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Title: Alpha Protocol: the plot thickens
Posted: July 10, 2010 (05:43 PM)
Couple of things. The shooting mechanics should have had a slow-down when aimed. Some of the trigger-abilities should have as well. The AI during detection also could have been more convincing, even though this is not much of a criticism - the game is designed for stages of encounters seperate from the next, which is a blessing during the missions. The checkpoint based progression also helps a lot with letting this flow well.

The way the conversations keep insinuating themselves into the game's progression also continues to impress. Things I say and do really shape how the missions turn out.

And according to my notebook, one of my roomies apparently loves me.

Next: political and social commentary, and relationships with sexy girls unfold lol.
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Title: Alpha Protocol: Taipei
Posted: July 10, 2010 (12:49 PM)
Yeah. This is curious. The game is really well made. The mechanics make sense, and the approach is a good one. It's not even entirely without charm if you never place a trap, sneak past the guards, shoot them with tranquilizers, or make use of the best stealth-abilities..

I am beginning to suspect a conspiracy :p
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Title: Alpha Protocol: where none may follow
Posted: July 10, 2010 (08:27 AM)
That's the training mission done. I chose the field agent background, and ended up running an extra mission for my handler. If you choose a different background, it's easier to unlock other side-missions, but it's not impossible to unlock any of them.

What struck me is the way the missions are integrated into the game and the dialogue. And after that, how well the dialogue trees unfold depending on details from the mission and earlier choices you made, and how the common conversation parts mesh into it.

Also, the sneaking animation looks terrible :D

The abilities and aiming mechanic positively surprised me, though. So did the AI, and the way they script paths depending on where on the map you are.

It's not as raw and direct as Bloodlines, but AP reminds me of that game. The base also is back, with e-mails and the TV churning out news almost as hilarious as the real thing.

This is where I choose my first real mission. Wish me luck. Though I doubt I need it with those shades I'm wearing.
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Title: Alpha Protocol impressions, as they arrive..
Posted: July 10, 2010 (05:24 AM)
So Alpha Protocol finally turned up in the mail - which was good, since I'm on the 3g network for a week or so.

Anyway - so I'm going to write a review. But as we all know, the chemicals you smell when opening the wrapping of a new game typically will make you lose all critical sense and mysteriously look for things to like about the game, even if it sucks.

So I'm going to type down some impressions as I play, and just pick at things I notice.

So far, the garish logo and the backdrop seems to set the style: electronic spy-action with inordinate attention to detail. Let's see if Ian Flemming would be proud, or if this is closer to the comic book adaptation of his works - or perhaps it is a more modern spy-story with misplaced 80's references no one gets. :)
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Title: Dangerous fantasies..
Posted: July 09, 2010 (08:11 AM)
As Wittgenstein might have said - playing games is serious. :p

But the point is still a good one - fantasies is a large part of growing up, and then later for shaping your perceptions and your life. Taking this fact seriously is not out of place.

http://io9.com/5581855/your-fantasies-are-not-acceptable

"Plus, even if you never watch TV, never go to the movies, and never read, you're still subjected to fantasy."
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Title: Searching for non-violent games..
Posted: July 05, 2010 (07:46 AM)
...seemed to be an exercise in folly. So here's a list of games (casual sports-games not welcome) that are not necessarily violent.. or.. at least don't encourage you to be a serial killer. You have games like Deus Ex, where it's at least possible to solve a majority of the game satisfyingly without violence. Or System Shock 2, which is not about shooting as such, but about exploring the ship you're on. Successful thriller-games like these were made - and yet, they are also about murdering things, and oriented around ways to kill things most efficiently. What games turned up that focus exclusively on different things?

1.Mirror's Edge. You are Faith. You run away. And do crazy stunts along the way. I think what appealed to me most about this game was the way the writing is part of the gameplay. The story does have some terrible moments where the animated cutscenes make no sense, and where the in-game cutscenes take over where it's not necessary. The controls also will have you skip and get stuck on a ledge where you don't want to go. And not every part of every level will make you equally impressed. You are also discouraged from experimenting too much on your first play-through as well, since the encounters are set up in a way that focuses on pushing you ahead, more or less all the time. And this unfortunately detracts from the sense of freedom of movement the game conveys in every other sense.

