30 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Blood 3-1b 3-2a The Siege

Caleb leaves the war torn city, for another part of the war torn city.

29 September, 2009

Game Journal: Saint's Row 2 (photo heavy)

written by Blain Newport on Monday, September 28, 2009

On Friday / Saturday I played an epic co-op game with RonaldoTheGypsy. Here he is in his fancy suit. (I think it's shark skin.)

Naturally, the first thing he wanted to do after getting dressed up was run over stuff in a monster truck.

When we invariably decided to mess with the police it usually devolved into Ronaldo hiding on top of the hideout shooting everything while I ran around like a crazy person.

Eventually Ronaldo got bored and brought in a helicopter which made for good movie posters.

When things got too crazy I would run and hide in the "safety bin". As long as I stayed crouched, bad guys couldn't shoot me and even nearby exploding vehicles wouldn't do much damage.

Please give to help the victims of procedural arm disease.

Ronaldo changed outfits.

He had fury.

So I hid in the safety bin.

Until I figured out how to channel his aggression.

He had some unique fighting moves.

And I love how even my hardened character can't watch the finisher.

Then he changed back into street clothes and flew me around in a triplane. He's a really good pilot.

28 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Blood 3-1a Ghost Town

Caleb finds himself in a city under attack.

27 September, 2009

Review: Batman Arkham Asylum

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, September 26, 2009


Well, there will be some minor gameplay spoilers, but I won't discuss plot details beyond the game's premise, which is that Joker has taken over the asylum and Batman has to stop him.

Arkham Asylum is a well made game with many minor issues that keep it from being great.

It looks good. The setting is well rendered. The characters, while overly beefy / tarted up in many cases, are well animated and detailed. There are distracting clipping issues where Batman's cape will pass through things or where his final slow motion finishing punch will appear to pass through or completely miss the target.

It sounds good. The music set the mood well. Honestly, I would have enjoyed an easily identifiable main theme for the game, but oh well. The voices, many of which were from the animated series, were good. But in keeping with the beefiness of the design, Batman's machismo was dialed up too much in the early stages.

It plays well.

Overall progression through the game is in the style of Zelda or Metroid where Batman gradually gets new abilities which allow him to enter new areas and unlock secrets in old areas. This feels a little artificial but basically works. The detective mode stuff is there. It exists. But it's usually just finding a chemical, then setting your visor to track it.

Hand to hand combat is very streamlined. It can mostly be reduced to three buttons: attack, counter, and evade. The main problem is that the game gives out upgrade points based on continuous combos, so when off screen attacks are the most common cause of broken combos, that's frustrating. Also, the game wasn't designed with keyboard play in mind, so Batman would occasionally attack the wrong enemy. I played on hard and died a fair amount in the game, but I often felt my deaths were not my fault.

There are also enemies with knives or tazers that you can't block and must stun before attacking. It's a little ridiculous when Batman obviously has the skill to counter them. He just won't, in the interest of gameplay.

There are a lot of bonus combat tools aren't really needed, and the basic batarangs have a huge problem. There's nothing more iconic than using a batarang to disarm a foe with a firearm. It doesn't work consistently work in the game, and trying it will probably you killed. *facepalm*

Stalking armed enemies is generally fun, providing lots of opportunities to feel like you're outsmarting / freaking out the AI. I played on hard, so if I was spotted it was almost instant death, but it's not difficult to remain undetected thanks to Batman having a visor that sees through walls.

Some reviewers never turned off the visor. I did leave it on sometimes when I wished I hadn't, as the game is prettier without it. But outside of stalking scenarios, I tried to leave it off as much as possible.

The story is okay.

The Joker has a simple plan which drives the narrative. But at the end of the experience, it feels like a bunch of stuff that just happened. Batman's largely reactive, which is unsatisfying. And the one time he's most notably ahead of the game, it was scripted, which was also unsatisfying.

There are no characters with stories I cared about. Gordon wasn't really Gordon. Oracle had no character outside concern for her father's safety. Cree Summer's character arguably had a story, but every time I heard her voice I heard Max from Batman Beyond.

For the most part it was a video game story. It's an overly long, colorful tale of numerous ass whuppings.

I know it sounds like I'm down on the game, but it's just because I'm an obsessive fanboy. It's Batman. It's Kevin Conroy and Paul Dini and Mark Hamill. I want it to be perfect. But I'm not dumb enough to let my fanaticism override my better judgment.

For all its rough edges, the game is well built, and being Batman is fun.

4 of 5

26 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Monday, September 26, 2009


Blood 2-7d 2-8 The Lair of Shial

Episode 2 concludes.

