Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bummer, man.

A thought that recently struck me, for no particular reason I can work out, is that I feel really sorry for any team given the task of producing a new Bomberman game.

First, the good. They're guaranteed to get some sales through IP recognition. I would be more likely to buy "Bomberman" than "Explodeguy", just because I would know roughly what I was getting. And I'm sure there are some people out there that have bought (and will continue to buy) every Bomberman game that's released. Even Act Zero.

But I think the bad far outweighs it. There is a weight of expectation that comes with Bomberman - there have been some excellent games in the series in the past, so a developer has a lot to live up to. I think a lot of it is down to the games having such a "simple formula" (for want of a better phrase, though the best titles in the series have a lot of extra features). If a developer doesn't add anything new to their title it will get panned as being too basic and conservative. If they do add things then they'd better hope they chose them wisely, because there are few things in a reviewer's mind worse than messing up the "simple formula" with unfocused new features.

It makes me wonder why, other than for the cash, anybody does it. Did the people who've produced poor Bomberman games really think they were bringing something worthwhile to the table, or did they just do it for the money?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Vegas, baby

Rainbow Six Vegas 2 From GameCentral's review of Rainbow Six Vegas 2.

As usual this isn't a bad game though, just a completely unnecessary one.
I do love it when developers release games that are completely necessary. You know, like ... um ...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bad Idea - Limited flashlight batteries

A rubbish battery
Question: What do Gordon Freeman, the protagonist from FEAR, and Master Chief circa Halo 1 all have in common?

Answer: Despite being equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and armour, they're all hampered in their efforts to save the world by being given flashlights powered by the quality of batteries that you'd expect in the remote control for a cheap DVD player. You know, the sort that has a fake power meter on them.

I'll never understand this design decision in a game. It doesn't add any tension, it's just annoying. You've obviously decided at some point to make a level in your game that's so bloody dark that no-one can see where they're going. Fine, you're already probably an idiot, but whatever, maybe it genuinely does add to the atmosphere of the game (like in Condemned). So the player needs a flashlight to navigate. But there's the thing, when their flashlight runs out, players aren't going to barrel on in the dark (because they might miss something, or get lost), they're going to stand still until the blasted thing recharges.

Thankfully rubbish batteries seem to be doing the way of the instant death trap in games, even HL2:Episode 2 increased your battery's lasting power considerably (though with no real explanation in-game, which is a bit odd for Valve, maybe they just wanted to gloss over their previous mistakes without drawing attention to them), and ever since Halo 2 Master Chief has had as much battery life as he needed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

What's in a name?

I was recently linked to the Indie Gamer forums. It's an interesting place where a bunch of independent developers chat about stuff.

Briefly looking over their feedback forum I was struck by the importance of having a good name for your indie project. It's all very well for the "big guys", if they release a game called Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom they have enough money to advertise it enough that it stands out a little. But if you're an indie publishing a game (especially on the PC where there are a staggering number of titles available) you really need to make sure the title grabs attention or sticks in a potential customer's head.

Some game names from that forum are: ZoX Universe. Mech Builder. Core Fighter. Magic Farm. Azgard Defense. Runes of Avalon. Empire of the Gods. Covert Warfare. Destiny Architect. Battle Forces Online.

You could easily combine any of those with a colon, and it'd be no better or worse. ZoX Universe: Destiny Architect. Runes of Avalon: Battle Forces Online.

I've started to come to the conclusion that if you have a good game you need a name that's either: incredibly short and snappy (but still manages to describe some aspect of the game) like Fez; or something long and strange sounding (but without a mass of x's, y's, or z's) along the lines of Professor Layton and the Curious Village.

Anything else and people like me will look at the name and never even bother trying to find out more about your hard work.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Good idea - Army of Two's GPS

This game features a lovely map / waypointing system that overlays onto the screen, turning the entire thing into a nice simplified HUD view that simplifies and highlights the geometry. At the same time it winds a lovely bright spline along the player's route, and tags up anything that can be interacted with.

Despite it being both practical and very nice, I've not been able to find any screenshots on the internet of it. So you'll have to make do with this one that I took with a camera. Sorry.

Army of Two's GPS

Friday, March 07, 2008

Bad idea - Army of Two's limited ammo

Army of Two features the same design decision that I really disliked in Criterion's Black. In a game that's all about how great it is to shoot the everloving fuck out of everything (and in AoT's case making it an important gameplay element when you're trying to get aggro from your partner), which bother having limited ammo?

I can understand having a limited clip to force the player to stop shooting and reload, but running out of ammo just makes you start running around to find some more, or switch to your secondary, less exciting, weapon. It's forcing you in to doing less exciting action in the middle of a firefight.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

You're All I Need

Best of the bunch - and also the most overtly homoerotic touch in a game that's not exactly short of them - is the riot shield system, which allows one player to use a shield or car door as portable cover while the other cuddles up close behind and dispenses "lead" from his "iron".
I don't know why this stuck out so much to me, but I find it interesting that a professional reviewer spent so many words during their review of Army of Two on a thinly veiled "hee hee hee, it's all a bit gay isn't it?". And by "interesting" I mean "sad".

Eurogamer's review of Brokeback Mountain: The Game would be a sight to behold. So would the comments, no doubt.