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A Welcome Back and a Plan For the Month

| Wednesday
I've decided it might be worth it to get up off my lazy ass and get working on actually talking about gaming again.  So without further ado, here's what I think my plans are going to be for the next month or so:

Games to Review:

King Arthur's Gold
Terraria
Dead Space 2
Crysis 2
Section 8 Prejudice
Earth Defence Force:  Insect Armageddon
Groove Coaster
Ace of Spades
Minecraft

As usual, I know I'm probably severely late to the party for a good 99% of these.  But, that's just my style I guess.  Anyways, watch this space. 






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Just so you know

| Tuesday
As far as I can tell, I'm not dead, the same goes for my colleagues.

I have been gaming, that much can be said, but it lacks the same quirkiness of indie titles when I say I'm playing Killzone 3 and Team Fortress 2.

Anyways, one of the more exciting bits of information I can present is that this space will be host to my book launch, so if you have questions by all means feel free to leave a comment.

The book's title is What Wolves Would Come? and it is a short horror novel depicting one of my favorite topics, the apocalypse, sort of.  Anyways, the starting price is four bucks, so you could go without a Big Mac for a day and give my little tome a read.

Or don't, in which case my feelings are just going to get hurt.

Thanks for reading as always guys.
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Why I Love Independent Record Labels

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A big thanks to Oppressive Sound System Releases for their awesomeness.
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A Bit Belated, Interview With Fricitional

| Saturday

It’s been a little while since my last update, but I have been writing a novel and various other things.  I’ve been rocking out in the literary way as well as playing around with Black Ops and the latest Goldeneye.  Expect a few more updates in the coming days. 

Frictional, developers of the ever amazing Amnesia and Penumbra, granted me the ability to conduct an interview.  The actual interview has been long waiting, but without further delays here we go.

1.       When coming up with the initial concept for Amnesia, what sort of inspiration did you draw from?

Amnesia was actually transformed over several years so the initial concept is quite unlike what the final game looks like. It actually started out as a bite-sized horror game, heavily inspired by Super Mario. This was then thinned out over the course of the project and very little of that first idea remains. Over the course of the project we have had tons of inspiration from various sources though and one major is the first 30 minutes of Bioshock. This is by far the best part of the game and showed us that you can make an engaging experience only based on exploration and interesting events.

2.       A lot of the design choices in Penumbra and Amnesia are rather inspired in light of your typical horror game.  Why did you decide to opt out on combat when it’s so prevalent in games these days?

Combat in horror games only result in the player feeling strong and safe as he kills monsters. We avoid combat as we think it increase the notion of danger and horror. We also remove it because normally combat is the main thing that you do in a game, so if you remove it you have no choice but to try and come up with other means of occupying the player.

3.       What’s next on the development cycle for you guys?  Are you planning an expansion to Amnesia or another game altogether?

It will be a new game altogether and it is quite certain that it will not be a pure horror game. It will still have horror elements, but it will not be the only thing it is about. With Amnesia we made the best effort we could to make a unique horror experience, so trying to reset the horror mode and get at it again does not feel that inspiring to us right now. We need to develop another type of game, even if similar, before we can make another true horror game.

4.       How many members do you assign per team?

We are six people in the company, 5 full-time and 1 part-time. We also work with contractors for things like concept art and music. We try to split the team at times, for example when we made Black Plague, some started to work on Requiem while others were still working on BP. Then we did the same with Requiem, as technology for Amnesia was developed during the same time. As we have had a harsh time finishing Amnesia, we did not have the luxury to do it like that this time around, so currently we are doing our best to keep both design, graphics and technology in development as much as possible without getting stuck due to one part not being developed enough.

5.       What are you striving to deliver with your games, what sort of experience and theme do you want to impart on those purchasing the title?

With Amnesia the main goal was to make an experience that did not feel like something you had to win to have done it right. It was more to create a world that would really draw the player in, tell an interesting story and allow for exploration of it. We also aim for evoking more varied emotions and to have deeper and more thoughtprovoking themes. In Amnesia we had the nature of evil as a core concept and Penumbra explored madness a bit, In the future we aim to take this kind of focus even further and to create games that are not just easy-going entertainment.

6.       How has piracy affected your sales?  Has the lack of DRM hampered your overall sales?

Not more than games in general are affected by piracy, sure different type of games might suffer at different levels. We have put a lot of effort into making it a single play-through experience, that you play it one time and the main idea is that the less you know before the better the experience will be. In this case it might be very harmful with piracy, if you pirate and play it one time then why would you later buy it? A sport, strategy or online driven game might have you hooked a long time and offer a replay value that eventually makes you purchase it. Not having this probably affects us a bit more.

We don't really think of piracy as something pure evil, nor do we see it as only beneficial as the pro-pirates so often want to shout. It's a problem that there is a lack of research on the topic, as it makes everyone make claims with little grounds.

