Thursday, March 26, 2009

ThreadBound Footage

Here's some footage from an iPhone game currently in development by a small team, NeverBored Studios, of which I am the lead designer. I toot my own horn in you're general direction!

Obviously a lot of the art is placeholder, and the audio also has a ways to go, but we are hoping to release it on the apps store in late-April or early-May, and at a limited-time discount. Buy it now! (or rather, then!)

(I'm the one playing, my friend Thomas is the one trying to centre the iPod in front of my laptop's camera. Just pretend this is Blair Witch or something.)

video

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Training

I knew I was learning something.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jean Reno?

There's this relatively new series over at the escapist called Unskippable where these two guys make fun of videogame cutscenes MST3K style. I particularly enjoyed their latest one, partly because I thought the humor was really spot on, and partly because I remember that my friend Dan and I thought this cinematic was totally freaking awesome back when we saw it in the Onimusha 3: Demon Seige trailer years ago.

I also remember that we were totally smacked upside the gob when the trailer declared - and this may count as a spoiler if it's possible to spoil a trailer - that Jean Reno was a character in it. I mean, he doesn't just add some voicework, they've got his likeness in there and everything, fighting alongside a ninja in feudal Japan against an army of, uh, demons apparently.

Um - setting aside for a moment the fact that Jean Reno kicks ass - why?
Well, because apparently the demons are invading present-day France as well as Feudal Japan, so we need a French guy. I guess I'm just dissapointed the demons aren't also invading Mars and Krypton so Superman and Marvin can join the fray. Actually I don't see why they couldn't join the fray, but apparently Jean Reno is just a prick who doesn't care about Feudal Japan and only cares when his own Jerry-loving people are in peril.

(It's interesting how in this context, Jerry could refer to either Jerry Lewis or Nazi Germany, and they're conveniently both offensive.)

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Speaking of irreverent mashups, there's a new book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which is exactly what the title implies. There is also a similar-sounding movie coming out called Pride and Predator, produced by Elton John. That's like if...
...nah, I got nothing.

All I can say is, I'm gonna feel really jipped if they doen't have the actual Predator in the movie. And zombies in pre-Vctorian literature are awesome. If you have doubts, read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

To be academicaly honest, I learned about both of these lovely Jane Austen butcheries at Wondermark, one of the very few webcomics I read. This guy David Malki swipes pictures he finds in 19th century periodicles and combines them with word balloons for surreal and often hilarious results. He also has an enlightening and sobering section called The Comic Strip Doctor where he valiently tries to fix the zombie-like abominations that are todays newspaper 'funnies.' This was where I found out about the wonders of the Garfield Randomizer, but that's a post for another day.

Seriously, read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Jean Reno demands it!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bugdom 2 isn't good...

I realize that the technical realities of the iPhone are somewhat limiting (being part of a team who are developing for it, I'm learning more about the various constraints all the time), and frankly the graphical aspects of Bugdom 2 are quite impressive. It looks about the same as the original Bugdom on the iBook lo these many years ago. It's just a shame that the game itself is... not good.

First, let me start with a disclaimer. Many studios have been good about fixing the various problems in the games they have released by way of updates, and it is quite possible that many of my criticisms have in one way or another been rectified by now. What I am about to review is the Bugdom 2 that I played. Your mileage may vary.


I will start where the game does, with the bee; the big bully bee which comes down and steals the hobo-stick from our protagonist who is, by the way, one of the dumbest looking videogame characters I have ever seen in my life, but that's just my opinion. Anyway, this stupid bee keeps appearing throughout the game, and often flies right next to you, and yet you can't touch him. Run up and kick him, and he completely ignores you. This wouldn't be so frustrating if he wasn't significantly smaller and less threatening-looking than many of the enemies you defeat on a regular basis.

Anyway, let's move on to some more valid criticism; the controls are awful. Now I respect Pangea for trying something new and different, but tilting the phone to move a character in 3D just doesn't work very well. You have no precision, so trying to complete a simple task like picking up an acorn or hopping onto a box becomes an infuriating chore. You can adjust the sensitivety, but then it becomes impossible to run, so your choice is to either slowly meander everywhere or dash around like a maniac on Ritalin. What this game needs, more than anything else, is a RUN BUTTON!

Anyway, the control scheme is at least interesting; that's sadly more than I can say for the rest of the game. Let's list some of the other crap that is wrong with this game.

