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Monday, February 6, 2012


Thought I'd have a wee break from the coding to write a short piece pertaining to my favourite current flavour of the month Skyrim.
Yes, I honestly thought Dark Souls alone would tide me over for a long, long time, but I bought Skyrim on a lark not really thinking I'd get into it and what eventuated was Dark Souls gathering dust in the corner for the following 3 weeks.

Let's start with the shitty stuff so I can go out with the good.

Skyrim has bugs. The PS3 has a massive, game-breaking (and heart-breaking) lag bug. Your first 60-100 hours will go by smoothly and then you'll start noticing the game freezing consistently, and this gradually worsens until you can't play anymore. God it sucks. It's like having a free train pass that's revoked at half-day and you get kicked off.
As a programmer I can probably guess that the lagging issues are born from the constant fetching and organising of data properties of the zillions of random world objects as they're moved about during play. Tricky one to fix unless you want the game to reset certain objects back to their source points. I'm not holding my breath that they'll patch it efficiently.

The fighting is still absolutely shit. If you had to compare Dark Souls to Skyrim (even though they're chalk&cheese IMO) then this is where Dark Souls wipes the floor with it. It's so naff; you can't tell if you've landed a hit, strikes don't have real sense of impact, and it also seems like the collision detection is a bit off at times. It hasn't improved a great deal from the Oblivion days.

Now don't get me wrong, I still love Dark Souls and I have no doubt I'll be back trolling on it in due time, but Skyrim is ultimately a more lasting and engrossing game. You can't really escape the arcade feel of DS, and despite the best attempts of From to make it have a more open-world feel it's still pretty linear at the end of the day. Skyrim on the other hand is the pinnacle sandbox experience of the generation. A mission can be completed in many ways; the main quest can be abandoned in exchange for random exploration; live to be saviour or consume the world with malice. The replay value is insane.

Anyway enoug blathering on about the obvious bollucks most observers have plucked out in their reviews. We all knew what Skyrim was going to be; bigger worlds, better graphics/less stock dialogue, awesome character development perks. So I'll just talk a little about what impressed me.

The graphics are *so* much better. My Orc looks bulky and muscled without armour- someone put the artists through anatomy class this time round. The mountains look mighty impressive from a distance, with vapour whirling off the high peaks, if you couldn't actually go visit them you'd think they were prerendered animations. And generally the weather systems are very well-handled, beautiful particle effects. You'll want to get caught in a snowgale because it looks so damn *good*.

The audio is great. I mean it's legendary. I love the getting the dragon words, the crescending 'HWOAAH!!' as you approach and begin to absorb the power from them. Not to mention the soundtracks, that are so brilliantly composed with large choirs- so appropriate.

And on that note if I had to pick out the highlight of the game it would have to be the ambience and ethereal poetry of the graphics and audio together; it is simply jaw-dropping at points.
I mean there was one moment when I was running around the plains of Windhelm deep at night, the breeze was blowing serenely through the 3d grass, I looked at my gorgeous in-game wife Adele The Huntress and the incandescent red moon shimmering behind her, Kyne's Peace track playing in the background, and a kind of rush of awe swept over me like I was at DisneyWorld watching the fireworks. I felt at that moment there aren't many other games take me out of my boring life like this one. The game has some real celestial POWER that's hard even to verbalize. More game studio's should definitely aim for that. The guys at Bethesda have a kind of Steve Jobs-like grandiose approach to the atmospherics of their games that I truly appreciate. Craftsman to craftsman, I'm like an amateur magician awed by the skills of the masters playing and analysing the skill that went into making this one.

Anyway, that's what games are for me; portals to the imagination, founded not only on fun gameplay mechanics, they're also platforms for virtual world-building and the illusion of limitless possibilities. The better technology we work on, the closer we inch towards actually stepping into the fleshed-out creativity of people's minds. I can't wait to see what's on the cards for the next 20-40 years.

Last thing I wanted to say is- It's so much fun to be evil in this game. I love getting cheap thrills by robbing people and murdering innocent wandering cattle in the forest ranges. This is a fun troll game. It's a shame it isn't multiplayer, imagine what a laugh it would be to ambush people on the roads with a bunch of mates? I'm sure it'll happen sooner or later.
I'm also blown away by the epic dragon battles, they're cinematic, gripping events and mad fun. My only is that it can be a pain in the ass chasing the bastard until it lands, but it's a small price to pay for the fun of the event. Those dragons kick the shit out of anything seen in Monster Hunter, that's for sure. It just saddens me that my daily allocated time for playing Skyrim is essentially 'till it crashes'.

Okay, back to work. I'm hard at work with Insanity 3; designing the dialogue manager but at the same time I'm a little strapped for the old $$$ these days; therefore I'm power coding a couple of smaller games at the mo. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nathan Langdon (Complete)

Phew! Well I have basically blown the first month of Insanity 3 development on escalating my Zbrush/3ds max mastery. Definitely approaching an intermediate level of skill with both programs now.

I'll add more to this post later on when I have a minute to type, watch this space!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Early design concepts for The Insanity 3

Happy New Year!

Just a little post about horror game concepts and my ideas towards the game.

Fear of the unknown is the really the key to any good horror movie/game. Murky darkness in a claustrophobic environment;moody ambiance, and the occasional glimpse of something quite terrifying sparkling in the shadows.
The trouble with the Point'n'Click genre is that it doesn't lend itself too well to the edge-of-the-seat effect and sweaty hands. There's only so much you can do with static screens and shockers- therefore the third game will definitely lean more towards being a first-person adventure that borrows elements from P'n'C games yet maintains a more dynamic atmosphere and includes First Person Shooter events that you wouldn't see in other games of the genre.

Here are a few elements featured in the third game that will (hopefully) intensify the dread you get while playing.

-Quite soon into the game you'll be informed that something is hunting you in the village of Weasel Marsh. Think you can go take a pee and come back without seeing a 'Game Over' screen? Think again.

-The main character of the game Nathan Langdon carries a nine-chambered Smith & Wesson that will require a manual reload from the player. It has infinite magazines but you'll definitely have to practice getting good at the reloading to get through the boss scenes.

-You are NOT safe during captioned dialogue scenes. Some characters you may have thought were neutral will attack you suddenly after certain events have been triggered. You'll always have to have your firearm at the ready- just in case.

-Not 100% on this one yet, but the game will likely feature a game play time system. Certain events will be activated depending on how long into the game you've been playing for.
Hopefully these will help build up a better fabric for a truly terrifying horror game.

The main thing I want to 'sell' in these games is the story itself and the fun of puzzle solving, therefore I don't want people to get hitched up by scenes that require too much gamer skill (eg. The Machine- Insanity 1) . The puzzles themselves can be challenging -there's always walkthroughs- but skill can't be helped. However, a nice concept that has been used in some games of late is to have parts of a game where fast reactions and dexterity *might* get you through an event, but there is always another way if you use your brain. The Insanity 3 will feature some seemingly impassable shoot-outs, forcing the player to wonder if there isn't a simpler method to get through. The cool flip of the coin here is that players who are hardcore gamers will enjoy the challenge of battling extremely tough enemies and perhaps even get a special trophy for it.

More later-

p.s. The Prometheus trailer looks exciting doesn't it? Go YouTube it if you haven't seen it yet.

I actually pinched the 'alarm' sound effect from the 1979 Alien movie for a scene in The Insanity 2, when *Spoiler* Nathan Langdon gets abducted by Project K at the end. Thought I was safe as the movie is years old and nobody would recognize it, but they reused it in the new movie trailer- Ooops! Guess Ridley Scott thought it was creepy as hell too :-)