Tag Archives: Games

Zak Efron: Call of Duty 4 Junkie

High School Musical actor Zak Efron, currently promoting his new movie, 17 Again, said in the San Francisco Chronicle article he’s a Call of Duty 4 junkie.230px-zac_efron_2007

“If I could give my 17-year-old self one piece of advice, it would be to disconnect the Xbox,” he told the Chron.

At least he’s playing good games! He could have said, “Yeah, I spent way too much time Superman 64, Gawd that game was sweet. I love the part where Superman couldn’t walk through a doorway because his feet got caught on the door steps. That was killer.”

1 Comment

Filed under Movies, Video Games

GDC: How to Love a Fat Princess

If ever there was a game that balanced the childlike joy of gaming with smart, adult multiplayer ideas, Fat Princess is it.

An exclusive downloadable PSN game scheduled for summer, Titan Studios’ Fat Princess appeared at the 09 Game Developer’s Conference at both the Sony bloggers lounge and on the expo floor in full playable multiplayer form.

fatprincess_032609_1More than just Battlefield in medieval clothing, the GDC version of Fat Princess puts players in a bright cartoonish setting, pitting two rival teams against one another in a capture the flag-style game with up to 32 players. Only here, you’re capturing the opposition’s princess, who rests rather uncomfortably in the dungeon on his resident castle. Your goal? Muster your energies, coordinate your team, and hack through the wall of enemies, plunder into their dungeon, lift the fat princess into your arms, and carry her–without dying–back to your castle.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. At first, you’ll have to support your newfound castle. Whether you’ve fully staffed with real people or NPCs, your team will need to mine ore and chop trees surrounding your castle RTS-style to open up and upgrade the five “hat engines” in the castle. Each engine’s hat represents a character class–engineer, mage, warrior, archer, and healer. With full upgrades, pick any character and hit triangle to switch weapons. The archer for instance, switches from long-range arrows to fiery arrows; the warrior changes from a heavier slow two-handed axe to a faster, shorter one-handed axe, the mage switches from hurling icy chards to fiery blasts.

As with everything in Fat Princess, there is more depth than its simple looks belie. The characters can charge up and strike with vicious blows. There are posts on each side of the map that, when captured, provide more resources and therefore better upgrades. There is a secret passage in the Princess’ dungeon that leads characters down a watery passage, Hobbit-style, into mid-map lake. You can run faster while on the stony path, than on the grass. Using teamwork and multiplayer players to capture the princess speeds up characters as they traverse through the enemy ranks. The engineers can build ladders on the opposing castle to climb the walls, and players can hack and destroy the opposing castle doors to provide straight entry into the castle. The list goes on and on.

The game’s goals are straight-forward, but the amount of cool, fun, and inventive stuff in it add layers of fun and depth beyond the straight hack and slashing. A standard battle, with no strategy looks like this: you grab a hat, jump off your castle wall, hobble across a bridge or two and then encounter a swarm of little angry blue dudes and in less than a minute or so, you’re hacked to pieces, and a puddle of blue appears near your inanimate Lego-like body.

Add in a little strategy, and you’ve got a game. Pick a warrior and team up with several others including archers, mages, and healers. Move in a mass group across the bridge and wade through the water. While you’re at it, plan a second movement across the water near the water fall. Place a few faster, leaner characters in the middle of your horde and have them split out and make a break for the opponent’s princess. A slightly more resourceful way to bust into the enemy castle is to have an engineer build devices, such as a trampoline that launches characters across warfare and directly into the opponent’s castle walls.fatprincess_032609_2

Of course, the trick isn’t just the strategy in, it’s the strategy out. Developer Titan Studios created make the princess live up to her name by giving you the option of feeding her cake, making her fatter and therefore heavier, making your carrying time much slower. So, you’ll want to keep a few guys back in the castle to plump her up.

At GDC there was only one level playable, but the final game, due this “summer” for a reasonable price (comparable to other PSN games), will offer eight at launch, the likelihood of more coming out afterward.

The Sony PlayStation blog posted an interview with Sony’s producers, if you desire even more.

1 Comment

Filed under Video Games

GDC 09: Evolving Game Design: Today and Tomorrow, Eastern and Western Design

Would you believe that taking a poop is actually a good way to come up with a good game story? Goichi Suda has used that “technique” to come up with one of his more successful game ideas.