25 September, 2009

Keepalive: Saint's Row 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum

written by Blain Newport on Friday, September 25, 2009


I know I said I was probably not going to play much more Saint's Row 2, but when I think about what I want to play, it still sounds good. I can shoot some guys and make some money. Who doesn't enjoy that? Plus when I signed into Steam I was immediately invited to co-op. Saint's Row 2 co-op has some advantages and disadvantages compared to Mercs 2 co-op. Mercs 2 has airstrikes and blowing up buildings. But Saint's Row 2 doesn't force you to stay together, and you can do drive-bys, whereas in Mercs 2 if your vehicle doesn't have a mounted gun, the passenger just sits there. Plus Saint's Row 2 has a lot of character customization options so everybody can have a memorable look.

Here's me and IdolNinja from the PA forums striking victory poses after beating down some inmates.

We found the victory poses pretty hilarious. And yes, IdolNinja is a husky pirate.

RonaldoTheGypsy (seen here truck surfing with a rocket launcher) has a much more normal looking guy, but he's finished the game and has lots of special weapons. It doesn't matter how normal he looks, when you see him dual wielding laser scoped pistols, you know he means business.

On the single player front, I've played through Arkham Asylum on hard. On Normal or Easy these big icons appear over enemies' heads before the attack. It's tacky. There are some encounters on hard that I actually found fairly frustrating, but mostly because it's easy to take hits from off screen, which the icons probably wouldn't have helped. I'll have a full write up, probably Sunday.

24 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Friday, September 18, 2009


Blood 2-7c Bowels of the Earth

Caleb's caving continues.

23 September, 2009

Game Journal: Saint's Row 2

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I bought Saint's Row 2 a long time ago. It was unplayable. I felt cheated. But it turns out that the only reason every time I got in the car the game sped up %150 was because I hadn't updated my video drivers.

Wait... what?

Yeah. Apparently. It's still a really bad PC port. Any time I drive anywhere fast, the loading of new terrain makes the game stutter so horribly that the race events are largely unplayable. But it's got a spirit of nonsense and mayhem that even lousy performance can't completely kill.

You can shoot rival gang members in the face.

You can blow up cars with RPGs.

Ha ha ha! That guy flew out of his car on fire!

And you can blow up a trailer park with your gang. Remote sticky bombs are probably the greatest thing in all of gaming.

You can also make your character really scary looking, but I didn't do that. Some of the guys from the Penny Arcade forums are playing fat men in lingerie and sombreros. Yikes. I prefer committing atrocities as a stylish urban Asian lady for some reason. (What is wrong with me?)

Maybe some day I'll have a computer beefy enough to overpower the loading hassles and make the game good. But I had some fun and got some nice pictures out of it.

22 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, September 17, 2009


Blood 2-7b Bowels of the Earth

More caving with Caleb.

21 September, 2009

Keepalive: LAN Party

written by Blain Newport on Monday, September 21, 2009

Because other people who hadn't played Nations @ War with us were available Saturday morning, we played more Nations @ War. There was much nuking.

We tried Call of Duty 4 with bots. But you die instantly in that game, so if you don't know the map, you get worked. Plus the bots see perfectly regardless of conditions, which is a pain. Finally Call of Duty has a kill cam where you can see from the viewpoint of the guy who shot you to see how he (or she) did it. And I saw the kill cam of a bot who killed me. He missed. He missed by a whole lot. I can tell the game is well made, but it's never been fun. I've not bought it. I've not played the single player. I sometimes wonder if I ever will. It's sold by Activision, and their CEO has been very up front about the fact that he has no respect for gamers, game developers, and his mother. I'm thinking used will be the only way I buy Activision products.

We played some Quake Wars: Enemy Territory. It's gotten pretty stale. I don't know if was the technology the game was made with or what, but there aren't new campaigns being made.

During a break Matthew and I played some NES co-op. There was an old game called Jackal I'd never played. It's a pretty simple co-op shooter. But it gets brutally difficult at the end in an attempt to compensate for the fact that the entire game isn't an hour long. The good old days weren't always so good.

Finally we played some Serious Sam 2 co-op. We turned on infinite ammo and just went to town. It's kind of dumb when some idiot spams the bomb that kills everything and makes everyone's screen flash white. But people are dumb. It's best to ignore them. We still had a good time and I'm sure we'll play Serious Sam 2 again someday. It's just nice to turn off your brain and shoot everything.

20 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Blood 2-6b 2-7a Bowels of the Earth

Caleb leaves the ice and heads for the earth's interior.

(I should have used Beast Vision in this one, but this was before I looked up what it does.)

