EA announced today that it will be closing the Melbourne studio branch of Visceral Games. Visceral, developers of Godfather 2, Dante's Inferno, and the super critically successful Dead Space, has become one of my favorite developers in the industry due to my immense love for the Dead Space franchise. This news saddens me very much and I wish everyone at Visceral good luck and the very best.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Minecraft has taken a big step towards becoming more like a game with a beginning and an end rather than just an endless open world sandbox of fun (or horror). The new Adventure Update 1.8 which went live today adds all sorts of new fun thing, and changes up some playing mechanics as well.
One of the most interesting changes is a new health/hunger meter. When your player's hunger meter is at full you will regenerate health slowly, but your hunger meter goes down the more you sprint. There are also new rivers that wind their way through the world, and dead mine shafts which are randomly generated similar to dungeons. You can grow melons and pumpkins now, and torches give off light while in your hand. Randomly generated villiages will also pop up, but no occupants just yet. Perhaps the most exciting addition are the new Endermen, which will gleefully eat your face off as soon as they spot you and you turn your back on them.
There are tons more updates in 1.8, but also many others will be released in steps. So time to dust off that pickaxe and get back to exploring!
The European Southern Observatory has just announced the discovery of more than 50 new exoplanets (planets outside our solar system), including 16 super-Earths (planets whose mass is between one and 10 times that of our own planet). One Planet in partinular called HD 85512 b could very well sustain life if conditions are right. According to scientists HD 85512 b is about three and a half times the size of Earth and about 35 lightyears away.
You can read more over at lightyears.blogs.cnn.com.
It's been eight long years since the last Max Payne game. Last time we saw Max he was holding his friend Mona as she died in his arms... was pretty grim, and things look like it's only getting worse for him in the upcoming Max Payne 3. Rockstar is using the Euphoria engine again this time around, same as with GTA 4 and Red Dead Redemption. Max is back with all the iconic slow motion bullet time and ultra violent, ultra dark, and ultra grit, but also with a new hair cut.
Max Payne 3 will be out March of 2012, so mark your calenders!
Warner Bros. Studios are releasing a new animated movie based on one of the greatest Batman Graphic Novels ever written, Batman: Year One, originally written by the great Frank Miller. Year One has long been one of my top favorite Batman stories if not THE favorite. In many ways the story revolves around Jim Gordon more that Batman, but is really about them both confronting Gotham's corruption together. If any of this sounds familiar it should! Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins is heavily based on Year One. While the plots are different the setting, characterization, and even a few scenes of the movie are taken directly from the graphic novel.
The new animated film features the voices of Southland's Benjamin McKenzie as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston as James Gordon, Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Katee Sackhoff as Sarah Essen, Grey DeLisle as Barbara Gordon, Jon Polito as Commissioner Loeb, Alex Rocco as Carmine 'The Roman' Falcone. The movie premiered at Comic-Con, with direct-to-video DVD and Blu-ray available in October.
There is some kind of console brat-ism going on when it comes to Battlefield 3 that I don't understand. It seems developers can't win. A short while ago when Crisis 2 was released PC gamers complained that the graphics were held back or gimped due to console limitations since it was being released on consoles as well as PC. Now sort of the opposite is happening with Battlefield 3, console gamers are complaining that all the footage being shown in trailers has been PC only. What gives!?
Well this is all just baffling to me. It has long been common knowledge that PC's have always had more raw horsepower on their side, that is of course as long as we're talking about a PC as old or younger than this current generation of consoles. I thought it was always standard practice to advertise your product at it's best. Has something changed? Eurogamer spoke with DICE general manager Karl Magnus Troedsson about this console game angst and he had this to say.
“I have to say that this discussion is a bit over the top because people don’t understand that the PC is more powerful than a console – they haven’t looked under the hood and in detail. We always want to show a platform that we have chosen to be our lead platform. In this case we did choose PC as the lead platform; it’s the one that has been, mostly, driving development forward. That is the reason why we have spearheaded a lot of the key assets with this as well.”
