GameCity 9 Launch Event Rundown

Last Thursday was the launch event for this years GameCity festival where the nominees and judges for this years prizes were announced. Myself and Kieran had the opportunity to show off the current build of Hashtag Dungeon at the event!

It was really cool to see people playing and talking about the game. It’s definitely shown us what things we need to improve upon over the next few weeks and what is good about it right now.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 01.13.44

Unfortunately we edited our server’s code just before we left to show the game off; this meant that all the tweets being grabbed by the server were missing a bunch of important data which poor Kieran had to input manually! (We should know better than to edit the games code a few hours before we show it off… but nevermind!)

We also had chance to take part in the Spaceteam Admirals Challenge which was really fun but we didn’t do particularly well at it (3rd from last… could have been worse I suppose…) Congratulations to the winners of that by the way – those medallions you got looked really sweet.

I very much enjoyed myself and I’m really looking forward to my first trip to the GameCity festival this year. I’m also excited to show our game off again – hopefully we’ll have worked out the bugs by that point! I’d like to thank Dr. Patrick Dickinson for coming along to the event to support us, Alex for helping get me in contact with the people running GameCity and Iain and Chloe for making me feel super welcome! It was also really cool to see Sam from Boxface Games again – he’s seriously the coolest kid I’ve ever met – ever.

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My Thoughts On: E3 2014 Microsoft Conference

Okay so I’m a little late to the party here as I’ve been in France since Monday. I have no idea why I picked such a dumb time to go on holiday but it’s done now so I can’t change that. I’m going to watch each of the press conferences and type up my thoughts as we go along. This might get pretty messy and I might ramble a bit.

INTRODUCTION

Okay – they’re focusing on games. That’s good. Definitely makes a change based on last years conference.

CALL OF DUTY

The new Call Of Duty is looking pretty damn gorgeous. Holy crap that’s pretty. Look at all those particle effects! I like the futuristic feel they’ve gone for. It’s still as horrifically scripted as per usual though… but I guess thats what Call Of Duty’s single player campaign is all about.

The guy playing is walking around REALLY slowly – I hope that’s not the players normal walking speed.

Oh god that was a freakin’ mech… I kind of want to play this game now.

Oh wow… those swarms of drones move really nicely. I wonder if they’re actually using flocking AI or they’re just animated to look like that.

(Can’t help but see the last two Crysis games in that though.)

FORZA MOTORSPORT

I have no passion for cars and racing. I have no idea what this guy is talking about. Do people really spend this much time recreating real-life tracks for games…? (Did they really get it down the millimetre accuracy? I doubt it… why would you bother?) Ech, I don’t see the appeal to be frank.

Dynamic weather and day-night cycles? IT’S LIKE A WHOLE NEW RACING GAME.

Granted the textures look quite nice.

EVOLVE

Okay I’ve been looking forward to this one actually. I’m really excited for the asymmetric gameplay between the hunters and the monster. The monster looks amazing – like something straight out go HP Lovecraft. I can’t wait to play it.

ASSASSINS CREED: UNITY

I was in Paris this week and it wasn’t all that great.

Cooperative multiplayer – not bad at all, sounds like it could be pretty fun!

So much Les Miserables going on round here. I approve.

As a fan of crowd simulations I’m very happy that the crowd reacted and charged into the building once the guards were dead.

These people don’t sound very French to me…

(I’m noting that none of the playable characters are female. Poor form Ubisoft. Poor form.)

DRAGONAGE INQUISITION

There’s some damn cool looking monsters in this game. I wish I also had the power of green.

SUNSET OVERDRIVE

Lawl, cover mechanic joke.

Well this game looks pretty zany. I think I’m gonna enjoy playing this game! Very tongue in cheek, self aware and highly amusing. It’s like Tony Hawk crossed with Dead Rising crossed with Borderlands.

This game has a heck of a lot of juice in it.

DEAD RISING 3 ARCADE THINGY

…is it really cosplay when it’s a character in a game?

…I still feel very confused by Dead Rising 3. I still think that they were very confused about what they were going for with that game.