IdolNinja from the PA Forums adds:
"The voodoo doll really shines in bloodbath. It's been years and years since I played the mode, but if memory serves, it will mess with the opponents vision when you curse him with the alt-fire, and it does instant damage if you have him in your sights when activating regular fire. It's a 1-2 combination that really worked well for me (and drove my friends crazy.) :D"

19 September, 2009

Keepalive: LAN Party

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pardon the abbreviated update. I'm LANning it up. The first night was entirely Nations @ War. We blew up everything. There was rocket artillery and nukes and I used a Javelin (very long range shoulder mounted anti-tank weapon) to kill enemy armor as fast as I could reload. It was awesome.

Tomorrow will probably be CoD 4 (with bots), Quake Wars: Enemy Territory, and maybe some other games. But now it's 3:30AM and time for sleepy-bye.

18 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Blood 2-5d 2-6a The Cold Rush

I finally escape The Haunting and head into a land of ice and cliffs and a Cabal mini-fort. You remember the Cabal, don't you? It's been a while since we've seen them.

(And yes, I mistakenly read the name as "The Gold Rush" when it flipped by on the loading screen. Oops.)

17 September, 2009

Keepalive: Champions Online

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, September 17, 2009


I'm still dinking around with the character creator. I'm assuming they'll be turning it off soon (whenever the contest ends), so I'm getting in the stupid while I can.

Uh. Yeah. Like I said, I like tech. I should stick with capes and cloaks. But even as I know intellectually that this is laughable, I still like it. It's loosely based on a character I had in the Champions pen and paper RPG called Blue Streak. He was a speedster who shot beams.

Unfortunately the name is banned in Champions Online, so he couldn't exist there. I mean sure, there's a phrase "curse a blue streak", but that's so obscure nobody would make that connection. Plus "The Streak", the name of a Ray Stevens song about running through public places naked, is perfectly acceptable. I tested a few, much more obviously lewd, names which also worked. I'll spare you a full accounting. :)

[time passes]

Ah. Apparently Blue Streak was the name of some obscure super hero. They're just paranoid about getting sued by comics people. Profanity is just fine. :P

I named this guy Leatherneck, with the idea that I'd give him a "military accident" background.

Look at that guy.

He is so generic.

But I can't stop looking at him.

Why do I find him so awesome?

He's like, majestic or something.

And this is the first of a pair of characters I made.

It was partly just an experiment to see if I could make matching male / female characters. It failed a little. I'd originally had them with a weird techno face plate, but the female didn't support it. I kinda like the glowing eyes, but it was still weird not to be able to make what I wanted. It seemed arbitrary.

16 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Monday, September 14, 2009


Blood 2-5c The Haunting

The key hunt continues.

15 September, 2009

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, September 15, 2009


My it's been a long time, almost a month, since I wrote one of these. Let's just jump in and see where we land...

Ah yes. Old Olney. It's a city in the northeastern part of the map. I'd had it marked for some time, but had finally worked my way across the north of the map to get to it. It wasn't inhabited... exactly.

Do deathclaws count? 'Cause the place was lousy with them. But my trusty combat shotgun, improved stealth, and improved criticals kept me relatively safe. But morning was approaching, so I wasn't upset to find a vault to explore nearby.

It was full of mines and annoying flying bugs and Mirelurk Kings. Part of it was flooded, and according to notes I found, experiments with controlling people through sound had resulted in madness, violence, and death.


Been there. Done that. Bored now.

What was of interest was an artifact I found.

This seemed fairly important / valuable. So I looted it and returned to the surface, only to wander around and find a sewer entrance.

It turns out the deathclaws also dominate the sewers in Old Olney. I think in total I probably killed a dozen of them during this excursion. And they all dropped one deathclaw hand. I assumed they were useful for something and kept them. If nothing else, I guess they're trophies. :P

And here's a picture of me launching a mole rat skyward with a hand grenade. If my hazy recollection is correct, this mole rat killed a civilian and I wasn't fast enough to help. So I became an avenging a-hole. Apparently I also crippled a Rad Scorpion. My vengeance habit was definitely on overdrive that day.

Next Time: The Republic of Dave

14 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, September 13, 2009


Blood 2-5b The Haunting

After a long break, we resume our exploration of a decrepit haunted house.

In this installment: Too Many Phantasms

13 September, 2009

Keepalive: Champions Online

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm not much of an MMO guy, and I missed the open beta for Champions Online, but thanks to a contest they're running, I got my hands on the best part of the game...

the character creator.

Here's me as a vaguely magic / vaguely techno guy. I was trying for pure magic, but tech stuff always slips in.

