Friday, February 14, 2014

Titanfall Beta Impressions: AI Needs Some Improvement

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A month ago, Respawn Entertainment revealed that Titanfall will be limited to 6v6 matches, but would feature up to 48 AI controlled combatants. Many criticized the developers for back tracking from the original plan of having 12 human-controlled players on each side, suggesting that a 6v6 multiplayer cap would feel empty or present a less challenging experience.

After spending some time with the Titanfall beta, I can echo those individuals concerns. While the AI opponents make the game feel like a larger experiencethan it is, they are about as challenging as shooting fish in a barrel. That’s a nice way of saying that the AI in Titanfall are dumb. Painfully dumb. It’s not a stretch to suggest that when you are in a Titanfall match, taking down 4 or 5 AI controlled opponents without a scratch will become the norm.

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Although the AI are as lifeless as a piece of flank steak, they do serve a greater purpose; the more opponents you kill, the faster you can call in a Titan. This serves as a way to let any level of player jump into a match and feel like they are fully experiencing the game without being crushed by more experienced players. The real challenge in Titanfall, at the moment, is keeping your Titan functioning. This where you see the real experienced players shine. 

One other way Respawn changes up the dull AI experience is by introducing scripted moments within a given match. For example, during one match of Attrition, I walked into a building where two of my teammates were being meleed by a Spectre. In this situation, you can either save your allies by destroying the Spectre, or you can hack the bot and use it as your own. While this breaks up the monotony of plowing through throngs of AI opponents, a hacked Spectre is only as good as the AI, which is not very good at all. 

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None of these observations are meant to discourage you from enjoying Titanfall. It is an excellent multiplayer experience, and Respawn has plenty of time to make last minute improvements before launch. The challenge is going to be finding the sweet spot for AI so that a match doesn’t feel like shooting at sitting ducks.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Make Your Own Chiptune Music Using Basami Sentaku’s 8-Bit Harmonica

Remember when fixing a glitched game was as easy as blowing air into a plastic cartridge? That was kind of gross when you really think about it. Now you can relive that gross, nostalgic memory thanks to the inventive work of Basami Sentaku.

At it’s core, 8-bit Harmonica is essentially an electronic panpipe housed inside a Famicom cartridge and programmed to reproduce the familiar chiptune sounds of yore. As you can see in the video above, you’ll need a small troupe to recreate the songs that have cemented themselves in our collective pop-culture psyche - but the 8-bit Harmonica is a bright idea nonetheless.

Friday, January 3, 2014

BASEBAWL

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Eidolon Makes Post-Human America Look Good


Just because surviving our future apocalyptic world will be tough doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful. Ice Water Games’ new project, Eidolon, is about surviving the now desolate American wilderness and uncovering what happened to the civilization that once exited there on both a personal and historical level. As you can see from the video above, the game trades the familiar bleak, grey motif of life after humans for the colorful landscape of Western Washington.

Eidolon

Eidolon will task players with exploring the environment and uncovering the memories of those who lived before the fall of civilization.  Surviving long enough to understand what happened to our now-dead culture will require you to craft materials and assuage some of the most basic of human necessities: hunger, rest, temperature, and more. Ice Water Games describe Eidolon as “a game about history, curiosity, interconnectedness, and the slow and inevitable beauty of life.”

Eidolon

Eidolon is slated to release for both PC and MAC in 2014. If you’re feeling generous, you can give the developers a hand on Steam Greenlight. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Counter-Strike Veteran Working on Unannounced Blizzard GameMichael Booth, former CEO of Turtle Rock Studios, has revealed that Blizzard is currently looking for a Lead Producer for an upcoming unannounced game. A small team will be working on the project, similar to the in-beta Hearthstone, as the job posting suggests that the ideal candidate will “have a passion for and experience in wrangling both small scrappy teams and large-multi-discipline juggernauts.” The project appears to be different from other titles Blizzard has announced are currently in development, such as Titan or Heroes of the Storm. 

