Team a la Cartetress

by Steve Bowler on March 3, 2009 · 5 comments

in general

Awhile back at work we got into a water cooler balancing discussion, mostly regarding multiplayer and how elegantly a game such as Team Fortress 2 is balanced, even despite the regular updates to only a single specific class in the game.

The conversation started at a very high level, looking at how there’s a “fast” but “weak” guy (Scout), or a “slow” but “tough” guy (Heavy), and even the “stealthy” guy (Spy) and all sorts of classes in between.  Everyone pretty much gets how they work together to form a cohesive team, and how one class has strengths vs. other classes (such as how an Engineer is exceptional at Anti-Scout).  We certainly don’t need to go into that here.

But what got really interesting was when I threw out the suggestion about taking the discussion down a level.  Let’s examine not only how each class is balanced, but more importantly, if we can assume that each of his individual parts are balanced to make the whole of the class, can we remove them and re-distribute them without breaking the game?

While I’m pretty sure that (at least insofar as TF2 is concerned) this would break the game, let’s assume that since no character is overwhelmingly stronger than any other one character, that they are “evenly” balanced.  What this means is that while we can’t have true one-vs-one match-ups in TF2 (the Spy would be inherently weak in this situation, as would a Scout against a Heavy with nobody to distract the Heavy), in the team setting, they are all on equal ground.

So let’s say that they’re all worth an even 1000 points, and if you were to have a sort of Create-A-Team-Fortress-Class system, how could we go about it?

We could first break down the classes into their (default, not upgraded) components that make them tick.

For instance:

The Scout

  • Small target volume
  • Speed: +33% (100% = the default TF2 run speed)
  • Double-Jump
  • 2x Point Capture
  • Health:  125 (default value)
  • Scattergun:  6 shots, 32 ammo, 85-105 damage (180 crit)
  • Pistol:  12 shots, 36 ammo, 20-22 (45 crit)
  • Bat:  24-46 (105 crit) [about 2 hits per second]
  • Can hit grenades back with bat

The Heavy

  • Large target volume
  • Speed: -23% (-73% when spinning barrels)
  • Health: 300 (+175 over default)
  • Sasha Minigun: 200 rounds, 50-54 damage per 1 ammo – 500/sec-540/sec (1080/sec crit)
  • Default Shotgun: 6 rounds, 32 ammo, 80-90 damage (180 crit)
  • Fists:  43-87 (195 crit uppercut) [a little more than 1 hit per second]

Just comparing these two classes (and peeking a bit more at the tf2wiki) we can start to see some default values spring up…

[click to continue reading]

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Scary Silhouettes

by Steve Bowler on February 13, 2009

in general

I noticed this this afternoon at work while checking news sites briefly, and I had to do a double-take at the new F.E.A.R. 2 thumbnail of Alma.  At a glance, especially at that postage stamp size where only silhouettes are really recognizeable, it recognized in my feeble brain as someone else:

I blame Twitter for this (and N’Gai’s awesome but page murdering live tweets of quarterly earnings calls).

And yes, I photoshopped his avatar background to look more like the F.E.A.R. 2 one.  And added the text.

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Education: Getting Your Money’s Worth

by Steve Bowler on February 6, 2009 · 6 comments

in general

When I started, I decided that I wasn’t going to talk about “how to break into the industry,” because I’ve already gone on at length in other venues (i.e. not here) about the topic.  The information is out there if you know where to look (Google is your friend), and I’d just be repeating myself.  Plus, lately, I wonder how valid the information is now that thousands of people are losing their jobs on a weekly basis within the industry and fighting for what positions are left.

But what I do want to talk about for a minute is what often precedes that first job:  college.  My problem lately is that I don’t think that the vast majority of the educational systems available to people which promise “video game education” be it design, art, or programming, are living up to any kind of educational standard.  Let alone a video game education standard.