I decided to go for the skirt as it was more magic-y. It also helped hide my bony legs. I also used heavy patterning, shoulder plates, large arm guards, a huge belt, and the darkness provided by the cape to add some implied bulk. I'm not sure if there are more tricks to add bulk (short of fake muscles), even among fashion professionals.

In real life, I'm even too lanky to be Spider-Man. Don't believe me? Scroll down!

Yikes. That's the exact same proportions, just exposed by poor costuming choices. And speaking of yikes...

This is Sunburn. I made her in the old City of Heroes character builder (by the same company). This character is basically visual griefing. At first the skin color being the same color as the tights (or as close as I could get) is supposed to draw the eye of perverts. "Oh look! She's naked!" Then they put the name and her glowing red color together and are shocked into a coma by the realization of how painful a sunburn of that magnitude would be. The more you try to imagine she's naked, the worse it hurts.

But it's all fun and games until someone tries to create a very specific character, in my case Bayonetta.

Man that's weaksauce. The glasses are very wrong. The hair should be tied up in ribbons. There should be buckles and straps and a cascade of hair coming off her arms, not fish fins. Oy. That one still hurts. There should be gold chains on the costume. There should be guns on her boots. Her sleeves should end in white cloth, not black all the way down. And that's supposed to be a medallion in the middle of a strategically placed hole in the middle of her top. And I almost forgot, I couldn't make her outfit appropriately backless.

Not only does she not look like Bayonetta, if it wasn't for the beehive, she'd probably be almost indistinguishable from a hundred other leather ladies on any given server. :P

12 September, 2009

Keepalive: Takin' It Easy

written by Blain Newport on Friday, September 11, 2009

I'm mostly recovered from my illness. I'm now in the "feelin' fine but still cleaning out phlegm" stage. Maybe it was H1N1. Maybe not. Hopefully we'll never have a need to know.

I'm still not playing much, just lying in bed listening to podcasts and PAX panels I didn't go to. People at panels tend to ask pretty horrible questions, myself included. :P

Even with the perspective of a few days time, I still wish I was playing Bayonetta. Dark Void's flying may end up only amusing me for a half hour. Dust could easily get stale or introduce enemies that are more laborious than fun. Ratchet & Clank will undoubtedly be awesome, but I already have some 360 games, so I won't be getting a PS3 for some time.

But right now the main things on the horizon are the LAN party and Batman: Arkham Asylum, which are both more than a week away. There's still plenty of Blood to play and Fallout 3 to narrate (if I can remember that far back). But being exposed to so much novelty over such a short time makes everything else seem a little less shiny. Call it post-PAX depression.

11 September, 2009

Keepalive: Mmm. Swine Flu.

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, September 10, 2009

Some of you already know there was some Swine Flu at PAX 2009. I've had some flu-like symptoms but nothing serious, and I've taken precautions (mostly just staying home) not to infect anyone (except my family who picked me up at the airport before we knew what was going on. Doh).

I haven't been gaming much. I played a little Mercs 2 as comfort food. I bought Braid since it was on sale for $5. It reminds me of Rock Band. With as much effort as it would take for me to master songs in Rock Band on Expert, I'd be better off spending time with a real instrument. With as clever as I'd have to be to solve some of the puzzles in Braid, I'd be better off programming my own game.

I also tried Hello Kitty Online. They were handing it out at PAX and it felt rude to refuse it after being asked to take one so nicely. But it probably would have been less rude than what I'm about to say.

I'll stick with Free Realms. It's just as free and more fun.

Hello Kitty Online does, however, have the distinction of having the longest one line copyright notice I've ever seen.

© 1976, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009 SANRIO CO., LTD.

Yeesh. Does this mean there were no Hello Kitty products created in 1978, 1980, 1983, 1997, and 2006-2008?

Anyway, time for some more water and food and rest. I cleaned out my fridge in anticipation of PAX and don't want to go to the supermarket full of flu. I've got some airplane snacks (yogurt raisins, and chocolate cranberries) and some pasta and canned sauce. But that stuff's getting old. I may just go pick up a face mask. :P

I also don't really want to play too many games. I remember ruining Phantasy Star II for myself by playing it sick. Now just looking at the pastel colors of the later worlds in that game makes me a little queasy. And sick or not, the Blood Walkthrough waits for no germ...

10 September, 2009

PAX 2009: Random List of Cool People

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First off, here are a bunch of people I met on the Magical Mystery Tour (an unofficial pre-PAX tour of Seattle).

(And since you bothered to even begin to read this post, I recommend the Experience Music Project / Sci-Fi Museum highly. It was the best thing we saw by far.)