During the GDC 09 session “Evolving Game Design: Today and Tomorrow, Eastern and Western Game Design” hosted by former EGM Executive Editor Mark McDonald (Executive Director8-4LTD), three of the world’s most influential game designers discussed the ins and outs of development, design, story-telling, and more.

The panel consisted of Goichi Suda aka Suda51 (CEO/Game designer Grasshopper Manufacturer Inc.), Fumito Ueda (Sn. Game Design, Int’l Production Department, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., Japan Studio and creator of Ico and Shadow of Colossus), and Emil Pagliarulo, Lead designer, Fallout 3, Bethesda Game Studio.

Mark McDonald: How do you come up with stories, plan your games, and implement your designs?

Udo-san: First and foremost we focus on graphics because it requires programming and the amount of time that demands must be addressed. When the last certain version (of the graphics engine) is done, then we can start on our goal of making the game.

Suda-san: When I plan design on games, how can I achieve my goal? That’s what I think about first. I use TV, films, and games. Then I address ideas…then I got to the bathroom and I try to poop, and then I came up with a great story. That’s a true story! (Laughter)

Mark: Now we know where No More Heroes came from. (Laughter)

Emil: At Bethesda, we like to say, “We like to play our own games.” This is the moment of truth: sitting down and playing your own game. This is the skill that’s acquired and you have to develop. And it’s only through brutal honesty that you can address your game. But you really ever know until you play the game.

Mark: During development, what parts of you game have you had to cut, you know, that had to be trimmed but that you liked or initially thought was a great idea?

Emil: Let’s see. We had this portion called Rivet City, a quest that got cut. No…That’s a bad example. Here’s a better example, Liberty Prime. He was supposed to be a giant robot five times bigger than anything else, and you were supposed to ride in his head. It was going to be awesome, and it took a lot of convincing to get people to believe the idea would work. People thought we were crazy. That never happened. We had to scale back our plans.

Ueda: With Ico, we started with one idea but it changed. The final game was more vivid. With Colossus we originally had a team gameplay plan with several characters attacking the giants at once, but in time we had to modify it. I love the development process, and in the end changing from that idea to the final idea was a good thing.

Suda: Well, I make a perfect game design plan and there is no way to change it. It’s perfect from the beginning. (Laughter)

Actually, the game design is always changing. It evolves. I have to try new things. I don’t want to cause trouble to the development team, but I do want to try new things. It’s always changing.

Mark: How and when do you know when to change your original idea during development?

Emil: It’s always a matter of trusting your own instincts. You have to truth them and try them out. They don’t always work, but it’s important to trust and go with them. There are other times you go with the team’s ideas, and the truth is the final result is due to constant back and forth input from all sides.

Look at Broken Steele, our upcoming DLC for Fallout 3. We created an ending for our game, and all games have endings, but somehow by creating a final ending for our game, we received some disappointment from our fans. Games have endings. But when playing Fallout 3, many people felt in a way that the game was an extension of Oblivion in style and design, so with our DLC we are changing the ending. That’s the great thing about DLC.

Mark, asking Suda: So how handle these types of design decisions? Do you use often just say to your team, “Hey, this is how we’re going to do it because I am the boss.”

Suda: I do use that trick sometimes. With Killer 7, the problem I faced was that when I explained the ideas I had in my mind, I wasn’t always sure that the staff understood exactly what I wanted. So as a producer I found that what’s important is that we can step back a little more than the rest of the staff and look at the game a little more objectively. Producers have a better perspective than the team. The team and focus testers are important, but it’s important for the producer to provide this more objective perspective.

Ueda: With Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, that team that came with me was very good and so we didn’t have any major differences from a world view, so I really had no opposition.

The problem I face is that I can’t really tell if the game is fun or good when we’re developing it. It’s just a series of tasks. I stand behind the testers and try to think from their points of view.

Emil: That’s a good point, Ueda-san. When I am playing during development I just see a series of systems and missed opportunities.

The best thing for Todd Howard and I is when we read a design document with ideas we hadn’t thought of, that’s when we get really excited and our brains start to churn.

Mark: Do you have any regrets about decisions have made on your games?

Mark…Anyone? No? No regrets? So we have three designers from the George W. Bush School of design. (Laughter)

Emil: We’re not as arrogant as we might be coming across here…

Suda: My main regrets were standing in line at the airport. In truth, I always wish we had more time and could do more play testing. I wish I had more time to make each game.

