on the International Space Station, you happened to be outside doing a spacewalk as a giant asteroid impacts Earth, sending shards and debris everywhere.  What do you do now?  God, when I heard the idea I thought it was the precise embodiment of the theme.  Now, we had to make it look right.  We started by modeling an astronaut for the player character.  I started on creating some skyboxes for background, and our programmers started fidgeting with creating some first person controllers within a 3D gamespace.  This is where the unlucky part comes in: the movie guy had apparently no video game experience and didn’t really seem to grasp many of the design concepts.  He kept trying to railroad the game into a mini movie instead of a playable game.  This would continue throughout the entire weekend, and I think we all just eventually stopped listening to him and I think we really let him down.  He really wanted a movie experience instead of a game.  Virtual Reality has come a long way, but we were there to make a game…not a movie.

Now, this was my first real challenge with Unity (we were using version 4.6 back then, as 5 still had a lot of bugs).  I used a program called CubeTheSphere to create my skyboxes.  It’s a really great little free program that takes an image and forces it into the interior of a cube while stretching and curving the area to contain it.  You go from a single image to six images that fit together to form a cube, and the original image is inside the cube (hence, a skybox).  I had some issues with the skyboxes having odd angles and visible seamlines, so I asked the 3D artist (Brandon Jenks, who is just fantastic, here are some videos of him throwing together stuff) to fix them.  It actually took us a while since there was math involved to figure out how the pieces fit together, but it worked out in the end and we had a beautiful skybox.  Next on the list was figuring out the controls.  We had a working astronaut model, so we placed a 3rd person controller in there to fly it around.  Turns out movement in 3D space is a lot harder to figure out than movement along the ground.  In Unity, you can just tick a box that says “affected by gravity”, but unchecking that box can just wreak havoc.  We eventually (and by we, I mean Alex Brancard, the lead programmer, who runs his own app store) got the controls right, and we talked about adding a boost.  When we got the boost in, Alex added a trail so you could see where you came from, but we decided that when it was implemented in first person, this could potentially cause some problems (the main was dizziness, which happens with the Occulus Rift anyway).  So, we had a first person controller and the ability to direct the movement of the character (who could be a boy or a girl, since all astronauts in spacesuits looks the same), and a really nice skybox.  Next, we needed to have collectibles.  We decided to have items from Earth spiraling around the detritus of the debris field.  We settled on some specifics: Starbux cup, Pizza, taco, phonograph, Teddy bear, Mona Lisa painting, Sriracha bottle, toy car, clock, and NES controller.  Brandon jumped into modeling all these collectibles while Alex, Michael, and I tried to figure out how to collect them.  There needed to be a visual clue that you were close to an item (in space, everything just looks like rocks floating around), so we added a huge ‘GRAB’ popup when you were close to an item.  We had to use placeholders for the items, and then we realized that you could float around and collect items forever!  That’s not a game.  That’s just boring.  So we added a collection list so you could only collect each item once.  We wanted it to have a specific time limit, so we added a fuel gauge that would run out after three minutes(originally, it was ten and the game would just drag on).  Then we added an ending.  ** SPOILER ALERT ** If you managed to collect 8 of the ten items, another astronaut would appear!  You would then have the decision to go after the final items and risk losing the only other human being in existence or turn towards the other astronaut and seeing the final cutscene.  If you risked it, you get nothing!  If you go for it, you get a nice little ending cut scene of the two of you floating off into space holding hands.  It’s still pretty bleak.  That was the end of day two (really 30 hours into the project with only 18 hours left).  Brandon wanted to stay up all night and model the collectibles, so we left him to do his own thing.

The Third Day:
I was late.  We had stayed up together at the jam until about 2am and I was exhausted.  I wandered in around 10am and knew that we only had 8 hours left.  We got to work on looking at the new models Brandon had cooked up.  They were pretty fantastic.  I mean, we’re talking photorealistic Sriracha bottles floating in space here.  We got them in and I put together the collection list so it would pop up with little icons representing each item.  I was pretty happy with my created icons.  We wanted to have a little arm animation of the astronaut grabbing the items, so Brandon hooked that up in about twenty minutes.  We just threw it in and attached the animation to the collection of a item.  It looked pretty good.  Next, we needed sound.  We turned to Tim Girard, an accomplished composer who worked freelance on almost all the games at DU for a spooky, sad space drone.  He delivered in spades (he must have sent us a dozen, and they were all great) and we incorporated the sound in as a 2D sound that whispered everywhere.  Then we realized that there were only three things left on our list (four, really, but I’ll get to that).  The first was moving inside the helmet, the second was the destruction of Earth, and the third was an additional sound of breathing.  We needed to be able to look around inside the helmet, so we added a layered first person controller on a slower camera.  When you would look quickly to the right, you would see the inside of the helmet, and it would slowly rotate out of view and you could continue moving in the direction you were looking.  It worked out really well and I did all the artwork for inside the helmet (I think…by day three, your mind is mush and you struggle to put all the pieces together).  Alex found a destructible Earth model that would explode into pieces and fling the pieces into the gamespace.  It was brilliant!  You could actually crash into the large pieces if you flew enough (and wasted all your fuel).  Lastly, Michael put a coat over his head and breathed in fevered pitches to record the breathing effect.  He really is a genius.  The piece we forgot was the end game: roll the credits.  I hurriedly tried to put together a simple GUI that would scroll our names, but I was having some problems and got very frustrated.  I’m pretty sure I cursed a lot and felt I let my team down.  Alex stepped up and threw the GUI in at the last second and then we got to have others come playtest the game.  It was a small success.  We worked very hard and then it turns out that some people just don’t like games in which the ending is pretty bleak.  Also, some folks got sick with the Oculus Rift.  Alex eventually got the whole program in a desktop version you can play with the Unity Web Player here.  That’s it.  That’s my story of the Global Game Jam 2015.  I honestly don’t know if I will participate next year, but I honestly don’t know.  I made some good friends and Alex and I worked on another game right after as a  commercial venture.  It is still a work in progress.