Cut off on the left side was Muttonhead. He was nice and was also a buttoneer. A lot of us meet new people through trading buttons. His button was from a game I hadn't played (but had heard of), Popful Mail.

Also not pictured are Poison and her new husband. They honeymooned at PAX.

Also not pictured are Apocaknits and John, a nice couple from Columbus OH.

Also not pictured is Emorimiko (Emo for short). I had listened to the Idle Thumbs podcast make fun of the "Time Bullets" explanation for Captain America not being dead and thought it was funny. He said the story was actually well written. But I was having more fun making fun of it! Poo.

Then there's Shiggles, sporting his Harry Potter scarf for the pub crawl.

I should know the next guy, but I forgot. He has great "Jewbeard". No wait! He's DM Magic! I love the idea of DM being an honorific like MC. :)

BlackDragon480 I never spent much time with, but trying to remember the number at the end of his name made it stick a little better.

"Derek?" had been to Iraq once and was probably going again. He talked a bit about how it's a crappy place to be and how the army lies to reporters. I think he said they told some reporters that guns being fired for a local wedding ceremony was an enemy attack. :P

Arno was one of the many people who had come too damn far (Aussies and Kiwis). I think he was an Aussie.

Ashridah was also an Aussie who had moved to Seattle a couple years back and now works on SQL Server.

Metaverse Nomad (along with the not pictured Eye-Shuh) organized the MMT.

Pinder allegedly has a mom who's "got it going on". He wore a pink bathrobe for much of the convention and was generally silly.

Tehnakki was a bundle of energy and seemed very sweet.

Frightfully English lived up to his name and was good to chat with.

I should remember the name of the guy between him and Anthony, but don't.

I should also remember Anthony by his forum handle but don't. I know his name because he friended me on Facebook.

Way in the back is PikaPuff. He's a nice guy but often keeps to himself.

Gary is also a nice guy and tolerated me making a Fallout 3 reference to his name that you don't get yet because I haven't gotten that far in my Fallout 3 journal. :)

Gilles (pronounced zhill. It's French.) was one of the many nice Canadians at the convention. The border is only two hours away (traffic permitting).

I'd remember the green haired guy's forum handle if you said it too me, but unaided, I'm drawing a blank.

I should remember "Dan?". He did well in Metaverse Nomad's trivia contest. Three of us ("Dan?", me, and Emorimiku) tied for second, so we had to do rock, paper, scissors, which he won. I think he was traveling with a woman named Melissa who was very nice.

Damian and DragonDevon weren't on the MMT, but were present to witness the arrival of the Cross Country SuperTrip (CCST). We chatted for a while and hung out in the convention center to kill some time before the pre-PAX dinner.

Pre-PAX dinner

The dinner was cool because I got to see Astayonix. She's been enjoying my video walkthroughs. (Yes, somebody does.)

Her husband Electric Turtle was also present and helpful when someone had a random question about the venue. (No naval stuff actually goes on there anymore.)

Astayonix and ET started the dinner. It remains to be seen who will organize anything for next year. I understand there was a successful post PAX dinner at The Taphouse, so maybe we'll do pre and post PAX there next year.

In line for food I met Shannon and Chad. I don't remember what we talked about, but it was very pleasant and I was very happy to run into them later at the show.

I was also next to Rob, a.k.a. Sum10Fishy from the forums. He was very nice, and we traded buttons. I had over 200 buttons to trade, so I was happy to do so. I may make less next year. I'd rather run out than bring home extras.

At the table I was sitting at were Rachel, "Greg?", Nick and Eric. And I went and visited with a lot of other people, most of whose names I will forget since I didn't have much to connect the name to.

At PAX I ran into Trevor, one of three guys from Manitoba who also happened to be on the Seattle Underground tour (also good) when the Magical Mystery Tour was there. He and his friends asked me to fill in the fourth slot for a Left 4 Dead tournament. They showed up late, so another group snagged me. I felt a little bad, but I think everything worked out okay.

One of the gals handing out shirts at Borderlands was cool. She said she was going to use some of her money from working the booth to buy the game (no free copies for working there). She actually watched me play for a while during my second visit to the game. I felt the love.

I saw Prof. Pangloss from the NorCal meetup. I also saw some of the Chico guys on two occasions. CaptainTapole was around. JonnyNero asked me to attend his live podcast taping after PAX (which I tried to find but failed).

I met a pseudo buttoneer named Sheri Danzig. She had a little zombie construction kit with a button for a head, which I was happy to trade two buttons for. Building it gave me something to do in line the next day.

