30 June, 2010

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, 30 June, 2010


Witcher 034a - Bizarro Chapter One

0:00 - Kaer Morhen
0:20 - Zoltan
1:00 - ambush
3:20 - Scoia'tael
3:40 - Mikul
4:20 - Zoltan
4:50 - Haren

Witcher 034b - Bizarro Chapter One

0:00 - Wild Hunt
1:10 - Leo?
2:30 - Salamandra cave
2:50 - mob
4:30 - beast
5:40 - Reverend
6:40 - aftermath

26 June, 2010

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, 26 June, 2010


Witcher 033a - Near Maximum Overkill

0:40 - Yaevinn
1:40 - swamp forest
4:30 - Yaevinn
5:40 - swamp forest
7:20 - talents
10:10 - alchemy

Witcher 033b - Near Maximum Overkill

0:00 - meditate
0:50 - swamp forest
2:20 - potions
3:20 - Azar disguised
3:50 - mage's tower
5:20 - Azar
6:20 - Fight!
8:30 - End Chapter 2

24 June, 2010

First Impressions: BioShock 2

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, 24 June, 2010

BioShock 2 on hard is kind of hard. But it's not fun hard. It's more "lots of unavoidable damage" hard. As long as I'm fighting smaller enemies, it's fine. But fighting the larger monsters just sucks. Even with a speed upgrade I'm pretty slow, and I don't have many tools this early on, so there are many occasions where I have very few options. When there is terrain to take advantage of, it feels like I'm winning by exploiting the AI instead of having a good fight. I'm guessing normal difficulty will make it more fun.

As for everything else, it's BioShock. It's watery. It's spooky. This time it's about collectivism instead of objectivism, but the game exaggerates and distorts the philosophies so much it's hard for me to take it seriously.

22 June, 2010

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, 22 June, 2010


Witcher 032a - Traps

0:00 - Kalkstein
0:40 - talents
1:30 - medallion
2:00 - new book
3:20 - Leuvaarden
4:00 - swamp forest
5:20 - lumberjacks
6:10 - Siegfried
8:20 - Yaevinn

Witcher 032b - Traps

0:00 - swamp forest
6:10 - Gardener
7:20 - Raymond

21 June, 2010

E3: Final Tidbits

written by Blain Newport on Monday, 17 June, 2010

Both motion control solutions showed potentially deal breaking tech issues. Kinect had an issue with seated players and Move needed frequent, lengthy recalibration. Hopefully these are easy fixes, but I'll be paying close attention to updates on those issues.

Rage - G4 had a live demo of Rage (which they called a Hands-On for no apparent reason). The visuals are very nice. From the demo I saw, the gameplay seemed a little... less than demanding. I don't quite know how to say it... No wait. I think I got it.

I was playing DooM again recently, and DooM still makes me work for it. Rage didn't seem to be challenging on the reflexes and didn't put the player on the defensive much. All the enemies were the same so there wasn't any target prioritizing either. I'll still pick it up for the visuals and because shooting stuff is fun, but the combat looks shallow.

None of the other games I was interested in gave much of a showing, positive or negative. There were so few hand-on demos, I'm wondering if the show floor at PAX is going to be mostly video loops this year. :(

Maybe I'm too jaded to notice, but I didn't see John Davison's embarrassing exploitation games. I'll be curious to see if he shows up on the next Weekend Confirmed to explain what he was referring to. I wonder if he saw the same games we saw but got a different impression of them because it was a judges' event, and the PR people overdid it. The only game I saw that was so X-treme as to be an embarrassment was Bulletstorm. And if the industry can handle Bayonetta, it can handle Bulletstorm.

20 June, 2010

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 20 June, 2010


Witcher 031a - Shani's Party

0:00 - Carmen
1:20 - shop
2:00 - swamp forest
5:30 - Scoia'Tael
7:00 - Yaevinn
8:40 - swamp forest
10:00 - intelligence

Witcher 031b - Shani's Party

0:00 - intelligence
2:00 - Granny
2:50 - Dandelion
5:30 - Shani
5:50 - Dandelion
6:50 - Carmen arrives
8:20 - Dandelion
9:40 - Shani
10:10 - game

Witcher 031c - Shani's Party

0:00 - game
3:50 - song
5:00 - party's over
5:40 - Shani
8:10 - ~Shani~

16 June, 2010

Nintendo and Sony Press Conferences; Game Updates

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, 16 June, 2010


I suspect a lot of people are going to say Nintendo "won" the show. They announced a lot of entries in classic franchises (Zelda, Kirby, Donkey Kong Country, Kid Icarus, GoldenEye).

The 3D on the new 3DS handheld seemed to go over well with most people, and if all the games announced for the 3DS come out, it's going to have a ridiculous library (on top of being backwards compatible with the DS). I don't much care for Metal Gear games after Metal Gear Solid, but the fact that Metal Gear Solid 3 will be coming to a handheld and in 3D both speaks to the level of support and power of the device. (How the game will play with only one analog stick is another question.)