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Battlefield Hard…line

March 23rd, 2015 Comments off

I got Battlefield : Hardline last Friday.  I traded in Battlefield 4 and some others with the complete intention of playing over the weekend.  I didn’t play until Saturday at my local cigar lounge hangout.  We’ve had a PS4 there for a little more than a year now, and I play a few hours there for a change of scenery and the option to smoke a cigar while I play.  I played through the first two single-player missions and realized that I didn’t want to take the game back home.  I will not play this game on my own.  I will not sit and grind through without a team of people watching me and cheering me on.  It is a true spectator game.

 

Once I started the multiplayer, it was like I had never played video games before.  I played for an hour and had one single match (out of approximately ten) where my K/D ratio was positive.  K/D is a ratio of Kills to Deaths, or a simple measurement of how bad you suck.  A K/D ratio of 1 is the beginning of a good player.  The first match I was at 0.8, so that means I had 8 kills and 10 deaths (8/10 = 0.8).  Something to remember about K/D is that it can be a lot easier to have a high K/D at the beginning.  Having one at the end is much harder because you’ve had dozens of bad sessions.  A bad session is where you suck more than normal.  This is just like a bad hand in poker.  You start ‘steaming’, or playing stupidly even though you know you’re doing it.  I had a bad play experience, or a bad play session and I couldn’t stop.  After four or five, I was pretty much done with the game.

 

I will probably try again on my normal Wednesday cigar night, but I can tell you right now: I didn’t like the game…it was too hard.

 

REFRESH:

OK, I tried multiplayer again.  The game has a lot of problems:
1.  At one point, I was driving a car across some train tracks and it was bouncing like I had hydraulics (even after I was over the tracks).
2.  I was also able to wall-ride my motorcycle to a second-floor balcony for no reason.
3.  At one point, I jumped in a car to drive somewhere and when I got out, I had a totally different loadout.
4.  The games are totally one-sided 95% of the time.  I played one single match that came down to the wire (we eventually lost my 30).
5.  Also, the loadouts reset every new match.  If you don’t know this, you’ll be pissed off when you try to throw your breaching charge and instead throw an ammo pack.  I haven’t found a way around this yet, but I’ll keep looking.

There are some good things:
1.  The vehicles are faster.
2.  The graphics are photo-realistic.
3.  The experience system of ‘earning cash’ and then ‘spending it’ is a complete rip-off of Uncharted, which made me smile.
4.  At one point, I threw a grenade at some incoming bad guys, and my character flipped them off and cursed at them.
5.  I threw down some medical supplies for my teammates and my character said, “Git yo f***in’ Meds right here!”

 
I also have some tips for those intrepid readers.  The fastest way to get money is be an engineer class (‘Mechanic’), save up for the repair tool, and then just play the Hotwire game mode.  On average, the match lasts less than 10 minutes, and if you’re constantly jumping in the captured cars and repairing them, you can make $5,000 a match.  My best was $30,000.  Try and beat that (I had a 200%) boost on, but that still means I made $10k.  The molotov cocktail animation takes FOREVER.  If you are the ‘criminals’, make sure you have time to throw it.  If you’re a cop, the incendiary grenade works just like a regular grenade (honestly, it seemed a little faster).  DON’T BUY THE HELICOPTER GUN UPGRADES!  They are only used if you manage to get in a chopper as a gunner.  The likelihood you will use them is almost zilch.  In four hours of play time, I used them in maybe four or five matches, and my $84,000 could have been spent on ANYTHING else.  Best upgrade: RPG in the trunk (Mobile Armory: Anti-Armor Perk).  I got it for the Sedan car, which means every time I get in a Sedan, the trunk has an RPG.  Seriously, this is the first upgrade you need to get.  If you are playing Hotwire and have maxed out your Mechanic (you are no longer leveling the unlocks), switch to the Enforcer and equip the breaching charges.  Wait until your team grabs a van, spawn into it, switch to the passenger seat and throw an ammo pack, then switch to the rear door position and be ready to throw and detonate!  I was in the tanker truck, and it doesn’t work as well (I kept sticking explosives to our truck).  If you place breaching charges on a car and try to ‘slam piece’ (intentionally jumping out of a vehicle and blowing it up), if someone else is in the car it won’t blow up.

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