DISNEY FANTASIA MUSIC EVOLVED & DANCE CENTRAL

FABLE LEGENDS

Ecch. This series should have died many years ago.

Oh… wait, hello, what is this? You can be the villain? That’s kinda cool. I like the idea of having an over world villain – I’ve seen it done a few times – it’s kinda similar to what we are trying to do with Hashtag Dungeon. I suppose they’re actually trying to be innovative for once! Good luck to them, hopefully the villain will have more up their sleeves than very easy to kill mobs and trolls.

PROJECT SPARK

Project spark looks pretty awesome. It’s like a far more complex Little Big Planet. I feel as if there’s gonna be a heck of a lot of crap uploaded by people though.

OH SHIT CONKER WHAT…

Wait. No. He’s only making a cameo?!

What have you done Rare… what have you done…?

ORI AND THE BLIND TEMPEST

Oh that gorgeous animation! I WANT TO PLAY THIS GAME NOW!

HALO: THE MASTER CHIEF COLLECTION

I really love the Halo universe… so this is pretty cool for me. Having all the games on one thing is mind-blowing though – that’s surely a lot of data to store on one thing… unless it’s several discs.

Oh god Halo 2 multiplayer… that was the majority of my teenage years…

Holy shit that’s gonna be a lot of multiplayer. I might have to start doing Halo nights again.

INSIDE

Gotta love Limbo 2.

Seriously though that looks pretty intriguing!

INDIE GAME SHOWCASE

As per usual they pretty much all look amazing.

RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER

Completely understandable that she’d be in therapy after the events of the first game. I loved the reboot of Tomb Raider and I am definitely looking forward to the next instalment.

THE WITCHER 3

Woo! Hunting! Looks good to me!

I have a strange feeling that the griffon was scripted to go through that village though. I seriously doubt that the player just happened to walk through there and the NPC just happened to have a griffon speech choice.

I’m very disappointed that they didn’t actually let the player kill the griffon and instead just had a cutscene.

PHANTOM DUST

Pre-rendered cutscenes just don’t do it for me. Show me gameplay damn it!

THE DIVISION

This game is still looking as cool as it did last year. I really like the post-apocalyptic world they’ve created. I’m loving the augmented reality overlays they’ve put in the game. I still have no idea how it’s supposed to play though.

SCALEBOUND

Another pre-rendered cutscene so I can’t really make any good comments on it.

CRACKDOWN 3

Crackdown’s narrator voice makes me shiver with enjoyment every time I hear it. I love how unforgivingly over the top the Crackdown series is. I’m also very glad they’ve gotten rid of the zombies – that was a waste of the games IP.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Definite focus on the games this year from Microsoft – specifically exclusives. I’m glad they’ve learnt their lessons from last years atrocious press conferences. I hope that the rest of the conferences are just as good. (Of course I have my doubts as per usual…)

My Thoughts On: Jazzpunk

Jazzpunk Is Weird

Sean knocks back a glass of his new favourite cocktail Vodkacetamol as he attempts to recollect exactly what he just played for the last few hours. His brain throbs will a dull ache. He can recall colours and sounds but very little else. He remembers pigeons and spray cheese and liberal use of floating text. His hands shake violently as he attempts to glean meaning from the intangible nothingness around him. He has just played Jazzpunk.

That may well be the most hilariously surreal three hours of my life. I cannot remember ever having played a game that strange before (except maybe The Wonderful End Of The World). Whatever the designers are on at Necrophone Games please can I have some? I’d love to make something like this!

Jazzpunk is an exploration of the surreal side of cyberpunk – exploring the craziness of matrix-esque worlds and virtual reality. You play as a secret agent called Polyblank who is tasked with a bunch of random espionage missions including:

  • Shooting pigeons with some kind of degaussing ray gun.
  • Stealing important data and documents from Russians.
  • Poisoning a guy with fugu-fish.
  • Saving the day from a guy who has an accent similar to mine.
  • Playing a ‘Marriage’ version of Quake.

