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23May/090

Shipped!

Infamous is done, and has been for a bit now. It'll be on sale Tuesday (26th) in the US and Friday (29th) in Europe. Color me excited :).

It's not perfect, but I played through it a bit ago and it's damn good. Also, there are few loading screens. Maybe that's why I'm so biased :P.

18Apr/090

Now Loading…

I HATE seeing that screen in games. Best, or worst I suppose, recent example: Resident Evil 5.

For example, when you or your partner dies, you're treated to a 5+ second loading screen. Just long enough to be disoriented when the animated "You're Dead" screen pops up. Yes I knew that, thank you, you didn't need to take 15 seconds total to tell me this. Then if you select Continue, you get another loading screen to get you back into the level. Keep in mind all this after a 5+ minute install. Worst experience in a while.

Combine this with very small levels (frequent loading), canned animation (ever heard of blending?), weird visual freak outs when you go through the door waiting for your AI partner to come through 0.5 seconds later, and complete inability to move while swinging the knife or shooting the gun makes for a REALLY negative single player experience. Yes I know the later behavior has been in RE forever, that doesn't mean its good.

It not complete crap. It's got some nice visuals and I'll give it another go. But at this point, I regret buying the game. It's really depressing after RE4 was so solid an experience. What happened?

11Jan/092

Parallelismorama

First some comments. I've been reading some posts on the Sweng Gamedev mailing list. I'm a bit surprised that people are so hooked on super general lock free structures (e.g. a doubly linked list). They are complex to reason about and correspondingly hard to write. I've used big arrays with and simple atomic indices to great effect thus far and haven't needed such complicated mechanism. Perhaps it's console vs PC all over again, but I generally consider simplicity to be one of the most important aspects of parallel code I write.

One of the things that I've always disliked about CSP and Task based systems is how insanely broken readability gets. Adding task indirection wraps everything in goo. With lambdas/delegates in C# you've still got Task this Future that, but that's astronomically more readable than the C++ equivalent. I tried watching the PDC08 presentations and my eyes glazed over. Such simple concepts and ALL these crazy hoops to jump through. Now there's definitely an argument for explicitness when overhead is involved. And sure the C++ version is probably faster, but that much? Really?

I read Expert F# recently, a decent book on a cool language (functional with Haskell headaches). It has cool syntactic sugar called workflow builders, which are wrappers around continuations. They allow you to do write very straight simple code with asynchronous breaks in the middle. I haven't figured out yet if it's A) not explicit enough B) too slow because of compiler optimization deficiency or C) super awesome.

Additionally, I'm not sure I buy the each system runs asynchronous technique Intel's Smoke uses. Either I haven't read it close enough or there would be a direct competition between evil latency and the number of asynchronous stages. Lets assume everything uses deferred message passing you've got Input/player AI + physics + render + gpu + scan = a lot of latency at 30 or even 60 Hz. I imagine pipelining some part of drawing in immediate mode would have zero or net-good effect on latency. Breaking up the rest though would be hard. There are certainly obvious choices for deferred computation (e.g. effects, most AI). But player + physics is still a bigish serial bowling ball to chew on. Maybe staging physics so each stage only cares about objects that can influence that stage, and interleaving the rest with initial render submission? I'll keep that in the back of my brain, so I don't go berzerk trying to figure out how to limit the serializing effect script callbacks can have.

2Jun/082

Horrible acronym for very refreshing RPG

I refer, of course, to TWEWY. It's very good. It's got a very very twitchy feel. They've done an amazing job with very flexible, orthogonal game design. All the elements are almost entirely separable so you never have to think about a giant mash of stuff.

  • Gaining levels only seems to modify your HP. You can lower your level to increase item drop multiplier.
  • Difficulty rating can be changed at any time between levels and changes they type of items dropped (the harder the rarer).
  • You eat food to incrementally, permanently increase various attributes (attack, defense, bravery and sync ratio).
  • Clothes increase specific attributes and have special abilities which slightly modify other systems depending on who wears them.
  • You select between 3 and 6 six pins to use for attacking, defense and healing. These are all orthogonal gestures on the DS.
  • Both clothes and pins scale up or down depending on how popular various brands are in the area of the city you are in.
  • Buying clothes/food allows you to make friends with store clerks.
  • Experience both levels you up (HP) and levels up your pins, which can evolve.

