Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Creepers: Minecraft Edition

Right around this time of year, the creepers really seem to come out. No, not those kinds of creepers. I mean, yes, that's true, they're out there. But I'm talking about the new kind of creeper. The infamous Minecraft Creepers. Hit the jump for pictures of this now famous Halloween Do-It-Yourselfer, including my own creeper costume.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shazbot! Tribes MMO Announced!

Independent developers Hi-Rez Studios, who makes Global Agenda (y'know, that other jetpacky MMO shooter) recently announced that they now own the Tribes license and will be developing a mainly-PVP Tribes MMO, titled Tribes Universe.  They are now accepting applications for participation in the Alpha, which is slotted to begin sometime early next year!  Go register!

It will be interesting to see if they use a free-to-play model, in light of the recent move to that model for Global Agenda and the obvious competition from Firefall (Red 5 has already said that Firefall will be free-to-play), the other upcoming persistent-world shooter with jetpacks (and developers who worked on Tribes).

The official announcement reads, "We can't transform Global Agenda to a large scale battle format but since we liked this concept a lot, we decided to create a new game based on large scale fighting.  In order to develop the new game many significant steps had to be taken, including: A significant rewrite to the Unreal engine servers to allow for 100+ players to be fighting in the same map, a new UI system that is more efficient, a different implementation of character visuals, a new terrain system, etc."  It sounds like Tribes Universe will be focusing on the huge battles (between players) across sprawling landscapes that Tribes is known for, whereas Firefall might be focusing a bit more on PvE.

We'll be keeping a keen eye on both projects, so expect more news as we get it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hexen: Edge of Chaos

No no, don't worry! There is still time to change your pants before you read on. Because that's what I had to do once I found about about this upcoming mod.

Hexen: Edge of Chaos is an unofficial sequel to the storyline of Hexen 2 and Heretic 2. It's led by a small team of folks with names like Bloodrayne, SpookT, Deadite and Razorbladder, all of which sound like players you might face off against on any given day in a Hexen deathmatch. They are gamer names, and unsurprisingly, gamers tend to know how to make games better than corporate tools. This gives me hope that the mod will be good. That and the fact that they've been working on it for over four years.

The original Hexen was, and is, one of my favorite games of all time. It will always hold a special place in my heart of hearts due to the amazingly rich ambiance of the world, the multiple classes to choose from (Fighter, Cleric or Mage, each with their own unique weapons) and large-scale puzzles to be solved across the sweeping hub level system.

The first part of the mod is set to be released next month. The team says it will take about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. Hopefully, now that all of the major legwork is finished the rest of the levels will swiftly follow suit.

Head on over to their site and get pumped up!

Indie Superstar: Who's An Indie? Poll and Indiecade Finalist Videos

Indie Superstar, the indie-focused blog run by Leo Jaitley and the rest of the crew at Dejobaan Games, is a really great resource for indie game developers or people interested in indie games.  As part of Indie Week, I wanted to highlight a couple of things they've done over there:

  1. A poll!  Who doesn't love polls?  You should take this poll.  Indie Superstar is trying to figure out "Who is an indie gamer?  Who plays indie games?" in this poll.  Go take it.  The poll, I mean.
  2. Indie Superstar has done a lot of leg work and located all of the videos for the finalists of last month's Indiecade competition.  They also put them all in one handy-dandy post over on their blog.  Thanks for that, gents!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

VVVVVV Goes 3D, Adds X

Unfortunately, this game isn't real.  But, gawd, I want it to be.   A fellow who goes by Roxfox has shown us (mainly as a personal exercise in Maya) what VVVVVV would look and play like if it added the third dimension.  Apparently, in the third dimension, they're giving out the letter "X" to game names.

TellTale's Back to the Future Episode 1 for Free!

I have no idea if this is a permanent offer. I have no idea if TellTale is going to monitor your every move if you sign up. Frankly, I have no idea if signing up for this will disrupt the space-time continuum. But for a free game, why not risk it?


*This is on TellTales official site, it is trustworthy, apparently they don't even want your credit card. No purchase required. You will have to sign up for the TellTale store, so if you hate typing a few things into textfields, stay away.

Dejobaan's Next Offering: Another Onomatopoeically Titled Game

It would seem that the entire staff at Dejobaan Games is comprised of real live Benjamin Buttons--over a year ago (sometime during the development of Dejobaan Games' breakout hit AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, Aaaaa! for short), they simultaneously reached infancy, losing the ability to form real words when coming up with titles for their games.  In my opinion, this has only helped: the games are a blast, the titles are evocative and it certainly doesn't hurt for name recognition and marketing purposes.