Sounds like the obvious to me... When stories like this pop up I have to ask myself, "Are console gamers really that unaware or uneducated that the PC is a more powerful machine? Or are they just being selfish brats?" I guess it's impossible to please everyone all the time. All I know is, I'm going to have to upgrade my PC soon for Battlefield 3.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Sometimes I see these things and think... "These artists today have it so easy" then I say "I TOTALLY wan't one of those" Here is the Wacom Cintiq 24HD, the newest bestest art pad on the planet, and boy is it sexy. Complete with a strong easily adjustable frame that's so good you may not feel the need for a secondary monitor.
This is the latest list of features/improvments/details about TES V: Skyrim
Quests & Dialogue
- Radiant Story: Many quests are still completely governed by Bethesda, but the Radiant Story system helps randomize and relate the side quests to players to make the experience as dynamic and reactive as possible. Rather than inundate you with a string of unrelated and mundane tasks, it tailors missions based on who your character is, where you're at, what you've done in the past, and what you're currently doing. Radiant Story is also smart enough to know which caves and dungeons you've already visited and thus conditionalize where, for instance, a kidnapped person is being held to direct you toward a specific place you haven't been to before, populated with a specific level of enemy. Skyrim also tracks your friendships and grudges to generate missions. Do a small favor for a farmer and it may eventually lead to a larger quest. Some NPCs will even agree to be your companion to help you out in specific situations.
- Main Questline is approximately 30 hours.
- It's possible to play after finishing the Main Quest.
- Taverns will play a large role in getting information, gossip and rumors from a town as it's naturally where most people go after working, and you can listen to peoples conversation and learn more about the town and/or Skyrim itself.
- People will be more vague or specific when talking to you or giving you quests depending on how much they like you.
- There are more ways to complete quests.
- An overhauled combat-system.
- Inter-changeable dual-wielding with both weapons and spells. Dual-wield any combination, even staffs!
- Staggering effects and camera shake.
- Switching between loadouts on the fly is made easier thanks to a new quick-select menu that allows you to "bookmark" all of your favorite spells, shouts, and weapons for easy access.
- There are non-lethal tavern brawls in the game.
- There are more weapon and armor types in Skyrim compared to Oblivion.
- Special kill animations: Depending on your weapon, the enemy, and the fight conditions, you may execute a devastating finishing move that extinguishes enemies with a stylistic flourish.
- Specializing in a particular weapon is often the best way to go, as you can improve your attacking skills with perks. For instance, the sword perk increases your chances of landing critical strikes, the axe perk punishes enemies with bleeding damage after blows, and the mace perk ignores enemy armour.
- You can poison your weapon with various types of poison.
- Cuirass and Greaves are combined.
- Every Race have a unique set of armor.
- Common armor like leather and steel have a more Nordic feel compared to Oblivion and Morrowind.
- There are Chain-mail armor in the game.
- 'Magnetism' in your attacks draws them more towards enemies rather than allies.
- If you hold down the block button, you'll attempt to bash the enemy with your shield.
- Timing-based blocking system that requires players to actively raise their shields to take the brunt of the attack instead of simply holding the block button.
- When backstabbing characters from the shadows, a dagger deals significantly more damage than any other type of weapon, making it the perfect tool for an assassin.
- You can use Power Attacks by holding down the attack button, which staggers enemies, but drains Stamina.
- Torches can be used as weapons.
- Hand to Hand attacks have a much improved gravity and physicality.
- Ranged combat has been improved by significantly increasing the damage bows deal.
- The draw-time of the bow has been increased, making is slower.
Magic & Spells
- 5 Magic Schools: Destruction, Alteration, Conjuration, Restoration & Illusion.
- There are over 85 spells to choose from, each with three different ways to cast.
- Spells needs to be equipped to be cast.
- You can dual-wield spells to double the damage at a higher magicka consumption.
- Some spells can be learned by reading spell tomes, while others can be bought from merchants.
- You can blast enemies with a flame ball from afar, hold the button down to wield the spell like a flame thrower or place a rune on the ground to create an environmental trap that spontaneously combusts when an enemy steps on it. Each spell has the same amount of flexibility.
- If you cast a frost spell, you'll see the effects on the enemy's skin. If you're wielding the flame spell like a flame thrower, the environment will catch fire for a short while and burn anything that comes into contact with it.
