Robert Hornbek

Game Development & Exploration

Posts Tagged ‘XBOX’

Breath of Fresh Air: Monday Night Combat pt2

Posted by rHornbek on August 18, 2010

The video below is the second parts of the Monday Night Combat Developer Walkthrough.  In this demonstration they present the second of two maps that are available when you purchase the game, and the Support class!

The Map

The first map they played on, GrenADEiii, was circular in shape, where LaserRazor, the second map, is mostly a rectangle.  It does not seem to play all that differently except it is much easier to move from each of the two lanes.  With that said, unlike DotA style games Monday Night Combat (MNC) only has two lanes.  I am curious how this will effect the gameplay, but I imagine it will make it much easier to switch lanes and thus push.

Turrets

A key feature in the DotA style game are the turrets, or towers.  In MNC each user will earn money as they play which can be spent on building turrets for you base.  I absolutely love this idea, and to make matters more interesting you have the option between four different turrets.

The Support Class

I have only seen in detail the two classes highlighted in each of the walkthroughs, but I can confidently say I would love to play as the Support class!  They can best be described as a mix between the Medic and the Engineer from Team Fortress 2.  I really appreciate how much support they can actually deliver with air strikes, heals, buffs to the Fodder (minions) and the ability to hack turrets.

MNC appears to have a lot of promise, and as long as the balancing is tight I imagine it will be a ton of fun!  I will continue to keep my eye on it and pray that it makes it to the PC so we can play it at our next big LAN party!

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Cell Shading in Naruto Shippuden: Untimate Ninja Storm 2 Part 1 Chapter 1 of 2010

Posted by rHornbek on July 30, 2010

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm continues to impress me with a nearly flawless use of cell shaded art and animation, comparable only to Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.  Absurdly long names aside, I may have to argue that Naruto Ship… NS:UNS… Ninja Storm may be THE best use of cell shaded art and animation to date.

Unfortunately the stunning cinematic quality of the game comes at the cost of gameplay.  Most of Ninja Storm’s action occurs during frantic cut scenes that are driven by timed button presses similar to that of Shenmue, Tomb Raider, Darksiders and that other game Wad or Door or something like that.

Zone of the Enders, but more so The Second Runner was the first to impress me with this sort of art style.  The game even had anime cut scenes woven in between just to add to the animated flavor.  While the game’s graphics are showing their age, there are a lot of qualities to cell shading that preserves well with time.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker still holds up today as some of the best cell shaded graphics I have ever seen.  In many ways the tools used to produce cell shaded graphics can really make a game look better than it would otherwise be on that system.  There was a lot of controversy over the art style when Wind Waker was first announced, but I am glad they did it anyways.

I hope to see more games execute the cell shaded style as well as Ninja Storm if not better.  That is not to say many games have not tried the style, but none come close to the quality of Ninja Storm.

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E3: 2010

Posted by rHornbek on June 15, 2010

Due to financial restrictions I decided only to attend E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) for a single day this year, and honestly I think that was about all it was worth.

Initially I was going to use this space to rant about how much worse E3 has become since the first time I attended it back in 2001.   Then I decided to take a moment and really analyse my disappointment so to confidently identify the culprit.

A few things occurred to me…

The first time I went to E3 I was 16, so I stood on the sidewalk outside the convention center asking everyone who passed if they would sell their badge to me for $40.  Needless to say I was able to score a badge, however the next step was getting in without being carded for my age (18 or older).  After spending a few minutes studying the entryway searching for an opportune moment I managed to get inside the first of three halls. So it is safe to assume the impact on me for the first event was compounded by the amount of effort it took to get in, and it was the first time.

After a few years of that I managed to acquire enough contacts to get tickets without pan handling on the street.  However the events were still rather exciting.  What has killed the magic?

There were various controversies including over crowding at the center, exploiting booth babe marketing and at one point many of the big boys (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and Blizzard) all threatened to leave entirety.  One year E3 was beat so bad it was almost unrecognizable from its former self.  Things have gotten much better, but it is still not the same

Blizzard has moved its operations to BlizzCon so I can attribute some of the problem to that, but nonetheless what is reallying missing?

Ultimately I began blaming the games.  Too many sequels, too much cliche, nothing that looked interesting or genuinely new.  While much of this holds true you will soon learn that I found a fair amount of interesting things at the event this year.

So where did the magic go?

I have decided in addition to much of what I have already said, the primary reasons why E3 has lost its luster is the following…

I have seen a lot since then, played many games and have grown as an individual and an industry professional.  My expectations have refined and not every flashing light interests me as much as it has in the past.  So while E3 used to be a cave of vast treasures, it is now an adventure to find only a handful of gems among the rubble.

Here are some of the gems I found this year!

DISNEY’S EPIC MICKEY

At first much of the advertising for this game was unrecognizable, and while it wasn’t the most amazing thing I saw at the event it was fascinating to see a new game about Mickey Mouse that wasn’t Kingdom Hearts.  Speaking of Kingdom Hearts, I can’t help but thing much of the inspiration for this game was based on the success of Kingdom Hearts.