The next installment in the Dejobaan catalog is called ooo! ooO! oOO! OOO!, with the full title yet to be disclosed.  Ooo! is a music-based  indie game that inherits some of the tried and true gameplay mechanics found in Aaaaa!  There's a gameplay video here (sorry, it's Flash so you'll have to actually click the link).  After a little bit of learning about the game, it becomes clear why they've chosen the vowel "O" this time around.  The full run down, straight from the mouth of the beast, can be found at the link for the game above, but here's the quick and dirty.  Ooo! examines and analyzes your MP3 library and procedurally makes levels out of it.  It turns your music into the architecture of the level and the paths of the enemies.  It's not chaos, either (we'll have to see how it does with The Mars Volta)--the levels are clean and attractive.  Basically this means that levels created by a Mastodon track will be a lot crazier and redder than one spawned by an Enya track.

There are kisses in Ooo!, just as there were in Aaaaa! (earlier this week, we asked when we would have our first kiss.  How about it, Dejobaan?  Pucker up!).  We may see other ways to get intimate with the structures.  You'll be flying through these musically-generated (and accompanied) levels, kissing buildings and shooting baddies.  Looks pretty, exciting, and easy to get lost in the "zone" of blasting the baddies and jamming out to your tunes, while you dodge and weave through the obstacle course that is your music.

I'm excited about this upcoming PC title (due out in August 2123, according to a previous post on their blog).  Looking forward to more screens, video and juicy gameplay details!

Laser Romance gets some social skills!

In our continuing quest to be a real thing, we are getting into this whole "Social Networking" craze.

Like us on Facebook! Laser Romance

Follow us on Twitter! @LaserRomance

Also, these links now have their own handy dandy sections in the sidebar to the right.

Big things are happening over here at Laser Romance, so spread the word!

Blizzard’s Bannings! Culpable Cheaters?

Shh! Did you hear that? I don’t know if you’ve heard it or not but there is a buzzing in the air. That's the buzzing of bees! Bees that are angry, even furious that video game leviathan, Activision | Blizzard, has again stirred the up the beehive with their latest act. And it's a real stinger.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Planck Playtest (Laser Romance Exclusive!)

My god, it's a veritable indie games blitz!  In this installment of what has become Indie Games Week here at Laser Romance, we bring you our first ever bit of exclusive content (a big week for firsts, too--what's next, our first kiss?).

The good people at Shadegrown Games have been kind enough to let us distribute (for the first time publicly!) the playtest version of their upcoming PC and Mac musical shoot 'em up, Planck (featured in the Indie Games Roundup).  It's relaxing and abstractly beautiful.  Plus, it sounds good, despite my complete lack of rhythm and general musical ability.  I seriously recommend that you give it a go.  And give them feedback for being so nice and great.  Hit the jump for the details and download.

Snapshot! Another Indie Game!

I've just realized that I omitted (how rude!) one of the indie games I'm most excited about from the roundup below, and in an effort to recompense the fine fellows at Retro Affect for drawing the short stick, they're getting their very own post!  I'm not quite sure how this happened, given that I saw a Peter Jones (Supreme Hero of Business at Retro Affect) give a presentation on their game at the last Boston Indies meeting.  Whoops.  Anyways, Retro Affect is developing a PC (definitely to be on Steam, per Jones) game called Snapshot, which you may recognize from its nomination in the 2009 IGF.  Snapshot is a puzzle platformer with a central mechanic of, you guessed it, snapshots.  Taking pictures, that is.  You can see a trailer for the game that was their IGF submission on the Snapshot page of their website.  Take note: that submission was a student project that served as more of a proof of concept for their current undertaking than as a fully realized game.  Hit the jump for some screens and a little more on the game.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light: The Best (Un)co-operative Game Ever

Chris and I had heard good things about the new installment in the Lara Croft franchise, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, so we picked it up via Steam for the PC (also available on Xbox Live and PSN) and got in on that tasty isometric shooting and puzzle-solving co-op goodness.  After a few minutes of play, we realized that pictures would show why we like this game so much better than words.  Hit the jump for the good stuff, but if you're more for the latter, here's a bit of that:

Honestly, this game is a blast.  It's a solid isometric shooter, but the game really shines with its cooperative puzzle solving.  The inventive and genuinely challenging (but not maddeningly so) puzzles are paired with plenty of upgrades and power ups scattered around the maps to encourage exploring.  It's a departure from the formula of the other games starring everyone's favorite sexy spelunker, but it's refreshing and might just breathe some new life into the franchise.  It only supports local co-op for now, but if you can convince a friend to sit down and play with you, it will be $15 well spent.