But when you play the game, there are moments when you really end up forgetting you play a game. And those are very few nowadays. Also the art-direction is interesting. It's a game well worth playing, if your requirements for a game isn't satisfied by having a gun thoughtfully painted in your hand on screen.

(Read the very good staff-review of Mirror's Edge :) here)

2.Heavy Rain. Dripping with.. allright, sorry. Many games have been meant to be cinematic, and have achieved that. Other games have tried to be interactive, and have achieved that as well. Combining the two is not so easy. There are bright spots in games such as Tie Fighter - you play grand battles from the view-point of a single pilot. Or Xcom - the overall pressure of the situation is as cinematic as any (successful) scene in an Alien film. Or for example Independence War, a game that easily could have been called "how you should have made a star-trek game, fools!". Particle Systems had excellent writers, they did level-design that rates off the chart, and have interactive bits that engage you with the story.

And yet, Heavy Rain does something unique. It takes the dramatic cutscenes in games, and make them into gameplay. "So it's a quick-time event", I hear you say, but it's not. Quick-time events are what you do when not playing. There are successful exceptions, such as the knife in Modern Warfare 2. But generally, quick-time events look good, and are simply there because there's no way to actually use game-mechanics to portray the events.

Heavy Rain does something different, and is largely a series of "knife events" one after the other, with adventure game exploration in between.

The writing that goes along with it also succeeds in the way that the game really does wrap a few of your choices very well. Meaning that the "quick-time events" are interactive, and also branch.

Most of the time, admittedly, there's no real choice to make. And you can make the choices very easy on your characters and suffer no real harm from it. But then again - sometimes you do. And it's all about interactivity in a limited and controllable scope. With branching happening between set pieces that can be explored narratively without causing breakage.

Has interactive games been done this way before? Yes, in limited scopes. Has it been done in such an expansive and beautiful way before? No.

(Also, the game makes nerds uncomfortable).

3.Beyond Good and Evil Jade is a journalist. Your weapon of choice for defeating the evil alien invasion is your camera. You need to get some incriminating photographs on the aliens, alert the general public, so you can be slapped with a mouth-bind order from the security general's office.

Most of the game is about sneaking, running and admiring the view. You don't constantly kick things into pieces, or kill aliens in droves - but it's still somehow a fun game. If you can ignore the perhaps slightly over the top optimistic attitude going on here. Like the people would actually care, and you wouldn't be thrown in jail..

4.Grim Fandango. Take this as the token representative for the lost Adventure game genre. Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Monkey Island also fits here, along with the later Sherlock Holmes games by Frogwares.

Grim Fandango is a mix of game-world exploration, and narrative exploration that doesn't exist as a rule in games. It is of course linear, but the puzzles you complete are inventive and part of the narrative flow in this game. It was an experiment, and no one saw the point with it at the time. Tim Schafer then went on to make action games. ..but the fans would all agree, that when the blimp exploded on the race-track, "Sandspoof was in the lead". :D


..Any other suggestions for the list?
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Title: Interview with NIS America's president..
Posted: July 02, 2010 (09:45 AM)
http://www.siliconera.com/2010/06/29/nis-americas-president-on-anime-crossovers-sakura-wars-and-ps3-development/
Once we got Last Rebellion we realized it was not the kind of title we should release in the United States because of its quality. I feel really sorry for our customers because we released that title. Thatís why I told Nao (PR Manager) we have to release the announcement for Last Rebellion, but never push that title. We cannot say itís a really great title. We felt really sorry, but we had no choice to release that.

From now on, even though we fund a title, we will not release it if the quality is not good enough.


*raised eyebrow* ..interpretations?
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Title: Reading about games..
Posted: July 01, 2010 (06:23 AM)
..is usually a terrible experience. It's not so strange that it is either, because what would you be writing about, after all? It's just like books, or films - it's cheap thrills people enjoy, so why shame yourself by delving into it to lay that fact bare?

Oh, well - let's see what we have here.

Would it be a small tale about sitting alone, playing the strings of your customized virtual puppet? Along with an explanation for why grown men still play with dolls, just by a different name?

