Archive for March, 2012

The Hunger Games

29 Mar

I watched “The Hunger Games” on Monday, and I was quite taken by it…


Not by the movie itself, but the idea behind the movie. First rant: when will directors stop with the shake-cam take on action? It serves no purpose… if they’re aiming for a “real” feel to it, maybe don’t cut down on the blood and guts? Just saying, it’s annoying watching a movie and all the action scenes are just a jumble mess of things on screen… It’s not real, it’s not visceral, it might have been fun the first 3 or 4 times you saw it in a movie, but enough is enough…

For those that don’t know, “The Hunger Games” is based on the first book of a series of novels called “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. I’m not going to say I read the books before I watched the movie, because I never knew of the books before, to be honest (which apparently is a terrible thing to do amongst the nerd nation).

Although the movie has tremendous flaws (the aforementioned shake-cam, the plot pieces that don’t go anywhere, the lack of background about the story-world), it picked my interest enough to consider picking up the books…

The movie takes place in a dystopian society where some provinces of a larger domain tried to rebel against their masters. After being defeated, their punishment was to deliver every year two people to compete in a type of fight-to-the-death televised show.

It’s a bit silly, I admit… As crowd control measures go, this one is pretty rotten… Still, that’s the setting, and what happens in the movie seems like an updated version of 1987 movie “The Running Man”, which I enjoy very much…

The characters are the usual flat-fare that Hollywood has shoved in our faces for years and years, and the “Twilight” undertones can become annoying sometimes, but all in all, the characters are likeable enough for me not to lose interest in them… The main character Katniss in particular is pretty interesting, oscillating between teenage crybaby (the “Twilight” undertones) and a strong, driven woman (where it becomes a lot more interesting).

The aesthetic is also pretty interesting, with that kind of excessive, over-the-top visuals we’d expect from a decadent society that indulges in blood sports for kicks…

As I said, the movie is interesting enough to make me wonder about the books… if they deliver a bit more than the movie in terms of ambient and background story (and more evolution to the characters), they actually might be very nice!

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Posted in Movies


Writing two blogs…

23 Mar

…is a lot of work… Smile

Most of the “interesting” stuff (in terms of development) goes into the Spellcaster Studios blog, while the work stuff can’t exactly be discussed (and is not that interesting, to be honest)… and I haven’t finished any games after Mass Effect 3 (still recovering from that!)…

I’ve been watching some videos of the Mists of Pandaria beta, and I’ve got to admit it looks very good visually:


I’m still not that excited about it, but the visuals are very cool, specially because it seems they wanted to really do something different of the usual MMORPG expansion…

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Posted in General, Grey


Mass Effect 3

20 Mar


Well, this was a game I was really waiting for… And (as you may already heard on the internet) it was bittersweet…

First, let’s get the good out of the way:

The game is freaking amazing… it’s probably one of the best games in its genre (and of any genre, to be honest), that gripped me from beginning to end… except for the last 10 minutes, but I’ll go into that in a bit…

The storytelling was the usual Bioware-grade bonanza, with a bit of everything, including some unexpected curve-balls which kept the game interesting!

It was one of the first games where the concept of cooperation as a path to victory didn’t fill me with annoyance, and it really made sense, with tons of difficult choices along the way which made me feel like I was really Sheppard…

I really can’t say anything about the game that hasn’t been said a million times by reviewers and fans all over; it’s a masterpiece of gaming, specially because it makes overlook its faults (the graphics are a bit outdated, the interface a bit clunky sometimes, etc, etc) and pushes you to delve into the galactic war scenario where you’re facing insurmountable odds in name of something larger than yourself… and that’s cool… Smile

Unfortunately, what would be a 10 out of 10 game is spoiled by the last 10 minutes… the ending is one of the most appalling, badly cooked endings I’ve ever seen, filled with plot-holes and general nonsense that kind of ruins the whole experience… I can’t say more without going into spoilers (and that’s what I’ll do after the break in the post).

Anyway, how do you rate a game like this? A game that made you feel like you were on an epic movie, the game you felt you always wanted to play, a game that you spend 40+ hours enjoying, but at the same time delivered a punch in the stomach in the last 10 minutes that makes you feel like “Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus” was a great coherent movie?

I would be unfair to rate it less that 9/10, but at the same time, the game really made me mad!

My suggestion is that you play it for yourself, even with the pain at the end and come to your own conclusions!

Now, for the spoilers part:

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Posted in Games


Uncharted 3: Everything and the Kitchen Sink

13 Mar


…or toilet, ‘cos toilets are funnier… Open-mouthed smile

In the weekend I finally took the time to finish this one…

First, lets get the good out of the way: from a production standpoint, this game is utterly brilliant… some of the best graphics I’ve seen in any game out there (with the possible exception of Crytek games), the water and sand effects are absolutely brilliant, the animations/acting are top notch, etc, etc, yadda, yadda, yadda…

The game is a masterpiece of game production…


The game fails in a loads of things…

1) Probably due to the fact that they had a huge budget, the game had too many cutscenes (and cutscene like events when I’m playing)… When I was still in the initial part I was getting aggravated because the game didn’t want me to play it! Every time I took a step forward or did any action, there was a cutscene where something happened (a pipe that would break, an enemy that would come round the corner).

2) Related to this, the game threw too much at you… at the beginning, it just seems like that sort of “adventure rollercoaster”, but at the some point in the game, it just feels like too much, like the terrible “A-Team” movie… and when it gets to the end (SPOILER ALERT) a complete ripoff of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with Drake running after a caravan in a desert/canyon like setting, ending up with him dangling on a crane… and the rip-off doesn’t end there, it’s basically littered all over the game… There’s such a thing as “too much”, and Drake goes from being a nicely developed character (from the previous two games) to the guy that’s going to replace Chuck Norris in jokes (“Nathan Drake doesn’t do push-ups… he pushes the Earth down!”).

