Archive for October, 2009

This week on twitter – 2009-10-25

  • After thorough research and note taking, I have come to the conclusion that my cat will not let me sleep in past 7am. #
  • attention tim schafer – would a minimap have fucking killed you? really? #

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – Final Impressions

I finished Uncharted 2: Among Thieves tonight, with my final file time clocking in at 11 hours and 5 minutes. In the end, I am still really impressed with this game.  The two aspects of this game that will leave a very lasting impression are the cutscenes and environments.

Uncharted 2 has really raised the bar for cutscenes. Not only is the dialog well done, but the character animation is so incredibly natural that some of these scenes truly felt like a quality movie. No longer will a game’s cutscenes be measured purely as a video game cutscene, but they now have to compete with feature films with acting quality. Every time the characters interacted, the movements and facial expressions were so detailed it really felt like I was watching real people, rather than animated characters in a game. This level of polish really helped the story pop out much more than it otherwise would have.

The other aspect that constantly blew my mind was the environments. From the jungles of Borneo to the mountains of the Himalayas, every environment is beautifully crafted and detailed. Never before have I see such amazing things as I have in this game. Standing on the top of the hotel in Nepal was an incredible experience. I could see the whole town, the mountains behind it, a lake in the near distance, and the peaks of the Himalayas very far off in the distance. This experience wasn’t just a single experience that was crafted for a certain moment. Any time I had a good view of an area, I was thoroughly impressed.

The pacing of the game is also very well done. Coming in at 11 hours was perfect and was exactly when I was ready to move on. The story moves at a great pace, starting off with an excellent starting stage mixing current events and flashbacks to bring you up to speed. The only time the pacing felt a bit off was during stages 17 (Mountaineering) and 20 (Cat and Mouse). In all other stages (26 in total), the balance of platforming and gun combat was fantastic. In those two stages, the balance was very far off. Stage 17 is nearly all platforming and quickly got boring, and stage 20 was nearly all gun combat and quickly got frustratingly hard. So frustrating, in fact, I nearly quit the game. This wasn’t the kind of challenging that is enjoyable, this was the kind of challenging that simply felt cheap.

Another aspect of the game that could’ve used a bit of polish is the gun combat itself, or more specifically, the guns themselves. While there is a large variety of weapons, managing which weapon you have was occasionally a pain and got me killed more than once. When standing immediately next to a weapon, hitting Triangle will either pick that weapon up or pick the ammo up (if you already have that weapon), but during a frantic fight, you’ll often have multiple weapons on the ground near each other, and accidentally pick up a Pistole with 1 shot left, rather than that Desert Eagle ammo you were going to grab. If the weapons were more easily identified on the ground, this problem could’ve been vastly reduced.

In the end, however, all that the game did right outshines what it did wrong to still be a fantastic experience. The amazingly detailed character interaction, beautiful environments, fast and intense gunfights, great platforming and engaging story easily balance out an occasionally frustrating camera and weapon confusion in combat. If you own a PS3, this is truly a must have game. I foresee this game winning more than a few Game of the Year titles, and each one would be truly deserved.

I can only hope other game developers learn from this game. The bar has been raised, gentlemen; don’t disappoint me.

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This week on twitter – 2009-10-18

  • i took the time to actually polish a bit of code yesterday. it feels nice to have code that works properly, consistently and cleanly. #
  • this is inFAMOUS all over again – uncharted 2 just crossed the line from fun challenging to fuck you, this is ridiculous challenging. #
  • Uncharted 2 is quite awesome. FANTASTIC animations and voice acting quality. Camera is good, gun combat is decent, platforming is good. #
  • Today is the day I stop playing WoW for awhile. Uncharted 2, Brütal Legend, Forza 3, Ratchet & Clank, Bioshock 2 and Dragon Age are coming. #
  • bluehost FTP finally came back online at some point. all i wanted to do was adjust some CSS on this theme for the brewblogger software. #
  • bluehost FTP is still down. i hardly ever use FTP, though, so maybe it's always in and out. not like that helps… #
  • bluehost FTP is down. i think once my year with them expires in may, i'm going to find another host that is more stable. #

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Uncharted 2 just blew my mind with the train scene

Last night, I played a scene in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves where I had a long gun battle along the top of a freight train as it ripped through the jungles and snowy peaks of Nepal. This scene was absolutely mindblowing in every way. Not only was the train very well designed, but every bit of the environment that I raced through was spectacular. The train started off in the jungles, went up to a lengthy tunnel and finally shot across the snowy peaks and lakes of the high mountains. I never saw the same scene twice, but it clearly was designed to be dynamic and let me take my time on the train.

My only regret with this scene is that I didn’t have enough time to take in the landscape while moving through these gunbattles and I was unable to take screenshots. I’ve looked around online for some screens of this scene and had some trouble, but I did manage to locate a video!

This train scene takes the title of most awesome train scene in a video game, previously held by Timesplitters: Future Perfect. I enjoyed the action in Timesplitters more, with the time travel and helping past/future versions of yourself, but the stunning scenery in Uncharted 2 more than makes up for that.

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – First Impressions

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves released yesterday to amazing reviews and as someone who enjoyed the original, I simply had to pick the game up. This game truly deserves the reviews that it is getting. It is one of the best action / puzzle / platforming games that has come out in a very long time. The environments are absolutely gorgeous, the dialog is well done and the cutscenes feel more cinematic that any game I have played. The game plays very much like the original Uncharted, with you playing Nate Drake as he travels through various locations, climbing and shooting his way past obstacles. While I didn’t finish the original game, I did enjoy it quite a bit and am very happy I picked up the sequel.

