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MasterMarcus Blog

2nd Gig://prise 26:// THIS gen, OK?!

Entry 104: A time for a rant or two

1) I think it's time to cease and desist at quoting the generation we're enrering - as next gen. Next gen no more. Next gen will be 2010. The last was 2004. What people calls next gen right now becomes THIS gen, since the first wave of state of the art games related to are already available. THIS gen, alright? For me, next gen is 2010. I'm also tired to hear about THIS gen's hysteria when what is supposed to be the future is already, in some cases, a rehashed present. Up until recently, I was myself engulfed to use what I rant about here; no more starting now. I would be cool if the community could evolve the same way. THIS GEN, OK?

2) Sarju made me smile when reading his BioShock comparison feature. He talks about extreme antialiasing support !!! Whats that? 32x? 64x? Or only 16xQ? Dear god, BioShock doesn't support any in game AA. Forcing it via the video card's control panel doesn't work either under Vista/DirectX 10. On a larger screen like mine, jaggies are apparent even if the game seems to be built in HD. It may look better on my PC, but don't get me wrong there's no AA my dear Sarju. You're a great hardware guy; it just make me sad when some little misinformation graces your pages.

3) The lack of recent support for Far Cry and F.E.A.R's XP ( Extraction Point ) under Vista is excruciating to say the least. Thinking about the present and future doesn't mean the developers shouldn't care for the compatibility of their past treasures, still widely played.

At last, my latest review is aired: BIOSHOCK PC but GS' html doesn't want it linked in my submitted blog even if all my tags are closed correctly. :evil: End of rants.

2nd Gig://prise 25:// Lame Ending Cinematics:// Part 2

Entry 103: The eternal art cuts in the wrong place

In October 2004 I wrote a little article ( rant? ) about the tiny efforts developers make to further improve the endings of single player games, thus depriving gamers any real sense of reward after beating a long campaign. The trend doesn't seem to have changed drastically three years later.

I mean, it's almost if the developers agreed altogether, intentionally, to only code a very short epilogue before the credits if the community never cared, whatever the genre: shooters, action games, RPGs, strategy games, sims, platformers. They ALL have lame endings. Almost all of them also share the lack of Hall of Fame feature ( kudos to Stardock's Metaverse rankings by the way ). Or any other kind of ending feature that could improve the sense of reward. Nobody wants a trophy room? Even the excellent BioShock, improving and widely innovating some gameplay features along dazzling artistic achievements, offers very short ending cinematics in low res before an abrupt cut to the ugly menu ( probably the only amateurish feature of an otherwise ultra professional coding ).

Well, people may not care that much, but I still think that additional budget allocated to reward features could very well be suitable to enhance the obligatory evolution of storytelling in our favorite video games. Modern games take longer to make; so what's the fuzz about deadlines if a game being in development for three years just need an additional month or two for a better rewarding epilogue? Now, we're told Will Wright's Spore being in the works for almost seven years! I can only guess what will happen after completing a long campaign of it, bringing the little prehistoric cellular organisms into space: a short résumé awkwardly telling you within forty-five seconds what you acomplished during two months, as if time consuming games were all confounded to be akin to frantic carnage games we can easily forget after each casual session. We're gladly entering the next gen arena ( that should be called THIS gen ), heaped with an increasing amount of evolutionary gimmicks - not only graphically, but accessory wise also. On the other hand, the non evolutionary state of rewards in games over the years remain a sad state still hampering the replay value of modern properties being more complex - unfortunately generating a steady flow of value no higher than past gens.

As the multi media experience grows in big budget games, one can wonder why the ending remain so silently discarded. The cinematic feeling itself could be enhanced ten fold just by adding a two % more in development time, knowing that bigger studios employ a team of 200 on a single project. Whether it's the laziness side of untapped creativity the community don't ask for, or the corporate budget limitations/deadlines: it seems the gamer must write any final chapter still missing in its favorites games. Novels and most movies have them beforehand, whatever good or bad. Games are far behind on that matter, and can't be compared on that particular matter. Yet it's doable if the developers want to work the feature out.