I also met a guy who went by Bambooza who I'd seen in chat a few times. He and a couple other guys (one of which was an EverQuest 2 dev) were headed to a bar named Shorty's that I'd been meaning to check out. It's pretty cool. They've got some old arcade and pinball machines, and some of the tables are made out of old pinball machines. It was cool, and Bambooza was friendly.

Also, Liger was around, but I kept getting her confused with this other gal, refrag. It was awkward. It especially sucks because Liger doesn't much care for me and I may have given refrag the impression that I'm not fond of her on accident. I went to refrag's blog to try and fix that. She was nice about it. I'll make sure to spend some time with her next year.

There were also some people around the hostel I talked to a couple times.

Dan wants to be a game dev. He also has some ideas for sequels to Star Trek DS9 that are highly unusual. Nog as a combat monster is pretty strange. He's got a lot of enthusiasm. Hopefully it will take him far.

Kyle was another aspiring developer who gave me his card. It seems like a lot of people are making 2D engines these days, and he is one of them. We ran into each other a lot during PAX, in passing.

And that's as much as I can remember tonight. I'll probably remember less and less as time goes on. Some PAX friendships outlive the lines or events that spawn them, and some don't. Some people make it back to PAX and some don't.

I intend to make it back. PAX rules.

09 September, 2009

PAX 2009: Games

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Every year at PAX, I seem to pick a different focus. In 2004, it was the bands. In 2007 it was the panels. In 2008, it was freeplay. And this year, it was the expo. I, for some reason, was really dedicated to getting my hands on piles of games I probably won't play for a very long time.

Recommended listening for this post is the Borderlands Line Jam which I composed while standing in line for Borderlands. (Guh.)

The Scale
THE AWESOME = I must play this game.
THE GOOD = I want to play this game.
THE MEH = Bargain bin, maybe?
THE PYUCKY = My demo experience sucked. If it gets good reviews, I'll think about it.


Bayonetta (2010)
Oh. Dip. Bayonetta looks fabulous. It plays wonderfully. The demo is a bit easy, but that's adjustable. And the special torture attacks were cool. The loading screen is also a combo training screen, a very nice touch. I wish I was playing it right now. I also hope it has an adjustable nudity option. I don't mind when she fights in a one piece bathing suit, but when she's wearing less than that it feels exploitative and pointlessly so since the game is great without it.

Dust: An Elysian Tail (?)
A downloadable indie game for the 360, I thought the characters on screen were too big for a side scrolling brawler at first. But the game makes it work. I don't remember suffering any offscreen attacks. And the controls were both responsive and made me feel like a clever badass. Using the backward dash to flip around and dash forward, or zip under a monster trying to jump over me and attack me in the back, thereby foiling it's move and setting me up to hit it in the back was delightful. I want to see more.

Ratchet & Clank 6 (A Crack in Time) (2009)
They had separate stations for the Clank parts and Ratchet parts. The Ratchet parts were as one would expect. Run around. Blow stuff up. There was an addition by the way of destructible terrain that was welcome. But for the most part, it was what I know and love. More interesting were the new Clank time puzzles.

I stood on a time platform and hit record. I ran over and stood on a button which raised a lift. I stopped recording. Then I stood on a second time platform and hit record. I got on the lift which was activated by first me and hit a button which opened a door. I stopped recording. Then I went back to the first time platform and hit record. I went to the lift button to send second me up the lift. Then I went through the door second me opened, completing the puzzle. It feels to me like just the right balance of running around and thinking to be puzzly, but not bog down the game.

Dark Void (2010)
They got zooming around in a scarily overpowered jet pack so right in this game. I didn't even want to bother with the combat parts. I just wanted to see if I could fly straight down cliff faces and skim the water and pull off a U-turn right before hitting a cliff and just generally go nuts with the flying. The combat wasn't broken or anything, but flying was big fun.


Borderlands (2009)
My first demo wasn't so great. Controlling the sniper with the game pad is lame. There's not enough fine control. I ended up using melee attacks mostly. But on the PC, it should be much better. And my second demo, I fell into a nice groove of blowing the crap out of guys with a giant shotgun which had a crazy "six shells on a round plate" loading mechanism. The random guns initially sounded like a pointless gimmick, but I found myself liking my gun a little extra because I knew it was a rare combination of components.

The game is a bit slow, which is fine for co-op, where there's so much going on that it needs to be slow to be manageable. I'm not sure if the single player game won't drag a bit, though.

Overall, it felt like the loot and shoot cycle will make it a grind that I will eventually love.