If you play our game from beginning to end, or if you play a considerable part of it and have a good time, all we ask is that you purchase it when you can afford it. We often run sales, or stores that have our games have sales, so there are lots of opportunities to get it real cheap if 20 USD is too much. We have even participated in events such as the Humble Indie Bundle, which has given the opportunity to pay what you want.

7.       You guys deliver fairly atypical gaming experiences, what leads to some of the conceptual designs when you’re pitching an idea?

The main thing is probably that we do not start of with some core gameplay, but rather with a feeling and a theme. So instead of first iterating a low-level gameplay mechanic and then come up with a fitting story, we go for a more holistic approach where everything depends on one another. We have tried to start with gameplay first, and this is actually how Amnesia started out, but we felt that it so easily overshadowed the atmosphere and feel we wanted. Instead, we found that focusing on higher level concepts at first enables one to craft a quite different experience.

Thanks again for the interview guys.  To my readers, give me just a little time to gather up some ideas for posts.  Check this space, and thanks again for reading!
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Get That Fuckin' Guitar Outta Here! - Zombi

| Thursday
Many self-described "rock-n-fuckin'-roll enthusiasts" curse the day rock artists discovered the synthesizer. Hell, some are still convinced that Rush's 80s material was all a bad hairspray-induced nightmare. However, some would go on to embrace this sound and gain a few fans along the way.



Zombi is a progressive electronic/space rock/prog rock band originating in Pittsburgh circa early 2000s. The band consists of two solo multi-instrumentalists: Steve Moore, the bassist for Krautrock band Titan, and A.E. Pattera, who just released his debut solo album under the name Majeure. While fans of King Crimson, Rush, and Tangerine Dream will hear the influence instantly, film nerds might also notice that Italian horror film soundtracks of the 70s, such as Suspiria and the international version of Dawn of the Dead have also rubbed off on them.

While their newest album, Spirit Animal, does in fact include use of the electric guitar, the rest of Zombi's material employs the use of synths, keyboards, bass, and drums to craft their sound. The synths churn out mellow, yet epic soundscapes, the bass thumps rhythmically along with a strong, distinct tone, and the drums bring the complex and aggressive rocking nature to wrap up the package. It's the perfect soundtrack to that anxious, high-speed midnight drive through nowhere in particular.

Give Surface to Air a spin a try not to pretend you're on a secret space mission.
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Gundam Vs. Gundam Next Plus: Robots are still awesome

| Tuesday

Giant Robots, Sign Me Up!

As an ardent child at heart, I still retain some fondness for certain elements of my childhood.  These vary from ninjas, samurai, Batman, and bitching guitar solos to the whole grail for my gaming career as a child.  Of course, I’m talking about giant robots.  Now, I won’t claim I’m some anime slurping nerd, I’m more of a comic book fella.  But I’ve always had a certain affinity for their brightly colored robots and the multiple explosions.  Now, at the ripe age of twelve, I was exposed to Gundam Wing, a series that is pretty much just Sailor Moon with giant robots and a lot more angst to go around.

As bitching as they come.

 

When I picked up my PSP this past week, you can only imagine my surprise when I found out that Capcom, the guys behind the amazing Sengoku Basara and Resident Evil, had released a combat game based around the Gundam franchise as a whole.  Gundam Vs. Gundam Next Plus is a portable iteration of the popular arcade series that originated with the Naomi hardware, and it’s a great way to kill time in bursts. 

Holy Shit, Look at the Colors…Ooooh, Pretty.

GvGNP is a dream to look at on the PSP, having a silky smooth 60 FPS and still maintaining a hectic amount of action on the screen at any point in time.  Now, I can tell you maybe who five or six of these giant robots are, but I don’t honestly care.  I adore just how ludicrous the concept is though, they just throw all these giant robots in a pot and make them fight.  Why?  Have you been reading this entry closely?  It doesn’t really matter why, it’s just fucking cool.

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Apologies for taking the image, but look at how fucking colorful this robot is.

GVGNP is a technicolor wet dream of gigantic proportions, it’s well suited for play in bursts, and it has machine gun wielding robots squaring off against robots that kung fu each other.  Awesomely stupid concept, and it reads like my failed fan fiction depicting Bruce Lee and Indiana Jones fighting the Cold War in 1950s Moscow.  For the hardcore nerds out there, I can surely agree that there’s probably some greater amount of plot at play here, but I honestly can’t say I care to find out.  The game is fun, I don’t need a story, I’ll play Planescape for that sort of shit.  Or Fallout, or any of the other fantastically smart PC games from the 1990s and early 2000s. 

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I have no clue what’s happening, but I can assure you, epicness is taking place

GvGNP controls fantastically, never once feeling like a floaty mess.  This is one of the huge complaints I have to raise against the Armored Core franchise.  Despite the fact that it seems like Japanese Mechwarrior, it just controls like absolute shit, and I cannot stand the fact that building my dream Batman mech is far from being accomplished. 