I’ve been courted more than once to teach at university programs, and even taught a class or two at one point, and what I’ve learned about the system is disgusting to me as a professional and as a college graduate (BFA, thanks for asking).  One school’s department director told me, point blank, that the point of their 4 year program was not to get a student a job after 4 years, but to make sure that they enroll in Graduate School.  This wasn’t Westwood; it was an accredited university program.  I politely told him I wasn’t interested in being part of a program that isn’t designed around placing 85% of their graduates or better in a job related to their degree.

The problem with this whole system and relationship between the school and the student is that it’s built off of assumptions, and conflicted interest.  Individuals (students) expect the University or College to provide them with something (training, a diploma, a portfolio, experience) that will get them a job when they graduate.  The vast majority of Universities or Colleges pretty much want your money, and they’re willing to provide you with a service in exchange for that money.

Did you see the disconnect there?  The student expects training that will get them a job or carreer.  The School expects money and will provide a service.  These two things often do not arrive at the same conclusion.  Nothing I can say here is going to change that.  And to be fair, there are a few schools whose programs are designed around getting you the experience they know will put you in position to be hired.  I’m not going to endorse or condemn any schools by name here.  But what I am going to do is attempt to outline what you need to look out for, at least insofar as art, animation, or design disciplines are concerned, if you’re thinking about giving a school your money in the hopes that you work in the gaming industry later.

First, Ask About Placement Rates.

Do this right off the bat.  Don’t be sheepishly polite.  Be blunt and to the point.  You’re about to give this school anywhere between $40,000-100,000 (or more) of yours or your parents’ money.  If you’re getting student loans you’re going to be paying them off for as long as you’d pay off a house.  Get your money’s worth.  Don’t just accept a number.  Ask to see names of the companies they work and place with.  Ask if you can contact any alumni they’ve recently placed regarding the program.  Ask about intern programs they have with local game companies.  This might seem like you’re out of line being a Freshman and all, but if you were buying a $100,000 house, you’d get a home inspection.  It’s time to do a school inspection, and it starts with how successful the school is.

Who Teaches There?

I’m not about to pull out the “Those who can, do, those who can’t…” bullshit mantra, but if the school doesn’t employ anyone in your program who’s currently working in the industry of your choice, you might want to look elsewhere.  Videogame technology (and therefore the techniques) advances at a redonkulous rate.  Normal Maps were unheard of 8 years ago.  The memory allocation in the total RAM footprint for things like textures for current gen systems exceeds the total RAM for an entire game system from just two generations ago.  If your professor is not steeped in what the industry is doing today, how can they hope to teach you what you need to know to get hired tomorrow?  If they haven’t worked in the industry for the past five years, they can’t possibly be able to tell you how the industry operates today.  It’s not enough to have someone who was an expert or dabbled in the industry awhile ago.  You need someone who’s an expert now.

101 Comes Before 201.

I didn’t even think I’d need to say this before writing up this piece, but there are actually schools out there who feel that prerequisites are for the student to decide.  This is patently absurd.  If the school allows you to take a 400 level class when you’re a Freshman (or even a Sophmore), there is no way they deserve your money.  Just walk away.  Imagine going to high school and having someone teach you Calculus before you learned Algebra.  How about taking French Literature classes before you even take your first French 101 lesson.  If it sounds rediculous, that’s because it is.  Now imagine being given the priveledge to throw away your money because you didn’t know better, and the School wasn’t willing to tell you otherwise.  Isn’t it their job to teach you?

Focused Disciplines and Portfolios.

One of the things that I have to tell every student porfolio I see is that once they graduate, they need to throw away their student reel and re-package their material into a focused, job specific professional reel.  Universities seem to have this impression that students need to be well rounded in order to get a job.  On the surface, this seems somewhat logical:  use the shotgun approach so that the student has a broad range of abilities they can do competently, so that if any job pops up they can hopefully fill it.  Contrast that with what most game teams/companies need:  focused snipers who can hone their skillset like a laser on a designated task or series of tasks.  We don’t hire artists.  We hire character artists.  We hire texture artists.  We hire environment artists.  We don’t hire programmers.  We hire AI Programmers or Tools Programmers or System Programmers.  We don’t hire animators who work with sand or puppets.  We hire character animators who work with 3D aps and/or motion capture.  We don’t hire designers.  We hire level designers.  Technical designers.  Combat designers.