Ueda: Often I wish I could go back and do something again. But because of time restraints, I cannot.

Emil: I have a lot of micro-regrets. You know, like fixing little typos or change a line of dialog that I stumble back on and realize I really felt like changing it. But the problem is that the issues are small and they could change things and maybe cause a trickle effect of bugs. So, I often feel like I have to pass on those little things because our games are so big.

Mark: Where do you see game design headed in the future?

Ueda: I have a sense of emergency. The storytelling ability is important and bringing more immersion to each game is important. We need to bring players more into our games and make them crazy about our games. I look at The Matrix and they put parasites into people’s bellybuttons, and I want to do something like that in games before I die. (Laughter)

Emil: I want to achieve the idea that developers were addresses in the early ’90s with virtual glasses and the Lawnmower Man, you know, without the gadgets. I want to create a fidelity of worlds and real people that aren’t just cardboard cut-outs.

Mark: So how do you do that? Is it changing AI? Is it through visuals?

Emil: I’m not interested in 30 minute cutscenes. I look at the game Call of Duty 4; that game is looked at as a great action game, but it doesn’t get the credit it deserves for its story. That game starts out with you experiencing your own execution. That’s great. Sometimes throwing a ton of words out there is not a good idea.

Ueda-san: I think the head-mounted display idea is a good one. I want to create more immersion where players are more drawn in, but also where they can step out of that reality for a few moments before dropping back in again, and then move out again.

Emil: We can improve story-telling. It’s often more difficult and interesting to push the story through action and gameplay and not through dialog and story trees. I see us going in that direction as much as we can.

Ueda: Character conversations are difficult because you are often forced to create unreal conversations. I eliminated a lot of conversations in my games because Im not that good at it. If it’s a character who can think on their own, that’s interesting.

Mark: I one of our earlier interviews I asked you what kinds of drugs you took before you created your games.

Sudo-san: Before I write a story I take cold medicine. (Laughter)

That’s a joke. First I write a story and then I try to translate that into a game. The best thing is to have a story that is happening in the background. With Emil, I would like to open his head and look inside, because even the smallest characters in his games have their own stories. With Ueda-san, your stories are so eloquent and vast.

Mark: So what are your next games? What are you working on next?

Emil: We’re working on DLC. We’re also working on lots of things…we’re working on what stuff like, you know what new things we can destroy in Japan…(laughter). Wait, that didn’t come out right. (More laughter.)

Ueda: The sense of our new game is similar to Ico…who is your partner? Um, oh I am going to get in trouble here. Please stop asking these questions… (Laughter)

Question from the audience addressed to Ueda: Some people say your games are like the Beatles White album, they see them as art. What is your response to that?

Ueda: We are trying to create entertaining games, that’s our main goal. I came from art school, so it’s interesting to know people are seeing our games as art.

Suda: In making entertainment, it’s a hard goal to make art. Art students and teachers see these games as art and see them from an artistic perspective, that’s interesting. The power of videogames is different. We put all these lights in games and we have power to make other artists jealous, but we should have a good relationship between entertainment and art.

Emil: We’re all gamers. We know what the deal is. But I disagree with Roger Ebert. We are entertainers and art is in what we do. We’ll come onto our own. The art will come.

1 Comment

Filed under Tech, Video Games

Max Payne 3 Developed by Rockstar Vancouver

Rockstar Games today announced Max Payne 3 will hit Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in winter 2009. Besides that this is the first next-gen version of the game, it’s in development by Rockstar Vancouver, not the game previous developer, Remedy. maxpayne3_032309_21

Rockstar’s announcement depicts Payne just as you’d expect: Payne has left the NYPD and New York, and his condition has worsened. “He’s now a retired police detective embroiled in a world of corruption, turmoil and intense violence,” according to Take-Two.

“We’re starting a new chapter of Max’s life with this game,” said Sam Houser, founder of Rockstar Games. “This is Max as we’ve never seen him before, a few years older, more world-weary and cynical than ever. We experience the downward spiral of his life after the events of Max Payne 2 and witness his last chance for salvation.”

There have been dozens of action games since Max Payne first intrroduced bullet time to the videogame repertoire of techniques, from Strangehold to Tony Hawk. How will Max Payne 3 outdo its previous outing, Max Payne: The Fall of Max Payne 2? I’m just going to assume Rockstar Vancouver will completely ignore the movie, make everything shiny and current gen, and perhaps add a little multiplayer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, Video Games

Dan Rosensweig a Guitar Hero?