Perhaps it could be about morality systems in games, and the limitation of the game's mechanics against the limitation of real morality systems - as far as philosophy and religion is concerned? Could that be a way to angle for ways to implement more believable interactive narratives in games? Regardless, I think we can all agree it is the devil's work.

Maybe we would be talking about prevalent themes in games, and why games with a particular subject-matter and patriotic tint sell as well as they do. In gaming, perhaps more than in any other part of popular entertainment - perhaps because of the immersion factor, coupled with the trivial activity games represent in general?

Or sometimes it would maybe more personal, but still appropriate for a reviewer gushing about their favourite game, as they recount exactly why their opinion is as it is. Illustrating that subjectivity is important, as long as you can also convey your reasoning to the reader? A way to explain the method of reviewing games for your audience, if you will.

And then again, it could simply be about changing your opinion, and the reasoning behind it. Did this game target the wrong audience, or was it simply reviewed for the wrong audience?

Questions, questions. Follow the links for five attempts at the answers.

(P.S. I take no responsibility for feelings of nausea, motion sickness and angst from overbearing pretentiousness when reading the articles in the links :p ).
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Title: PS3 update comes with floaty buttons.
Posted: June 30, 2010 (11:08 AM)
I'm not going to reward Sony for prioritizing the shameless commercial offerings over adding value to the original firmware like they promised. Still don't have a scheduler for downloads, a movie service, lost linux, no screenshot tool, music playback, voice messages, cross game chat, more hd status messages, less switching to read messages, no threading for messages, no new codecs, etc, etc. So no psn+ for me.

The new video editing program that came with the last firmware is nice, though. Actually is very good - apart from that it only outputs in 480p and a particular bitrate. Even if your source file had lower resolution and different compression.. Which could create a stuttering smear all over the screen if you're lucky. But apart from that it's excellent. And easy to use, whether it's for cutting out sequences, changing the music on the clip, the speed, splicing different movies - and then uploading the thing to facebook or youtube afterwards.

But - most notably, the update comes with an almost unseen floating on the active PSN store buttons. A lot of effort went into this, and it shows. Smoother surfaces on remarkably slowly floating buttons have never been seen. Congratulations, Sony! Best buttons in the history of consoles!

Ah, yes, I remember why I love Sony so much now.
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Title: Simon Viklund's Final Fight remaster
Posted: June 29, 2010 (02:28 PM)
http://finalfightgame.com/remix

-direct link, zipped mp3s, go get it.

I've always though that remastered arcade music was pointless and shameful - until I heard this.

It seems like what he's doing is to update the "instruments" in the original music, and then play back the splice about in the same way as the original soundtrack. Brilliant.
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Title: Aaargh. Won't anyone publish this thing!
Posted: April 24, 2010 (03:16 AM)
So here's the story. I'm a moderator for a file-sharing portal. I've been active in the scene for some time, though mostly as a spectator.

And I've managed to secure access to the guy who was an admin for one of the file-sharing portals who took the fight over hosting hash-links to the courts six years ago. Long before Pirate Bay really was anything.

The criminal case against him was thrown out immediately back in the long long ago. But because of the way in which the local dutch economic investigative bureau had launched the case, simply dismissing the case altogether was not an option for either the investigative bureau, or the private organisation that instigated the initial arrest and raised the charge.

Now I'm sitting on an interview that no one else could possibly get, that explains exactly what happened, and why it happened. And no one wants to print it.

Sod it all.
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Title: Sony finds back old form.
Posted: November 05, 2009 (12:34 PM)
So, after having gotten used to "despondent Sony", who doesn't care about customers, and just wants to do what artists want, and then push out the content. And then having gotten used to "eager Sony", who wants to employ 3rd parties to do PR blitzes for branding purposes that have absolutely nothing to do with actual practices.

We are finally seeing Sony getting back to form. Whether it is the control-scheme in Killzone 2 - which no doubt was motivated by the idea that it should appeal to as many people as possible - that simply put ruined the gameplay and game-balance as it was intended. Along with promoting cheaters and glitchers to ruin everyone else's games. Or if it is in-game advertisements in WipeoutHD. Or perhaps obnoxious advertisement on the xmb in the shape of tickers that are impossible to remove, or extra icons littering the menu.

Any of those things - abusing the digital distribution network - show that Sony is now certainly back in form. We're no doubt going to see another DRM solution being fielded any day now that makes all games unplayable unless you swear allegiance to the "Playstation Family".

