Category Archives: Gaming

Problems with Aliens: Colonial Marines

So I’ve played a few hours of Colonial Marines and I have to say that the experience (as predicted by many) is underwhelming. It has changed a lot since the original promotion as a 4-player co-op class-based survival game (essentially Left 4 Dead but with aliens and pre-built loadouts). Let’s ignore the changes in direction though, as it has been a few years and even with the best intentions things do change. Let’s instead focus on the problems with the game as-is.

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Halo 4: Bringing emotion to an established FPS

This post contains massive spoilers if you haven’t already completed Halo 4 (and, to a lesser extent, the other games in the series). Continue reading at your own risk.

As a long-time fan of the Halo series across all media, be it games, books, or videos, the fourth video game installment in the Master Chief/Cortana story arc really piled on the feelings. (“Dem feels” as I believe the kids of today refer to such things.) Interestingly, I haven’t played through the game myself—the timing of the release wasn’t good for me and in the end impatience won out and I instead watched the playthrough published to Youtube by PauseUnpause. That first time I just sat back and absorbed the story. Recently, however, I watched through a compilation of the cutscenes, along with some important moments during player control, and considered what factors caused the game to really hit the target emotionally. I believe that it comes down to three essential factors, as described below in no particular order.

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Positech Games @ Rezzed (NEC, Birmingham)

I popped over to Rezzed today to check out a few games in person. Of particular interest to me was the Positech Games stand, manned by Cliff Harris.

I have a bit of a history with one of their games, Gratuitous Space Battles, since hanging around on the modding forum and realising that a tool similar to the old SunEdit would make everyone’s life easier (while I was sitting in the reception at a hotel in Egypt of all places). A bit of coding in my spare time led to the creation of GSBEdit, and (other than a two year timeout) I’ve been trying to make it a useful tool ever since.

While I was at the Positech stand I got a look at Democracy 3 in person. It’s a very detailed political simulator and I have to say, it’s the first time I’ve seen people show so much excitement while discussing policy ideas. The interface seems surprisingly intuitive – having not seen the interface previously, I could still immediately see how it functions and how all the different factors relate to each other (and trust me, there are a lot). It seems like it’s going to be a game that will be easy to sink much more time into than you expected.

Oblivion Mods

Oblivion hasn’t been out for long, but already the mods are coming in. I personally don’t tend to apply many of the fan-made mods to my Elder Scrolls games as I am one for having an extensively tested and balanced game (in theory at least), and a lot of the mods are purely to make people’s lives easier. The ones I do go for tend to be cosmetic ones that make things look better. With that in mind, here are the three mods I have applied to my game:

  • Oblivion Topless Mod
    This only applies to the female characters (the guys are already topless if you remove the clothes). It appears the Bethesda guys made the models naked to start with and then sculpted the fixed underwear on, but left the original models/textures in the data files unused. I chose to apply this mod not because I want to look at my character naked, but because the underwear they gave the characters is not nice at all, my character would certainly not wear it.
  • PA Eye Colors 1 + 2
    These add a much wider variety of eye colours to select for your character. The range given as shipped is rather limited, my character could have done with these to start with.
  • That’s all for now, until I find any more worthy ones. Ciao.


    Dan let me borrow the game F.E.A.R. to try out and I have to say I am impressed. It is one of those rare games that make you glad you upgraded your graphics card (though in my case it was a while ago and my 6600GT can just about keep up with it, I would love to see it at full detail settings). It combines a lot of elements I’ve seen in other games, but never at the same time…

    The Music
    The music is almost perfect. The samples merge together flawlessly and nearly always reflect exactly what’s going on, you’ll be walking down a corridoor with a haunting (and slightly addictive) track playing in the background and suddenly you’ll hear snatches of conversation from further up ahead and the music will ramp up in tempo. Then there’s the areas with no music at all, a lot of games forget how incredibly atmospheric it can be for the music to drop out and leave you in complete silence just praying for something, anything, to happen to break the tension that mounts up.

    The Levels
    Some of the nicest level designs I’ve seen, especially when combined with all the things going on around you, from the corpses laying in pools of their own blood to strip lights that suddenly break free and swing from the power cord on one end (and the lighting effects coming off of them are spot on). Speaking of corpses, that’s another thing, finally a game not scared of showing us a litle gore. Shoot someone in the neck and blood spurts out, throw a grenade into an eclosed space containing someone and it pretty much redefines red mist. And just to go off topic even more, grenades… well, explosives in general, I just love the effect they produce. Think the ripple effect when the helicopter hits the side of the building in The Matrix except in mid-air rather than across the windows and you’re pretty much there.

    The Storyline
    Admittedly I haven’t played through too many of the levels yet, but already it has me thinking and wondering exactly what’s really going on. Plus anything with a scary devil girl is a winner for me. It slowly reveals the story in flashes, though where the flashes are from you aren’t told, that’s for you to work out =P

    The AI
    A game where the bad guys act vaguely intelligently? At long last. If you shoot at them they will warn their mates and… wait for it… take cover *shock* A game where they will take cover when shot at rather than running at you like idiots, something that is long overdue (yes I know it’s been done before, but it is honestly few and far between). Not only that but the other guys will try to circle round to flank you, they will vault over obstacles to get to you or away from you, they will basically try to work as a team while preserving themselves. Scripted or not, it’s quite impressive to watch.

    Think that’s enough rambling for now, just trust me that the game is worth it if you’re into FPSs and you have a relatively beefy system. The 3GHz processor and 1GB or RAM recommended configuration is more of a minimum for it to look good, my setup is currently mainly suffering on the cpu side rather than the gpu side from what I can tell.

    A quick list of other things that don’t seem to make it into most games but are in F.E.A.R., small things that really make the game:
    Guys limping after being shot in the leg, guys being knocked over if they’re at the edge of a blast, guys being caught in the open and running away from you while firing blindly behind them to make you duck out of the way and keep you from getting a clear shot at their back.

    My prediction is that as the graphics in games gets as close to reality as possible, the only place to put the extra hardware abilities is into the physics engines and making everything that’s not graphics as realistic as possible. Also, some optimising wouldn’t go amiss, considering the current philosophy of not bothering because the systems should be able to handle it, games really don’t need 4GB of data to look how they do.

    Cortana and the future of Halo

    Ok, this is very old news for those on the scene, but I haven’t been following very fanatically 😛 This is related to one of my current projects, but not one you’ve seen yet.

    I have walked the edge of the Abyss.
    I have governed the unwilling.
    I have witnessed countless empires break before me.
    I have seen the most courageous soldiers fall away in fear.
    [I was there with the Angel at the tomb]
    I have seen your future.
    And I have learned.
    There will be no more Sadness. No more Anger. No more Envy.

    Oh, and your poet Eliot had it all wrong:
    THIS is the way the world ends.

    That’s a message (apparently sent back in time) from Cortana who appears to be either in one of her deep and slightly over-dramatic moods or going a bit insane, with both being very possible given her personality and experiences. Now, this is the first of a series of messages and they are very interesting. They appear to be sent back in time, as noted above, presumably using Forerunner tech, from a time after Halo 3 when Cortanan is near the end of her life.

    The last line is the one I find most intersting currently, apparently TS Eliot’s “it ends not with a bang, but a whimper” is wrong. And what’s the biggest “bang” available in the Halo universe? The Halos themselves…

    Of course, this isn’t official cannon as they decided that the Marathon universe should be kept seperate, but nonetheless I like big explosions and suchlike and it still sounds like the Cortana (and Master Chief, the Covenant and the Flood when she refers to them in the other messages) that I know and love.