While I personally liked the emphasis on core games, I'm really surprised there weren't more games for other Wii consumers. It was like Microsoft and Nintendo had switched roles and while I think I understand Microsoft's (terrible) strategy, Nintendo's console strategy has me at a loss.


Sony's (terrible) strategy, on the other hand, was exactly as expected. They pushed 3D and their Wii controller. Supposedly their entire conference was in 3D to prove how essential 3D is now. Tycho from Penny Arcade did a splendid job of throwing cold water on the hype.
The Kinect is rumored to cost a hundred and fifty dollars, and this is considered to be the equivalent of a street mugging. To contrast, a single pair of active shutter glasses costs the same amount - every picture of a deliriously happy family enjoying 3D content is predicated on a hardware investment north of four thousand dollars.

But price always comes down (if consumers don't reject it outright), and part of me has reason to hope 3D works out. When games first moved to flat 3D, I felt like we lost a lot of precision. I was hoping really good stereoscopic 3D might help third person games feel more natural. It might be easier to judge my jumps and my character's reach and to get a better feeling of space. (The 3D upgraded version of the Sly Cooper trilogy may be my litmus test of Sony's tech.) In an ideal world, Sony's figured it out. And after a few years, 3D will be an affordable standard. But I can't help but look at that price tag and think it's anything but madness, currently.

While not as absurd, the Move's value proposition isn't much better. A 360 Arcade unit plus Kinect (if the rumored price is true), will run you $300. The PS3 plus Move will cost you $400, and you will need to buy a nunchuck and a second controller to play some of the single player content we've seen, raising the total investment to $480.

The Wii costs $200.

Game Over

Speaking of games that should be over, there was no announcement of a replacement for the PSP and PSP Go. I've never understood why the PSP sold at all in first place, so maybe that unknown reason will keep them selling okay against the 3DS.

Finally, back in the land of the core gamers, Sony performed decently, probably better than Microsoft. But neither company impressed me.

Game Updates

Fallout: New Vegas - 1UP did a developer interview with some live gameplay. It's nothing earth shattering, but the game looks to be coming along fine. I'm struck by the elements of the new Fallout games that seems static and lifeless: the barren environments, the lack of color, the slow pace. But that usually helps the crazy stuff stand out more. It's comfortable.

Brink - The hands-on was short, but there was one, which is much better than nothing as it means the game's core mechanics have come along.

14 June, 2010

Microsoft Press Conference and Games I'll Be Watching

written by Blain Newport on Monday, 14 June, 2010

Microsoft Press Conference
Microsoft did indeed, fail to show any application for their motion control (now called Kinect) that would interest core gamers. You may remember from my motion control post from last October that I thought they would include head tracking or some other incremental improvement to core games that would make the hardcore buy it to maintain their edge in multiplayer. They didn't. (UPDATE: Apparently they did announce head tracking in an upcoming racing game (Forza).) I suspect this means failure on a large scale as they try to capture the Wii market with devices that will likely cost twice as much. Microsoft isn't even discussing price yet.

To tide me over while waiting to see what Nintendo and Sony have to show us tomorrow, I've been thinking about what games I'm interested to see more about.


Deus Ex: Human Revolution - I liked Deus Ex. I even liked the sequel (if only because the guards were fun to mess with). If this game does nothing more than gives me AIs that are fun to grief, I will enjoy it thoroughly.

Fallout: New Vegas - If you read this blog, you know I have loved me some Fallout 3. A new world to explore sounds peachy. Having it be the ruins of atomic age Las Vegas has a lot of potential, too. I'm already considering a character based on Sammy Davis Jr.


Batman: Arkham Asylum 2 - Who's writing it? Can they keep the mechanics feeling fresh when it will likely be the same gadgets?

Brink - These guys made the Enemy Territory games which get played at Matthew's LAN parties, so hopefully they can keep us entertained. There better be some hands-on.

Bulletstorm - Oy. The game mechanics look fun. But the writing is embarrassing. I don't mind vulgarity, but it's so random and unfunny in Bulletstorm. "You scared the #*@& off me!" Are these just bad translations from Polish?

Crysis 2 - It's in New York instead of a jungle, but the storytelling still looks very broad and disposable.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned - I'm not really a Pirates fan. I only watched the first movie. But I've heard you can do some strange stuff in this game. Defacing an idol to make it look like yourself so that the villagers worship you sounds like a fun, silly thing to do. If the rest of the game has that much character, it could be a good time.

Rage - It's id. They made DooM. You can call them old and irrelevant, but I'm old and irrelevant, so I still care.

XCom - When you take a beloved turn based strategy game and turn it into a first person shooter, people are going to accuse you of abusing the name, selling out, etc. Whether it succeeds or fails, there'll almost certainly be some lessons to learn out of what happens with XCom.


Bodycount - The designer is the same guy who designed Black, which was pretty but poorly paced and not very dynamic in play. The same thing with even shinier graphics does not appeal.

Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 - It's another side scrolling Bionic Commando game. I feel like I ought to be interested in where they take the game. I ought to be interested in the co-op. But I'm currently playing GunGirl 2 and feel like action platformers are kind of tapped out.

