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John_Adkins Blog

... Or maybe not quite yet

Yes, I have returned. It isn't out of desperation for a return, however. I've always wanted The Xfire Union (a union for which I was a founding member) to become active and successful. When I left, I felt that this was the one thing I hadn't completed in all my time on the forums. So, while chatting with JediMoogle (an e-friend of mine, and the leader of the union) I asked if I could run the union for awhile since he's so busy. He said yes, and promoted me to union leader. ^_^

I'm going to be spending most of my time promoting this thing, and I'm probably going to avoid the main boards for the most part. I'll likely start updating my journal again, at least while I'm posting again, though.

As a final note, once I complete my task of making this thing successful... I'm really leaving for good - with all loose ends tied up. :D

And so it ends...

My time at GS has been interesting, but I'm leaving the forums. There's a lot more I should probably say, but I think I'll just leave it at that. :P

So long, and Merry Christmas. ;-)

- John_Adkins

Halo Zero owns!

It's a fact. Download here

After playing Codename Gordon, I didn't think it was possible to make a playable side-scroller based on a first-person shooter. I was very, very wrong. Just play it for yourself and see.

Art in gaming, and what's going to happen to it...

The following rant is completely biased and opinionated. You have been warned.

Try comparing Doom 3 to Half-Life 2 by using graphics alone. I'm sure you can see the difference, and that difference is this: One of them has its own, unique world, filled with personality, life, and some downright awe-inspiring elements, while the other is bland, lifeless, and just plain boring. Now, why do you think this is? Doom 3 obviously outclasses HL2 in terms of pure graphical power, so why does the latter look better than the former? Because of quality art-direction. Art-direction is what truly brings graphics to life.

Do you think F.E.A.R.'s graphics will be remembered in the coming generation of consoles, or the next? No, I don't think you do. Now how about, say, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door? I'm guessing your answer is "yes." F.E.A.R. looks amazing from a technical standpoint, but being technically amazing will only take something so far. Technology always moves forward, and that means that graphics we consider technical landmarks today, will be nothing but outdated garbage tomorrow. The only way to avoid being graphically thrown by the wayside by time, is by taking it to the next level - art direction.

When it comes to art-direction, what matters most is originality of vision. Is it really necessary to once again blow your way through that warehouse that seems somehow familiar? Do you really want to keep hacking your way through same generic fantasy-setting, time and time again? All that you need is a developer with the means and an original vision, and you can avoid these things. Original vision took Psychonauts from being "just another platformer" with some quality humor, to being a bizarre, marvelous adventure through a world you could never have imagined. Original vision took Planescape: Torment from being an above-average RPG in the generic fantasy-setting, to being the full graphical-realization of the Planescape universe, and being filled with some of the most spectacular oddities ever portrayed in a game.

"An amazing amount of developers must be missing these things entirely," you might say... or perhaps it's something else. The reason art-direction is so rarely taken in to account, is because most developers aren't trying to make art - they're trying to make money, and the easiest way to do that is by milking the casual market with cookie-cutter, look-alikes that everyone's seen before. Most people are afraid to be different, to try something different, to do something different. Why do you think Psychonauts and Torment sold like crap? Because they were different. They weren't clones, or rehashes. They were honest-to-goodness different. Now, I know that not all original games sell badly - Half-Life 2 being a prime example. I can't explain this, so I'm not going to try to. My focus here is to talk about artistic design.

If you make a game with incredible art-direction (which happens to require originality), you run the risk of losing money, possibly a lot. Unfortunately, if you make completely generic piece of crap (again, in the art-direction department), then your chances of good sales go up. Developers, and especially publishers, are drawn to money, so naturally they will sacrifice art-direction (in this case, originality) to make it. Some people say that the new casual market has expanded possibilities for companies, that now big-name devs/publishers like Capcom and Konami, for example, will be able to develop and/or publish more original games (in this case games with amazing art-direction) than before because they're making more money than they used to (due to their other games, which happen to be mainstream money-sponges). Is this happening? Will it happen? No. In fact, companies are coming up with less and less original ideas. Sure, Killer7 came out earlier this year. At long last something original, something that had a distinctive style of art-direction that seperated it from the hordes of clones. What happened? It was a spectacular flop in the sales department. Do you really think Capcom will support Killer7 2 (just an example), the next time it becomes a possibility? I really hope you don't, because they almost definitely won't.

