tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

An unboxing symphony in three parts

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A magical journey into the world of console shooters

On which I discover that I still can’t aim with a thumbstick to save my life.

I’ve been playing the Uncharted 2 multiplayer demo recently, and while I enjoyed the first game, I don’t know that the mechanics necessarily work for multiplayer. For one, the camera doesn’t stay behind you, so you’re forced to keep rotating the camera to keep it facing in your movement direction. While this isn’t ideal, it would at least be nice to have a quick ‘centre the camera behind you’ button – maybe R3 or something.

On top of that it seems like you die in very few hits – by the time I can rotate the camera to see someone shooting at me from behind, I’m at low health and get dropped by his next shot. So my complete lack of aiming skill is amplified by these two other problems I have with the interface.

Maybe the console shooter vibe doesn’t really resonate with me too well – I do well enough when I play Quake Live and TF2 but when you slow the game down and make everyone only capable of taking a few hits before dying somehow my abilities just go down the toilet.

I’ll probably keep playing it for a bit, though, if only to see if I can get used to the interface quirks.

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Is today “reveal crappy games day” or something?

Capcom and Konami appear to think that it is.

First off, Megaman 9. Let’s start off with a disclaimer – I’m not a Mega Man fan. My experience with the franchise is limited to a few minutes with Megaman X and Megaman Zero 2. That said, MM9 has me somewhat dumbstruck. It’s not that it’s a 2D sidescroller (that isn’t an issue at all, and in fact is probably a good move to appeal to Megaman fans). What I take issue with is this:

Mega Man 9 eschews the style of the more recent PlayStation-era Mega Man 8 or even the SNES Mega Man 7, instead going all the way back to 8-bit visuals, imitating the style of the NES games. Series creator Keiji Inafune commented that old-school Mega Man games don’t “fit into the grandiose and expansive world that the consumer gaming industry has become, and so you have to make games that match the current expectations.” This helped determine the game’s direction as a retro-style downloadable title for the WiiWare service.

2D is one thing, but the last thing I expected Capcom to do was take a leaf out of SNK’s book and completely recycle old assets. Actually, even that comparision isn’t appropriate any more, seeing what SNK is doing with King of Fighters XII. Yes, the old Megaman games are revered as classics, but if anything they are loved because they were good games, not because they used art from the 8-bit era! All this seems to be is another cheap attempt to cash in on fan nostalgia (see Street Fighter IV) by completely missing the point of why people love these games in the first place.

If they’re going to put it on a modern console, why not go all out and make a game with state-of-the-art 2D graphics that still stays true to the Megaman legacy? Heaven knows.

On top of that, it looks like Konami saw the announcement and decided to one-up them with their announcement of Castlevania Judgement for the Wii. The game is (of all things) a 3D fighter with motion controls.

I don’t know why Konami thought that Castlevania was great fodder for a fighting game. The system snippets in the article suggest that the game will play exactly like the main games, with heart meters and sub-weapons, but in a 1-on-1 format, which sounds strange. Still, it may be doable. The main reason I’m panning this announcement is the fact that the game uses motion controls.

I cannot think of a single fighting game on the Wii that has benefited from motion controls. Bleach: Shattered Blade is a shallow waggle-fest. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core has motion controls but no-one with any sense will use them. And the flagship fighting game on the Wii, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, eschews them entirely. The precision and timing that such games demand from their players means that control is of paramount importance (which is why any fighting game player will always insist on using an arcade stick). After about 9 months of using the Wii, I can safely say that the Wii remote does not have the necessary control. Games like Sonic and the Secret Rings suffer because of this, particularly on the later levels where it demands split-second reaction from the player.

If Konami knows what they’re doing, they will provide a classic controller option.

There was also that Ubisoft announcement of that new Prince of Persia platformer for the DS which inexplicably uses a chibi art style, but I don’t really consider that to be on the same level as these two dumbfounding announcements (although I think it’s probably just as unimpressive at this point).

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The list of doom, June Edition

Here’s the original list.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Psychonauts – I didn’t get all the scavenger hunt items, etc, but I was level 50 by the time I hit the final boss, and he didn’t give me much trouble.
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – Excellent game, but that final boss was far less challenging than the platforming area that led up to him.

Updated progress for the remaining items:

  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition – No progress made. Haven’t touched my PS2 in a while, actually.
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Mission 5-2. @#%@ Regenerators.
  • Zack & Wiki – No progress made. I don’t expect any will be made for a while, actually…
  • Super Mario Galaxy – No progress made. That Luigi purple coin mission is really hard if you just bumrush it without any planning (like I tend to do)
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – Finished the main story on both sides (not that it was hard, there being only 3 levels on each side and a common final level + boss fight). But I always try to play platformers to completion, so my next target is A-ranking everything. Yes, that includes that music mission in Memory Forest, a mission whose designer really needs to be shot.
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – I, uh, played a few more turns of mission 13. Still haven’t beaten it.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – I’ve been doing more time attack runs than Sol Emerald hunting, if you get my drift.

New entries on the list:

  • Mass Effect – Level 20, just picked up Liara T’Soni. I’m playing as a Soldier, and will be going for a Paragon rating, like the goody-two-shoes that I am.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – I actually haven’t gotten very far in this game because of a weird bug that causes my framerate to drop like a stone when I’m in the overworld. Just to remind you all, this is a 2003 game having problems running on a 2006 video card.
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New Sonic Unleashed trailer

The graphics are beautiful, but the silly number of boost pads and essential linearity of the levels is somewhat worrying. I’d hate for this game to devolve into a mindless speedfest after the positive impressions people have been having. As much as people criticize the Rush series for emphasizing speed, they also remembered that they were platformers first and foremost, with speed being a secondary concern.

Of course they haven’t seen fit to show us any of the wolf segments yet, and the game is releasing in six months’ time.

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*facepalm*

For all the noise nVidia makes about being a champion of PC Gaming, they sure are great at undermining their own cause.

For one, implying that console gamers get incomplete versions of games is bound to piss off more than one Xbox 360 or PS3 owner. Can you really describe the 360 or PS3 versions of a game like Devil May Cry 4 or GRID as inferior to the PC version in terms of quality? On top of that, games ported from consoles to PCs often fail the scalability requirement as I mentioned in an earlier post, simply because developers aren’t willing to put in the effort to make their previously non-scalable engine scale to a sensible variety of hardware.

Not to mention that the claim that PC versions of console games are always better is complete nonsense, mostly due to the second reason I just mentioned.

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No more excuses

OK, Sonic fanboys. You know how everyone claims that Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 is a bad game? And how so many of you claim that it isn’t really as bad as everyone says it is?

Watch and learn.

I really wish this series of videos had been around last year when I decided to play through the game for myself. I can say with 100% certainty that I experienced just about all the issues they run into (and unleash a torrent of curses at) throughout the entire game.

I recommend the Radical Train videos in particular for their unwashed display of jaw-droppingly bad game design and mechanics.

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The scaling question

I’ve mentioned before that scaling performance in PC games to lower-end systems is very important. Upon reading Sheba’s post on the same subject, I thought it would be apt to pen down some facts on why scaling is a hard problem, and my thoughts on why more developers don’t do it.

As always, I’ll try and keep technical details to a minimum.

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