2nd Gig://prise 24://Four Games, Four Separate Ways

Entry 102: Weekly Thoughts

1) At Leipzig GC, a rare breeder was announced that may very well initiate a new sub genre: an ''eco-thriller''. A New Beginning, as it is called, will be a cell shaded painted adventure/quest adding a beautiful artistry to the much cataclysmic theme of saving the planet. I know how unsuccessful were some cell shaded games in the recent years, most of them ( well, very few sparingly released in fact ) somber in an ocean of mediocrity. The latest that come in mind is XIII, a decent effort unfortunately leaving untapped material overlooked by the masses then. By chance, the recent evolution of artistry in games ( such the overlooked jewel Psychonauts and the uber popular juggernaut that is BioShock ) could highlight future offerings innovating enough for the masses to try the interactive paintings of the 21st century. They just need a wider marketing.

2) I tried the Medal of Honor: Airborne demo. Mixed feelings: the open battlefield, the different paths the player can choose to complete the objectives in any order wanted, and the lighting are all cool implements. You can guess I have some nitpicks. First, once the path chosen, the numerous Italians/nazis you encounter look all the same. Second, little gameplay enhancements grace the experience: just shoot bad guys, advance, duck, shoot bad guys, and if you stuck too long they'll respawn indefinitely. Third, the Unreal 3 engine doesn't seem to be very polished in this demo. Though the lighting & shadowing really strike, the overall plastic veneer appears artificially compressed ( especially without the AA support on larger screens like mine ). Moreover, the frame rates are inconsistent with some stuttering.

3) The Fort Frolic and Haphaestus levels in BioShock waver a great deal of inspired design. The game provides what I expected for sure, but the difficulty needed some tweak ( too easy as we progress ). I'll choose the hardest setting for my second campaign.

4) The Crysis DEMO will be unleashed September 25!!! :D

2nd Gig://prise 23:// News Recap ( big week )

Entry 101: The little August hectic prologue before the crazy Fall

It has been a pretty hefty week, during which almost every electronic medium had its fill of grounding news. If that alone light the way for the ridiculously overwhelming rush coming, everything is then set in place to behold what I expect to be my own personal '' preferred golden age'' in the modern history of video games ( superb HD movie discs are also slated ).

Sit rep:

1) Paramount switches to HD DVD exclusivity; various Hollywood replies ( Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, Blu ray camp );

2) BioShock launches......and mostly meets the expectations ( the game isn't revolutionary, but certainly push forward the action genre as a cinematic experience );

3) Leipzig Game Convention: tons of announcements. Empire:Total War; Spore demoed ( at last after missing E3 ); Crysis previews; a new eco thriller I will highlight more in a subsequent entry; an untitled new Schafer game in 08; CoD 4 pushed November ( as if it wasn't crowded enough ); additional MGS4 inputs. I this GC continue to grow, I think Gamespot should work the possibility to cover it Live next year, along E3 and Tokyo.

Oh, I almost forgot:

4) it took me twelve lives to beat my first Big Daddy in the Medical Pavilion ( but later on when reaching Arcadia, BioShock becomes a tad easier - too easy indeed for veterans ).

2nd Gig://prise 22://DirectX 10 Impressions:// part 3

Entry 100: DX 10, part 3 - The BioShock Dilemma ( not a review)

First, I feel sad for all my fellow PC nuts having technical glitches with BioShock. I told you, you had to be prepared, this is a geeky game. Otherwise, choose the X360. For my part, I'm almost embarrassed to confirm that my copy runs incredibly fine on my rig, moreover upon Vista/DX 10 which should be supposedly more unstable - not in my case. Like everyone else, I'm impressed by the overall gameplay AND the artistic achievement here, but nothing's perfect - just near perfect, as I will explain in my upcoming review sometimes in September.

At evidence, people talk aplenty about this game nowadays, so I just want to add my two cents on the very elitist subject regarding the game's technical achievements under Vista/DX 10 - if there are any worthy to be easily noticeable at all, compared to the DX9 option. Well, there are some water, smoke and bloom touches but BioShock wasn't built on DX10; the most part of the development phase took place under DX9 of course. It isn't the bandwagon of showcases that should bring later on the likes of Crysis & Unreal Tournament III. So I'm a bit disappointed about the very slight differences ( yet noticeable ) between the two modes offered, though the better water effects sure look amazing under Vista. The developers from Irrational definitely encased a stronger look artistically for conveying a, let's say, perhaps a less polished technical side that will surely need several patches.

