Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cheer up, sleepy Jean

I've gotten a bit down recently about how fucking miserable everyone in the games industry seems to be.

I know it's probably not the case (I bet there are plenty of happy developers out there, and I know and work with a whole load of them) and it's more than likely just the horribly twisting looking glass that is the internet working its wonderful charm again, but it's still annoying me.

We have cool jobs. I know there are interruptions from management, marketing people sticking their oars in, tools that aren't brilliant, publishers who are out to rob you, budgets are up, innovation is down, there is unpaid overtime, there are bonuses that never materialise, and a world of other things. But I'd still rather be doing this than driving a bus along the same route for 7 days a week.

Misery loves company, or something. I bet happy fun time is getting a bit bored of no-one coming to its party. So I'm going to try and be more positive about the games industry in my infrequent posts from now on.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Oh no...

...there's another Soltrio Solitaire game pack up to buy. I swear if they keep up this release schedule I'll have spent £50 on the most comprehensive collection of obscure solitaire rules by Christmas. I might even have to put Soltrio in to Google's custom dictionary.

Still, it's better than buying Golden Axe or Sonic again.

I'm quite excited about E3 this year.

Not because of any particular announcements (though stuff like a release date for Mass Effect, and confirmation that the Europeans will actually get the video marketplace is nice).

No, I'm mainly loving it this year because I didn't have to work my ass off preparing a demo.

Hooray! (And also commiserations to those who did.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Soltrio Solitaire (360)

So ages ago I was going to write an update about a nice little Live Arcade card game, but then I got sidetracked by stupid things like becoming addicted to a nice little Live Arcade card game.

Soltrio Solitaire is excellent because it takes all of the hassle out of card games, but adds no extra hassle. The presentation is clean and easy to follow, with fonts, colours, and cards all being well designed and easily readable. The cards all animate about the place nicely enough, and very crucially you don't have to wait for an animation to play out in order to do your next move, so you're never frustrated by the speed of the presentation holding you back.

It has in-game help for every variation of solitaire (and Christ there are a lot of them. Who knew?), and if the rules don't make it quite clear you can just keep asking the game to suggest moves until the legal moves do click. So even if you don't know how to play "3 Deck Easthaven" you'll soon pick it up.

It also has a series of "life lines" that let you do things like shuffle certain rows of cards, move any card back to the pile, or add extra shuffles. This might seem like a small addition, but I think for a casual game it's an excellent addition - if you're only one wrong card away from a victory, the game lets you cheat. Because let's face it, playing a single player game of cards is all about me winning with as much cheating as I see fit.

Best of all they keep adding new packs with around 10 sets of game rules on what seems to be a regular basis.

It's one of those implementations (like the Sudoku in Brain Training) that makes you wonder how they got it so right, and how people can get it so badly wrong (like that other Sudoku DS game that I can't quite remember the name of).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Condemned: Criminal Origins (360)

So it seems that because of my update drought I've never mentioned that I've finished Condemned either.

So, just quickly, this game is great and if you're at all a fan of creepy games (or not a fan of them, but just like great games you can get dirt cheap - I fall in to this category) you should hunt out a copy.

Why is it great? It's very atmospheric with some very nice graphics for a lunch title; It's scary in a way that doesn't rely on cheap jump frights or monster closets; It has one of the better implementations of first person hand to hand combat, which is simple but feels very forceful, and has a little tactical element to it; It has some nice scripted events that are only small things but that help the mood immeasurably, and that often use the game's first person viewpoint to maximum effect; The firearm combat introduces another layer of risk / reward in that waiting for an enemy to run out of bullets will leave them defenseless, but storming them earlier will mean they drop a gun that you can use yourself;

The only downsides are that the investigation element is a bit over-simplified by the context sensitivity (but I'm not sure how they could have made this better without just making it unnecessarily complicated), and that the otherwise excellent story goes batshit insane and kind of undoes its great work on the final level.

I think the best indication of how good Condemned is, though, is how it seems to have stuck with people. While I was playing it people on my friends list kept sending me messages about the game, urging me on and joking about just how scary they found it. I've never had that happen on any other game.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Reasons I don't like Edge magazine

I could write a year's worth of updates on the subject (especially given how few updates I did last month), but this article pretty much sums it up.

  1. Polls of "best games ever" are worth less than the paper they're printed on. Because at least when it was first pulped there was chance that the paper would be used to publish something useful or life-changing, like a treaty on world peace, or the Eastenders 2007 Annual. Instead that once noble tree has given its life so that people can get angry on their internet about how their favourite game scored one lower than a game they're not even terribly keen on.
  2. I've just found out they gave both Halo and Half-Life 2 ten out of ten. I can't remember without checking (and that's far too much effort) if I've ever gone in to this before, but Half-Life 2 must be the highest rated first person shooter that got half of the genre-defining fundamentals very wrong (it was, at least, in first person). And Halo's good, but it's not that good, and I'd be surprised if you could even find someone at Bungie who thought otherwise.
  3. The editor says things like "it worked brilliantly well". The editor.

(And yes, it's been ages since I updated. It's been a busy time at work, and then the only thing that I got really interested in about the games industry in the last month is somthing I can't possibly talk about. Boo.)