Seriously, what is the problem with you morons? Your product is a good one - and people are willing to buy a good product - if you PROMOTE THE GOOD PRODUCT AS IT IS.
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Title: The challenge.
Posted: September 29, 2009 (02:49 PM)
I've always been like this. If a task was not a challenge in itself, or enjoyable and interesting along the way - then I never found the will to complete it.

Is it lazyness? To insist that the meaning of life should not be to die, but to live well for a number of years? Or perhaps that physical training should be engaging on it's own, with a good feeling of accomplishment - rather than be a chore you have to do in order not to become a disgusting wreck?

I suppose I feel the same way about games. I'm not playing games to complete them, but to enjoy the experience. Winning the game.. not really the point, is it. You don't win anything, after all.

Then again - maybe it's a question about scope. That games on their own - like most fiction or created narratives - must set overall objectives that can be reached and seen. And that this is why I enjoy games so much. Where I don't need to set objectives much on my own. And typically have the illusion of choice, until I inevitably reach the conclusion.

...

Then again - I suppose I do like games simply because they are not like reality at all. Where you can explore fictional scenarios and realities, as others see them.

Which, on reflection, sounded a little bit less insane right away.
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Title: Rage
Posted: September 16, 2009 (06:54 PM)
So I like to play Killzone 2 online. I've never really liked shooters, though. But.. remembering back to the way the controls were at launch - before GG caved to the Call of Duty brigade in a fantastic display of fail - I always convince myself the game still has some charm to it. Besides, the graphics are good.

But it's really a lie. At the moment, cheaters are running rampant, and lag between regions is unmanageable. Meanwhile the subtle touches that made the original control scheme interesting, are all gone completely.

So the game basically is annoying, and not original any longer. It has good graphics, but that's all. The 3d model based movement and positioning is wasted, and so is the bullet- physics. And if you're persistent online, you might be lucky enough to play 1 out of 20 games without crazy and progressively worse lag.

To top it off, lots of players in the top 8000 range are cheating. It's called a "lag emulator" - and it makes everyone lag. But gives the host an advantage.

But these are the people Guerilla Games apparently listen to. So I guess the people complaining about the cheaters will get a ding across the ear, or something. And the cheaters will get another medal.

Eric Boltjes is on the case.

update: Eric on the forum -
"Well the controller tweaks later on were a direct result of feedback from the community yes... And yes, unlike what a lot of people think, controls are extremely hard to get right and are not as easy as they look. But we try to give as much options to the users as possible!"

Moron!
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Title: Reviews are difficult
Posted: August 16, 2009 (11:02 AM)
There are many things in life that makes me wonder about how mankind ever managed to avoid being the first thing to go when the evolution came. Food distribution problems, politics, console wars, game reviews.

Specially the last one. The task: write something descriptive about a fairly simple experience, designed by others to entertain, so that other people can understand your impressions as you played the game.

There are many things to obviously avoid, of course. Shamelessly plugging the title out of love for previous titles from the same developer. Baselessly hating the game because of your own undescribed problems with undefined aspects of the game. Clinically describing the game while hiding your own personal impressions the descriptions are based on. Using esoteric language that's appealing, but fails to describe anything useful.

But mostly, it means avoiding to misrepresent the game, without describing absolutely everything. And that's the problem, of course. You want to write something that picks at what makes the game appealing, and how the game succeeds or fails at using this to create a good playing experience.

So what does other people take from the review? People who haven't actually played the game? Or, even people who don't regularly do play games?

I suggested once that maybe reviewing games as if they were movies was an idea. How the performances were. What parts captured your imagination and attention particularly well. How intriguing the plot was - that kind of thing. And the other guy said: good luck finding a game that works this way - because there aren't any.

-Games, you see, are just games. It's right there in the title, no? They are repetitive and simplistic, that always fail to truly be cinematic experiences except inside the heads of players - that is their strenght. To present simplistic interactive experiences that are designed to occupy your time while letting your mind fly.

- Any reviews of games (aha, here it comes) that attempt to describe such an experience therefore are subjective tales - and are bound to make every other player not exactly like you disappointed.

I'm not sure it was a very good point.
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