rant

This VGChartz article bugged me as an example of bad and sometimes contradictory advice.

Lesson 1 - Don't Take Six Years to Make Your Sequel
Gran Turismo 4: 89.61%
Gran Turismo 5: 84.69%

First of all, a MetaCritic GameRankings score (why is he using GameRankings instead of Metacritic, anyway?) drop of 5% is not necessarily statistically significant, especially since there's no way, from just the scores, of verifying that the same selection of outlets or reviewers were included. The drop may indicate a drop in popularity of the genre, or many factors other than the development cycle.

If what he means to say is that the earlier you release, the earlier you get paid, then he's right, but for every GT5 that fails to meet expectations or Daiktana that becomes the butt of jokes or DNF that fails to materialize, there are games rushed out the door lacking polish or originality. Of course, since the subject is sequels perhaps originality is not a factor.

Sure, six years might be extreme, and there might very well be a point of diminishing returns, where more development time doesn't necessarily improve things. However there may very well be cases where 2 years is not enough, and where even three or four may be justified. Might not another 6-12 months have improved, say, Halo 2?

category: 
platform: 
topic: 

Nothing to do with Bungie directly, but I did write a couple of blog posts about the recent discussion on the interwebz in general (and at Penny Arcade in specific) about the used game market, spurred by comments made by THQ's Cory Ledesma earlier this week.

category: 
topic: 

Tied the Leader's Hoovaloov does an excellent job with this detailed video commentary on the Halo Reach multiplayer beta trailer. Includes some very good predictions about the new multiplayer modes (Invasion, Arena, and Headhunter) as well as the Loadout feature.

category: 
Movies: 
platform: 
topic: 

It's not hard to see the appeal of the idea of the Firefight mode in Halo 3: ODST. If you follow Bungie's shooter roots back to Marathon, and to the PC shooter that really kicked off the modern era, Doom, you can see the start of it.

Doom didn't have discrete multiplayer 'levels' the way Marathon and Halo did. It had a series of Episodes, each broken down into Missions that comprised one map. Each map had a series of keys necessary to open a series of doors. The last door was the Exit and led to the next Mission. Between you and each key and each door were a number of demons to kill. You could tackle this challenge solo, or bring in some friends on a local network.

Of course, you could just as easily shoot your friends as the demons. You could also set up a game on any Mission map without any demons and just play deathmatch, or you could play a deathmatch game with continually respawning demons on it.

Marathon had a similar setting, an "Aliens" checkbox that put enemies from the campaign mode onto the multiplayer maps. So while it wasn't always referred to the same way, Marathon had all the current play modes: campaign solo, campaign co-op, multiplayer (deathmatch and objective) and deathmatch-with-aliens. That's essentially what Firefight is, except it's supposed to be more towards cooperative.

So we can now safely say that with the release of Halo 3: ODST, in combination with Halo 3's multiplayer mode, has finally brought all the features of a 1994 Mac shooter to Xbox Live.

I'm only half kidding.

category: 
platform: 
topic: 

First I'll say this: I liked District 9.

However, I never really thought Neill Blomkamp was really the best choice to do the Halo film, and reading this quote in his interview with Rotten Tomatoes only confirmed it for me:

category: 
game: 

was anyone else ticked off about the site crash? I lost 16 points and every blog entry i wrote. Grrr

category: 

Okay, I admit it. After the announcement of Halo: Reach, set to come out in 2010, only twelve months or so after this year's Halo 3: ODST, I was set to bash Bungie for being unoriginal and Microsoft for upping the production quota on the goose that laid the golden egg(s).

I had a piece all written, with a pleasantly unpleasant pun in the title, about how this was only to be expected; that Microsoft almost certainly extorted... I mean, exacted from Bungie a promise to continue on with at least X more Halo titles after receiving their independence. This would appear to be true for all situations where X is two or larger. Originally I had thought perhaps ODST would be it; that was probably naive of me.