- Fire deals the highest amount of damage, lighting/shock deals less damage, but drains the enemy's magicka, while frost deals the least damage, but drains stamina and slows down enemies physically.
- Light magic (from staves at least) can stick to walls.
Way of the Voice (Dragon Shouts)
"A long practiced spiritual form of Nordic magic, also known as the Tongues, that is based on their worship of the Wind as a personification of Kynareth. Through the use of the Voice the power of a Nord can be formed into a thu'um, or shout - which has a large variety of applications (anything from sharpening blades to a long range weapon). Master Voices (known simply as Tongues) have legendary, and often unbelievable powers, including talking to people of hundreds of miles away or teleportation. The most powerful masters must even be careful whenever they speak, as their voice can cause great destruction and they are commonly gagged. During the Conquest of Morrowind, the Nordic war chiefs were also Tongues (Derek the Tall, Jorg Helmborg, Hoag Merkiller). They needed no typical siege weapons when attacking a city as they merely used the Voice to break down the city gate and allow their armies to storm in. The future of the Tongues was forever changed by the most powerful Tongue, Jurgen Windcaller, also better known as the Calm. Jurgen converted to a pacifist and refused to use the Voice for any martial purposes. In a confrontation with 17 other tongues he reportedly swallowed the Shouts of the 17 for three days until they lay exhausted, later to become his followers. Today, all Tongues live secluded lives on the highest peaks of Skyrim in tough conditions and contemplation, and have only spoken to announce the destiny of the great Tiber Septim (who later created an Imperial College of the Voice in Markarth, returning the Voice to the art of warfare). Those known as Dovahkiin, Dragonborn, can use a type of magic known as "Dragon Shouts." Dragon shouts are spoken in the Dragon Language, and can manipulate dragons in a variety of unknown ways, as well as performing other kinds of magic, also undocumented."
- You will be able to use Dragon Shouts.
- There are over 20 different Shouts.
- You collect words for these shouts around the world, either from ancient runes or by slaying dragons, and there are three words for each shout. The amount of time you hold down the shout button is how many words come out, and the more words you use, the more powerful the shout becomes.
- One shout lets you slow down time, another lets you move stealthily close to an enemy in a mere instant. One shout will even let you summon a dragon!
- Shouts has a cooldown time, which is universal, meaning that if you use one shout, every shout will need to cool down.
- Confirmed Dragon Shouts with names in Dragon language: "Yol Toor"- Fire breath, "Iiz Slen" - Ice crystals, "Strun Bah Qo" - Lightning Storm.
AI, NPCs & Creatures
New, updated Radiant AI: You won't find townspeople loitering aimlessly in town squares anymore. Each NPC performs tasks that make sense in their environment. To impart the towns and cities with a greater sense of life, Bethesda has populated them with mills, farms, and mines that give the NPCs believable tasks to occupy their day. The improved Radiant AI technology is also more aware of how a citizen should react to your actions. As you perform tasks for them or terrorize them by ransacking their home, the NPCs develop feelings about you. If you're good friends with a particular NPC and barge into his house during the middle of the night, he may offer you lodging rather than demand you leave the premises. If you swing your weapon near an NPC, knock items off their dinner table, or try to steal something of value, they'll react with an appropriate level of hostility given their prior relationship to you. If you drop an item on the ground near NPCs they will react to that as well, such as a child might try to give you the sword back, two men will fight over it or someone might even try to kill you with it if they dislike you. When NPCs think they see or hear something, they go into an alert state, instead of instantly attacking you. Players with a higher sneak skill will have more time to duck back around the corner or find sanctuary in the shadows.
- When you approach an NPC, they will engage in dialogue with you, while continuing to do their task or making gestures or pacing around, depending on what their personality is.
- If you kill a shop owner, their family member will inherit the shop and will be angry about you, but still give you missions, which could then improve your relation with them.
- Main-Quest Givers are Essential.
- You can make friends by doing quests for people, thus making them act differently towards you, and they might even join you on an adventure.
- Male and female characters will have some different animations, and beast races will have unique animations.
- There are NPC Children.
- Even minor NPCs have much more complexity and depth compared with Oblivion.
- You can persuade various random NPCs to accompany you and they feel like fleshed out, interesting companions.