Besides scouring the maps for precious power ups, one thing in particular adds to the game's longevity: griefing.  Chris and I would regularly take about 45 minutes to complete a level because we were too busy bombing each other to high heaven and dropping each other into spikes and off ledges to be concerned with actually achieving the objective.  Talk about emergent gameplay.  We made a highlight reel of our best innovations in tearing each other down.  We switched characters a couple times, but if you're ever wondering who's who, I've always got more points than Chris, because he insisted on jumping into every pit he saw.  Hit the jump for the first Laser Romance video presentation ever.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

BlizzCon: SlayerS_BoxeR vs. FruitDealer

If you care about competitive Starcraft at all, then you're probably familiar with SlayerS_BoxeR and FruitDealer (formerly known as Cool). You probably also know that BoxeR is a major part of the reason that pro Starcraft is a thing that anyone gives a damn about, and that recently these two players joined the ranks of Korean players making the transition from Brood War to Starcraft 2. And you've probably already watched their BlizzCon exhibition games live. But if you haven't, and you care even a little about Starcraft, it's probably worth checking out the videos after the jump.

Indie Games Roundup

Here at Laser Romance, we treat indies like the livestock they are.  We round them up.  Just kidding--indies do wonderful things and take chances with their art and gameplay that larger companies never would.  Here's a smattering of some indie games past, present and future that I have enjoyed, have heard good things about, or am excited about.  Titles include: Slam Bolt ScrappersPlanckVVVVVVTales from Space: About a BlobMonacoSuper Meat BoyThe Misadventures of P.B. WinterbottomKrautscapeProunSuper Crate BoxGrappling HookThe Swapper, and The Polynomial - The Space of Music.  There's a lot to soak up, but it'll be worth your while.  Hit the jump for details, trailers, etc.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Valve Gets Trigger Happy With "The Bird"

I've noticed a trend lately: Valve has been giving the proverbial finger to several different people.  Thing is, they can get away with it.  And none of it was overtly rude.  Just a little tip of the hat and a muttered, "We can do it all.  And no one is the boss of us."

Evidence of said trend:
  • Steam to introduce digital game trade ins (as if GameStop wasn't struggling enough, especially with the recent possibility that law will prohibit the resale of used physical games.)
  • MannConomy Team Fortress 2 Update (So many updates providing free content to your players.  Why.  Why! OH GOD, WHY?!!!  You've nullified everything I've worked for, all those hours of patiently waiting for drops as I hone my skills.  In addition, there are now stat-changing load outs that players are very unlikely to get without shelling out $20 (per) or $50 for the whole kit and kaboodle.  The goddamn game itself costs $20 now.  So not down.)
  • Valve bringing Steamworks to PS3 and drops L4D prices massively (but only on the PC) (Here, Microsoft, check out my middle finger.  How does it look?  Like it knows what it's doing?  Like it won't be subjected to your Xbox Live market standards?)
  • DotA 2 Announced (Riot Games, you made a good game based on the popular mod DotA called League of Legends.  Now, we're going to do it better.  And with more features.)
  • Alien Swarm released, surprise free game! (We're very truly sorry, Team17, that you just released Alien Breed: Impact, which is effectively the same game, about a month earlier.  We're doing it for free.  Oh, and giving the community the SDK.)
Don't get me wrong.  I love Valve and think they do amazing work, not to mention the way that they have transformed PC gaming (and distribution of indie games).  But they sure aren't shy.  And nothing will keep them from doing what they want, nor doing it with style and authority.

Friday, October 15, 2010

No Ducks Here

Just found this wonderful game (via Rock Paper Shotgun) called Chase Goose 2.  If you've ever enjoyed Canabalt or Robot Unicorn Attack, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.  Pretty similar basic mechanic, but it requires a lot more thinking and at least two more fingers.  Those are always good things, right?

Same addicting run and jump gameplay with a refreshing twist.  My favorite part about the game was that when I fell to my doom, I was never cursing my lack of impeccable timing.  I found myself smiling and chuckling every time, thinking "Man, they got me good that time."  You'll see what I mean.  My top score after a few tries was 1,025.  See if you can top it.

Move it, move it!

Thanks, Reel 2 Real, that's a good idea.  I think I'll do that.

What's that?  We didn't change anything?  Oh.  Uh.