Diablo 3 (2011)
It's Titan Quest. I will play and enjoy it at some point. It sucked being the barbarian because I whiffed a lot. :(

Mass Effect 2 (2010)
The shooting in Mass Effect was decent. If it holds up, it will be the first BioWare game I'll play all the way through since Shattered Steel. :O

God of War 3
It's God of War. The demo doesn't go through the head pulling off sequence, so I still don't know if that's going to be unpleasant. But the centaur disemboweling didn't bother me. I also didn't find the combat to be much of an advancement, so it still feels like it's a class below Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden.

The Saboteur (2009 maybe)
It's kind of like Mercs 2 in World War 2, which makes sense since it's also made by Pandemic. They do interesting stuff with color. Nazi controlled areas are in black and white. Enemies are highlighted in red. Friendly buildings (and troops, I assume) are highlighted in yellow. The overworld was a little large and I got lost. But the game itself seemed decent.

Uncharted 2 (2009)
There were some definite issues with the game. Aiming was decent, but not great. The bad guys seemed to have constant motion blur on them, even when they weren't moving. It was like being attacked by ghosts or enemies only partway in our dimension. The character conversations, which are supposed to be a strong point, were lost in the din of the convention center. The fact that this game didn't have headphones and Wet did was pretty messed up.


Muramasa: The Demon Blade (2009)
The Odin Sphere folks make another very pretty but not very fun action game. Dust: Elysian Tail makes this game feel very clunky.

Red Faction: Guerrilla (PC) (2009)
Available in PC Freeplay, RFG had some frame rate issues and the controls had not been well adapted to mouse and keyboard. It's better than Saints Row 2, which is unplayable on my machine, but I'll still hold off until I pick up a console as that's obviously where it's meant to be played.

Fairytale Fights (2009)
A brawler that combines cutesy style with extreme violence. I didn't find the controls that good. It was easy to misjudge angles and miss enemies.

Dante's Inferno (2009)
It's God of War, only not quite as good. The art style was cool. But every time a new big monster entered in a cinematic, looked at the screen, and roared it felt like such amateurish badassery I wanted to laugh. It's a good thing this game is coming out months before God of War 3 and on more platforms.

Invincible Tiger (2009)
A basic 2D brawler with the gimmick of 3D glasses to make things appear 3D. The effect basically worked, but didn't help the rudimentary gameplay, and hurt my eyes after a little while. Of course, the same could be said of nVidia's much more expensive 3D setup for Resident Evil 5, so at least Namco wasn't wasting too much money on their release.

Magna Carta 2 (2009)
As an action RPG, Magna Carta 2 looked fine. The guy demoing it was helpful and had a good sense of humor. It's just a very old school JRPG (androgynous teens saving the world while recovering from lots of amnesia) and therefore not for me.

Star Trek Online (?)
I'm not big into MMOs in the first place. But positive press from PC Gamer made me want to check this one out. I was not impressed. My ship couldn't maneuver for crap forcing me to rely on phasers and actually turn away from bad guys so I could shoot them in the back with torpedoes as they passed. It was not fun. The ground combat was better. I could run around and melee bad guys or snipe them or just blast away. But in both cases, the fighting was easy to the point that I didn't feel like I'd gotten much of an experience by playing the demo.

Split Second (2010)
Much like Magna Carta 2, this was an obviously solid game for its genre. It's just a genre I don't particularly care about. It's racing, but when you draft or drift you power up the ability to blow up parts of the track, dropping obstacles onto opponents and opening shortcuts. It looks good. It feels good. It may be a hit at future LAN parties.

Wet (2009)
The aiming in this game wasn't very good. For the most part it was easy enough that this didn't matter, but in the freeway sequence it made it difficult to actually finish. It'll probably be simple mindless fun when it's on clearance (and turned down to easy).


Dead Space Extraction (2009)
My demo for Dead Space Extraction was lame. Apparently the person before me had used up all the good ammo and left me in a crappy situation. Also the game is harder if there's a second controller active, even if it's not doing anything at all, so I was extra boned.

Army of Two: The 40th Day (2010)
I haven't played Gears on 360. If you expect me to automatically know Gears controls to play your game, don't be surprised if I don't have any fun. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Zoidberg "Your demo was bad and you should feel bad."

Spyborgs (2009)
Some enthusiast press said this game might actually be good. The cinematics I saw online were so bad they gave me cancer, but I decided I should at least try it. Unfortunately the demo stations were left at the start of a lava level full of giant robots which was way too hard to just jump into. :(

08 September, 2009

PAX: 2009 - Initial Ramblings

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Okay. I'm back. I've got a lot of stuff stuck in my head and need to sleep, so here goes.

I met scads of people at this PAX. I will probably post a list you won't care about. I'm actually working on it now, going back and forth between entries. I don't want to forget.