- There are bards in taverns, who plays tunes, and you can pay them to play another tune.
- You can hire companions.
- You can have animal companions.
- NPCs can throw pre-set rocks at you if you are below them.
Creatures & Mounts
- Confirmed creatures: zombies, draughr, skeletons, trolls, giants, ice wraiths, giant spiders, dragons, wolves, horses, Elk, mammoth, saber-toothed cats, Centurion Spheres, dogs, Skeevers, boars, rabbits, Horkers, Glow Worms, Bees, Torchbugs, Luna Moths.
- Random spawns are scaled (stronger enemies appear at higher levels), but weak enemies aren't written out of the system, just become less common.
- A single spawn at lower levels can have enemies spawning in pairs at higher levels.
- Stronger enemies exist in the world at the start of the game, but you're usually given enough warning if you don't want to fight anything too strong.
- Giants herds mammoths, and travels together in packs, ignoring the player if undisturbed.
- You can mount horses, which are more detailed than ever before!
- Some insects, like bees, can be killed.
- Dragons respawns just like other creatures.
- There are different kinds of Dragons.
- You can not mount & fly dragons.
- Some Dragons are scripted, while others appear randomly.
- Dragons can pick people up from the ground.
- When dragons are critically injured, they can't fly, and will land or crash to the ground.
- Dragons leaves scars and marks everywhere: when they crash or land on the ground and when they breath fire upon the environment, etc.
Plot & Lore (UESP)
TES V takes place 2 Centuries (200 years) after Oblivion. The King of Skyrim is dead, which has sparked a civil war. You are the last Dragonborn, a group characterized by their ability to hunt dragons. You are a prisoner. The Septim line was a prominent Dragonborn line protected by the Dragonguards which eventually became the blades. After the death of the Septim line, the Blades were hunted down and killed one by one and now are almost completely gone. The return of the dragons was foretold in the Elder Scrolls and was ushered in by the destruction of the Staff of Chaos, the creation of the Numidium, the events at Red Mountain and the Oblivion Crisis. There is a blade you come across, named Esbern (Voiced by Max Von Sydow.) that will train and guide you through the game. The last event to unfold before the dragons return was the people of Skyrim turning against each other which is happening at the beginning of the game. Dragons start to appear in greater and greater numbers as the game goes on and will eventually culminate with Alduin possibly coming into the world.
4E 0 — End of the Oblivion Crisis
The banishing of Mehrunes Dagon from Tamriel by the Champion of Cyrodiil, Martin Septim, and the avatar of Akatosh ends the Oblivion Crisis. The Septim bloodline ends and the Amulet of Kings is destroyed. The Third Era ends, marking the beginning of the Fourth.
The Fourth Era begins with no Emperor on the throne of Tamriel. High Chancellor Ocato, the Elder Council, and the Blades try to maintain order. The provinces start to take advantage of the Empire's weakened state.
4E ?? — Red Mountain erupts; Vvardenfell is destroyed.
In Vivec's absence, the Ministry of Truth becomes unstable. Vuhon creates an Ingenium that uses at first dozens of dying souls, then a small number of living ones to stabilize the rock. The soul of Sul's wife Ilzheven was among them. In a fight to free her, the Ingenium is destroyed and the rock crashes into Vivec with all the energy it originally had. The impact causes Red Mountain to erupt and destroys the entire island of Vvardenfell, as well as causing massive destruction to the rest of the province.
4E ?? — The Empire Collapses
Black Marsh secedes from the Empire; it is soon followed by Elsweyr.
The Thalmor seize control of the old Aldmeri Dominion (Valenwood and the Summerset Isle).
The Argonians invade and conquer Morrowind after the eruption of Red Mountain.
4E ?? — Titus Mede is crowned the new emperor by conquest.
4E 18 — Prince Attrebus Mede is born.
4E 23 — Annaïg Hoïnart is born.
4E 40s — The Infernal City
Umbriel, a floating city, appears on the coast of Black Marsh, heading toward Morrowind. The city of Lilmoth, Black Marsh, the home of Annaïg, is destroyed in the process.
4E 200s — The High King of Skyrim dies.
4E 200s — The Nords of Skyrim engage in a civil war.