The idea when framed in a traditional university setting is downright comical.  Imagine if you decided to major in English, but they wanted to make sure you spoke some French, or some Japanese, y’know, just in case there was an opening somewhere you could apply for it!  Nevermind that they’d hire a French major or a Japanese major for those positions.  There isn’t a Pharma corp on the planet who would be willing to hire someone who majored in “Science” over a candidate who majored in Chemistry, specifically with a Biochemical emphasis.

Why, then, do these video-game schools have kids show up with demo reels that have animation, rotating character models, and environment models on them?  (Hint, they failed the second category above).  But it’s not just art; I see it in the design programs, too.  I have no doubt that programming sees its fair share of this “generalist” attitude as well.  To be fair, you do need to do some dabbling in a bunch of different areas of your program before settling down on the path you know you want (I changed my major twice when I was in school), but you need to make sure your program (and therefore your portfolio) is focused like a laser on the specific job position you seek when you graduate.

Sophomore Portfolio/Progress Reviews.

I recently attended a Senior Portfolio Review as an industry guest reviewer, and I was a bit appalled.  Out of 30 or so candidates who were going to be graduating that year, only two of them were hire-able based off of their current reels (and really, a projection of what their current reels would look like in a few months).  I got the overwhelming feeling that 28 people in that room had just wasted an inordinate amount of money and the last four years of their life.  As a professional, I can easily identify where their program is lacking, and what needs to be done to fix it, but as an incoming Freshman, chances are you can’t.  However, here’s how you tell if they’re serious about giving you a good education:  Ask if they do a Sophomore Portfolio Review.  My University did.  I had no idea at the time why this was important, but time and experience has shown me the light.  Schools that are willing to evaluate their students at the end of their 2nd year, and kick them out of the program if they’re not cutting it are more concerned about their reputation as a school than they are about taking your money.  And that is a school you want to go to, because they want you to be a successful representative of their program, or they want you out of their program before you waste anymore of their time (and reputation).  In the end, that is the most successful way they can attract more students; by being the school that doesn’t just hand out diplomas.  They release successful professionals into the wilds of the real world.

What you don’t want to do is wind up attending a school that is only interested in taking your money for the next four years, and won’t do anything to get in the way of that happening.  You want a school that’s going to care for your education as if you’re an ambassador for their product.  If you get the feeling like you’re just a cash cow, walk away.

The bottom line here is that if you’re not satisfied with any of these school criteria, please go somewhere else.  Even if it means going out of state and spending a bit more money.  The worst thing you can do is go into debt and get a worthless degree from a school because it’s conveniently located.  The gaming job market just got a lot more competitive in the past three months for entry and low level positions (and even the senior and top level positions).  The least you can do is make sure you’re attending the right school.  Ask about all of the criteria on this list, and then see how flabbergasted they are.

If they don’t rebuff your questions, give them a shot.

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Apple Pipboy?

by Steve Bowler on January 29, 2009 · 4 comments

in general

Gizmodo’s reporting a bunch of old Apple products that never saw the light of day, and, uh, this one in particular was kinda…familiar.

It even has what looks like a map on the face of it.  I wonder if it tells you what your weapon loadout is or how many stimpacks you’ve got left?  Or if it can get Enclave Radio.

