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danny_dm_moore Blog

The fl0w of the storm

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In the last few months I have become the proud owner of a ps3 and I have a few thoughts on a couple of the games. While it may be old hat now to talk about these games, I have only just played them so you will have to give me the benefit of the doubt.

So the first game is Motorstorm. It is slick, has amazing graphics and is a genuinely different kind of racing game. There is however, one problem with the gameplay and it is the physics and feeling of weight. While much has been made of how physics really enhance a game and can take it to the next level, this cannot be said of motorstorm, as the sad fact of the matter is having to restart a race six times because the physics model is so loose is just not fun, or indeed cool.

Mud slicked road ways are one thing, but for most the tracks I have played the mud is in a very small section and the rest of the track is just dusty, which is all well and good but when you get the same sliding all over the place motion on every piece of track it just makes it a little too unfair to help it be fun. I dont want to take a corner at two miles an hour just so I can get round it without flying off the side of the mountain, its just frustrating.

Now I am not saying that Motorstorm is a rubbish game, I like it overall, I really do, and I know some people are gonna say I either havent played it enough or I am crap at it (which are both true - least I am honest), but it still dosent change the fact the vehicles have no weight to them, apart from the big rig and even then it is dubious, and this leads to a physics model that has you spending most of your time flying off the track and blowing up until you learn it enough to know the most dangerous spots.

It maybe the ps3's best racing game (well it was but burnout is out now) but Motorstorm is statement to how physics are not the be all and end all of next gen gaming.

The second game I am going to talk about is fl0w, argueably a real contender for an 'art in games' award. It has genuinely different visuals and a soothing soundtrack and is a game to play when you want to just chill out. It also suffers from a genuinely stupid control method.

Ah sixaxis, a controller that isnt as bad as I thought it was gonna be in terms of weight, and I havent really missed rumble that much either. Motion control, however, is a whole different matter and something which possibly should not have been included as it dosent seem to work that well. I have tried in Motorstorm, and it sucked made the vehicles even more uncontrollable, but in fl0w it is just daft.

Tilting forward to go forward is fine in theory, but everytime I try I do a flip and head back the way I came, you cant turn quick enough, the slightest movement can alter your course radically and there is no option to turn it off. Plus holding the controller off my knees to be able to control it well hurts my arms after 10 minutes. Only it would take is an option to turn it off and use the analog sticks, but apparently that is too much to ask.

The other thing about flow is that the start button takes you up a level instead of opening a menu, and the only way to quit the game is to hit the ps3 button on your sixaxis. Just some stupid design decisions I guess, but every little helps.

Maybe its silly little things like this in its games that have meant ps3 isnt doing so well, apart from the stupid price that is! But my rant is over for now, two great games, both with problems, and maybe, just maybe a nice summerization of the ps3 in general.

Think about it.

A strange feeling

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So over the course of this last week I have finished both Mass Effect and Phantom Hourglass, the latter of which just two hours before this post. I have to say they are both great games, with Mass Effect giving me a strange feeling in my bones...

This feeling started about half way through the game, I had become a spectre and was traveling the galaxy leveling up and fighting geth and whatever else I found. As I watched one of the dialog sections unfold, making my choices, I realised this game was effecting me on a more than 'what i am currently playing' level. This was taking me into the story, like reading a book or watching a movie, I wanted to know how it panned out, what the game would through at me and each plot twist. The feeling I had was warm, fuzzy and generally good by me.

Phantom Hourglass gave me a similar feeling for a little while, but ultimately was a bit too long for a DS game. This feeling got better towards the end of Mass Effect, to the point where my heart was pounding and the adrenaline was running freely as the epic battle for the citadel unfolded and I was forced to make a very tough choice. It was a great feeling to have, and proved what a year for games 2007 really was.

And so having completed Mass Effect, I moved on to another christmas game, Super Mario Galaxy. I have played it for about an hour. I have a warm fuzzy feeling inside and a smile on my face. I havent read the manual, I just started playing and figured it out in that hour. I am happy playing it and that my friends, is a gaming accomplishment few games can match.

So Mass Effect and Super Mario Galaxy, two very different games with one unifying factor: They can make you feel happy. In different ways of course, Mass Effect is more like a excellent sci-fi movie whereas SMG is more like that feeling you got when you were a kid and out playing your favourite game with your mates and your parents let you stay out an extra half hour.

Gaming is great!

My two cents: Gamespots Intact integrity

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The whole Jeff Gertzmann affair has, by gamespot and CNET's own admission been handled, well frankly, craply. But the worse part of it all is the people who jumped on the band wagon of why he was fired and they can no longer trust gamespot and its reviews and to that I ask simply, why?

