Saturday, November 21, 2009

Left4Dead 2 is a joke?

The original Left4Dead has won our praise by its great dynamic gameplay, tons of blood, brilliant and still quite exotic for that time cooperative multiplayer and a great deal of replayability.

The sequel was met with a protest by the game's community which claimed that it is not fair to release a sequel without any significant gameplay innovations and making everybody just buy a content-pack for a price of a new game. Some people supported this point of view, some met it sceptically.

But from what I can see right now, Left4Dead 2 is indeed a great, massive content-pack, which features five new campaigns and two new playing modes: Realism and Scavenge. The first one is basically an ultra-high level of difficulty for campaigns, and the second one is a new round-based mode about gathering canisters and refueling the car.

This stuff really could be released in the form of downloadable content like Valve did with Team Fortress 2, but this time they decided to make a whole new game out of it and, frankly speaking, we cannot blame them for this decision.

The game itself has some really cool levels, new characters and a couple of new zombie behaviors, but the core game mechanics haven't changed a bit, and neither have the graphics. Nothing surprising so far, and I have already finished 4 out of 5 campaigns. In fact, all we've got here is another portion of good old (holy cow—that's a year!) Left4Dead gameplay.

If you liked it, you probably have already bought the sequel. If you didn't like it, the sequel won't by any means change your feeling about it. If you haven't played neither, you should probably go for the Valve's special offer and buy the bundle for 70 bucks. Or not. It's up to you.

I'll be writing a full-scale review of the game for in a few days, so you will see its English version here, but I'm quite sure that nothing will have changed by then.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The media globe theory

The media globe is a manner of treating different kinds of media which do not really often go together, but still have too much in common. For example, TV shows, video games, animated films and movies. In modern society the level of globalization has reached the point when virtually no distinctions should be made between those kinds of media.

They are completely different industries with different people working on projects and different production processes, however, the end-product is pretty much alike: all of them are played on technically similar hardware, all of them feature storyline, all of them can be easily bought via digital delivery services on the Internet. All of them have actors and all of them are listed in critics databases such as IMDB, and Metacritic.

The media globe is solid and has a firm comfortable surface. We walk on it everyday feeling really good about ourselves and about it. But every time you turn on your TV, you dip your head into the globe and observe one certain part of the inside. You dip your head in a different part of the globe, and you see a new media. Sometimes you have to dip your hands as well, though.

But what will we see if we cut the globe open? That's right, it is segmented in a way that if you take one segment away, you will see all types of media at the same time. Suddenly, you feel an urge to observe them all at once.

A person with an Internet access nowadays consumes a tremendous amount of visual information. We turn on our laptops, PlayStations, Xboxes, DVD & Blu-ray players and AV receivers and consume, consume consume. We consume all the time and we want to consume even more. But the ax of boredom and idleness is already hanging over our necks, ready to fall down any second if we're out of favorite TV shows for the week. And that's when we want even more, and this desire helps us find our way into another media.

Clearly, switching to another media cannot go nicely and smoothly for everyone. If your friend has given you advice to play Gothic 3 or to watch Bloodrayne, your impression about the media you have chosen to consume content from clearly won't be right.

And that's why me and some of my buddies decided to create a place on the Internet, where all kinds of visual media will be equal. We will try as hard as we can to guide you to your exploration and help you find the pieces of content which are right just for you.

We are starting to work on a site, which will feature news, reports, reviews and announces of all kinds of media in a familiar to everyone format of a blog. Our site will also have webcasts, which will allow you to get your visual media reports visually. This project will most likely be announced after the New Year, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Critters overview

I'm currently working on the initial treatment document of the game called Critters. Here is the game overview. All mistakes clearly are there to test you, so comment if you see any.

The main idea of the game is using creatures instead of spells in action/RPG. The character simply mounts each new creature after choosing it from the 'spellbook' or in our case from the bestiary. Each critter has its own abilities which give player a wide range of in-game actions from rooting or stunning the opponent to running faster and jumping higher.

Different critters and combinations of critters (one critter after another) are needed for different missions, which is exactly why the player must try hard to gather as many critters as he or she can. To add a critter to his or her bestiary, the player has to accomplish a minigame, which is unique for each critter.

The genre of the game is action/adventure with some RPG elements including perk system, spellbar (with critters on it), quest log and quests themselves. Each critter has two abilities (one for each mouse button). Moreover, these abilities can combine forming another (probably more powerful) interaction. To make a combo the player has to press mouse buttons in a specific way. On a gamepad this kind of controls can be realized via triggers.