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Controlling Fear

by Steve Bowler on January 17, 2009 · 9 comments

in general

I’ve been putting a lot of thought into control and how successful the player feels using that control lately.  Part of it came up when I read that Cliffy B was thinking of doing a horror game, part of it came up when I read Jerry’s short take on Dead Space (and how it’s not a horror game), and part of it is due to some things I can’t talk about, so we’ll just chalk it up to me just thinking about combat a lot lately, especially how it relates to horror games, or anytime a game asks the player to be afraid.  The following is more me documenting my thoughts for later reference, as I’m sure a lot of folks out there have already come to these conclusions.

Fear is a tough emotion to ask our players to have, especially when it relates to gaming.  Gaming is almost entirely about “success.”  How successful does the player feel?  Typically, if the player doesn’t feel good and successful about the game they’re playing, they’ll stop playing it.  They won’t recommend it to friends.  They pan it on forms and boards.  So as developers we’ve grown accustomed to players feeling successful.  It’s good for us and our industry.

We can argue that fear involves scaring the player.  Things that go “boo” or jump out at the player, or are visually horrifying to look at.  Those things aren’t really within the realm of design, but simply using art or a player’s own base instincts against them.  In the end these things get old, and players get conditioned against them.  If we want to ask how we can use core design techniques to scare a player, I think we need to analyze that fear stems not only from a lack of success, but primarly, from a lack of control.  We can take this literally to mean the controller in the player’s hands, but additionally it can mean a lack of control over a situation, or even an absence of control altogether.

The latter two examples above we can see in horror films.  The viewer has no control over the protagonists in the film, and is essentially on a ride, experiencing what the protagonist experiences by proxy.  The Blair Witch Project accomplishes this through a lot of use of first person cameras, and keeping the viewer in the dark about what is really going on the entire film (to the point of keeping the actors in the dark so they would convey this sensation and emotion to the audience), until the final reveal at the ending, which the viewer (and even the protagonist) suspects is coming but is powerless to stop.

An even better example of control (and who has it) in horror films is found when we examine the relationship of power and control between the protagonist and the antagonist in “classic” recent horror films.  Jason, Freddy, that Saw dude, and Michael Meyers are/were all horrifying antagonists, primarily because they held all of the power.  They had giant chainsaws, elaborate traps, huge knives, were seemingly impervious to damage, and could even control your dreams and kill you in your sleep.  How are mere humans supposed to contend with a “boss” of that magnitude?  Most of the protagonists’ decisions are made in response to actions that the antagonist is taking.  It’s the villain who has the plan and is in control of the situation.  The hero is the mouse and is being confronted by mountain cats.  Rarely ever do we see the protagonists come up with a plot to defeat the villain in a horror movie.  Going “toe to toe” in combat almost always results in death.  Most are lucky to merely escape.

This sort of mentality usually flies in the face of game development.  Players expect to be a badass.  They don’t want to have to fight a boss that they can’t really hurt.  Almost no one feels that they are getting their money’s worth from a title by having to side-step combat in order to succeed.  We as developers have trained them that we will either teach them how to defeat enemies or at least supply them with the tools to learn this for themselves.  For a perfect example of this, one has to look no further than Left 4 Dead’s witch, who was designed as a one-hit uber boss for the players to avoid, and yet everyone now wants to use the auto-shotgun exploit on her from behind.  Killing her solo has actually become a new challenge, not something to fear.  Now, I’m not criticizing Left 4 Dead’s control vs. fear ratio.  In fact, they’ve designed their game around this concept.  The AI Director that we’ve heard so much about constantly tunes the game so that players with lower health are challenged at the right proportion so they don’t feel overwhelmed.  Its objective is to make the game just difficult enough so that players limp, not sprint, across the finish line into the safe house.

And that’s a tough nut to crack.  Left 4 Dead doesn’t rely on poor control to make the player afraid and tense; they use a procedurally balanced difficulty system.  In this way they have taken away the player’s control over his environment, even though it’s a mostly linear route.  Players don’t know what’s around any given corner, no matter how many times they play the level.  So players are no longer frustrated by the control of the character, as was the case in old survival horror games.  They are powerful, but just powerful enough.