Surely if Eidos had paid for a review, they wouldnt pay for a 6.0? and if read the edited review, it still says that the game isnt great, its just the tone isnt quite as harsh. I admit the video review being taken down looked bad, but again, the score didnt change so why is everyone making a massive deal out of it?

I have read so many posts from people saying that they will never come to this site again and that is unduely harsh, the sites integrity and that of its editorial and reviews team has never really been called into question except by conspircay theorist that have nothing better to do. This site is still the same, and so is its content, and anyone who thinks otherwise has simply jumped on the band wagon because they cant think of a good excuse to stop looking at the site.

If companies are going to pay for reviews, they would have not wanted a 6.0 and demanded it was changed to reflect the money involved, so I honestly can not believe all that BS about them taking money. The site hasnt changed its ways, to me, its integrity never faulted and even if that was the reason Jeff got fired, I have to give him respect for it.

Why do you say that? I hear you ask! Its simple really, if Jeff had been told to give Kane & Lynch a decent score, he didnt and gave it what he thought it deserved, writing a review to reflect this. The review may have been a little harsh in tone, but it reflected what he thought about the game. Jeff made it so that the review reflected the game regardless, and if it is true that Eidos paid for a decent one, he was obviously p*ssed off enough about it to go against it and risk his job, and that my friends is why gamespot's integrity is better than ever.

Listening to the hotspot, its obvious they are all upset about it, more so than us, and I think we should cut the crap and let them get back into the swing of things, this site is great, it really is, and the guys doing the shows are fast becoming very famous among the gaming community, and lets face it all celebrities have a bad patch!

A normal mans games industry adventures (Part 2)

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In my last post I stated that I had a job interview with a games company and I would let you know how it went. Well I didnt get the job the interview was for, but they did offer me a shorter term contract but I couldnt take that as fiances wouldnt permit!

The interview went well though, they were both great guys, remembered me from last time and we just chatted about games and working in the industry and some of the games the company had made, which was great and I think I scored some extra brownie points by saying I just downloaded one of thiers and it was really good!

So alas, no job this time, but they did say they are having a recruitment drive in february so hopefully I will get another interview and my fiancial situation will sort itself out and finally, after 2 years of trying, I can break into the industry!

Wish me luck everyone!

A normal man's game industry adventures

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Many gamers have this fantasy about how cool it would be to work in the games industry, helping to create the next big game and playing games to test them, and for most that is all it is a fantasy. But a few people decide they want to make it a reality, start applying to games companies in hope that they may get a decent crack at their respective dreams. I, am one such person.

It took me a few years to figure out what I truly wanted to do with my life. I knew it would involve computers, as they are the only thing I am really good at, but other than that I didn't know and tended to go for the safest bet, so I became a IT technician. This is what I thought I wanted to do with my career, helping people to solve computer problems and getting to know them in the process, and for a time, it was great.

Then the itch started. Slowly at first, writing a few short (and very kack) stories, trying to learn to draw, trying to learn guitar. When these failed, I started to look for something else to get my creative juices flowing and my obsession with videogames became ever more prevalent, I realised the answer was simple, get into the games industry.

At first I tried to become a level designer, trying to figure out how to use the level editor that came with the original Deus ex. I didn't get very far, the games I was playing at the time were taking up more and more time. So then I decided to try programming, got a couple of books and started to get into it, but then the games and increasing work and my girlfriend took up more of my time so that didn't pan out, even when I got the XNA studio free download and was working on it at work.

So where to go from here? What does a guy who loves to play games and has started to pick out faults and becoming increasing critical of games have to do to get into the industry? The answer is simple: QA tester.

I have my chosen path into the industry, so I began to look at documentaries and the like on being a tester, and heard all the stories of long nights become longer days and little sleep and poor pay, but that was mostly from America so I figured England cant be so bad can it?

Searching the internet for any QA tester jobs, I found a few and applied, uploading my C.V. to several sites, only to be knocked back as they didn't have anything that matched it. I started downloading beta testing games, such as Auto Assault and Tabula Rasa, playing them and placing them on my C.V. in the vain hope that it will help my chances. I then started to search specific company's jobs sites.

This, after about 6 months, actually yielded results and I had my first interview with a games company. Unfortunately, it was in surrey and I live in Leeds, so I had to borrow money to go from my sister and my girlfriend didn't want to leave Yorkshire. But hey was all practice so off I went, suited and booted, and had my interview. It did not go well.

The first rule of a games interview? Never insult the guys doing the interview first game. The Second rule? Don't wear a suit. The third? Actually know what you want to do within the industry. All these things were unknown to me at the time, and so, naturally, I didn't do any of them and failed my interview. Unfazed, (but upset, was a knock back after all!) I tried again, constantly checking companies' sites, I found one, applied and got the interview.