Activision Blizzard President Bobby Kotick allegedly is handing over the reigns of the Guitar Hero franchise to Quadrangle Group partner Dan Rosensweig, an announcement that could be made in days, says All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher, who cites courses close to the situation.dcp_dan_032209

It could be just me nitpicking here, but the article points to Rosensweig becoming “CEO and President of Activision Blizzard’s powerful Guitar Hero franchise.” Am I just parsing words here when I question the phrase “President of the Guitar Hero franchise?” It makes sense that Activision would start a music games division, and I could be missing information here but I didn’t see any announcement recently about a new Guitar Hero franchise or division.

“Rosensweig will run the hot gaming company’s division, which is located in Silicon Valley, the result of its purchase of Red Octane in 2006, ” Swisher continues. Ah, so he will run Red Octane.

Still, phrasing like this make me question how informed Swisher is. “Sources said Rosensweig will start his new job at Guitar Hero–which Activision could announce as early as tomorrow–in several weeks.” He’s going to work at “Guitar Hero?”

Again, I could have missed some news along the way, and there may be a new name for the division in Activsion called “Guitar Hero.” Please write in to inform me of my follies, but if I’m right, this phasing just makes Swisher sound goofy or ill-informed. (Or, again, if I’m wrong, I look goofy, which I’m in favor of, actually.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Tech, Video Games

Nintendo, Wii Fit and Street Fighter IV Prove EEDAR Wrong, Boost February Sales

Was EEDAR’s Jesse Divnich prediction for lower February sales a bad prediction, or just a feeble attempt at getting attention? I suspect the latter, but as analysts are so often wrong, NPD’s report of North American video game sales showed the games industry appears resistant to the world’s economic meltdown. sfiv_032009

In the wake of the biggest recession in the US since 1973 and in light of a teetering economic disaster, sales of videogame hardware, soft and peripherals increased 10% year over year by $1.47 billion, but not as big as January increases (which were 13& year over year).

Take that, recession!

The full hardware U.S. sales numbers for February 2009 are:

Wii — 753,000

Nintendo DS — 588,000

Xbox 360 — 391,000

PlayStation 3 — 276,000

PSP — 199,000

PlayStation 2 — 131,000

Top retail games sold in the U.S. for February 2009:

1. Wii Fit w/ Balance Board (Nintendo, Wii) — 644,000

2. Street Fighter IV (Capcom, Xbox 360) — 446,000

3. Street Fighter IV (Capcom, PlayStation 3) — 403,000

4. Wii Play w/Remote (Nintendo, Wii) — 386,000

5. Killzone 2 (Sony, PlayStation 3) — 323,000

6. Mario Kart w/Wheel (Nintendo, Wii) — 263,000

7. Call Of Duty: World At War (Activision Blizzard, Xbox 360) — 193,000

8. Mario Kart DS (Nintendo, DS) — 145,000

9. New Super Mario Bros (Nintendo, DS) — 144,000

10. Guitar Hero World Tour (Activision Blizzard, Wii) — 136,000

Also see Edge’s analysis and Gamasutra‘s write ups.

1 Comment

Filed under Video Games

“Scratch: The Ultimate DJ” is Big in the Britches

It’s easy to say that your game is going to be bigger than Guitar Hero, especially when you’re Mix Master Mike . That’s exactly what the Beastie Boys DJ proclaimed to MTV Multiplayer recently to describe his involvement in the upcoming Guitar Hero-like DJ music game.

But does that mean it will be so? I’d say Mix Master Mike is being a bit of a Master Meathead.

I would love for Scratch: The Ultimate DJ to succeed. But the magical elixir that made Guitar Hero so fantastic wasn’t concocted by Neversoft nor Activision. It was made by a smart, technically tuned, laser-focused development team by the name of Harmonix, who created two unique music games, Frequency and Amplitude, well before Guitar Hero’s popular explosion.

Yes, the real chemistry between the music game came with the addition of the guitar, Harmonix’s smart gameplay, and the ability to play popular music. Activision sees all these elements and sees dollar signs. But in the same way that Konami’s offshoots of Bemani games weren’t always successful, and DJ-ing not being as universally poised in the world’s imaginations as a guitar hero, Scratch may very well the Wakeboarding Unleashed Featuring Shaun Murray of the music games category.

3 Comments

Filed under Music, Video Games