But what about when we’re outside of the “horror” genre?  How can we use the control vs. fear ratio to make players feel other kinds of fear, other than the straight up “I’m gonna get axe murdered!” kind?

I was surprised when I played Mirror’s Edge that I wasn’t really experiencing any real sort of vertigo.  We’re certainly high enough up.  We’re certainly in precarious enough situations.  But I think maybe we were too much in control of Faith.  Now, hey, I’m not saying make the controls clunkier here.  That’s not the argument, necessarily.  I think the problem is that we can either be a badass, or we can experience fear.  The two are nearly mutually exclusive.  Faith was pretty much a badass.  There isn’t anything in the game she can’t parkour over (or under, or around, etc.).  We’re taught right off the bat that this isn’t really so much a dangerous rooftop scenario; it’s a playground for us to play on.  Any sense of vertigo is typically overwhelmed by a rush of endorphins or adrenaline.  It’s not scary.  It’s exciting.  Compare the sensation of playing Mirror’s Edge, for a moment, with the sensation of watching this video:

In both examples, we are exploring dangerously vertical pathways.  But in one, we’re in full control and a badass parkour expert, and in another, we’re trying to keep from pissing our pants.  Part of this is the “level design” of the catwalk in the video, and part of it is in what we know our “character” is able to do.  Even if it was playable, the catwalk video is terrifying because:

  1. Our moveset only involves walking, stairclimbing, and balancing.  Running is too risky.
  2. We’re almost always asked to stand precariously on a ledge (so we’re constantly asked to flirt with but avoid failure).
  3. Failure almost certainly means death.

The only gameplay example I can come up with for comparison to the video was the Coruscant level from (I’m pretty sure) the original Dark Forces, where we’re asked to walk around a bunch of dangerous railing-free narrow catwalks so high above the planet’s surface we can’t even see the ground.  I was in full control of my character with an FPS control scheme.  I was even a badass with an insane amount of guns.  But the pucker factor for that level was off the charts.  Even with a quicksave feature, I was so afraid of falling it became almost crippling.  It was probably due to the constant wind noise, and if I’m remembering correctly I think they actually tried to blow you off of some ledges every so often.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that badguys were on the ledges too and trying to shoot you the entire time or melee you off of them.  But the point was that despite being given an insane degree of control (pinpoint shot accuracy, FPS view and controls), I felt at the time very not in complete control of the situation.

It’s interesting to note how this footpath takes control away from the hiker.  At times the path is literally crumbled away in front of him, and he is required to walk a balance beam made out of the catwalk’s understructure hundreds of feet in the air before he can return to the relative “safety” of the cement path again.  Ostensibly, this is the same mechanic as the balance beam segments seen in Mirror’s Edge.  Regardless of which one is real or not, one is exponentially more terrifying than the other, as we are expected to do brave and dangerous things in ME, but on this narrow hiking path we want to avoid them, but are forced to confront them if the hiker wishes to continue on.

So, as a developer, if we seek to strike fear in a player, how can we give them complete control over their character, yet restrict control in their environment, in their decisionmaking, and within the confines of the gameplay?

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Oh, UGO.

by Steve Bowler on January 14, 2009 · 1 comment

in general

I don’t know if you want to chalk this up to insensitivity, or ironically prophetic, or just plain dumb about what ads you’re running on the front page of your newly acquired and gutted site.

Whatever it is, it earns an “oh, UGO.”  And at the very least a /facepalm.

Full sized image of the front page is here.

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In Search of an R.

by Steve Bowler on January 6, 2009 · 21 comments

in general

One of the things that I was thinking about but not writing about during my month under the bus was some further thoughts about Fallout 3 and the lack of nudity in it I wrote about earlier.  A friend of mine threw the pointedly “why are you always talking about slavery and nudity?” Pervert card at me, and in preparing my defense/rebuttal I realized something about our ratings system and the games we play.

There are no adult games.

And no, for crying out loud, I’m not talking about teh pr0ns.