Of course there's always every chance that there are people in Bungie who want to continue with Halo. Just like Id software nearly split in half over the decision of whether or not to revisit Doom with Doom 3, one might imagine that some old-time Bungie devs want to go back to doing a game and a sequel and let the spinoff studios handle the third game, a la Marathon and Myth. It also seems possible, though, that there are Bungie devs who have not worked on anything but Halo, and perhaps some of those want to keep doing it because they like it, and others want to do something else because they're tired of it.

ODST, I figured, would be an expansion pack: some new campaign and multiplayer levels to tide us over while Bungie works on the Next Big Thing. In some ways, perhaps that's true. However it also looks like we're getting a lot more out of ODST than just that, and the design team have made some intriguing choices, many of which were on display at E3.

category: 
platform: 
topic: 

Gravemind put all his ideas about what would be the ultimate Halo game. I thought I'd take a look at some of those elements and see which I liked, which I didn't, and why:

My preferred compromise would be a Resistance-style "sectional bar" health system, with the player using health packs to fully restore their health; the player's health would have limited regenerative capacity, and could sustain damage that won't come back on its own. The health bar would be divided into three to five sections, depending on which number works better for gameplay or for each particular character. The health bar would be a solid bar with no visible lines to demarcate the sections. Instead, it would change color as it diminishes depending on which section the player's current health level occupies, similar to Halo 1's health bar but without the less accurate individual squares that composed that one -- the colors would be blue, yellow, & red if there are three sections, blue, green, yellow, & red if there are four, and blue, green, yellow, orange, & red if there are five. Each subsequent section could be made to regenerate slower than the preceding one. For example, the blue section might regenerate at one-quarter the rate of the shields, while the yellow section might regenerate only one-eighth as quickly and the red section might not regenerate at all.

This really would be an Ultimate Halo, at least in terms of difficulty, unless the damage model were altered. In this case, players are punished doubly for allowing their health to drop precipitously. Not only are they close to death, with further damage threatening to kill them, but they are forced to wait in safety for health to regenerate longer than if they had taken less damage-- and at that time it would be less important.

Of course, if there are health packs available this difference in regenerative rate is moot, since they restore health fully.

I think the above scheme is unnecessarily complicated and not particularly transparent. Unless the indicator takes up a significant portion of screen real estate the difference in regenerative rate may not be immediately apparent.

Frankly I think the design decision required is bold: to either have regenerating health or health packs but not both. H2/H3 compromised by having your shield, as your primary line of defense, regenerate, while retaining a "hidden" amount of health. (Also not particularly transparent.)

category: 
platform: 
topic: 

A detail-oriented critic of the Halo series, Gravemind has now collected his ideas into a kind of roadmap for his ultimate Halo game to combine all the elements he finds the best from all three games, as well as eliminating the faults. Interesting read. If y ou don't like the light text on dark background version at the shadow of the void, you can try the dark text on light background version at HBO.

category: 
platform: 

At Edge Online, N'Gai Croal in his blog discusses some interesting issues relating to realism, verisimilitude, and detail, many of which echo some of my own experiences.

Because even those titles which are widely seen as exemplars of game realism, be they Crysis or Mass Effect or Grand Theft Auto, are themselves stylised in some way. So what is it that we mean when we say that a game is realistic? Are we talking about verisimilitude? Detail? Atmosphere?

I tend to think that of all these, "realism" is actually the least important, followed by detail, atmosphere, and verisimilitude. This is the opposite of the order they are usually discussed (perhaps it's a prejudice against long words).

Realism, especially in a combat game, is the last thing you want. You don't want things to be real, just to seem real, or real enough. The exploits most combat games require of their players in order to "win" are ridiculous by their very nature, even for the super-soldiers those games have as protagonists. The last thing they need on top of that are realistic treatments of weapons, damage, fatigue, and the like.

I think that's a big part of the reason that so many very successful franchises (Halo, Mass Effect) largely operate outside those parameters by operating in the future, where unrealistic situations and damage models can be explained away by advanced technologies-- better shields, better weapons, better vehicles.

