Friday, July 28, 2006

Saints Row Demo Impressions

Well, after hearing about the demo you receive when you pre-order Saints Row, I decided to go down to my local Gamestop (only about a block away) and reserve a copy. I'd been hearing good things about it from others so I figured I would probably be picking it up anyways.

This game has been touted as a "GTA killer". That's been thrown around a lot recently, and every game that earned that tile before release has failed to even be half as good as the game it was meant to top, one of the biggest examples was True Crime: Streets of LA.

Anyways, I got the demo and popped it in my 360. The first thing I noticed were the graphics, which weren't anything special. They certainly could've been much better, but then again, I didn't expect much after seeing the screenshots. I did observe some framerate issues as well. It was pretty bad in some spots, slowing down to a crawl. On the bright side, I've heard the demo was from this years E3 and was pretty much rushed to make it in time for the show and that the developers have already cleaned up the framerate issues.

The character creation system is very deep. You truly can create a character that looks at least similar to you if you try hard enough. Even with the limited demo options, there were at least thousands of different characters you could create. Very impressive.

Of course, the gameplay is all that matters and surprisingly enough, Saints Row Delivers. The game starts you off in the middle of the city, and your first mission is becoming a member of the 3rd Street Saints, which involves an initiation fight. The hand to hand fighting controls are a lot deeper than in many other third person action games. Impressive. Then you're tasked with driving one of your fellow gang members to a weapons store to pick up a weapon and take out a few rival gang members. The driving physics felt a little floaty but it wasn't terrible. It just took some getting used to. The same goes for the camera and aiming controls. The default controls felt overly sensitive and needed to be scaled back. After that I found it enjoyable. It was a lot easier to use in a hectic shootout than GTA's. After completing the mission, I drove down to the "Sloppy Seconds" clothing store to pick up some new clothes. Again, much more customization. I like that. Then it was on to another three missions, the first involving picking up ummm... "street walkers" (I'm not going to write exactly what was printed in the game) and delivering them to a brothel. The second involved taking over an abandoned liquor store for use as a hideout. After that, I teamed up with two other high ranking gang members to take out lieutenants of rival gangs who were meeting down by the docks. I've got to say I'm impressed with the mission variety I've seen so far.

All in all, I was highly impressed with this game. Could it live up to the hype and become a GTA killer? It certainly has potential. I will be keeping a close eye on this one until its release next month.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tired as all hell...

Geez. I haven't been getting much sleep recently. I've been to busy working on all these projects I've got going at once. It's exhausting, but every time I really want to go to sleep, i come up with some sort of killer idea I just need to write down. Then I just get rolling again writing or whatever. I've been doing a lot of writing recently. I'm working on two stories for two seperate games I plan on developing, a short story that really started as a joke that eventually became more than that, and a few short stories for the hell of it. I might post the short stories I'm writing on my Deviant Art page after I finish. I haven't decided.

I've been working on mixing some audio together on my PC too. It's time consuming as hell, getting everything mixed together and sounding right. This is also something I'm doing for the hell of it. I don't plan on really doing anything with it.

Game development is also a bitch. It's not programming, it's all the writing you have to do before you even get started. The storyline has to be perfect. If there's a plot hole anywhere, it can all break apart at the seams. Then comes the other stuff, such as level design, audio and everything else.

I think that's enough for now. I'll post more later.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Quick Rant on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD

Well with a new format war being waged, both competitors vying for a position in your home entertainment center, I thought I'd get my thoughts on the issue out there and voice my concerns

I think both formats are on the road to ruin very quickly. The fact is, they are ahead of their time, and not in a good way. I have several reasons for having this position and here they are.

First off, HDTV penetration is only about 20% in the US for sure, (I'm not sure what it is abroad, but as it stands, that percetage is far too low for either format to get a real foothold in the market. This percentage is expected to grow this year and next but I don't see a significant HDTV "boom" coming in the future. The really good quality HDTVs are still expensive, placing them outside the budgets of many consumers. Blu-ray and HD-DVD players aren't exactly impulse buys either. Currently, HD DVD players are going for $500 and Blu-ray players are coming in at a whopping $1000. I don't think the added quality is worth spending the money for the HDTV and an extra $500 or $1000 for an HD-DVD or Blu-ray player respectively. That purchase is going to hurt even more if the format you side with loses the format war. Meaning you're stuck with an expensive player that you can only use for the movies you already own, as no new releases will be coming down the pipe.

Another reason is that while they offer a few new features, such as upscaling DVD's to the higher 720p, 1080i or 1080p resolutions, Blu-ray and HD-DVD players seem to be more of an evolution than the revolution DVD's were. Even when they were first released to the market, DVD's completely obliterated VHS in terms of features and quality. The added convenience of being able to quickly skip to the exact moment you wanted to see, being able to repeat any scene as many times as you wished without having to rewind over and over, and having easy access to special features without having to fast forward through the entire movie, and all the other features made possible by DVD's made VHS useless for anything other than recording your favorite TV shows (and with DVR's becoming more and more common, that one reason for their existence is slowly disappearing). Blu-ray and HD-DVD on the other hand don't do much more than DVD's besides the obvious quality and space advantages, there's not much that makes me believe DVD's are obsolete.

Third, I think Sony is putting to much behind Blu-ray. Throwing a Blu-ray drive in each PS3 may be a mistake if the format goes south. There are advantages, such as the extra Space Blu-ray discs provide, but other than that, if Blu-ray fails, they have nothing. Last generation, the PS2 was marketable as a cheap DVD player. That helped get a lot of PS2's into homes. This gen, Sony is doing the same thing. The only problem with that is, last gen, people didn't have to buy a brand new TV to fully enjoy the benefits of DVD. This gen, you need an HDTV to get any real benefits of the Blu-ray movie playback. As I stated before, only a small portion of the market owns HDTV's. Blu-ray in the PS3 is a double edged sword. It could seriously help Sony in the electronics market or knock them out.

Well, that's all I have to say on the issue. Feel free to let me know how you feel.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Racist or not? I say "not"

Recently, Sony has come under fire for a recent ad campaign which was considered by many to be blantantly racist.

This ad is part of an ad campaign coinciding with the release of the White PSP (Playstation Portable) in Europe a place where race has never been a really big issue Here in the US where slavery and racism is a big part of American history, many have taken offense.

Now Sony's recent ad campaigns in the US have been considered to be racially insensitive which you can view here here and here but this ad comes as a major shock to those in the US. Many supporters of racial equality in the US such as the NAACP have spoken out against the ads as seen here.

I honestly don't see what the big fuss is about. I don't really like Sony as a company but this isn't making me hate them any more than I already do. When I first saw the ad the first thing I thought was,


But then I really began to look at it and I soon realized that it wasn't meant to be that way. It was meant to show off the contrasting colors of white and black and that's what it did.

In the end, the two people in the ad are just that. Two people. Race is a non issue in this situation because it's only being used to show the contrast. If it had been two white people, one in a white suit and one in a black suit no one would say anything, it would just be an ad. Since it features a white woman and a black woman, the white woman being in a position of dominance, people immediately think there's a racial undertone.

That's not what it is. Pure and simple.

These two other pictures seen here and here have surfaced, the first showing the Black woman in the dominant position and the second portraying the two women locked in conflict.

After you look at the entire campaign, its clear that race is not a huge factor in either one. It clearly shows both women in a position of power over the other and the two at a stalemate. How can this ad campaign be racist?

That's my take on the issue.

P.S: Tim Buckley, creator of the Ctrl+Alt+Del webcomic series has taken a much more humorous approach to the issue with this comic