The casual market that Sony created has not made the gaming industry better by adding huge amounts of money into the equation, it's made it worse. Before, when the gaming industry wasn't multi-billion dollar and more lucrative than the movie industry, money (although still a driving factor) wasn't nearly as big of an issue. Some may argue that the industry would die without the enormous casual element, but as history suggests - it wouldn't. It would shrink drastically, but it isn't possible for it to die. It's too late now, of course. Sony has put all of their energy into making gaming "mainstream," and now that it has started becoming that, there's no stopping it. Cookie-cutter sequels and generic, boring crap will continue to flood the industry, until we begin to see the gaming industry's version of Hollywood. One day, playing a game will be as common as watching a movie, or reading a book, but I don't see that as a good thing. I don't watch movies very often, and as I said in my "about me" section, I rarely find books that interest me. The day gaming becomes as mainstream as books and movies, is the day that it ceases to be so fascinating to me. At this point, gaming is still young and capable of change, but as it gets older and older, it will begin to stagnate, and innovation will be amazingly scarce (just as it is in the other 2 major forms of media).

In short, art-direction will not be more of a priority in the future than it was in the past. In fact, it's going to be less of one. One of the major factors in taking a game from being just a game, to being something more, something that will stay with you forever... will continue to fade, until it's so rare that you'll be floored when it comes around.

I apologize for what might appear as random gibberish. I needed to rant about something, I was beginning to feel... I dunno, I can't explain it. I'll just leave it at "I needed to rant." ^_^

It's HL2 + Aftermath conspiracy theory and speculation time! (Spoiler filled)

Keep in mind that this is as much for me to straighten my thoughts, as it is for you to see. From my internet research I have discovered a few things.

The conspiracy theory:

From GameSpot's ancient Valve Q&A: "...the entirety of the episode is set in City 17... the driving force is the fact that, thanks to Gordon's actions at the end of Half-Life 2, the Citadel is about to give up the ghost in such a way that anyone left in the city will be killed... Dr. Kleiner will be on hand with some informed opinions, as well as a bit of speculation..."

Found this link on Wikipedia, which claimed to be official comfirmation: clicky.

And since that doesn't make any especially outlandish claims, I don't doubt that it's real.

Next, from PC Gamer UK: "Aftermath deals with the events and issues set in motion during Half-Life 2. You've done critical damage to the Citadel. The whole place is going to go up, taking out City 17 and what's in its immediate radius. You and Alyx are leading the flight from the city getting up close and personal with some of the creatures and sights from the end of the game."

Ok, now here's the conspiracy. I don't have a direct quote, but the Gman definitely suggests that you aren't immediately going back to City 17, which from the old teaser trailer, it's pretty obvious that you have (the beginning, where dog is digging Gordon out). From the GS Q&A we have this quote: "Valve likes to describe Aftermath as a new "episode" for the franchise, and we know that it picks up immediately after the events of the main game."

So if it picks up immediately after the game, the Gman didn't intend for Gordon to come right back from your "stasis cell," and that is Gordon being unearthed from the rubble caused by the Dark Energy reactor... what is my conclusion? That the same thing that caused you to randomly teleport around Xen after the "accident" at the beginning of the first game, the thing that was "pulling you away" in the strange malfuctioning of Dr. Kleiner's teleportation device, and possibly the cause of your Slow Teleportation after you and Alyx escape from Nova Prospekt, has caused you to unintentionally escape from the Gman's "stasis cell." The Gman's cryptic "We'll see... about THAT!" comment at the end of the Aftermath trailer makes sense when you consider it in this context, because the Gman was pretty convinced that you had no choice but to do what he wanted at the end of HL2.

If I'm right, then secret's about the Gman and the strange phenomena of Gordon's teleporting issues are likely to be explained in Aftermath. And from that GS Q&A, it seems as though Dr. Kleiner will be helping out (especially since he allegedly has "informed opinions," meaning possible inside info about the Black Mesa incident and the Gman's appearance there... as he could be seen arguing with the Gman near the beginning of the first game, before everything started going crazy).