It is where realism is misapplied, or rather selectively applied, in games like GTA, where I think there's the most dissonance. Things look and seem like they are happening in the real world, but the perception of verisimilitude recedes as more and more unrealistic things happen, or else the fun turns into frustration when the virtual reality restricts the player's actions.

category: 
platform: 

My opinions and views on Halo Wars have, for the past couple weeks, been changing as often as my pants - once every few days - as new material comes out. As of right now, though, my enthusiasm, while still present, has reached its lowest point yet on its long descent from pre-E3 2007.

category: 
game: 
platform: 
topic: 

...and what they are not doing is investing in original intellectual properties.

Actually I think that entire phrase is a contradiction in terms, at least in terms of how Microsoft can invest in something. Invest, in their case, means buy, and once something has proven itself worth buying it's no longer original.

category: 
game: 

We have a well defined, carefully orchestrated, properly planned universe to explore not exploit.

--Frank O'Connor, July 2008, GameFocus

I can tell you that if you could think of a game that would work with a party atmosphere that would not gut the franchise, or milk it, we would think about it, seriously.

Jason Pace, January 2009, Videogamer.com

What's next? January 2009, Microsoft announces Halo Kart, Halo Halo Revolution and Halo Smash Brawl?

What part of a "party atmosphere" game in the Halo universe could possibly be exploration and not exploitation? How about a nice clear line in the sand now, not just "we know what we're doing"-- how about a laundry list of what you won't do? Promise us no karaoke, no karting games, no minigolf. Please.

RTS? We'll see, the demo is out any minute.

MMO? Don't blame them for trying, although I think something like this is just a lot harder to execute than a shooter, and the further away the franchise gets from Bungie the harder it is to execute.

category: 
platform: 

This article boils down to this paraphrase:

Everyone agrees sequels are bad. I mean, not all sequels are bad, but sequels in general are bad. And just like every game downloaded by a pirate is a lost sale, every dollar budgeted for a sequel is a dollar less for one of the kind of fun and original games they made when I was a kid and they just don't make anymore because the industry is full of beancounting sellouts who like sequels because they're safe. And that's why I don't want another Bioshock game.

This is almost complete and utter poppycock. It's so ridden with nostalgia masquerading as judgment, logical fallacies taken as common knowledge, and flawed premises that it's hard to know where to begin. But the beginning is as good a place as any.

"this is not a hate piece towards the Bioshock franchise. It is a deep look at one of the biggest problems in the video game industry right now, sequels and how they kill originality/creativity."

So we've got sequels kill originality/creativity. Let's separate those out.

category: 

Thank goodness Sony is a Japanese company, because they can at least claim that English isn't their native language when someone points out the nonsense in claims ilke the latest regarding PlayStation 3 sales.

Things start out fairly innocuously:

"In terms of units, it is true that PS3, as compared to last year, is slightly worse, but on a full-year basis we believe we are on track to sell the 10 million units that I said at the beginning of the year."

Okay, that's not so bad. Specious perhaps, but possible. After all, the fact that 2008 was not as good a year for them as 2007 doesn't necessarily mean that 2009 won't be as good as they are planning. It would strongly indicate that, given that presumably they predicted that 2008 would be as good or better than 2007 (which they did); and if that prediction turned out to be wrong, might not this one, too?

Then they start digging:

"...Relatively speaking, [compared to] the growth of other platforms, we are behind, but it's not the case that we are not meeting the target."

If they are behind the other platforms but still meeting their target, this means they were planning to be behind at this stage? I think that's not true. I seem to recall that initial projections from Sony for the PS3 included catching up to MS and the Xbox 360's one year head start fairly quickly, and in no way included getting trounced, month after month, quarter after quarter, by Nintendo, a competitor that many commenters gave up for just about dead last generation, myself included.

category: 
platform: 
topic: 

Pages