Interestingly, Booth is a veteran of the FPS genre, having programmed for the original Counter-Strike at Valve and acted as a Project Lead for Left 4 Dead. Joining Blizzard could very well be just another step in Booth’s successful career; the more brazen observer might suggest that Booth was brought on board to work on something that hits a little closer to home. It’s also worth noting that the job board for Blizzard’s “Unnannounced Game” also advertises an opening for a 3D Weapons Artist, with experience working with “a diverse range of equipment, vehicles, and mechanical characters.”
What do you think this unannounced Blizzard game could be? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter @npward.

Counter-Strike Veteran Working on Unannounced Blizzard Game

Michael Booth, former CEO of Turtle Rock Studios, has revealed that Blizzard is currently looking for a Lead Producer for an upcoming unannounced game. A small team will be working on the project, similar to the in-beta Hearthstone, as the job posting suggests that the ideal candidate will “have a passion for and experience in wrangling both small scrappy teams and large-multi-discipline juggernauts.” The project appears to be different from other titles Blizzard has announced are currently in development, such as Titan or Heroes of the Storm. 

BlizzardTweetBooth

Interestingly, Booth is a veteran of the FPS genre, having programmed for the original Counter-Strike at Valve and acted as a Project Lead for Left 4 Dead. Joining Blizzard could very well be just another step in Booth’s successful career; the more brazen observer might suggest that Booth was brought on board to work on something that hits a little closer to home. It’s also worth noting that the job board for Blizzard’s “Unnannounced Game” also advertises an opening for a 3D Weapons Artist, with experience working with “a diverse range of equipment, vehicles, and mechanical characters.”

What do you think this unannounced Blizzard game could be? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter @npward.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review: Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh As a yearly franchise, the Assassin’s Creed games seem to have become comfortable making incremental changes while simultaneously staying true to their original formula. Black Flag represents the largest shift the series has seen since the confusing and convoluted Templars vs. Assassins story line began nearly 10 years ago. Whereas previous Assassin’s Creed games tried to tack on new mechanics to an increasingly complicated story every Q4, such as the ability to recruit and conduct an order of assassins in Brotherhood, Black Flag ditches the familiar for what feels like an entirely new game. And honestly, that departure is the most attractive part of the latest iteration in the series.  The story focuses on Edward Kenway, a rapscallion who has a villainous desire to get rich quick by starting a career as a privateer. Kenway soon finds himself hanging out with the wrong crowd, as pirates sometimes do, and discovers his new clique is actually a band of Templars searching for a mysterious device known as the “Observatory.” That’s about the extent of how Black Flag is connected to the overarching Assassin’s Creed storyline.  Rather than devolving into the usual confusing mess of a story that is the Templars vs. Assassins plotline, Black Flag is perfectly comfortable introducing you to that conflict and then allowing you to become involved with it on your own authority. It quickly becomes apparent that Edward is not the typical Assassin’s protagonist. Just two hours into the game, the Assassin’s Creed fiction seems to take a back seat to the real crux, which centers on jumping from island to island, exploring the Caribbean at your own pace. The looseness of the story means that Kenway has all the free-running, climbing and killing skills of the Order – but is further removed from the series’ more hard-line and absurd plot lines. Ironically, this aspect of the game – the fact that it doesn’t feel like an Assassin’s Creed game – is where Black Flag truly shines. 
As I began expanding my own pirate empire, I started to feel that Black Flag was the pirate game that has been missing from our lives since the glory days of Guybrush Threepwood and LeChuck in The Secret of Monkey Island. I started to wonder whether Ubsioft should have dropped the Assassin’s Creed shell all together and created a brand new pirate-focused IP. Black Flag encourages you to deviate from the game’s main objectives. It wants you to pillage and plunder your way through the Caribbean while keeping the thinly veiled Assassins vs. Templars plot in the back of your head. 
Mechanically, Edward controls just as every other Assassin before him controlled in the previous games; the real difference in Black Flag is that Ubisoft has taken the wildly popular sailing mechanics from Assassin’s Creed 3 and made them the primary mode of travel for Kenway in an absolutely monstrous open world. Controlling Edward’s ship, the Jackdraw, is remarkably fun and has an almost arcade-like feeling to it. Beyond navigating the Caribbean, there are also a variety of enemy ships and forts patrolling the waters, which you can choose to destroy or salvage on your way to your next destination. These mechanics reinforce the feeling of freedom you feel as you are exploring the game world, providing a real sense of discovery and adventure. Several other aspects of previous Assassin’s Creed games have also been integrated into Black Flag in a much more refined way than in the past. For instance, hunting returns from Assassin’s Creed 3, but it’s a much more robust and practical activity than before. Rather than chasing down a deer and simply selling the pelt, you can now hunt creatures on land and sea and then use the hide or bones to craft upgrades for Edward. One of the areas of the game that remained almost unchanged from earlier Assassin’s Creed games is visible in the multiplayer modes. Predator vs. prey makes a return, which requires you to hunt disguised or hidden players, and rewards players for more exotic kills. There is also a tweaked “Wolfpack” mode, which requires up to four players to kill marked targets to add time to a rapidly expiring timer. The multiplayer portion of Black Flag is entertaining enough, but the real meat and potatoes can be found in the single player campaign.  I’ve experienced the ups and downs of the Assassin’s Creed saga since 2007, and I can say that without a doubt, the most fun I had playing Assassin’s Creed IV happened in the parts that were the most antithetical to the previous games. A huge portion of Black Flag does away with some of the more frustrating and stale portions of the series’ past and reinvents the original focus on assassinations. Consequently, the game can at times feel directionless because it has a hard time melding a brand new experience with a very tired story. Black Flag is much more than a fresh coat of paint; it is a brand new game whose potential is held back because it’s trying to fit an overly complicated, exhausted mold.