The list goes on and I'm not even done discovering things yet. The fact that this stuff is almost entirely orthogonal means you can basically worry about as much or little as you like. Also, controlling two characters at once, keeps the pacing of the battles super tight. Gameplay-wise this game has got to be one of best designed role playing games in a very very long time. Oh would that such design systems were easy to encorporate into more games. The potential depth here is somewhat mind blowing.

You might not like the plot, but if you can keep up with the pace of combat, this game is truly awesome.

Filed under: Video Games 2 Comments
3Apr/080

Isn’t it Funny

... when you post about not posting in a while, and then you do it again. Man oh man. So since then...

Rachet was good, but the same as all their other games. I think I'd skip another game. The sixaxis portions were ok. There were a few really good ones and some mediocre. Better than the few others I've played.
Uncharted, awesome. Gameplay is similar mix to other games. Cinematically, super awesome. Very pretty in all but a select few grating cases. They were very smart about the limitations of their game. A such, they pulled off some pretty cool stuff within that scope. Some of the gameplay felt a bit rehashed toward the end, but most everything was so well executed I could hardly care at that point.

I picked up Smash Brother's Brawl. Mistake. Multiplayer is almost carbon copy Gamecube version. Single player relies too much on the INCREDIBLY UNRELIABLE jumping mechanic. The cinematics and concept is fun and the single player fighting portion isn't half bad (and very long). But still, there are enough precision jumping sections to really piss me off.

Devil may cry 4. Very good so far, but they should have done more to integrate all the moves into the combo system. Combos are totally the coolest part of that game and when many of the special moves you can buy actually make it harder to kill things quickly. Yeah, still way better balanced than version 3. Also, the menu system doesn't suck balls! Hooray.

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15Dec/070

This message will self-destruct

I just finished Assassin's Creed. It was ok. I would say good, except the bad list is just too long.

First the good. Traversal was generally good. There were lots of times where I yelled at it for being stupid (e.g. not grabbing something an inch from his face and falling to his doom), but it was the best part of the game. The in game cutscene mechanic was ok. More gimmicky than HL2 with the arbitrary box restriction, but still overall good. The story was fun, if too predictable for the mood they were trying to set. The environment look great overall, especially with the density in the cities. Altair looked great. The setting was also somewhat cool. I could tell they previously did Price of Persia, but it felt pretty fresh overall.

Second the mediocre. The combat became pretty bland after a while. There was some variety in action and good cohesion with button assignment, but it all devolved to simple timing puzzles with little strategy. Shadows while very nice up close, had a painfully jarring detail drop at a constant distance to the camera. Secondary characters looked were passable. The camera cutting didn't piss me off as much as in Ninja Gaiden, but it was still somewhat aggravating. Irritant ambient characters are kinda stupid (especially when you'd love to give the pestering chick money, but the game doesn't let you). I understand that it gives some variety to the peasantry, but wow were they annoying. Semi-high latency controls are less than ideal. It wasn't the end of the world, but I still found it irking more often than not.

Now the ugly. Recording 4 lines for each of the mini-tasks you can do around 40 times is a VERY BAD idea. The AI is DUMB. It's painfully easy to game their perception system. Anyone who said this game was supposed to have smart AI was lying through their teeth or never played the game. The only exception is the chase sequences, but probably only because it involves running across the city. Most character models looked kinda crappy with a couple exceptions. Many mission types were very repetitive. Save the citizen always had the same formula (irrespective of dearth of dialog). Kill one guy, then fend off a few others. Everyone runs and screams even though you just helped this chick/old dude. Go and stealth kill n guys in m minutes, etc. I think all of these things would have been better if they made the core combat more fun and the AI less uniform and stupid.

So yeah, in the end, an ok game. I obviously liked it enough or I wouldn't have played all the way through it. I probably would have enjoyed it vastly more if I hadn't done everything like a completionist. That's really funny since many people online saying taking your time and doing more stuff makes the game more fun. Certainly I don't think it should be rushed, but I don't think anyone should bother playing ALL the pieces either. Now, I'll probably go back and collect all the flags because that implies more environment traversing and less of the irritating stuff.

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13Nov/070

DahnanaNaaaa!