I just want an adult game.  I feel that we don’t truly have them.  We have games with Adult Themes.  We have games with a tiny smattering of nudity.  We have games with gore.  Lifelike violence.  Language.  But what we don’t have, is a title that can encompass all of these things (if it wants to).  We don’t have an “R” rated game.  I know there’s been a lot of pieces written about this subject matter before, what with folks asking why we have a different ratings system from films, and even folks defending our current ESRB system.  Even Penny Arcade did an ad series for them.  Hell, I’ve defended the ESRB on numerous occasions, because as long as it’s in place and we enforce its standards, we keep Congress from breathing down our necks and regulating us.  They’re our friends.


I think we deserve better.  I come back to Ebert’s original stance of “Videogames are not art” a lot.  I try and get in his head and understand why he’d say it.  I once took the stand that videogames are art, and I still stand by that, but sometimes, I can see where Ebert’s coming from.  I think.

My main problem is that our “M” rating is not an R.  I think we’ve lulled ourselves into the idea that it is analogous, that T = PG/PG-13-ish.  E = G.  M = R.  Most of those equations are pretty accurate.  The Mature = Restricted one, though, is a bit off.  And that bit can mean quite a lot.

I’ve gone on at length about how much I miss the nudity, sex, and promiscuity in Fallout3.  It just doesn’t feel like a desperate enough world without it.  Who are we kidding, really, that we live in a world that has human slavery and cannibalism, but only one female prostitute who merely lays down with you?  I know that the Lead Designer, Emil, said that there’s a line he won’t cross (killing kids, and I agree with him), but I don’t think that the lack of nudity was a free willed decision.  I have a feeling it was an enforced one…

[click to continue reading]

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In Defense of the Prince

by Steve Bowler on January 3, 2009 · 7 comments

in general

First off:  SPOILER WARNING.  If you haven’t finished Prince of Persia yet (the one released in 2008), either stop reading now, or have the ending and the entire game ruined for you.  You’ve been warned.

I was a bit surprised this week to hear a few folks in the newly dubbed “Brainysphere” talking about how much they don’t care for the new Prince in Prince of Persia.  Some felt they should have shut off the game before the final ending, others simply felt he was too shallow a vessel (but hopefully feel differently now that they’ve finished the game).  Still others out there felt that a quip-slinging wise-guy with a middle-of-America accent was somehow an insult to gamers and irresponsible in general.

The first thing that surprised me about the dislike was that I’ve never really found The Prince to be all that deep.  Do we require our hero in this series to be anything more than a fun platform hopper?  This Prince really isn’t all that far of a stretch from the Sands of Time Prince, is it?  Maybe with some updates for the current decade?  I’m not saying we can’t or shouldn’t have a deep hero, but I think The Prince is just deep enough, for reasons that I’ll get into in just a bit.  But the bottom line here for me was that my expectations were low.  This is an “everyman” game here.  It’s shallow level hopping gameplay, by and large, that needs to appeal to mass audiences.  I wasn’t really expecting a magnum opus with legendary characters or performances.

The second thing that surprised me was that people were aiming their indignation at The Prince.  If I had to nitpic anything in the game, I’d start with the game-world and the gameplay in general, and start by asking questions along the lines of…

[click to continue reading]

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Tale of Two Princes

by Steve Bowler on January 1, 2009 · 2 comments

in general

Awhile ago, after that 2nd Prince of Persia game on the Xbox came out, I heard that the PoP team was going to be split into two teams, and they would be working on separate projects.  The first fruit of this Ubi team bisection we saw was Assassin’s Creed.  The second offering (from the 2nd team) just hit the market this past month, and it is the newest installment in the Prince of Persia franchise.

What’s interesting to me about these two titles isn’t what makes them so similar (Arabian Parkours), but rather what keeps them unique from each other.  Often, when designing a game from the blue sky “pitch” standpoint, we are often asked “what makes this game different from all of the other games out there in this genre?”  Ubi gave themselves a bit of an interesting challenge here, and I think they delivered somewhat amicably on the problem.