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag Review: Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh

As a yearly franchise, the Assassin’s Creed games seem to have become comfortable making incremental changes while simultaneously staying true to their original formula. Black Flag represents the largest shift the series has seen since the confusing and convoluted Templars vs. Assassins story line began nearly 10 years ago. Whereas previous Assassin’s Creed games tried to tack on new mechanics to an increasingly complicated story every Q4, such as the ability to recruit and conduct an order of assassins in Brotherhood, Black Flag ditches the familiar for what feels like an entirely new game. And honestly, that departure is the most attractive part of the latest iteration in the series.

The story focuses on Edward Kenway, a rapscallion who has a villainous desire to get rich quick by starting a career as a privateer. Kenway soon finds himself hanging out with the wrong crowd, as pirates sometimes do, and discovers his new clique is actually a band of Templars searching for a mysterious device known as the “Observatory.” That’s about the extent of how Black Flag is connected to the overarching Assassin’s Creed storyline. 

Rather than devolving into the usual confusing mess of a story that is the Templars vs. Assassins plotline, Black Flag is perfectly comfortable introducing you to that conflict and then allowing you to become involved with it on your own authority. It quickly becomes apparent that Edward is not the typical Assassin’s protagonist. Just two hours into the game, the Assassin’s Creed fiction seems to take a back seat to the real crux, which centers on jumping from island to island, exploring the Caribbean at your own pace. The looseness of the story means that Kenway has all the free-running, climbing and killing skills of the Order – but is further removed from the series’ more hard-line and absurd plot lines. Ironically, this aspect of the game – the fact that it doesn’t feel like an Assassin’s Creed game – is where Black Flag truly shines.

As I began expanding my own pirate empire, I started to feel that Black Flag was the pirate game that has been missing from our lives since the glory days of Guybrush Threepwood and LeChuck in The Secret of Monkey Island. I started to wonder whether Ubsioft should have dropped the Assassin’s Creed shell all together and created a brand new pirate-focused IP. Black Flag encourages you to deviate from the game’s main objectives. It wants you to pillage and plunder your way through the Caribbean while keeping the thinly veiled Assassins vs. Templars plot in the back of your head. 