The things this game has done right are the lighting, environments, cutscenes, animation and voice acting. The shadows are beautifully done and really enhance the already spectacular environments. At the moment, I am running along the rooftops of a Nepalese town and every now and then I get a chance to see the whole city from above. This is amazing every time I see it. Each building is detailed and the view is spectacular. Standing on top of a hotel roof while looking out at all the houses, markets and temples, plus the tree covered mountains and lake in the distance, is something to see. This scene came after an already amazing sequence in a Turkish city and the jungles of Borneo. Not only are the locations beautifully crafted, they are also quite varied.

The cutscenes, animations and voice acting are also very well done. Unlike most games I have played, these characters look, act and speak like real people. The cutscenes aren’t “good, for a video game”, but just plain good. People talk naturally and move about while talking. They don’t stare unnaturally at each other and don’t always wait for someone to stop talking before speaking. They give a good story much more life to it by being realistic. The story itself is well done, starting off with Drake near death after a train crash on a snowy mountain, and then backtracing his story of betrayals and backstabbing to lead up to where he is and what happened. The pacing is superb, constantly feeding me new bits of information about Drake’s story.

The annoyances of this game are a sometimes difficult camera and weapon management system. The camera is usually just where you need it to be, but on occasion I have to fight to get it in place, which can be particularly awkward if I am also trying to move and jump. Weapon management may have been artificially harder than it should be due to my drinking while playing, but it seemed often annoying to pick up ammo or pick up new weapons. During a gunfight, with so much on the ground, I would run around trying to gather more ammo but occasionally pick up a new weapon instead and find myself quickly out of ammo with that new weapon. I lost one big gunfight in Borneo trying to get ammo before the next wave, only to accidentally pick up the wrong weapon.

Even with its few annoyances, this is a fantastic game that starts off the 2009 holiday season in an epic way. I don’t know if any of this season’s games can top this one, but there is no shame in being inferior to Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, because this game is truly Game of the Year material.

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When did it suddenly become acceptable to delay a game days before release?

NOTE: This was originally meant for an October 2, 2009 publish date, but I accidentally hit ‘Save Draft’ instead of ‘Publish’ and so it is being released over a week late.

Three times this year, a game was suddenly delayed only days before the release – Jumpgate: Evolution, Dungeons and Dragons: Eberron Unlimited and now Alpha Protocol. When did this become acceptable practice? How did you not know that the product wasn’t ready until this close to the ship date? Did you suddenly realize that you compeltely forgot to start work on the game?

All three of these games were ones that were on my radar, but by missing their release window, they’ve now lost my attention. Jumpgate and D&D were both MMOs that could’ve caught me and got me into it prior to my World of Warcraft binge lately, and Alpha Protocol was set to be the appetizer to the holiday season on the consoles. Now that I have WoW taking all my MMO time and I will soon have the main course of the holidays, all three of these games are no longer something I will buy. Not out of anger or defiance, but because none looked that good, and were merely well timed decent games.

More to the point, however – why is this happening so much lately? Alpha Protocol was due on next Tuesday, but suddenly gets delayed until sometime in 2010? The dev team must’ve known several weeks ago that this window was unlikely to be reached, so why delay the news? Gamers are used to delays, it happens all the time, but this recent style of delay just aggravates me. Maybe I should refuse to buy out of anger, because this is a shitty move on their part.

D&D was only delayed a few weeks, so that one wasn’t as bad, but Jumpgate has no excuse. A week or two before the launch of an ambituous MMO, it is suddenly delayed indefinitely. I can’t understand how that happens. Even from my perspective as a programmer, I can’t understand. A delay of a month is acceptable, but to suddenly push it back to who-knows-when?

I hope this trend stops and I hope it stops real soon.

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This week on twitter – 2009-10-11

  • This whole week sucks. Really bad shit happened and it is pretty well all my fault. Huzzah for liquor. I'll need some tonight. #
  • Are you kidding? Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize? He has been in office for 8 fucking months and hasn't hardly done anything significant. #
  • Situation resolved. Cost $49.95 and only took a few minutes. It could've been far worse. #
  • First time for everything – locked my keys in my car. #
  • Yes. Today sucked. It seemed like every hour got worse than the last. I thought getting home would help, but it didn't. It just got worse. #
  • It isn't even 9:10 and I can already tell today is going to suck. But I do have plans for a Zul'Farrak run tonight that might get me to 50. #
  • Nothing bothers me more than when someone I'm helping pulls the "I can't do my job because of this bug" card and can't reproduce the bug. #
  • My first experience with Bing Visual Search – wtf is this? It's like regular image search, but far worse and it doesn't run on Linux. #

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This week on twitter – 2009-10-04

  • i just wandered into the worst code quagmire this side of a certain former coworker who shall not be named to protect him from himself. #
  • how did i endure 3 years of writing SQL without knowing about the natural join command? this changes everything. #
  • i still can't believe the high temp dropped 20 degrees in 24 hours. it is actually cold out there now. i guess it should be, sep 30 and all. #
  • my hatred of joomla went up a bit more last night. i am so glad i don't use that software on a day to day basis. #
  • The past 6 weeks have seen a lot of Charles Manson related stuff – Fromme released from prison, Atkins dies, Polanski finally arrested. #

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