That's not true!  We lost the word "World."  And we'll be getting a fancy new logo soon, along with a general trimming down and refinement of the site.  The change to Laser Romance was motivated by a few factors:
  1. We realized that "World Laser Romance" was a little awkward to say.  The main culprit here was "World."  So we kicked his ass out on the curb.  And don't ever come back!
  2. We wanted something a little shorter and snappier.  In another few months, we'll probably lose another word from our title.  Eventually, our blog's name will have negative words in it.
  3. We wanted a real domain.  Lends some legitimacy to our endeavor, yadda yadda.  Also, it's nice not to have to type in all that ".blogspot" stuff.  But hopefully you'll just bookmark us anyhow.
So, in closing, welcome to our new home.  Hope you like it here--we do.  We even have a guest room if you want to move in*.

*This is a fabrication.  The internet does not have rooms.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sanity Matters

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw recently wrote one of his Extra Punctuation columns on the topic of Sanity Meters in games.  Now, I haven't played any of the games he discusses, but I have played another game that deals with sanity, but not with a meter.  That game is Condemned: Criminal Origins.  It is a first person game (I won't say shooter, since you rarely get guns and when you do, you only get whatever ammo is left in the clip--mostly you're ripping pipes off the wall to beat your assailants to a pulp) where you play as Ethan Thomas, a SCU (Serial Crimes Unit) investigator who has been framed for the murder of two cops and must prove his innocence.  The city around him is going mad and it would seem that he's having a little trouble clinging to his sanity, as well.  You experience psychotic episodes periodically throughout the game, signaled by white flashes and the color leaving the screen.

Yahtzee's main message was that he wasn't sure he cares for the sanity meter.  His reasoning follows.
I'm iffy about any gameplay mechanic that imposes an emotion upon the player character, because if the designer did their job properly then the player should be feeling that emotion anyway. It's like when a game forces me to go rescue some kidnapped love interest I hate because, no really, your character totally loves them, guys. Having a blurry screen effect and heavy breathing sound to show your character is shit scared just seems unnecessary if the player actually is shit scared, and almost comical if they aren't.
 I agree.  But I don't.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Multiplayer Beta Impressions

If you were to ask me what game would be most benefited by the addition of a multiplayer mode, my answer would almost certainly not have been Assassin's Creed. Nevertheless, the upcoming latest in the franchise, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, in addition to an all-new full-length single player story mode (featuring the return of Ezio Auditore, ultimate badass), will now feature online multiplayer. The open beta for the multiplayer went live over the weekend for those of us who were gullible enough to subscribe to Playstation Plus, and Assassin's Creed II being one of my favorite (and most-played) games from last year, I naturally dove right in.

What I saw pleased me. Read on for my brief impressions of a decidedly different form of online multiplayer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Logitech G15 Keyboard

There are many gaming related peripherals that you can leave lying about the house in order to demonstrate your worth to any member of the opposite sex who happens to walk by. Today, I will speak about my favorite. Sure, I have a mouse with adjustable DPI, a Team Fortress 2 poster above my desk, and a 360 controller just to the right of my mousepad, but the thing that grabs people, shakes them vigorously and screams, “I CAN MAKE YOU MY BITCH IN CALL OF DUTY 4” is my Logitech G15 keyboard.

Video Games Characters: Mega Man-ized

Wow. It looks like somebody likes Mega Man almost as much as Blizzard loves steroid-grown space cowboys. Here are some of what your favorite titles would look like given the Mega Man art treatment.

Click on the picture for full resolution.

Nintendo 4 Life y'all!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Monthiversary of Me Getting a Job (in the Games Industry!)

I've been working in the games industry for about a month now.  Mostly, this is still strange to me.  I seriously go into an office every weekday and make games?!  After spending 4 months unemployed out of college, relentlessly sending my resume out to every game developer in North America, I finally landed a QA Internship at Creat Studios, headquartered in Canton, MA (but founded in Russia).  After deciding that working in games was truly what I wanted to do about 9 months earlier, it was my big break, I was finally doing it!  Admittedly, QA wasn't where I wanted to end up, but it was a foot in the door.  What follows is a few reflections on the past month since beginning my career in earnest (read: no longer sitting at home, week in and week out, slowly developing an iPhone game).  I apologize in advance for any vagueness that you may find below--NDA and all that jazz.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

L4D: The Sacrifice: The Comic: Part 4 and DLC!

It's here. If you didn't know that, start up Steam and behold the new add-on for Left 4 Dead 2. Also, the climactic finale of the Left 4 Dead comic, Part 4.

Explaining the details of the add-on, Valve said this: "'The Sacrifice' is the prequel to 'The Passing,' and takes place from the L4D Survivors' perspective as they make their way South. In addition to advancing the story, "The Sacrifice" introduces a new style finale featuring 'Sacrificial Gameplay' where players get to decide who will give their life so the others may live.