''I can't stand jaggies''

Furthermore, there's a price to play BioShock under DX10 = NO anti aliasing support, either in game AND from Nvidia/ATI panels as of writing this. THE ONLY way to enable a forced AA, and only CSAA, is to play the DX9 mode under XP which brings additional bugs ( corrupted textures ).....Oh my! I know this is an extremely insane detail to care about, but some HD enthusiasts like me have difficulties to stand jaggies now - even on 1920 x 1200. Yep, we have this one little irritating geeky problem. To its credit though, BioShock irritates much less without AA than most other 3D extravaganzas ( indoor settings camouflage the lack of feature more than outdoor shooters). By chance, the framework seems to be built on a full HD resolution too BUT in this day and age, I must insist how it is unacceptable that BioShock lacks the support of AA when titles from 2004 like Half Life 2 do so well.

Some have found a scapegoat: the Unreal Engine 3.0 not fully optimised by Irrational to use simultaneously the new shader model with AA. How ironic then, when the engine proprietor ( Epic ) clearly states that its flagship title UT III WILL support full AA under Vista/DX 10, whilst BioShock doesn't. Adding more to the irony, Epic will offer it in game of course and only under Vista. Quite the contrary for BioShock, i.e. under dx9 and forced through the Nvidia control panel. ATI owners can't at all, whatever the DX mode. It is unknown if Nvidia will be able to process it via a new driver. As a side note, there's no AA on the X360 version either. End of rant.

This is what the dilemma is about: two faces of wo medals. 1) play the PC version, which is better looking and more fluid with a mouse; 2) or play the X360 version. If you chose the PC version, then: 1) you'll most likely experience frustrating glitches if you're unprepared; 2) the PC nuts running it well shall tolerate the little jaggies for the time being.

If I remember correctly, even the good old Nintendo 64 had some kind of anti aliasing feature. In the end, and read carefully, BioShock do innovate indeed as a cinematic experience but not technically. I think Microsoft and all the major developers should work more closely in order to quell this little technic quagmire, again shifting away different cIassesof gamers.

2nd Gig://prise 21:// A Day Long Remembered

Entry 99: August 20th = a crazy tronic day

That day shall be remembered for:

1) being the last just before the release of BioShock, taking by storm the gaming community;

2) AND also bringing the most unexpected news about the HD format war since its inception: Paramount switching to HD DVD exclusivity. Coincidentally, Fox immediately announced its comeback to Blu ray........

It's all over the news today; so I won't add more but to make a personal prediction: if, if, and only if this breaking turn of events become profitable to the HD DVD camp over the months, then we could anticipate a similar move from WARNER ( which has always prioritized HD over Blu ray even if it supports both ). So, after all, looks like Sony's Blu ray won't win the war on a silver platter as soon as Christmas 2007. Like it or not, the chain of events newly confirms that both formats could very well coexist for a long(er) time. Let's hope this doesn't preclude to a ''SACD/DVD Audio''- kind of scenario debacle.

2nd Gig://prise 20://The Skimmed List

Entry 98: Free gaming time restrictions to harness the new Golden Age

In 2007, DirT (PS3) and all others on the PC: BioShock; Tiger Woods 08; HL2 Ep.2; Crysis; Unreal Tournament III; Gears of War. The only way I can spare some time for Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare this fall depends upon an unwanted delay regarding one of the previous must buys. Otherwise, in 2008 along World in Conflict perhaps. I will try to find some casual room for Portal. I must take into account my will to revisit some strategy titles as well.

BioShock should undoubtedly start the new Golden Age we're entering right now with a big badaboum, setting the standards very few upcoming action games shall really compare - including the excellent ones I want. That's what ALL experts tell us; we'll see for ourselves in a few days. My list appear shorter than some, yet I generally dig hard my games and revisit more than once the best single campaigns. You know, my problem is more time than money.......

