Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The first rule of working in the games industry is: There's never enough time to play all the games you want to play


After finishing Afro Samurai a couple of weeks ago, I haven't had much time for "big bite" gaming. My panel at Casual Connect went well (I'll post a link to slides when they're available) and I've been keeping busy with clients trying to get their games out for the holiday season.

My gaming needs have mostly been filled with "small bite" experiences. Mostly Facebook games like Farmville, Farkle, Scramble, Wordscraper, and Backgammon. And I've sprinkled in some short doses of Plants vs. Zombies (mostly playing through the campaign again and trying to harvest some new plants in my water and night gardens).

Scramble, Wordscraper, and Backgammon make sense to me. I love anagram games -- and I'm willing to play Backgammon with folks who want to extract revenge on me for beating them soundly at said-anagram games. I truly suck at Backgammon.

Farmville is one of those Zynga games that I'm basically playing as an exercise in learning more about how this kind of sim/god/world building game integrates into users' social networking workflow. Farkle is just a silly addiction that I can't seem to shake.

Seriously, though, it's time for me to recommit to gaming again. August is almost here -- and I wonder if I need to commit to a game (and a post) a day. It will be hard to pull off (I have a bunch of work and pleasure travel) but if I stay committed, I can make it happen.
  • Keep my "at home" time restricted to console games (my coverage of both retail releases and marketplace releases on all three systems is woefully inadequate).
  • Keep my "on the road" gaming confined to laptop, DS, and my wife's iPhone platforms.
I may even need to set up a spreadsheet and a schedule.

Maybe I'm on to something.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blast from the past... Rise of Nations in the news

I just had the following link forwarded to me: RiseOfNations.

It brings back fond memories of working on RON. The team was awesome (so awesome that they persuaded me to leave Microsoft to join them as a producer after RON shipped) and the game was well reviewed and sold pretty well.

As I get older and think about having kids of my own I find myself sometimes daydreaming about how to incorporate games into my future child rearing activities. Not just as a babysitter (we don't have a T.V.), but as a medium that can help kids explore social and intellectual boundaries in an entertaining and engaging way.

As I get older, I also get more forgetful... I thought there was a previous study showing similar findings. Turns out it was the same study, but just reported in December of last year.

I guess I need to start playing more games.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lookin' for options? You've got none left, boy ;)

So, my friends (and probably others) and I firmly believe that serious voice talent can make even reading a phone book engaging and interesting.

For instance, Christopher Walken could probably keep me in stitches as he read the weekly NFL injury report.

The developers of Afro Samurai decided to include VO in their game shell menus. So, when you go to the Options screen, you get the quote contained in the title of this post as read by Samuel L. Jackson.

I'm not a big SLJ fan, aside from his work in Pulp Fiction and Search for One-Eyed Jimmy. But he's cast perfectly and the writing is superb in Afro Samurai.

For a real treat: Go to the Statistics page. Not sure if it only plays the first time (or on occasion) but the SLJ monologue for this menu screen is fan-freaking-tastic.

Kudos to the writers.

The game, itself, is pretty entertaining. It's a frenetic journey, much in the way that Half-life 2 was. Each segment leads into the next in a kind of breathless adventure that leaves me wanting more.

The game bring lots of cool style in terms of music and visuals to the game experience. Cut-scenes are faded in using techniques found in 70s martial arts style movies. The hip-hop music is a great addition and the character and environment design is great.

The combat system is over-the-top and fun (though I still can't figure out some of the special moves) albeit a little button-mashy for the most part. I'd like a little more tactics/strategy in my encounters -- something that the game shows hints of in certain set-piece battles (like where there are sharpshooters perched on some buildings; where certain enemies need to be thrown into specific targets).

The dialog, content, and even achievements are all very internally consistent and support the feel of the game in a way that is extremely satisfying.

In some ways, especially with the loading screen videos and the treatment of player "death", the game reminds me a bunch of The Darkness. Another wonderfully written stylistic game that didn't have the greatest combat, but was still a pleasure to play through for the visceral experience.

Time to dive back in before hitting the road again. Summer crunch is here and it's keeping me busy.