Everyone in Bugdom 2 is a jerk. Seriously, everyone you meet either wants to kill you with rusty bottlecaps, or they want you to do some stupid fetch quest so they'll give you a key or a checkpoint. The really dumb thing is that the acorns, which the squirrel always wants you to bring her, are literally everywhere. Often they're within arms-reach of the squirrel. Bringing her an acorn is not so much a fetch quest as a stand-still-for-three-seconds-while-managing-to-face-the-right-direction quest which, believe you me, is harder than it sounds. Oh, and the 'friendly' characters' voices were evidently engineered by the US military to be the most painfully irritating voices possibly. Seriously, these guys could easily be weaponized.

Demon-Squirrel: "If ya brring me an acouorn, I'ul give youou this checkpoient."
Irritated stereotypical-terrorist: "Sweet Allah, reach down and pick one up yourself! They're frigging everywhere!"

Speaking of fetch quests, the entire game feels like one long fetch-quest. All you are ever doing, it seems, is wandering around trying to find some arbitrary McGuffin or another. Sadly, draw distance has been sacrificed for graphics and framerate, so the whole thing starts to feel like groping around in the fog for your contact lens. Navigating the world would be significantly more entertaining if you could hover around everywhere, but sadly you are provided with a 'hover bar' which depletes surprisingly quickly. You can replenish it with blueberries, but this involves tackling hundreds of butterflies (don't even ask). I don't understand why the bar is limited. Sure, hovering everywhere all the time would make some of the enemies less threatening, but surely that could be resolved by changing their behavior. And anyway, I see no reason why the bar couldn't steadily replenish on its own, rather than you having to find blueberries. You know a game is bad when it makes you hate blueberries...

And speaking of the enemies, all the battles in this game are super lame. Your only attack (other than launching bees, the non-hobo-stick-stealing kind that is) is this stupid little kick thing that has no range and requires you to be correctly facing your target (which, as I've stated before, is harder than it should be).  This attack does, as you might expect, very little damage, but it does stun the enemy for a while and push them back a little. Therefore, most of the 'battles' in the game degenerate into me repeatedly kicking an enemy who is hunched over in the corner. It looks quite ridiculous, and makes me want to play a different game.


Let me retail to you my experiences with a level that took me 90 minutes to complete. 90 minutes! Keep in mind this game is intended to be played on a phone, and if you were to receive a call during that time, the only thing you'd be able to salvage is a name for your to-kill list. Yes, the last I checked, there was no way to save your game and quit in the middle of a level. Sure there are checkpoints, but a save file only brings you back to the beginning of a level (though as I say, they may have rectified this with patches by now). This game takes commitment; if you start a level, you're in for the long haul. No matter how much the game begs you to hurl it against the wall, you've gotta stick it through 'till the end, or else start over from the beginning of the level. You'll never get the time back, but you'll never have to play that horrible level again (just the next horrible level, and then the next, and so on, until you grow old and die!).

Anyway, somewhere during this well of madness they call level 5, I came across the absolute worst racing section in any game I have ever played. It's not because the controls were broken, it's that, well, all you had to do was tilt the phone forward because the car was on a freaking track! I had to race against another toy car by... tilting my iPod at an angle and waiting until the race was over. It would basically be the equivalent of a quicktime event which required you to hold the A-button down for four minutes. The really sad part? This was by far the most entertaining part of the entire level.

Now don't get me wrong, Bugdom 2 has a few highlights, one of which is rolling around on baseballs. These baseballs were liberally scattered around this particular level, I can only assume as an intended means of slightly quicker transport for its vast corridors, yet some bug (no pun intended) prevented me from riding any of the baseballs, and so I was forced to walk everywhere. This was particularly exasperating because about two-thirds of the level was devoid of anything at all. It almost felt at times like I was playing World of Warcraft, but luckily the combat was much more enjoyable (zing).

The music in the game is decent, but when any song is looped for 90 minutes, it gets rather irritating (with the exception of this one). The game also doesn't let you play your iPod's music during the game unless the sound is turned off, and you need the sound in order to hear the annoying characters tell you want they want you to fetch next.

At a few spots in the level, I was required to push some crates around in order to hop over obstacles (always everyone's favorite part of any game), and I discovered that if you walk about 30 bugfeet away, the crates reset themselves to their original position, forcing you to position them again. Getting the crates in the right spot wouldn't be so hard if the controls weren't such a broken mess!


You know what? I'm done with this game! Life's too short, and I could derive more pleasure from shoving my face into an anthill! I don't recommend you get this game no matter what the price is. I got it for 2 bucks, and I want my time and dignity back! Augh!

Oh, and Nanosaur 2 is pretty good.