It’s weird. Really, really weird. But its also really, really funny and quite engrossing considering how strange it is. There’s a tonne of little side missions and hidden bonuses that you might miss if you don’t explore the whole world – I know for a fact I’ve not seen everything based on the lack of achievements I managed to grab on my first play through (apparently I need to go talk to some cardboard boxes or something?). One thing that really made me laugh were the small mini games which pepper the world that parody other games: pizza zombies, car beat-em-up games and wedding-based FPSs which all made me laugh out loud.

I also really want to point out how much I liked the art style of the game. The simple models coupled with cartoonish textures and that tell-tale Unity stock cartoon outline shader looked awesome. The music was also pretty good – whacky and over the top at almost every point. I loved it!

One thing I will say though is that the price counts against it – I’ve bought things for far less that have had much longer shelf life. It isn’t worth it if you’re looking for a long-burning game, but if you’re just up for a surreal romp into a world that will constantly surprise you… then go for it – just make sure to medicate properly first.

My Thoughts On: Continue?9876543210

Continue?9876543210 is a game that attempts to answer the question of what happens to a character in a game when they are deleted from memory.

I remember myself and Alex talking about making a game where you play as a pointer that has wandered off into memory somewhere so I was very interested to see what this game would be like. I was hoping for a Zelda-esque hack and slash game… instead it was a very artsy philosophical game filled with oodles of despair.

The game opens as another game finishes – one of several random characters is seen dying. Then a ‘Continue’ screen flashes up on the screen, it ticks slowly down to zero and then everything goes black. It appears though that the character you are controlling doesn’t want to die… at least not yet.

Continue? Screenshot

The character has to spend its last remaining moments in the memory of the system exploring strange artistic set pieces and hiding from the garbage collector. Each time you play the game there are six random levels for you to explore out of a total of eleven. These range from a wartime trench scene to a small haunted village filled with medieval NPCs. When inside a level you have to talk to NPCs and answer their questions in order to gain ‘prayer’ and ‘lightning’ which help you to stay alive.

Lightning helps the player move to another level by destroying obstacles. Prayer lets the player build houses in a town in order to hide from the garbage collector when it comes along to delete stuff. Both are vital to the players survival but no matter how much you get you will eventually die.

Continue? Enemy

The enemies in the game remind me of Stephen King’s langoliers. They’re vicious and hunt you down without remorse – after all you are just memory locations waiting to be cleaned up. The game ends when the player is finally deleted. The players score is defined by how ‘ready’ the character is to die when they finally meet their maker.

The game was apparently inspired by a drug-trip gone bad that left the designer in the middle of the Mexican desert. It seems to me to be all about survival, life and the inevitability of death. It made me think about my life so far and brought up a lot of emotions about death and how I feel about it.

My only issues with the game are the amount of flickering and loud noises that gave me a headache. I expected the game to have a pretentious air around it and it does – however the designer has attempted to combat against this by adding in some fun gameplay here and there. I’m also going to point out that the game is very confusing towards the start: a lot of things happen without much warning and they can really put you off playing.

If you want to try it out and see what you think it’s available on Steam right now.

My Top Games Of 2013

Twenty-Thirteen has been a really interesting year for games. We’ve seen some really awesome stuff coming out of studios across the globe. The indie golden age is still booming and despite the downfalls of the Greenlight system I think there’s never really been a better time to make games. Despite the awful disappointments of SimCity and Aliens: Colonial Marines we’ve had some amazing games this year… so in no particular order here are my favourite picks:

Don’t Starve

This game looks great. It’s Tim Burton-esque artwork and smooth animation really blew my mind. Even though I am incredibly bad at Don’t Starve I really love the world that they designers have created. It has a beautifully pitch-black sense of humour which appeals to me. Klei are an excellent studio, I hope they have continued success into the future!

The Last Of Us

This might be one of the most wonderfully written story-driven games that I have ever had the chance to play. The characters feel very real, they’re not one-dimensional and are willing to make choices that feel justified from their point of view.

Whilst the gameplay is a lacklustre recall of most third-person combat-stealth games the combat scenarios you are thrown into have a variety of different tactics that can be applied to them – meaning that they never really get boring. The game switches out zombies and gun-toting humans to great effect to continue to make the player switch up their tactics.

