Category Archives: Video Games

Sony’s new motion controller is on the “Move”

Sony today officially entered a new phase in the lifespan of the PlayStation 3 console by touting the PlayStation Move, a wireless motion-controlled device that rivals Nintendo’s Wiimote and Microsoft’s upcoming Project Natal.

Introduced at E3 2009 with the working title the PlayStation Wand, the PlayStation Move resembles a light-weight microphone with a colored crown. The PS3 manufacturer, which revealed the device at the Concourse Exhibition Center in downtown San Francisco, Ca., says it provides intuitive and accurate 1:1 response, and showed nine playable games that utilized the Move in a variety of ways ranging from the military shooter SOCOM 4 to sports, fighting, fantasy, party, and painting games.

For the full story, check VentureBeat.com.

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Quotes from Sid Meier’s keynote GDC speech

Veteran game designer Sid Meier delivered the keynote speech at the Game Developers Conference today and during his hour-long session on the “Psychology of Game Design: Everything you Know is Wrong,” the creator of the Civilization franchise produced a series of key points, mantras, and worthwhile quotes captured here. 

Meier is the creative director at Firaxis and director of this fall’s Civilization V.

Check the full details at VentureBeat.com.

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First details of Deus Ex 3 emerge

In the worldwide debut of both Eidos Montreal and its first project, Deus Ex 3: Human Revolution, art designer Jonathan Jacques-Belletete demonstrated how his team challenged status quo thinking by creating a visual language centered around two esoteric art styles, the Renaissance and modern-day cyberpunk. He showed the first look at the third game in the award-winning series.

For the full story, check VentureBeat.com.

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Activision shows off True Crime footage

Re-entering the highly competitive “sandbox” crime genre made famous by Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series, Activision today showed live gameplay footage of its reboot entrée, True Crime, at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Many thought the series dead after a disappointing critical and fiscal second effort in 2006 with the second in the series, True Crime: New York. But Activision tapped United Front Games (maker of ModRacers). With former employees from Radical Games, EA’s Need for Speed franchise, and Rockstar Games, UFG has been in development with its own unique software tools to generate the third-person perspective, Hong Kong-based game.

See the rest of the story at VentureBeat.com.

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Alan Wake Hands-on Impressions

For the last five years, the small Finnish game studio Remedy has weathered a stormy economy, kept its studio small against the trendy tide of high production costs, and has somehow kept Microsoft at bay from canning its project after a half decade of tinkering. Come May 18, Alan Wake will finally have its day in the sun. Unlike so many games that lose their steam and tech edge after a five-year development cycle (witness Peter Molyneux’s first Fable and Dave Perry’s Wild 9), Remedy’s Alan Wake just seems to keep getting better.

For the full preview, see the piece I wrote on GamesRadar.com.

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Fable 3: Why Peter Molyneux Gives Great Demos

During the last demo of Fable 3 at Microsoft’s XO10 conference in San Francisco, Lionhead chief Peter Molyneux asked us if he could sit, as he explained, he had been working 10-12 hour days. Eventually has asked if he could get onto his knees to illuminate actions on the HDTV. Since my associate and I were the only guys in the last session of the day, we agreed. Molyneux, whose repertoire of games reaches back to the 8-bit and 16-bit days and includes hits such as Syndicate, Black and White, and Dungeon Keeper, is known for both charming audiences during his infamous demo sessions and overpromising on games that often only deliver a portion of those promises.

In our demo, Molyneux demonstrated exactly why he is so captivating as a speaker and as a game designer. He speaks personally to as many journalists as possible, to such a degree that his “handlers” have to end the sessions for him. He expresses a child-like joy for the games he makes, which you can hear in his voice and see on his face. And few of his games are proper, predictable sequels. They’re always packed with new ideas and attempts at doing something different. As the chief of Lionhead, he said, he loves his job, asking in what other position could he employ such off-the-wall ideas, or make such drastic changes, or have so much fun at his job?

Of course, the opposite can be said, and with conviction. Molyneux’s games often only contain a portion of the ideas he hypes, leaving lots of gamers frustrated and angry at him, and leaving a game that clearly looks like it has been cleaved (like Fable 1, for instance). 

Fable 3 stands to build upon the previous Fables in the series, with more character customization and innovative options in three ways, says Molyneux: 1) by rewriting the rules of traditional story-telling in games, 2) by enabling an Ico-like hand-holding mechanic called “touch,” 3) and by enabling players to customize their weapon (as an outgrowth of customizing their characters).

THE HERO MYTH REWRITTEN

“Video games are always told by means of the hero’s journey,” said Molyneux, referring to the common concept of heroes from writer Joseph Campbell’s book, Hero of a Thousand Faces. “A big baddy does something really bad, you’re the hero, and you work all game long to beat him. Then, the worst thing happens. The credits roll. When you beat him, the story ends. In our game, after you beat the leader of the town of Logan halfway through the game,  you become the king.”

Molyneux’s premise is that gamers always play the same story model, and by putting gamers in the shoes of the king, they’ll gain an enormous amount of power and then have to make decisions that will make some followers happy, but will eventually let other people down, giving players choices over how they’ll reign.

LET’S “TOUCH”

“Let’s face it, when it comes to expressions in Fable 1 and 2, it really came down to one funny ‘expression.’ Farting.” In Fable 3, Lionhead is borrowing the hand-holding mechanic first introduced in ICO to connect gamers with characters in the story.

Molyneux demonstrated the idea with a family of three, a father, mother, and a young, lost daughter.  In order to find the daughter, the character relies on his pet dog to track her scent. Once located the father lifts the girl into his arms and they hug. Players can then punish or reward the daughter for running away.Your character then tries to lead her into the pub, where she responds by saying, “Daddy, that’s the pub. Mother said she never wanted you to go there again.”

They then walk back home hand-in-hand. “When we have couples who play game in co-op walk in hand in hand, everyone single one of them is moved,” said Molyneux. “It’s amazing how simple and effective it is.”

Molyneux also showed how “touch” negatively affects characters.  By putting his character’s hand on the shoulder of a beggar and misguiding him into believing he’ll be fed, the father leads the beggar to a labor shop. Once the beggar realizes he’s going to the labor plant, he pulls and tugs and tries to break free from your grip. But no such luck. By physically connecting players with characters in the game, they’ll feel more attached and emotionally connected to the game, added Molyneux.

WEAPONRY: SAM’S AXE OF DEATH

Finally, Molyneux explained how the weapons have been changed and improved over Fable 2. “We were in a design meeting talking about weapons,” explained Molyneux. We had created about 300 weapons already (Molyneux signs with boredom at the thought of so many weapons) when we suddenly realized that we should allow you to create your own weapon.”

In the demo Molyneux shows a striped face warrior holding an unusually shaped axe. “It’s tall because of the 1,000 kills you’ve tallied. It’s spiked because of your Xbox 360 gamer skills. And it’s named ‘Sam’s axe of death,'” said Molyneux. The best part? You can trade or sell your weapon online, or buy another player’s weapon.

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Splinter Cell Conviction Preview

Amidst several consulting jobs, I was happily able to visit Microsoft’s XO10 conference, where I got a hands-on session with two of the Splinter Cell Conviction’s first levels.  For impressions, check my preview at GamesRadar.com.

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