Remaining time for BioShock: 3 days, 16 hours, 30 minutes, 15 seconds!

2nd Gig://prise 19://DirectX 10 Impressions://Part 2

Entry 97: DX10 Impressions, part 2: Running some DX9 games

The next step before the advent of the true DX10 compliant monsters was to reinstall and try some of my favorite blockbusters, which I did in the last couple of weeks with very satisfying results. I don't know if the people having difficulties with Vista either exaggerate the situation or make the jump totally unprepared, or both: frankly, by taking all the precautions a PC nut must, Vista isn't the buggy octopus the unfortunate user seem to experience - at least no more than the previous OSs following their releases. Admittedly, for Vista+DX10 a high end machine is required, not to mention the will to play recent/upcoming games mostly. On the flip side, it would be ill-advised to recommend it now to the average joe or the college boy still playing CounterStrike: many pre-DX8 games just won't run. The culprit often seem to be the older ddraw.dll, which Microsoft no longer supports under Vista. Some cl4ssics like StarCraft run fine, yet overlooked jewels no longer updated are left adrift. Sadly, Master of Orion II falls into the latter category but can be safely installed on DOS.

The Half Life 2 saga runs smoothly under Vista 32 bit, albeit a couple CTDs I had. I'm also impressed the way Valve silently updated it via Steam over the months: all the lights in the vanilla game are now HDR rendered for a pleasant look in 1920x1200 8x 16x. For a game released almost three years ago, the amount of details continue to hold even compared to recent offerings of the genre, like Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl. That way, a reasonable tech continuity should link the episodes despite the high degree of technical evolution separating them beforehand. F.E.A.R. fully updated also run fine. Unlike HL2 however, it joins the ranks of the majority, thus showing little visual improvement on higher resolutions. Of course, virtually no game up until now has a 1920x1200 or a 1080p framework at the pillar ( even if they support it ). You bet it's gonna change through 2008, starting with the ludicrous amount of real next gen titles coming this crazy fall/winter. We're slowly, but surely entering the real HD gaming.

On the other end of the spectrum, I touted again one fine TBS heaped with critical acclaim: GalCiv II Dread Lords & Dark Avatar. The developer Stardock isn't recognised to be one heck of a post release supporter for nothing: it also closely works Windows enhancements so we're in good hands for their game compatibilities.

A lengthy revisit for dummies

The comparison game wouldn't be complete without another blast from the latest golden age that was 2004: Doom 3. It has its detractors, but id software had the decency to offer things very few studios give to their fans: a very long single player campaign for a shooter, at least twice the standards; monster closets ( the best in the market ); and an enjoyable difficulty curve. Now, you must apply the latest v1.31 to play it flawlessly on Vista and I liked it again. Just so you know that id's engine then, a power munger entrée in 2004, now really show its age compared to the nicely revamped HL2. Valve finally won the contest, yet Doom 3 keeps some specific appeal that could be well rejuvenated in the future, perhaps to infuse some monster closets onto a F.E.A.R.ish tactical world and abroad. Dummies want new ripple effects.......

I'm pinning all my hopes for the next entrée, BioShock. Of course X360 fans shall taste it aplenty, but the PC version could very well lay down the bridge for a raging bull to come. An elitist bull it is. But fear not: it will come this way fast and loud with a big HD stamped between the horns, heralding the arrival of a new golden age. At last.

2nd Gig://prise 18://Baby Photonique

Entry 96: Hail the Arrival of the Future Gamer

A glimpse of light harbor the nesting cave

A matured foetus prepares a dancing rave

Unlocking the portal, a mystery it remains for sure

Unlucky some brethren were, he just remain unsure

About the new world he's just entered with fury

About his mother unaware of his future gaming testimony

Talk about a new arrival pretty much overlooked

Walking the park in search of beacons, none to be found

Finding his own tree,a dangerous task to be booked

Finding a purpose of its own, he must quit the ground.

Latest review: Painkiller: Battle Out of Hell (PC).

