Monday, 22 December 2008

Timesplitters team splitting after all this time?

First of all, I apologise for the title of this blog. I really do. Whilst it is a fairly accurate in the message it is portraying, it is a fairly awful play on words that I am not entirely proud of.

Anyway, this post comes with the story that Free Radical Design is on the verge of slipping away in to the dark corner of non-existence.

The story goes that the highly respected games developer has been running on fumes for months now after a series of unfortunate events. This includes that much hyped, but unfortunately less than stellar title Haze and the deal with Lucas Arts (rumoured to be Star Wars Battlefront III) falling through.

The first official thing that any employees heard of the matter was when they turned up to work last week to find the doors locked and a note on the door telling them to turn up for a meeting in a hotel down the road.

It was here that an emotional Steve Ellis (co-founder of Free Radical) told everyone that the company was in trouble. This does seem a bit like breaking the bad news to someone who is already dead, but many employees have had suspicions that something was not quite right in the camp for months.

However, there is some hope on the horizon for the company. ReSolve, the appointed administrator of Free Radical has said that there is significant interest in the company being bought.

Free Radical is of course most well known for the fantastic and non-sensical Timesplitters series, famous for disproportioned cartoon characters and monkeys shooting seven shades of sticky red stuff out of each other.

Hopefully, if the company is saved from the brink, the fourth instalment of this hugely played series will be released. The obvious, yearned for feature with the next game would be large scale online play, and could certainly take the crown for best multiplayer shooter, if the previous games multiplayer is anything to go by.

Hopefully some of the guys that worked on Goldeneye (the Nintendo 64 shooter) who were part of the original Free Radical team will either be still there, or have passed on their new tricks.

All that we can do is sit back, hope and pray extra hard to the Gods of Gaming to see that Free Radical Design comes back from the edge with extra monkeys, guns and virtual moustaches.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Why The Sims?

When does life get so repetitive, that to get away from all of the toils and troubles the world can throw at you, the idea of managing a virtual person to do exactly the same thing becomes appealing?

It is as if your brain is trying to tell you that your imagination has commit suicide with a big hammer and rather than getting a new one, it decides to employ the metaphorical archiving guy in your brain to fill the position.

The only reason that any of this has come up is that I recently saw a trailer for The Sims 3 and that it was so strange; it seems to have been dreamt up by a gibbon that is high on methylated spirits and jelly tots. You can watch it and draw your own conclusions here.

Now, I have never made it a secret that I do not like The Sims series, nor do I really understand it.

I have enough trouble trying to wake up in the morning myself, never mind training an imaginary friend to get in to a routine so that they can get their lazy arse out of bed and not miss a bus. I should admit however that I have only ever played the first game.

There are a few fun things that my twisted peers and I managed to come up with to make the game more entertaining.

I’m fairly sure that a lot of people have done the trick of sealing the sims in a room by deleting doors, and then placing a lot of fireplaces and wooden furniture that acts as a very nice set of combustibles to doom the little beggars. There are also the odd occasions when you would delete the steps to a swimming pool so that any paddling sims would drown themselves.

One tale that a friend of mine told me about had me reeling about for quite a while, and made me actually want to play the game, just to see if such things could actually be done.

Allegedly, he made a really fat, unpleasant man who would invite the neighbourhood children around to his house. He would then give them a tour of the shed, but delete the door once the child was inside, making some kind of wrongly hilarious, pretend child prison. To top it all off, since he spent his days entrapping children, he financed building his house by making and selling jam from home.

Just the thought that it is possible to make a jam pedalling (potential) virtual paedophile was easily enough to send me into an unstoppable giggle fit, and debate whether to have my friend committed to a ‘special’ house with the other ‘special’ people.

It really is something quite extreme and, I must admit, odd, that in order to enjoy the game, I need to do it wrong. I am sure that this kind of thing is not what EA and Maxis have in mind. If the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas ‘Hot Coffee’ sex mod was enough to make people edgy, how does a virtual child dungeon stack up?

Maybe one day I will venture back in to the folly of managing virtual lives that make sanding corners seem like sex and beer, but until then, I will stick with steam rolling armies of zombies.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Sleigh bells ring and games are glistening

Well, the 2008th anniversary of someone possibly being born that we celebrate with presents and family feuds is almost upon us, and the games market is looking up for the first time all year.

After a really dry summer with only one or two good games released, things are starting to look up after we have been spoilt for choice with great titles such as Fable 2, Mirrors Edge, Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Gears of War 2 and Little Big Planet brightening up gamer’s lives.

As with Christmas time every year, sales of game hardware are also likely to go through the roof, with more and more people wanting Wiis, Playstation 3s and Xbox 360s. Heck, even I have written to Father Christmas, asking for a new graphics card (I just really hope that one of his elves is a technology buff).

Woolworths being in trouble means that they have slashed 10% off of their gaming stock which means you might be able to find a bargain on the high street, but the internet will probably trump it.

Just remember to get your games ordered soon, as royal mail are slow enough even when there is no Christmas rush, and so you are more likely to win the lottery and be struck by lightening on the same day, than get your presents on time if you leave it much later.

Even in the recession people are willing to spend money on games which really does say a lot about the industry, and how popular it is growing to be when compared with music and movies.

What’s more is that there is no need to feel guilty about spending money on new games rather than luxuries like food, because the more we spend, the healthier the economy gets. So go and buy a new games console, buy me one if you really want to help the country!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Touch Screen and Gaming

When talking about Windows 7, a lot of people seem to become quite childlike about the entire thing and just start reminiscing about how cool the computer interfaces in minority report were.

Yes, touch screens can be cool, but do I want them in my games? The DS touch screen has been a bit of a hit and miss wonder bringing us an onslaught of games readily accessible to old people who like sudoku and making sure their brain still works.

I did not buy the DS Zelda game because the only control was the touch screen. Stabbing a small monitor with a stubby pencil wannabe somehow does not seem quite as appealing as pushing big, satisfying buttons.

If Microsoft wants to phase out the mouse on the PC in favour of placing sweaty fingers on the screen, how will this affect my beloved shooting games? Would I have to physically touch what I want to shoot? Apart from making me feel like some kind of overpowered God person killing pixel armies, it just would not feel the same.

A mouse already feels far removed from a weapon, so remove all peripherals and what do you have? Will we be playing The Sims 6 completely naked and be able to influence it with different body odours? Can Tomb Raider 15 be completely controlled through interpretive dance and rubbing against the screen?

I will keep the mouse in my gaming as long as possible thank you very much! A touch screen might be advantageous to a few games, such as real time strategies, but I want to be really selfish and ask, ‘What will it do for MY genre?’