The speculation:

My guess is that Aftermath will begin as HL2 ended... with a black screen. But instead of the apparent empty space of the previous game, it turns out that you were actually buried under a mountain of stone that was blocking out the sun. If I'm right, then part where Dog sticks its face in the screen from the Aftermath trailer is the start of the game, right after he lifts the slabs of concrete (or whatever it is) that you're buried under. It also probably won't begin with a Gman halucination like HL2 did, because if I'm right, then he didn't intend for you to escape.

This makes perfect sense in the context I presented in my conspiracy theory, and is likely to be the case even if I was wrong before.

As for gameplay, it was previously stated that you reprised your role as Gordon, which pretty much means that you won't be playing as anyone else, because Valve holds keeping Gordon's character as the player above all else, and making him a secondary character for any amount of time would kill that. It is also stated in the GS Q&A that "Aftermath adds a variety of new ways in which the player interacts with the Half-Life 2 world. Alyx, and other allies, learn new abilities to help you. Your enemies, both old and new, haven't been resting either." New ways to interact with the environment suggest possible new functions of the Gravity Gun, which is featured for a split second in the Aftermath trailer. I have no idea what Valve intends with your allies' "new abilities," but I hope it includes more advanced A.I. for taking cover as often as possible, for example.

I've also read that Stalkers will be featured as an enemy in this game. Should be interesting, especially because of what I've read on Wikipedia about their unfinished A.I. coding. I don't know about other enemies, but I have my fingers crossed for the second coming of Gargantua. :D

Uh, yeah, as you can see I like speculating. lol And sorry for any weird grammar or spelling errors, as the spell checker is broken, and the typing window is too small for any real kind of proof-reading. =/

I'd like to lay a little wager...

$20 and a cookie says that no one will respond to, read, or even FIND this blog entry, thanks to the lack of a sidebar showing you the latest blog entries your friends have made. If I don't have a response by the time my next blog entry is up I fully expect my $20 + cookie from each and every one of you. :evil: :P

Uh, in case you didn't guess, I'm proving something to gamespot here. At some point I'm going to make a thread in "Site Enhancements" begging them to return the blog sidebar.


TORMENT FINALLY MADE IT ON THE GREATEST GAMES OF ALL TIME LIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!!! *ahem* I can't believe GameSpot finally did it. It's about time. This game is so good that I actually reviewed it. :o Now they just need to add a few more titles (*cough*Baldur's Gate II, FFVII/VIII*cough*) and that list will actually mean something. I wonder if some of the nubz who haven't played this work of art yet will pick it up after seeing this? They'd better. :evil: Now if only the forums were up so I could show my sheer ecstasy to the masses....

It's about time! + Photoshop: The ultimate cure for boredom

Seriously, the forum was down way too long. I needed to own teh nubz :( But at least it's back now.

Now, I must tell you that a good amount of the time I wasn't on the forum, I was messing around in Photoshop (I'm guessing around 8 hours or more). My creations are the banner you see at the top of this page (could be better, but it could be worse), and my new sig:    (definitely not my best yet, but I was experimenting quite a bit with this one). Photoshop pwnz so hardcore. 8 hours of clean-up work and very few times of any boredom at all. Learn how to use it if you haven't already, it's worth the time.

My top 10 games of this gen list, in no particular order...

 - Great, great, and did I mention great? Comes close to the glory of Torment, but in different ways. (came out after the PS2 was released in Japan, so I say it should count. ^_^)

 - I don't care how trendy it is to hate this game, it is hands-down in the top 3 FPS I've ever played, if not in the top spot. I am a Halo fanboy! :twisted:

 - Hated the story and ending, but I liked everything else about the game an enormous amount. Hilarious, well voice-acted, artistically pleasing, etc.

 - Serious is still the hardest difficulty setting I've ever had to deal with. One of the best and most difficult games I've ever played.

 - Even better than Mario & Luigi. Fanatastic in almost every way.

 - Absolutely stunning. AFBrat takes it way, way, way too far, but this game is still deserving of a lot of praise.

 - Such ownage. I haven't even finished the game but I deem it worthy of this list.

 - *resists "serious joke"* Even better than the original, even though I didn't like it quite as well for some reason. :? Try to wrap your brain around that one. :|

 - The sequel was ownage, but I preferred the original. :D

 - Liked it more than FFX. <_< >_>

Very casual list, I know. I was busy catching up with last gen for the majority of this one. If a game you think should be on it is missing there is a 95% chance that I didn't play it yet. =/
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