In 'The Sacrifice' for Left 4 Dead 2, owners receive 'The Sacrifice' campaign playable with the Left 4 Dead Survivors. In addition, those with Left 4 Dead 2 receive L4D's "No Mercy" campaign. Both campaigns are playable in Campaign, Versus, Survival, and Scavenge modes and both will feature the Left 4 Dead 2 Special Infected, items, and weapons. Yes, Zoey with a chainsaw!"

Let's all give Bill the send-off salute he deserves. Go forth now, frolic and partake in the zombpocalyptic-revelry.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Roundtable: Minecraft

What follows is a discussion, by some of our very own World Laser Romance contributors, about our feelings and experiences playing the new indie sandbox hit, Minecraft. For the uninitiated, Minecraft is a first person exploration / survival / world building game in which almost every interactive surface, object and creature is comprised of blocks, which can be gathered, mined and reused elsewhere to build things. For instance, a mud yurt. Or a quaint wooden house with windows and bookshelves. Or if you have a bigger imagination and enough time, a castle. Or an entire city, the electronics make-up of an ALU, pixel art or a 1:1 scale model of the Starship Enterprise.

Minecraft, the brainchild of one Markus Persson aka Notch, doesn't attempt to keep up with the eye-candy that has become so expected of majority of modern games, and instead offers an emergent, persistent world in which the player is free to do as he/she pleases (within the confines of a procedurally generated landscape). Explore, build, survive, experiment. Hit the jump for the talk. Warning: Prolonged exposure to nonsense can cause drooling.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Playable Taliban would have cost EA the U.S. Army's support, for whatever that's worth

Just a day after EA announced they would be removing playable Taliban from Medal of Honor after all, Kotaku is running a rather interesting piece from a perspective I had never considered: that of the military advisors who consulted on the game. What I find most compelling about it is that all of the military personnel interviewed take a very tolerant, understanding attitude about the whole scenario.

"You have to understand I'm not a gamer," Hawes told Kotaku. "We provide support on major motion pictures, television and video games, but I didn't grow up with video games. So personally I was a little disappointed they included that scenario."
Hawes said he understands that when a military shooter has an online element there needs to be "theoretical good guys and theoretical bad guys."
"But our concern is that this is an ongoing conflict, soldiers are engaged every day, our sons and daughters are dying at the hands of the Taliban," he said.

Why...that sounds downright reasonable!
Anyway, the whole thing is ultimately of little consequence, as the worst that could have happened is that the Army could have withdrawn its official support for the game, a purely symbolic gesture. It's still interesting to consider the relationship between the creators of these war games and members of the actual military they represent.

Kotaku: Playable Taliban Jeopardized U.S. Army's Support For Medal Of Honor

Friday, October 1, 2010

Coming Attractions: An Entirely Biased and Subjective Look at the Holiday's Biggest Games

Part 1: October

So we're coming up on the holiday season, traditionally the time when all the year's biggest games face off in a battle for your hard-earned dollar. Continuing a recent trend, however, this holiday is once again seeing the release of a few absolute juggernauts and a couple other major releases foolish enough to get in their way, while a lot of the most exciting games (Bulletstorm, Killzone 3, Dead Space 2, Portal 2, Dragon Age II, Crysis 2, a lot of other games with the number 2 in their name, etc...) moving into the winter/spring of 2011 to soak up all the gift-certificates received at Christmas. For the second year running, the first quarter is when all of the games I'm really chomping at the bit for (Portal 2, Portal 2, Portal 2, etc.) come out, while the holiday season is left for the more mainstream, name-recognition games to duke it out for consumer's attention.

That is not to say that this holiday season is utterly without merit, of course, so with that (extremely pretentious) introduction out of the way, let's take a look at the games that I have decided are worth looking at being released in the coming months.
Also, you might not see a lot of PC games here. Trust me, that's not cause of bias, I just honestly can't find any compelling PC exclusives coming out this holiday season. Hit the jump for the lineup.

The Sacrifice Trailer

I don't want to muddle this up with too many words. For a picture is worth a thousand of those. And a movie is worth, well, a plethora of pictures. And this one will probably give you a goosebump or two.

So without further ado, the trailer for the new upcoming (next week) Left 4 Dead campaign, The Sacrifice.

Bam. Delicious graphics in my eyes. Valve and Blizzard can make some remarkable cinematics, no? Yes.

Impressive how much can be portrayed without any spoken words. Also, this trailer made me realize how much I care about these fictional (video game!) characters. Gah.