Batman_and_Batmobile_mecha_by_Mecha_Master

Holy shit, awesome, thanks Mecha-Master on Deviantart, you were the first result up.

So, what it boils down to is this is a game well worth importing.  Give it a shot, play the fuck out of it, enjoy it.  It can be picked up here, here, and here.  Comment, follow, bug the ever living hell out of me.  I really would appreciate someone with a pulse to give me a little feedback.  See ya tomorrow.

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Interview with Roguedjack

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Two weeks ago, I posted my impressions of an indie game by the name of Rogue Survivor, a roguelike taking place during the zombie apocalypse.  Graciously, the one man behind the whole title agreed to an interview, and I jumped on the occasion to ask some questions.  Without further ado, here we go:

Me:  When going through the conceptual design of Rogue Survivor, what inspirations and influences did you draw from?

Roguedjack:  I wanted to mix aspects I like in some games and combine them into something different and fresh.
From roguelikes I took the procedural content generation, tactical turn-based gameplay, and the player as an actor.
The sandox aspect (open-ended dynamic world) comes from strategy/sim games, where you are put against enemies, friends and competitors in a starting setting and the game world evolves from there.
The zombie apocalypse theme is really a side-effect or an after-thought rather than the primary motive for the game. I could have used any other theme or setting. In fact first I thought about a medieval world in a permanent state of war (think Mount&Blade). Then a space/pirate setting (think Elite, Privateer, Sid Meier's Pirates). Then I thought about a zombie apocalypse and said to myself that was the perfect setting. It is a setting people can relate too (your house, your town, your life) with a widely popular theme (zombies!).

Me:  What's in store for the fans of Rogue Survivor?  Any huge ideas or plans for the next releases?

Roguedjack:  Playing as an undead will be the major new feature. This will offer a very different gameplay.
And various improvements such as expanding the plot, demolition weapons and attacking other survivors directly.

Me:  What's the most difficult part about developing an AI for a game of this complexity?

Roguedjack:  Doing the survivor npc AI.
There are a number of conflicting features to balance, respective to the player.
Survivors must be able to survive on their own, but they must not be too good at it as to leave some resources for the player own survival.
I guess I could make survivors AI much better at self-preservation. But then it would be a nightmare for the human player, like a multiplayer cooperative game with players who don't really cooperate with you, only worse. Plus a proper goal-driven AI with planning would cost too much CPU cycles.
When adding new items or features I have to think about the impact on AIs and gameplay. For instance if I add a new powerful weapon meant for the player, what if the biker gang gets hold of one and start using it against the player? I don't want to fordib some items or actions for AIs so I have to handle that as to not make it game breaking.
Then of course there are the usal constraints of maintening suspension of disbelief when the player directly interacts with the livings AIs, and performance tuning which is more of a factor than in usual roguelikes because of the high number of actors active at all time.

Me:  What sort of games do you enjoy playing?

Roguedjack:  Mostly tactical fps, strategy/wargames, football(soccer) management and the occasional relaxing casual game (fighting game, puzzle). The only genre of I don't like are racing games.
I like games that puts you with a dynamic evolving world where you are not the only drive for change.

Me: Given the subject matter of your game, is it safe to say you're a huge zombie film or game fan?  If so, what are some of your favorites?

Roguedjack:  Well in fact not really, I don't like the gore in zombie movies. I like the setting a lot though and I think its potential is not used properly in games.

Me:  What sort of experience have you had as an indie developer?

Roguedjack:  I have made a bunch of other games over the years at various stages of completion, but kept them for me or my relatives. This has always been a hobby of mine.
My first completed game was a text adventure on Amstrad CPC 6128. "Interactive fiction" they call it nowadays. I've written games for Amstrad CPC, PC and a Texas Instrument calculator; in Basic, Pascal, C, C++, Java, C#; arcade, sims, adventure, wargames.
Rogue Survivor is the first game I release to the public. Well two, if you count a chess engine in C that played vs humans or other engines on FICS (Free International Chess Server).
Writing games is fun. I mostly like designing the rules, doing the AI and composing the music. Graphics are annoying as I lack the talent but I'm learning.
I would more than happy to do that for a living.

Me: What language was Rogue Survivor developed in?

Roguedjack: C# NET 3.5, with Managed DirectX for graphics & sound. I will try to get rid of managed dx as it seems to be a source of bugs.
I could have done it in Java+OpenGL for more portability. I prefer C# for its lambdas and properties. I also find it less verbose than Java, I kinda view it like C vs Pascal in this respect.
Next game will probably be in Java+OpenGL though, for a change, better portability... and less Microsoft annoyances and oddities.

Me: Thanks again for agreeing to an interview, I really appreciate your time.

Roguedjack:  Thanks for your interest!

Roguedjack has released a great roguelike, so please visit his site at http://roguesurvivor.blogspot.com and show him some love for a fantastic game.