3) Controls were a little unresponsive… This one is a bit unfair, but remember when games would react immediately when you pushed the controller (character would walk one pixel forward or something like that)? Well, Uncharted reacts immediately, by playing out an animation of Drake turning or something like that… I know that this is more correct and “cinema-like”, but in my humble opinion, it breaks the game a bit, because it doesn’t feel like you’re controlling Drake, just giving me overall directions…

4) The game tries to do everything the predecessors do and adds loads more, with epic environments (the cities are big and extremely detailed, they even give Assassin’s Creed a run for his money), but in this game, it all feels so scripted that the epic-ness gets loss a bit

5) Finally, the storyline… It’s rubbish, generic and predictable… I know that this kind of game is done to capture the “blockbuster” feel, but games are a different medium, and as such have to be treated as such… what might work from a story perspective in a movie where you just want to be entertained for 2 hours and chug some popcorns doesn’t work in a 8+ hour game… Unfortunately, I feel that more and more of the AAA games industry are so busy trying to capture that “movie magic” feel they forget that their games aren’t as short… I can endure (and have fun with) 2 hours of Adam Sandler, 8 hours is just plain torture… The longer the game is, the more it needs to put the player in control of the story, to make him invested in it, or else it will lose him…

I might be alone in my criticism (as the 92/100 in Metacritic seems to show), but that’s how I felt the game:

  • Start game: Wow, looks nice!
  • Play tutorial: FFS, let me play the goddam game!
  • Early game: Nice, going into the past of Drake… can’t shoot stuff, though!
  • Middle of game: Meh… Run, shoot, run, shoot…
  • Boat part: Wow, that water is really, really, really amazing…
  • More boat part: Drake can’t have a single bone still in one piece…
  • Desert: WTF, this is just Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with a character I’m starting to actually dislike!
  • End part: Isn’t this over yet?
  • Credits: So… er… this whole quest was kind of pointless…

I might be a bit cruel, since I had some fun playing it, but it isn’t as memorable as the previous two installments… 7/10

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Posted in Games


Notch, where’s my million?

08 Mar

I ask because I just figured out something: I invented Minecraft! Smile

Look at the following pictures:

compo02sheepdome screenshot

See?! There’s almost the same! The first screenshot is from an old Ludum Dare 48-hour competition game (theme was construction/destruction/sheep) called Sheepdome. It wasn’t complete, but the idea was to have a first person shooter in which you could build/destroy an environment made out of (you guessed it) blocks! Smile

So, it’s just like Minecraft, eheheh…

So, Notch, if you read this, I could use a million to be able to develop Grey! Smile


For those that might take what saying above seriously, I know how different Minecraft is from my old game, this is just a joke because I was thinking of Sheepdome the other day when I was thinking on the Aesthetics of Play… Notch’s achievement was an amazing one, at many different levels, and his game is actually an awesome one in that game space.

Of course, if Notch sees this and wants to give me a million anyway… feel free! Smile

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Posted in Games


Going Native 2012

05 Mar

I’ve been watching the videos from the Going Native 2012 conference, and they’re extremely interesting.

I recommend everyone that’s interesting in native coding (and the new C++ 2011 standard) to take a look…

The new C++ 2011 standard has really neat things..

For example, on my favorite things is being able to write code like:

Speed speed=9.8m/1s;

This is actually possible with the new user-defined literals.

The new “auto” keyword also looks very good:

auto i=10; // i is an integer
auto it=some_vector.begin(); // it is an iterator to the beginning of some_vector.begin()

The last example is a very good one, since I hate always having to write:

SomeVectorType::iterator it=some_vector.begin();

The Bjarne Stroustrup is very good because it really raises some interesting concepts and ideas… After I finished watching the talk, I felt like refactoring Spellbook as a whole… Smile

Anyway, as soon as we can start trusting the compilers with C++ 2011 (most of the usual ones already have support for some stuff, but there’s not a fully compliant yet), I intend to start a step by step refactoring of the engine.


The Aesthetics of Play

02 Mar

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture with James Portnow (of Extra Credits fame), about the Aesthetics of Play.

Summing it up, the aesthetics of play try to answer the question “why do we play the games you do” from a game designer perspective.

It groups up games in categories (aesthetics), and although most games don’t fit in just one category, there’s a main category, which ideally has been the focus of the game designer to explore and develop, and that corresponds with why most players will play that game.

We looked into a subset of 10 aesthetics, like “Discovery”, “Narrative”, “Fantasy”, “Dominance”, etc, and tried to figure out some example games were in each of them.

The interesting part of this is because it adds one more tool in the game designers arsenal, making us think in terms of why the player should play our game, what kind of player will play our game, etc.

Most of the games I’ve ever thought and designed are in the “Narrative” aesthetic… It figures, because I love stories and tales, and its normal for me to have this tendency to push all games towards that.

As an exercise, I tried to make a game design about each of the aesthetics (or remember an old one)… I could figure out one for each except “Discovery”… I’ve never designed a game around that aesthetic (maybe because I’m a conflict kind of guy), except if you count Cursed, which I never felt as a Discovery game (could have worked out that way with some tweaks, I guess)


Anyway, it got me thinking and I drafted (in my head, of course) a new game: “Claim”.

The idea is to have an infinite procedural generated universe and players have to make colonies on the planets, building civilizations. All of these civilizations will increase in might in planets well adjusted for the colonists (for example, humans thrive on Earth-like planets), and having better civilizations will give the player bonuses that will enable him to explore further and further. The idea was to have this multiplayer with online leaderboards, so that players could find out who was the greatest explorer, etc…

The idea is interesting, and if I ever have one week to kill, I might make a prototype of it…