Although The Last Of Us is a very linear on-rails game it rewards you with excellent pacing and  an emotional experience that only a few games have really managed to create. It’s a must play for anyone who likes their games with a rich story.

Papers, Please

Damn this game. If you went to any game publisher and told them you were making a game were you play a border control agent working in their normal job day after day they’d probably laugh you out of the building. However, Papers, Please! has shown that even something as mundane as passport control can make a compelling and interesting game.

Watching the country of Arstotzka change because of little things you do is always really interesting. It shows that even someone as un-influential as a border control agent can bring a country to its knees given the right opportunities.

Grand Theft Auto V

The guys at Rockstar have outdone themselves with this amazingly well-made game. It proves that not all triple-A titles have to churn out a sequel once a year to do well (I’m looking directly at you, Call Of Duty). Well done to all my old university friends who worked doing QA on the game, you all did a great job of making a high-quality end product.

Tearaway

Media Molecule really have a skill when it comes to exploiting every aspect of a handheld console’s physical interactions. It’s amazing some of the things they make this game do with the touch screen and cameras, being able to manipulate the environment with your fingers is really cool. Speaking of the environment… the construction paper style they’ve gone with looks amazing – one of my favourite things being the glue pasted on walls that the player can walk along.

Bioshock Infinite

Despite the post launch criticisms of Bioshock Infinite in terms of the levels of violence, the restriction to two weapons and the stadium fight -> story -> stadium fight storytelling style, I feel like this game is the best possible example of the story-shooter genre that has grown and propagated over the last few years.

The world of Columbia was a fascinating insight into a section of time that America likes to forget happened. It really captured that Main Street happy American lifestyle that I see every time I go to Disney World. I loved the characters – especially the Lutece twins.

Antichamber

Good god this game was strange. I loved its non-euclidean architecture and how it tried to break down peoples conceptions of how games are meant to be played. Definitely a good game for people who like puzzles and occasionally getting headaches. This is definitely a game I’m going to go back to in a few months once I’ve forgotten most of the solutions to it. I’m still very surprised it was made in UDK, it doesn’t feel like it at all.

Far Cry: Blood Dragon

Just adding this one to the list because of it’s ballsy venture into that awfully neon science fiction world of the 80s. This sort-of-expansion thing was what Duke Nukem Forever should have been aiming for. Completely insane and not afraid to be in-your-face and happy about it. I was laughing my head of when I played this and I’m glad that they made it.

Pokemon X and Y

Finally after all these years they’ve brought the Pokemon universe into the third dimension and boy has it done well. With all its new features for contacting friends, training pokemon and sending gifts around the world it has shown that the guys and gals designing the Pokemon games are really in touch with their fan base and are giving them what they want.

Tomb Raider

Yeah I know this game was very much plagued with quicktime events and the pacing of Lara’s character development was a little off… but I think it was a wonderful reboot to the Tomb Raider series. I really hope that they make a sequel to this one.

The Stanley Parable

This is the discussion about a game about a man named Stanley. This fully expanded version of the old mod was truly a delight to play. With the stunning voice of Kevan Brighting (who I’d really like to read my novel once its finished) this game really makes the player question if they ever actually have any real control over a game. It’s very clever and very funny for anyone familiar with games in general. If you’ve not played it already I’d play it right now – just remember… the end is never the end.

My Thoughts On: The Stanley Parable Demo

That was perhaps the cleverest ‘demo’ I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.

To be frank I’m not entirely sure if I can classify it as a ‘demo’ in the normal sense of the word. The developers have created an entire mini story in order to bring you into the world of the Stanley Parable without giving away any of the actual game.

I love the premise behind the Stanley Parable: A critical look at traditional game tropes. The narrator specifically makes fun of a great deal of these during this demo. Everything is surprising as it takes what you know and flips it on its head. Non euclidean architecture that could rival even Antichamber was one of my favorite things in the demo.

I’ve been following the Stanley Parable for a good while now and I was most pleased to see that emotion booths are in fact there to be used in the game. It was an amusing nod to the Raphael trailer that myself and Alex have on loop during game jams.