So much happened though. It'd be impossible to keep track of it. Looking at some of my notes it's easy to see that by the end of the first day it felt like PAX had already been going on for two days. Of course, if you count the community events, it had already been three days.

There was the Magical Mystery Tour, which involved seeing the more touristy stuff in Seattle. Then there was the Pre-PAX dinner, which was full of people.

The Pre-PAX breakfast was really small this year. The normal organizer wasn't around, so most people just fended for themselves.

I ate most lunches and dinners in the convention center this year and ate well. The restaurants had staffed up and were ready for us. The food was pretty quick to get, good, and not super expensive, which was great as I didn't want to waste time walking to food. I was on a mission.

Every PAX I seem to have a different focus. The first year was music. The second was panels. The third was freeplay. This year was the expo hall. I didn't see everything, but I saw a lot. Expect a huge list. Only four games really impressed me, though. So you can probably ignore most of it. :)

There are so many other little details: eating hostel fruit and piroshkys in the morning (and in line), showering at night so I could wake up and go, the big after convention button trade, wandering with VT. The texture of PAX is composed of so many elements in such a short time that trying to convey the full impact is probably impossible. I'll just try and decompress it out of my brain over a few days time.

03 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, August 30, 2009


Blood 2-5 The Haunting


I was already amplifying the audio, but not nearly enough. The relative levels are the same, but the volume is much higher.

In this installment, Caleb leaves the Overlooked Hotel to explore some less well maintained haunted houses.

02 September, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, August 29, 2009


Blood 2-4c The Overlooked Hotel

Caleb continues his exploration of The Overlooked Hotel. It's a big hotel.

01 September, 2009

PAX 2009: In My Mind, I'm Already Gone

written by Blain Newport on Monday, August 31, 2009

PAX is imminent. I'm leaving tomorrow (today when this posts). I've got a couple more Blood posts in the queue, but after that I may not have any posts until I get back. The hostel has some web stations, but they're really old and slow and have random files and programs sitting on the desktop. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if they had key loggers on them, waiting to steal people's passwords.

I'm still taking my little notebook and my camera (which I will probably neglect to use again), so there'll be at least one or two giant post-PAX posts.

My plan is to spend most of my time standing in lines. The *#%^ing thing sold out. 75,000 people. They say they've got more floor space than before, but I think it's still going to be horrible lines everywhere. We'll see if anything can top last year's 190 minutes in line for a 10 minute demo.

Which lines will I be in? Bless your contrived curiosity. :)

I'll be in lines on the expo floor, mostly. I want to get my hands on new stuff. I don't know why. A noisy convention hall is not a good environment and the need to get as much of the experience as possible in ten minutes doesn't help. But for some reason, that's what I want to do.

I won't be skipping the panels entirely. I'll check in on the Listen UP podcast guys to make sure they've got an audience. They're up against the concert and have expressed concern about having enough people there. Personally, I don't think they have anything to worry about. Anamanaguchi is the band they're opposite. The band rocks, but PAX is about games. Regardless, the expo will be closed, so I'll be a seat filler if they need one.

Since discovering the podcast around the time of the last PAX, I've become a fan of GeekNights. Rym and Scott will be conducting three panels, and I'm tentatively planning to hit up two of them. Beyond Dungeons and Dragons is basically about why old RPGs are lame and newer ones are awesome. I wouldn't be surprised if I never played a pen and paper RPG again, but I hung out with the people who were playing after this panel, and they were doing awesome stuff. One guy basically took five random people and turned them into a functioning writer's room in under thirty minutes. It was amazing and I want to know more.

They'll also be doing a panel that posits the question of how to make losing the point of a game. There's another panel about losing, but it's only one guy presenting, and seems a little theoretical. I tend to prefer the specific references gamers make. It's easier to get my head around.

There are other panels I wouldn't mind hitting up (especially if my feet stage a mutiny).

There's going to be a table top gaming panel with STEVE FREAKING JACKSON on it. Table top gamers of my generation grew up with Car Wars, the Illuminati card game, and GURPS, so even if I don't care much about the panel, it would be cool to say I saw it.

Likewise the Borderlands panel where the president, creative director, and vice-president of Gearbox will be showing off the game could be cool. I really want that game to rock the house down. But they should be having hands-on demos what with the game being roughly a month from release, so I'm pretty skeptical.

I don't intend to hit up any concerts. They're hot and noisy and I'll have been standing all day already. I suspect I'll wind down by hitting up console freeplay, then heading back to the hostel. I fully intend to get some sleep this year so as not to repeat my blunders of locking my lock in my locker and forgetting my new ATM PIN, leaving myself cashless. I had to use the refunded deposit on my room key just to pay for the bus back to the airport. :P