Graphics, Sound & Interface
Havok Behavior - Havok Behavior is a flexible animation tool that allows the developers to rapidly prototype and preview new animations and blend them together seamlessly with a few mouse clicks and minimal code support. Bethesda is using it to create more nuance in character and creature movement, govern special effects, and even to control how characters struggle to move when trapped in environmental hazards like spider webs. Characters now transition more realistically between walking, jogging and, running, and the increased nuance between animations has allowed Bethesda to better balance the combat in both first- and third-person perspective by adjusting the timing values for swings and blocks depending on your perspective. Perhaps the most impressive use of the Behavior technology is how Bethesda is using it to create the dragon animations. Bethesda has worked meticulously to make sure the beasts look powerful and menacing when banking, flapping their wings, gaining altitude before making another strafing run, and breathing fire on their hapless victims. None of the dragons' actions are scripted, and Behavior helps make the movements look non-mechanical, even when the dragons are speaking/shouting.
- Wind will whip up the surface of bodies of water.
- Dynamic Shadows.
- Snow falls dynamically, painting the ground texture with snow.
- Believable water physics.
- Faces and models are improved.
- Draw Distance is greatly increased, allowing for little to no grid pattern or low resolution distant land.
- SpeedTree is not used: they've created their own platform that allows artists to build whatever kind of trees they want and to dictate how they animate. Artists can alter the weight of the branches to adjust how much they move in the wind, which is an effective way of, for instance, actualizing the danger of traversing steep mountain passes with howling winds violently shaking branches.
- Jeremy Soule is composing the music.
- There are a few famous voice actors, including Max Von Sydow (Esbern, the blade), Brandon Ellison (General), and Anthony De Longis (Mercer Frey).
- There are about 70 Voice Actors.
- Approximately 60.000 lines of voiced dialogue.
- Your character will shout, laugh and make combat grunts.
- In first-person, the HUD comes and goes when needed.
- Third-person have been improved.
- When opening the menu, instead of returning you to the last page you visited as it did in Oblivion, you are now presented with a simple compass interface that offers four options. (Right: Inventory | Left: Magical Items | Down: Map & Quests | Up: Skills)
- Instead of relegating players to looking at an item's name and stat attributes, each possession is a tangible three dimensional item with it's own unique qualities.
- Mapping: Anything from your spell library or item inventory can be "bookmarked" to the favorites menu with the press of a button. How many items appear on that menu is up to each player.
- The map is a zoomed out version of the game world.
- Skyrim hosts very unique landscapes and dungeons.
- There are 5 major cities: Solitude, Riften, Whiterun, Windhelm and Markarth. (Windhelm being the largest.)
- There are 8 or 9 smaller towns.
- There are more than 130 dungeons, ranging from 15 minutes to 2 hours long.
- There are over 100 points of interest across Skyrim. (including Giant camps, Necromancer lairs & Altars to different gods (Aedra and Daedra))
- The areal is approximately the size of Oblivion's Cyrodiil, but the rugged landscape makes the world bigger, as you will need to go over or around mountains to get anywhere.
- Traps and puzzles are used to make dungeons more interesting.
- Fish jumps out of the water, and when swimming, you can even catch fish.
- Birds flies in the air above you.
- Every town has it's own Economic System. If you destroy a city's means of income, they'll need to buy from another nearby city, and prices in the city will go up or some products will not be available in that city at all.
- Every big settlement has it's own unique culture & architecture.
- Dwemer ruins are scattered across Skyrim.
- High Hrothgar has 7000 steps.
- Some locations will have enemies that are too strong for you, and you will have to come back when you are more powerful, while some places will have weaker enemies.
- You can knock oil lamps to the ground or set fire to oil, which will then cause the ground to burn, and deal fire damage.
- Butterflies will fly around flowers which can be picked for alchemical purposes.
- The major cities are in their own cells, so to enter, a loading screen will appear.
- There are hidden caves, hidden ships and secrets in the water.
- The higher you climb, the more severe the weather gets.
- There are rivers inside dungeons.
- Some buildings can be destroyed, but are rare.