Honestly the only thing about this game that really caught my eye was the fact that it was a relatively dark looking game featuring entirety Disney characters.  This kind of reminded me of the Sega Genesis game Mickey Mouse World of Illusion which has great nostalgia value for me.  However I found the title “Epic Mickey” to be down right terrible!  I guess we can only blame the internet culture.

CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW

While watching a series of videos I came across a trailer for this game.  I am not a fan of the series but it looked interesting enough and had a killer cast of voice actors!

So the game play doesn’t scream creativity but I am hoping that it stays consistent with Castlevania’s RPG elements and it doesn’t just turn into another God of War wannabe.

DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION

Unfortunately all I got to see was the cinematic trailer for this game.  Now I just hope the game can hold up to the standards set by the video.

What really struck me was how much this video came off as a trailer for a movie and less that of a game.  Even the credits at the end were displayed like that of a movie’s.  The soundtrack they chose was really spot on, it gave me chills accompanying the visuals and the dialog.  Once again we can only hope the game itself can keep up.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED II

I was fortunate to kick my day off with this video playing on a massive screen with a rocking sound system.  You NEED to watch this in the highest quality you can!

This has got to be one of the most impressive cinematic video I have ever seen since the opening for Onimusha 3.  Aside from the realistic quality of the main character, you get drawn in by amazing sound effects, lighting and an ever rising action.  Of course this is so far removed from the original Star Wars movies, but honestly I almost forgot it was Star Wars and really didn’t care that it was.

END OF NATIONS

Up until this point I have only talked about games that caught my eye graphically, which is part of the problem I have with E3.  While Mickey’s game and Castlevania look interesting, the Deus Ex and Star Wars videos really said nothing about what the games are actually like.  End of Nations however is a Massive Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy Game… MMORTS… G.

Ok so the graphics don’t come off as exciting, nor does the game play appear incredibly deep, but they are trying something different.  I had a conversation today that made a lot of sense.  The Wii and its motion control has been hailed as groundbreaking while most of the time gimmicky and anyone in their right mind can see most Wii games that use the motion control don’t need to.  But Microsoft and Sony are bother jumping on the motion control bandwagon.  So while the Wii may not be the best application of the technology others are helping it grow.  I imagine a similar affect could occur for End of Nations.  It may not be the best MMORTS, but others may not be afraid to try it themselves and thus usher in a new genre.

DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS

This has got to be the highlight of the day and the whole event for me.  Aside from impressive graphics, the game manages to maintain much of the original gameplay and the Wii motion control acts as an added flavor and not an overpowering gimmick.

This was the only game I played besides Sonic Colors (waste of time, RIP Sonic) and I am glad I did.  The controls felt solid and familiar, even the motion control with the Wiimote felt pretty seamless.  There was only a certain carnivorous green muskette totting villain who didn’t appear in the demo, I do hope he has not given up the fight!  I know there will be at least one game on my holiday list this year.

So while the magic has not completely vanished it has changed form.  This has continued my ongoing investigation into what makes games different today than days past.  I plan to explore much of my findings in another article, until then you will have to think about it yourself and see if we come to any of the same conclusions.

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Advent Rising

Posted by rHornbek on February 1, 2010

When I first heard about the development of this game I was excited.  Later when I learned that Orson Scott Card, the writer for such beloved novels as the Ender’s series,  was going to be working on the project as well my mind was blown.

Advent Rising is an action adventure game set in the distant future where humans have been all alone in the universe, so they thought.  On a single momentous day a massive alien ship arrives to inform the humans that they are not alone in the universe and have been considered an extinct species for thousands of years.  Despite the excitement of first contact, the humans quickly learn that there is a second race of beings who have followed the first with aims to destroy every last human.

Our hero Gideon, a pilot and the younger brother of a war hero learns that he is humanities last hope for survival.  He gets cool weapons, alien allies and psychic powers!  What more could a science fiction lover ask for?!

Gideon (Left) confronts the foe, the Seekers (Left & Background)

Unfortunately like many highly anticipated games, Advent Rising fell a bit short.  While Orson Scott Card’s skill for writing was apparent and Glyphix’ art team did a pretty stellar job the game fell short when it came to overall polish.  Gameplay was a bit clunky at times or even uninteresting because psychic powers eventually made guns nearly pointless.  There was even a lot of hype about how the user’s decisions in the game would greatly effect the outcome of the game, and they did to a degree but nothing that was all important as far as I was concerned.

The game was planned to become a trilogy so it left the user with a bit of a cliffhanger and while most of the conflict was resolved you knew there were much bigger fish to fry.  In the end the game was not received all that well from the community so it was scrapped.  A few fan groups have continued the series through a comic series which I have not seem much of, but looked interesting.

Seeker CG model turnaround

I would still have to recommend this game to anyone who is looking for a quick fix, not to mention you can download it off of Steam.  Advent Rising has some of my favorite alien designs, the Seekers along (above) are by far one of my favorite species from any fiction.  The nearly seamless way the developers connected in-game events with cut-scenes were wonderful and generated a wonderful sense of adventure, which I feel too many games are lacking these days.  The writing and dialog, while not the best, was really impressive for a game.

I would love to see Orson Scott Card write for another game, or even work with the man myself.  This little diamond may remain in the rough, but it is still a diamond as far as I am concerned.

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