Second interview with a company and mistakes were learnt, no suit, no insulting of studios games and in fact praise for them and a better knowledge of what I was wanted to do within the industry. And it was in Yorkshire, albeit Sheffield, so don't have to move and my girlfriend was happy!

I went, had what I thought was a good interview, came out, went home, waited and..... failed. Hmmm guess I need to be better, so for the year since that point, I have kept trying, this time sending my C.V. off every few weeks to various local studios. I think I annoyed a few of them, but, now, at last, I have another interview with that very studio.

So Friday 23rd November will be an interesting day, as it could be a chance for my dream to come true, but, given past records, it will probably not change at all. I guess we will see in a few days time, I have my fingers crossed and eyes down thinking about answers to questions.

I will let you all know what happens next week, wish me luck!

The Cinematic: A gamers thoughts

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At the start of last week I become the proud owner of a 60gb PS3, complete with an extra sixaxis and four games: heavenly sword, motorstorm, sega rally and resistance: fall of man (although I dont actually have the last one yet, they were sold out!). It is, however, the first game in that list that I would like to talk about, so please indulge me!

Heavenly Sword has always been billed as an epic adventure, with movie like production values and a cast of eccentric characters. Hell even the review on this very website states that it feels like a big summer blockbuster, and it is that very feeling I want to talk about. You see games now a days have stories, characters and settings on a par with films as has been discussed many times before by many people, but Heavenly Sword, to me at least, is the first one to truely capture the spirit of that hollywood action film each of us loves for no other reason than the insane action, be it The Matrix, Lethal Weapon or Bad Boys.

The Creators of Heavenly Sword have stated that they flew the cast down to New Zealand and under the guidance of Cinematic Director Andy Serkis (gollum from Lord of the Rings if do not know the name), shot the cinematics for the game in live action, with the actors hooked up to motion capture rigs. This was done at Weta digital, the company behind the special effects for all three Lord of the Rings movies and King Kong and as such represents the first true cross over of Hollywood and Games industry.

Normally crossovers of this kind involve a sub-par game based on the movie license of a film coming out that year, with no real effort put in by either side and only done as a cash-in. Ninja Theory, however, knew it wanted the feel of a big budget summer blockbuster and so enlisted the help of some true masters, and created a game that hits the same spots as movies while also letting you hack up hundreds of bad guys in a fashion only a game can. The cut-scenes in this game are some of this best I have ever encountered and I found myself not only wanting to finish the game but finish watching the cut-scences so I could found out the full story, and that makes for an excellent game.

There is, however, another way to tell a story in a game and this is evidenced by the simply brilliant Bioshock. There are only two cutscenes in Bioshock, one at the beginning of the game, and one at the end (which changes depending on certain decisions taken during the story), everything else is told from a first person perspective and by picking up audio logs of various inhabitants of rapture. No cinematic director, no shooting a movies worth of footage to be translated into the cut scenes, just you seeing through the eyes of the protagonist.

Obviously this is a very different way to tell the story than that of Heavenly Sword, but Bioshocks method is just as effective and an atmosphere that Heavenly Sword does not, but which is better, the big budget, movie like cut scenes of Heavenly Sword? or the eerie, tense atmosphere of Bioshock?

The truth is, neither. One is not better than the other, they are simply different, as different as Heavenly Sword itself is different from Bioshock. Frank O'Connor, lead writer of Bungie studios believes both are valid forms of telling a story, and having worked on Halo 3, is in a good position to comment on both. Please note that is comments are taken from an interview in games tm about FPS games in general. "...the biggest challenage in the storytelling aspect. I think that could go in a couple of directions - from the more literally immersive experience where things happen to you in-game, to better ways of dealing with the kinds of vignette and cinematic we use as tools right now. Both are equally valid directions."

Halo 3 is a good example to bring out at this point, as it uses both methods to great effect, as radio messages and mission directives are sent to you as you run about the enviroment but are also interspersed with cinematic cut-scenes. Bioshock and Heavenly Sword simply take the concepts in Halo 3 to extremes.

As games become more cinematic and story driven in nature, more and more will turn to movie companies and professional writers to give credence to the tale the developers are trying to weave. This could turn out to be the epic cut scenes of Heavenly Sword, to the deep, immersive story of Bioshock, but will mark games out as a valid story telling medium, and Heavenly Sword is leading the way, taking the action movie ethos and integrating it with a traditional game to great effect. Maybe one day, the interactive movie wont be the cheesy cutscenes of games like Wing Commander 3, maybe one day, Jonathan Ross and his ilk will be reviewing games on the same level as films of today, who knows?