- Flora: Nirnroots
- There is a soft level-cap at 50, but you can still level-up after this. (Highest possible level is mathematically estimated to around 75)
- There are only 3 attributes: Health, Magicka and Stamina.
- When leveling up, you can pick stamina-, health- or magic boosts.
- Leveling is faster than in previous games.
- You can Sprint, which drains your Stamina.
- Backwards running speed has been reduced since Oblivion.
- Sprinting while wearing heavy armor drains Stamina faster.
- Your speed is governed by your stamina attribute and your equipment. Racial speed is the same, so a khajiit will initially run at the same speed as an Orc.
- Wood Elf (Bosmer) has a "Animal Allies" Racial Ability.
- Wood Elf (Bosmer) are immune to most types of poison.
- You can become a Vampire just like in Oblivion.
- In-depth character customization that allows to change your character physique, give them a beard, and other more detailed changes to your characters body.
- You can choose between 10 races: Imperial, Nord, Redguard, Dark Elf (Dunmer), High Elf (Altmer), Wood Elf (Bosmer), Orc, Khajiit, Argonian and Breton.
- There are no Classes.
- There are no Major/Minor Skills.
- There are no Birth Signs.
- You can apply face-paint to your character, and there is a myriad of different types.
- There are over 50 beards to apply to your character.
- You can add 'laugh lines' to your character.
- There are dozens of sliders for customization.
- Your settings are remembered when switching between races.
- There are 18 skills.
- Warrior-type Skills: Smithing, Heavy Armor, Block, Two-handed, One-Handed and Archery.
- Mage-type Skills: Enchanting, Destruction, Alteration, Conjuration, Restoration and Illusion.
- Thief-type Skills: Alchemy, Light Armor, Speech, Sneak, Lockpicking and Pickpocketing.
- The higher a skill is, the more it will contribute to leveling up when increased, making it smarter to focus on a smaller range of skills.
- You gain a perk point every level.
- There's a total of around 280 Perks (Including Ranks).
- Perks will among other things decrease the sound of your footsteps, Disarm enemies and give you access to Unique Special Moves.
- You can choose not to spend perk points each level, and instead hold onto them.
- Thieves Guild
- College of Winterhold
- Dark Brotherhood
- Riverwood Tavern Warrior Clan
- The Shield-Brothers
- There's two types of Fast-Travel: Morrowind-style & Oblivion-style. Both costs money.
- There is no Multiplayer.
- Soul Gems can be used like in previous TES games to trap souls.
- You can buy properties.
- Lock picking is still a mini-game, but has been improved.
- There are six different stages to crafting items. The first two are: Refining crude ore and Assembling materials.
- There's 13 different types of ore, which are used for crafting.
- More realistic alchemy labs.
- In addition to alchemy ingredients there are also reagents.
- There's a separate bounty for each of the 9 holds.
- You can catch diseases.
- After killing an NPC, you can sleep in their bed.
- There will be less, but bigger (Expansion-like) DLCs compared to Fallout 3 & Oblivion.
- There is a "sort" of Karma system in the game, but it's not governed by numbers. Instead, people will react to what you do, and you will have to base how bad you are on that, and not numbers.
- Only possible to have relationships with certain NPCs - and "in some cases" marriage.
- Aurora Borealis is confirmed.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Blizzard Entertainment has stated that there will indeed by at least six new releases by them within the next three years, all of which will be from proven franchises. Note however that they use the word "releases" and not "titles" or "games". In no particular order, five of these releases will be expansion packs, two for World of Warcraft which will be coming up on it's 10th birthday by that 3rd year, two for Starcraft II (which everyone knew was coming), one for Diablo III, and then of course the release of Diablo III itself making six total.
Sometimes it's easy to think of Blizzard as a company that has it easy... a fat cat hotshot that can just sit back and get rich of the massively popular World of Warcraft, but actuality I think this shows just how hard Blizzard works. None of these games/expansions are small releases, each one is huge and on top of that, each has a very large online player base and community which requires constant tweaking and balancing as all online games usually do. It's as if Blizzard is running three different marathons at the same time and staying in the lead in each with no signs of fatigue. Pretty impressive if you ask me and undoubtedly one of the reasons Blizzard games are so well respected... well.. that and the fact that the games are just plain awesome fun