The player can tame only those critters which suite his character's class. In whole there are four character classes in the game: the demono, the dru, the hypno and the warri. Demono specializes in critters with major magic abilities such as fireballs, lightnings, freezing and earthquakes. Dru's critters can control nature: they are various fairies, unicorns, dryads as well as everything else dealing with trees, grasses and forests. Hypno's specialization are creatures which can stun, hypnotize, confuse or even mind control. And, finally, warri controls the most strong, savage and fierce critters.

All critters in the game are based on the mythology of different parts of the world, so players will be able to recognize most of them. The game setting is a bit of mythology combined with dark fairy-tale fantasy, as such of Grimm Brothers' fairy-tales. In this world gremlins wage a war against humans, who have established a steam-punk industrial society, which is expanding rapidly, leaving the creatures of the wilds less and less country to live. Each critter can and will talk to the player, making jokes of him and choices he makes, as well as giving advice.

Taming critters is conducted the following way. The player has a journal which contains descriptions of all critters, their behaviors and habitats. Moreover, he has a world map which becomes detailed in course of world exploration. To tame a critter the player has to come to a location described in the journal and perform a specific rite-minigame there.

The design of the game world is done in a way that forces the player to encounter a specific number of action on his way to the next critter or quest objective, however, the player has to choose a route himself.

The game has a coop mode which will allow up to four players to be in the game world at the same time. Each player has to pick one character class. The game world is modified based on the number of players in it. The more players—the tougher are enemies. But the minigames are modified as well, making it possible to complete each of them in the coop mode as well as in single player mode.

The competitive multiplayer mode includes both minigames and arena in team against team, team against AI, single player against another single player. Each multiplayer mode has its own leaderboard and achievements system.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bruce and Gerard pals forevah

I've finally gone to the cinema tonight to see Gamer after a month of waiting, and so happened, that I've recently watched Surrogates on DVD, so I couldn't neglect the overall similarity of movies' main ideas: both feature lazy humans who sit at home and manipulate bodies via some kind of interface (one point to Gamer for manipulating other living humans).

Gamer is a movie which has great visual effects but a really lame storyline, while Surrogates offers a still lame one but at least trying not to be such, while visual effects here are mostly speculation on futuristic human-like dolls and a great scene with these dummies falling down all over the city.

But in Gamer we also have a beautifully made PlayStation Home allusion, which makes the movie worth watching at least for the sake of getting lulz out of it. Not to mention the ending, in which the main character kills the local version of Dr. Evil and the audience is so overloaded with the spark of pure happiness, that everyone almost seems to have a bubble above his head saying something like "gg you suck n00b owned l2p".

And, finally, while Surrogates is probably the worst Bruce Willis's role, Gamer is one of the best for Gerard Butler. Not even to mention that Milo Ventimiglia shows up in one scene of Gamer doing a short, but a really good acting job. You probably know this actor for his role of Peter Petrelli in Heroes TV series or Jess Mariano from Gilmore Girls. 

Both movies are satiric and fun to watch to some extent, but the whole Running Man scenery of Gamer is slightly better. If I had to rate them, I'd probably just swap their IMDB scores giving Gamer 6.4 and Surrogates 6 out of ten. Neither of movies is a total epic fail, but I see no reason for watching either of them for the second time. 

And again, if you want to see some action, Surrogates has none to offer.

P.S. Both movies clearly were inspired by video games. Great media for the industry in whole!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A little sthg about Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age is perhaps the best CRPG since Fallout 2. There are reviewers out there who say that it has nothing new to offer the genre, but I haven't seen anything deeper, more authentic and sophisticated  in almost ten years and, frankly speaking, I don't quite give a fuck about how innovative it is.

The game gives you an impression of a nice fantasy book. It doesn't give you a set of rules and a setting—it gives you the world and its laws. Those who don't obey shall perish like thousands did before them.

I think I've already written this on Twitter, but every time you don't read a journal (codex) entry in Dragon Age, somewhere dies a kitten.  The game world's history and mythology is so interesting and thought-out, that one may even say that codex itself is a whole full-scale fantasy book.

But the coolest thing about Dragon Age is that the game alongside with recent Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 shows us how a 'hardcore' title may be financially successful and recognized by the mass market. And TV commercials, I guess, played a major role here. Nobody remains indifferent after watching the great 30 Seconds to Mars Dragon Age video.

And that is exactly what everybody's been talking about since the dawn of commercial development. The games are maturing, becoming a totally independent media, and the games marketing keeps getting more significant. You need to know how to sell your game and it is just as important as knowing how to make a fun one.