On the one hand, we had Assassin’s Creed.  Through a lot of tech and animation effort, we were given this wonderful rooftop exploration vehicle.  True, I didn’t like it when it’s animation driven, or the fact that it’s too easy to run around the world, but what they delivered on was an abundance of fun exploration.  Nevermind the fact that you’re not much of an assassin, this was the more “serious” of the “PoP Gameplay” cousins.

On the other hand, we were recently delivered Prince of Persia.  Again, through a lot of animation (and probably level design) effort, we get something more “true” to the PoP Gameplay model.  Rediculously vertical level design seemingly built for a race of upright howler monkeys who no longer require floors and have rings installed in their ceilings “just in case” the actual floors do in fact give way in later generations.  I remember when it was announced, I wondered, “how are they going to set themselves apart from Assassin’s Creed?”  It turns out they made the inverse gameplay environment interaction model.

If Creed is all sandbox exploration and no user required button/world interaction, PoP is linear level design and is entirely built around user driven world interacts.  In Creed we can go around something, over it, under it, or completely avoid it altogether on the ground.  In PoP, we are forced to head down one (okay two if you go the long way) hallway, and navigate it the way it was designed to (by that race of Howler Monkey People).

Graphed, they look a little like this:


I love graphs.  Especially the non-scientific kind.

Which one’s better?  Hard to say.  I think the point here is that neither one’s better than the other.  Although sales figures will eventually say how the consumers voted here, and with Creed having some rediculous lead (what is it now, 6 Million units?), I don’t know if the new PoP will ever catch up.

That said, Prince of Persia is the first game I finished in 2008, and I felt driven to finish it.  It may have been the fact that the rental was due back by 12/31, but come 9pm of 12/30 I parkoured towards the ending so fast I eventually got a Speed Demon achievement.  I was shocked at how much I enjoyed PoP.  I expected to hate it, what with it being so linear, but I found that even though I’d done every single interaction 100 times before, there was something so very satisfying about being in control of every interaction.  I quite playing Creed at about the halfway point once I realized that there wasn’t really any new content to be had.  The same crowd missions were available, and the “boss” assassinations were less assassinations and more just elaborate guard fights.

Thinking about this further, I’ve found that I’ve given up on just about every open ended game out there that I played last year.  GTA IV.  Fallout3.  Creed.  There comes a point in time where I just don’t want to move about their open endedness anymore, and I wonder if maybe the focused intensity of a linear level design is what kept me coming back for more.  There really are only “breathers” to be had in PoP; there are no long stretches with relatively nothing to do.  The only long walks are the ones between the temple and the fertile grounds themselves.  It demands your attention, constantly, and rewards your attention with some pretty sweet action and a metric fuck-ton of beautiful artwork.

I’ve lamented the ease of world navigation in Creed before, and wished there could be more world interaction to it.  I know we’re not going to get it, but what I wish we could have, with all of my heart, is for Ubi to re-combine these two teams again, and give us Prince of Creed.  Assassin’s Prince.  Whatever.  Just give me open world exploration with multiple parkouring/climbing/exploration puzzles that involve more user interaction than just pushing a joystick in the direction we want to move in.  I’d seriously love to see something in the middle ground here.  PoP’s interactions with Creed’s real-world exploration.

Doubt I’ll ever get to see it, but a boy can dream, can’t he?


ETA:  Oh great, I go looking for verification that the teams split and find an article where the PoP Producer pretty much lays out how they tried to stay out of each other’s IP.  :P

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Best Thing You’ll Hear All Day

by Steve Bowler on December 29, 2008 · 10 comments

in audio

Talent:  he has it.  Freddie25 plays an accoustic version of the Windwaker theme, playing every instrument on a different video track.  You’ve seen this kind of thing before, but this is just…sweet.

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