Mechanically, Edward controls just as every other Assassin before him controlled in the previous games; the real difference in Black Flag is that Ubisoft has taken the wildly popular sailing mechanics from Assassin’s Creed 3 and made them the primary mode of travel for Kenway in an absolutely monstrous open world. Controlling Edward’s ship, the Jackdraw, is remarkably fun and has an almost arcade-like feeling to it. Beyond navigating the Caribbean, there are also a variety of enemy ships and forts patrolling the waters, which you can choose to destroy or salvage on your way to your next destination. These mechanics reinforce the feeling of freedom you feel as you are exploring the game world, providing a real sense of discovery and adventure.

Several other aspects of previous Assassin’s Creed games have also been integrated into Black Flag in a much more refined way than in the past. For instance, hunting returns from Assassin’s Creed 3, but it’s a much more robust and practical activity than before. Rather than chasing down a deer and simply selling the pelt, you can now hunt creatures on land and sea and then use the hide or bones to craft upgrades for Edward.

One of the areas of the game that remained almost unchanged from earlier Assassin’s Creed games is visible in the multiplayer modes. Predator vs. prey makes a return, which requires you to hunt disguised or hidden players, and rewards players for more exotic kills. There is also a tweaked “Wolfpack” mode, which requires up to four players to kill marked targets to add time to a rapidly expiring timer. The multiplayer portion of Black Flag is entertaining enough, but the real meat and potatoes can be found in the single player campaign. 

I’ve experienced the ups and downs of the Assassin’s Creed saga since 2007, and I can say that without a doubt, the most fun I had playing Assassin’s Creed IV happened in the parts that were the most antithetical to the previous games. A huge portion of Black Flag does away with some of the more frustrating and stale portions of the series’ past and reinvents the original focus on assassinations. Consequently, the game can at times feel directionless because it has a hard time melding a brand new experience with a very tired story. Black Flag is much more than a fresh coat of paint; it is a brand new game whose potential is held back because it’s trying to fit an overly complicated, exhausted mold.

This Teaser Trailer for Monument Valley Will Charm You

Ustwo have released a brand new teaser trailer for their Escher-inspired adventure game, Monument Valley.

The game appears to revolve around manipulating blocks into distinct orientations so that a bearded elf can reach the top of the tower. I’m not certain the main character is a bearded elf, but that’s what it looks like to me. Want to fight about it? It’s a simple premise presented in absolutely gorgeous way, which isn’t a surprise given that ustwo is a studio whose primary focus is interface design.

Ustwo have previously worked on the equally delightful mobile games Whale Trail and Blip Blup.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The “Really Useful Dragons" mod replaces Skyrim’s dragons with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Halo: Spartan Assault Arrives on Xbox One Dec. 24thHalo: Spartan Assault will make the leap from Windows 8 devices to the Xbox One on December 24 for $14.99, Microsoft announced today.Those who purchase the PC version before Dec. 15 can buy the Xbox One version for $4.99.
Originally slated for a December 2013 release date, the Xbox 360 version of Spartan Assault has been pushed back and will instead be available in January 2014. Both console releases will also include the original Halo: Spartan Assault achievements, as well as new achievements, listed in full on the Halo Waypoint blog, and will be included for both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 versions of the shooter.

Halo: Spartan Assault Arrives on Xbox One Dec. 24th

Halo: Spartan Assault
 will make the leap from Windows 8 devices to the Xbox One on December 24 for $14.99, Microsoft announced today.

Those who purchase the PC version before Dec. 15 can buy the Xbox One version for $4.99.

Originally slated for a December 2013 release date, the Xbox 360 version of Spartan Assault has been pushed back and will instead be available in January 2014. Both console releases will also include the original Halo: Spartan Assault achievements, as well as new achievements, listed in full on the Halo Waypoint blog, and will be included for both the Xbox One and Xbox 360 versions of the shooter.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013