I’m really happy that they’ve managed to invoke the same feelings of mischief that I felt during the original mod. I continued to want to fight the rules and do the exact opposite of what the narrator wanted – and his reaction to this never disappointed me.

All I can say is that the demo was great fun and I really am looking forward to playing the full game. I can’t wait to have my preconceptions of games challenged once again. And I’ve missed Stanley… he must be awfully lonely in his office, pressing buttons all day.

Also: I love that narrator’s voice… it’s smooth as butter.

My Thoughts On: A Machine For Pigs

I have a confession to make: I never finished the original Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Why? Because of several reasons:

  1. I was a great deal younger and therefore my ability to man the fuck up was severely hindered.
  2. I was playing the game in the dark and with my best friend Mark, who was also unable to man the fuck up. In fact his jumping and breathing down my neck made things worse for me.
  3. We saw the first gatherer and after jumping out of the chair and yanking the mouse out of its USB port decided we’d come back and play it again later.
  4. We never came back to play it again later.

But I did get around to watching Jesse Cox’s wonderful play-through of it. So I didn’t miss out on the story or anything like that. I respected the fear inducing pursuits of the monsters and the creepy warping of the insanity meter. I loved the large levels with multiple rooms and paths.. and I really hoped that they’d make a new one.

So when I heard The Chinese Room were making the new one my first thought was “I don’t know if it’ll be as scary… but it’ll be damn pretty.”  When I saw it had a steampunk Victorian vibe I was pretty excited (I have a distinct love for steampunk…)

I’ve played it through now from start to finish. So I’m going to list my thoughts on it below – I’ve separated them into good and bad points to make it easier for anyone who reads this:

Good Points

I really liked the story (despite having guessed where it was going very early on…) It was creepy, sickening and macabre – it was definitely what I wanted from an Amnesia game. I’ve been told by a few people that they don’t think the ties between this game and the original are strong enough – but I think the references to the original game were just right without being too annoyingly in your face. I liked how they dared to be perverse in their storytelling  when so many games don’t dare to get anywhere close to that. I was engaged by it from start to finish and I liked the ending a great deal.

The setting of the game was beautifully done. I wouldn’t have expected any less from The Chinese Room, though. They really brought grimy industrial London to life. The levels were sufficiently terrifying and I was constantly impressed by the attention to detail in their grand design.

Enemy design was wonderful… the pig men were gross and their effect on the lights always made me think twice before going down a small corridor. There was one particular enemy type close to the end that REALLY caused me to panic in utter terror.

I liked the removal of the insanity, oil and health meters – it allowed to me focus more on the world and the issues at hand instead of fumbling around inside an inventory. Come to think of it the lack of inventory in general really helped to immerse me deeper into the game.

Bad Points

It was too damn short… I was surprised how quickly I managed to plow through it. I was even taking regular Facebook and food breaks to ensure I didn’t die from a heart attack or something.

The really terrifying enemy type I mentioned earlier is only used right at the end of the game for a few encounters. This is a real shame because it was a damned good heavy hitter. Now I know that using it more might have made it lose its impact… but it seemed a shame that it came and went so quickly.

The levels in the game were far too linear… it lacked a great deal of the exploration that made the first Amnesia so interesting. This linearity made the puzzles exceptionally easy too as the solutions to problems were normally a room or two away instead of far on the other side of the level. Hiding from the pig men was something that I would only have to do in order to progress past a certain location instead of in the original Amnesia where they were an ever-present threat. I think this made the game less scary as I knew there was always bound to be an obvious way past the creatures because I needed to get to the area behind them.

Man pigs raping small children is never going to be okay. You hear me? Never.

This Little Piggy Had A Conclusion

A Machine For Pigs is a most excellent game, I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was genuinely terrifying at some moments and thats what I expected from the game. The story was most interesting and enthralling and was played out quite nicely through the use of notes and voice recorders. I would definitely say it lacks some of the things that made the original Amnesia so nerve-wrackingly terrifying but it does a good job of making you jump once in a while. It feels like a decent successor to the first and in an age where sequels never live up to the originals it does hold itself quite well. Nice work The Chinese Room… nice work indeed.