So I finished one of the many games I have in flight right now. Zelda Phantom Hourglass. In the end I'd say it was ok. Liked the tools and the boss fights (some a lot). Disliked the sailing, everyday combat and utter lack of challenge. I also was hoping for a little bit better story-wise. That still leaves Windwaker as my favorite Zelda game.

I think I got through it just in time too. If amazon is right, my Orange Box is sitting at home right now. I finally get to try out Portal, the game my friends from DigiPen rode to the top :). Also, other friends from work/college are bugging me about Team Fortress 2, which also looks pretty cool.

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12Nov/070

Pressure… building…

I'm starting to feel it. I have a bunch of new games I still have yet to finish (Phantom Hourglass, Gears of War, etc) and a bunch of interesting ones are coming out. Where has all the time gone!? Hooray for short post.

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28Oct/072

Weee… Time Machine

Wow, so it's been a while. What's happened since July....

The company I work for, Sucker Punch, announced our game, Infamous. It should be pretty sweet. Some of my friends at Valve also released Portal to good reviews (generally complaints that a game is too short is a good thing). I need to build a new machine so I can pick up the orange box. But fortunately I've finished paying off my car (woohoo!) so that won't be so tough.

I bought an Xbox 360, and have played a few games. Thus far not quite as impressed as I'd hoped.

Gears of War is somewhat one dimensional, though very polished. I still haven't made it all the way through, and it's fun so far.
Bioshock has amazing atmosphere, but it's death system makes it a bit hard to get into personally. When there is no penalty for dying, you basically can just keep getting a single shot off and coming back from the dead. Also some of the enemies feel a bit stupid. But still atmosphere makes up for a lot.

Blue Dragon is stereotypical JRPG. Not a fan of the design for the main characters (it's not as cute as you might think). Also, I hate the main character, very irritating, completely impossible to identify with. For that matter, they basically have all the stereotypical roles, with zero depth.

I'm playing through Phantom Hourglass and wow. They took Windwaker, which had an interesting story with awesome plot twists and slightly cliche characters and turned it into what, so far, feels like braindead mush. The gameplay is crazy superficial. Combat painfully easy, longer irritating parts from Windwaker (read fetch quests), and now they are essentially the entire game. Perhaps it will get better. So far the only good thing I have to say is that a few of the tools are neat. Boomerang feels great, very analog. Bow and arrow is decent. We'll see, maybe it will pull up before it hits the ground.

While it's not terrible in Phantom Hourglass, I think 3D looks like crap on the DS. Some things work better in 3D. However, all the more solid feeling games that I've played on the DS were in 2D. I hates aliasing.

Ok, enough griping. I saw some movies. Was most impressed with Stardust. Some new Playstation3 titles have been coming out that make me think twice about the machine's chances (and its price... ugh, why remove backward compatibility though!). Rachet looks cool. Seems like a pretty carbon copy of their previous titles. I've played through the first 3, so I'm not sure it's for me, but the reviews don't seem to care, so who knows. Uncharted could be fun.

Eternal Sonata looks sweet, and Team Fortress 2 looks awesome. Assassins Creed is coming out, by this point I'm deathly afraid that they haven't improved the game in 2 years. Long ago, after their first demo, I thought, with an extra bit of polish, this could be awesome. I haven't seen it yet, but we'll see.
Ok, now to wait not 3 months so I can have a more normal post.

7Jul/070

Recap XXXIV

Went and saw Transformers. It was actually really good. The special effects were awesome, lots of cheese, and only a few gaping plot holes. Overall, much better than I was expecting. Now to Harry Potter next week. I think my girlfriend is going to explode.

We on the Suckerpunch coding team went to play pool at Parlor Billiards and I was reminded how inconsistent a player I am. I started off eh, and then won 2 games in a row by a long shot (e.g. sinking 5 in a row). I then proceeded to not make a shot for half an hour. Then I sunk 4 in a row again etc. Very periodically good and bad. It wasn't that I was just barely missing shots either, they were WAY off. It's really bizarre.

There are serious rumors of a PS3 price cut announcement at E3. It wouldn't surprise me, and I would be obscenely happy, especially because that likely means an xbox price cut too. The 360 at the moment has the more appetizing spread, so I'd probably jump into that one first.