2nd Gig://prise 17://Next Gen Stimulates an Evolutionary Effect After All

Entry 95: Patience and Evolution

In a medium often criticised by various disgruntled gamers about the over abundance of sequels, rehashed expansions, adding to a huge part of this community always complaining about the lack of revolutionary features implemented over the last few years, we're now ironically inundated by tons of new innovative projects finally on the table - bringing cool little innovative gameplay features. Some whiners may not see them coming yet; but the winter season ahead should bring a fully loaded gaming promising enough to propel a new golden age, a second renaissance if you want. An evolutionary gaming is coming. A new era is coming, not seen since 2004 ( and perhaps 1998-2000 ). Exceptional projects actually in development show an increasing amount of new polished little twists, staging the real next gen we're all expecting for.

I also find quite profitable for the whole industry that high profile developers are actually making quality games on ALL platforms: handhelds; consoles; and let's not forget the big DirectX 10 showcases coming for a PC rejuvenating ( albeit a bit wealthy elitist....). In the console realm, Microsoft still bet the Halo 3 effect but also has in bank a plethora of well established franchises ensuring a bright future for the X360. Nintendo don't rest at all, by pushing on the market cool innovative accessories and gadgets that should probably influence the way we'll ( dance ) - game in the future: welcome the Fit ( aerobic gaming!), and the Zapper. At last, after over marketing the Blu Ray format to the detriment of initial games lacking on the PS3, Sony begins to unleash some beasties for stronger 2008 releases including a wide variety of games from shooters to community puzzles: Killzone 2, echochrome, LittleBigPlanet. I consider the latter as Sony's big response to Nintendo and PC pushings, especially when we just witnessed the big drought in the desert Sony experienced in the last two years or so. As a ''community based'' game, LittleBigPlanet seems to offer lots of open features for the online addict to use, at last, over the PS Network within a very cool looking construct, some kind of family fare finally making its stance to the PS3. How refreshing. Talk about a user friendly mix of next gen graphics and enticing gameplay for everyone: another winner contributing to the ever evolving video gaming, now more palpable than ever. The serene competiton between the three majors remains one of the most efficient, I think, of all the entertainment industries.

Here comes my favorite part: PC nuts won't rest either. A steady, innate flow of great action games is coming their way. These upcoming geeky titles will not only be perfectly compatible with existing XP- DirectX 9 rigs, but also begin to load DirectX 10 enhancements for Vista adopters. After the most unfortunate Vista tries like Halo2, now comes the real batch initiated by the highly anticipated BioShock. If you saw most of its gameplay/interview movies up until the E3 aftermath, you'll only agree how incredibly fluid seems to be the flow of this game, upon a staggering choice of RPG-$tyle arsenal to use. I wouldn't normally be attracted by the retrofuturistic stuff; BioShock has all the ingredients to not only convince me but to widely push forward a distinct interactive shooter sub genre. On the other hand, GS staff rightfully put Will Wright's Spore as the great absentee of E3; it was but rest assured: the game is still thoroughly developed for a later 2008 release. It's a new mega intellectual property, very ambitious, wanting to expand the barriers of empire buiding games to something much open ended. From cellular to a space empire can be preposterous enough to bring interrogations ( we don't want ambitious games biting the dust like Master of Orion III- the third, not the two of course! ). But knowing what Wright and his growing team of talented personnel do, they may well be on the verge of marketing an uncharted territory in the strategy genre. Here I mean some enhanced massive open gaming, like the MMORPGs spurred lately, but now for single player experiences. Even Epic works on that for the supposedly multiplayer based Unreal Tournament III, knowing that a good fifty percent of UT addicts play OFFLINE.....

As such, I find seductive - and complementary - the way developers bring less linear campaigns to single player modes, not only multiplayer. That way, chances are much better to improve the experience of a larger community of gamers. Games are now huge, and take more time to develop; still the wide array of different biggies in advanced phase bring the promise of an overwhelming choice. We're now beginning to drool about one thing that didn't happen since fall 2004: how are we gonna be able to manage the free time to play the babies we choose??? Look at the crazy November we will have to face. Money isn't the only parameter; time itself also impose an outright obstacle but to the addictiveness itself, which should be more difficult than ever to control! Happy next gen gaming......