Dead Rising 2 - The save structure is still broken, so I have a hard time mustering any enthusiasm for the co-op zombie slaying on offer.

Dead Space 2 - It looks like the first game, which always felt pretty plodding to me.

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars - Batman and Indy weren't nearly as enjoyable for me as the other LEGO Star Wars games. Part of me thinks this franchise lost me already. Part of me thinks that if they bring back the formula from the first games, this could be worth playing.

Spec Ops: The Line - All I've heard about this game so far is that it's a gritty, morally suspect, modern military shooter, which in my mind translates to, "This game has no hook." I probably wouldn't care at all, but Greg Kasavin, who worked at GameSpot when I watched GameSpot, is working on the game in some capacity.

11 June, 2010

E3 Cometh

written by Blain Newport on Friday, 11 June, 2010

E3 is around the corner again. By this time next week, it'll all be over but the podcasting. It's time for a rundown of what to expect and to make some predictions.

Sony and Nintendo will have made their big 3D plays.

Sony believes that 3D will differentiate the PS3. I'm highly skeptical because the few people who have had hands on with the demo for Killzone 3 said the 3D bits failed to impress.

Nintendo will be unveiling the 3DS. Since most people incorrectly assumed the DS and Wii would flop, it feels like people are erring on the side of caution and not saying anything about the 3DS until they see it in action. I doubt 3D will go anywhere this generation. But as long as the 3DS is backwards compatible, it should sell.

Sony and Microsoft will have made their big motion control plays.

Impressions from early press events indicate that they're trying to sell a Wii-like experience for far more money. I foresee funny-sad press conferences followed by marketplace floundering.

There will be many exploitation games announced.

By that I mean games that use "mature" content in the most artless, blatant way possible. My suspicion is that in this bad economy the marketing people are desperate to outdo each other, to hardcore harder.

This may work out. Some pretty dubious games (Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude and Fear Effect spring to mind) managed to do well enough to have sequels this way. And some games sold above their genre expectations (Dragon Age) by doing this.

But those games stood out because they were being sold in a way other games weren't. If everybody does it at the same time, nobody stands out. Nobody's sales improve. And the public perception of the industry gets set back a decade or so.

I don't think it will be a good E3. But at least it probably won't be boring.

10 June, 2010

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, 10 June, 2010


Witcher 029c - Left Foot, Right Foot

0:00 - Grandma
2:40 - Shani
4:00 - Conrad
5:20 - Gravedigger
6:30 - Shani

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, 10 June, 2010


Witcher 029b - Left Foot, Right Foot

0:00 - ~Gossip~
2:40 - Hildegard
4:00 - Vivaldi
4:30 - Leuvaarden
5:10 - blacksmith

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, 10 June, 2010


Witcher 029a - Left Foot, Right Foot

0:00 - swamp forest
4:00 - temple quarter
8:00 - Vivaldi

05 June, 2010

Listen Servers Tend To Suck

written by Blain Newport on Friday, 4 June, 2010

Daddy? What's a listen server?

Well, Melanie, a listen server is what we call it when one player is running both the server and the game client on their own computer or console. This is, of course, unfair.


Because the person serving doesn't have to wait for the server to send information over the internet, so they see what's happening before anyone else. Also, the host's inputs don't have to go over the internet to get to the server, so they can react faster.

As a Quake player once said, "You can always tell who the server is. He's the one running around like Carl Lewis, fragging everybody."

Who's Carl Lewis?

A man who won gold medals in the Olympics for running.

So if you're the server you get gold medals?

Essentially, but it's because you heard the gun a tenth of a second before anyone else and your muscles responded when you told them too, not a tenth of a second later. Many victories in gaming are decided by less than two tenths of a second, so it's an unfair advantage.

But Quake's an old game. Nobody uses listen servers anymore, right?

Unfortunately, no. Since gaming moved to consoles, having dedicated servers isn't really an option anymore. And it's a waste of resources to code dedicated servers just for the PC audience, so listen servers are the norm these days.

That's bad.

It's worse than you think. Since games tend to push hardware to its limits, consoles don't have much power to spare, and network code is often not high priority, the server may have performance issues on top of the latency issues.

Also, if the person hosting has a flaky internet connection or has to go or just turns off their machine because they're losing, it can dump everyone out of the game.

So what do we do?

Live with it. Game companies want to make money, and that means console games with listen servers. Personally, I mostly play co-op, where it doesn't matter so much.

You stink, and your advice isn't helpful.

Meh. If mushy multiplayer is your worst problem, you're doing fine.

04 June, 2010

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Friday, 4 June, 2010


Witcher 028b - Mucking About

0:00 - swamp forest
1:20 - Scoia'tael camp
6:30 - Vaska
8:00 - Yaren Bolt

03 June, 2010

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, 3 June, 2010


Witcher 028a - Mucking About

0:00 - swamp forest

02 June, 2010

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, 2 June, 2010


Witcher 027 - Never Again

0:00 - ~Morenn~