Cool Stuff: Atari Arcade

October 16th, 2012

Perpetual procrastinators, turn away now! Atari and Internet Explorer have worked together to create reimagined versions of old Atari games, all playable from within the browser. This sounds like fun…

Last Wednesday I got invited to the Atari Arcade event in Shoreditch, to come and experience the new reimagined games. They had set up 4 of the games (Breakout, Pong, Asteroids and Centipede) on tablets, touch screen TVs and a Surface table. In total they’ve got 8 games released so far on the Atari Arcade site: Pong, Breakout, Missile Command, Lunar Lander, Combat, Centipede, Asteroids and Yars’ Revenge.

It was great playing the games, but so much trickier than I remembered! Although that could also have to do with them being touch controlled; using a controller or joystick or anything with buttons is much more what I’m used to for these games. They had one proper arcade machine setup with Centipede, and later on in the evening had a short competition to win a tablet. I’m proud to say I became second (no prizes alas for 2nd place)!

Besides those Atari games though, IE also revealed they had worked together with the Contre Jour creators to bring that game to IE. I hadn’t actually heard of the game before, but the game looks gorgeous and is the type of game I could easily get addicted to! If you like Cut The Rope and those type of games, Contre Jour is a game for you!

What do you think of the Atari Arcade games? What’s your favourite game?

Game Preview: Dishonored

September 14th, 2012

Dishonored is set in the industrial city of Dunwall, where Corvo Atano, a bodyguard to the Empress, is framed for her murder and forced to become an assassin to seek revenge on those who conspired against him. I only saw the trailer of Dishonored a few weeks back, but it looks like it could be an interesting game:

Looks pretty cool, right? It’s got a bit of a steampunk meets Assassin’s Creed vibe going on, from what I can tell. There’s also a gameplay trailer that you can watch here, which shows the more darker elements of the game (love the creepy version of the Drunken Sailor song).

Dishonored will be released on October the 12th in the UK, but there are a couple of special bonuses if you preorder the game at certain stores. All pre-order bonuses come with 500 bonus coins, an “unhidden” book, an in-game statue and three special powers. Amazon offers the Acrobatic Killer pack, ShopTo.Net the Backstreet Butcher pack, Tesco the Shadow Rat pack and Game/Gamestation the Arcane Assassin pack.


Two weeks back I got invited to the THQ Game Preview Event in Dublin. It was an interesting two days, getting to meet tons of games bloggers and journalists, and getting some cool previews of some upcoming games. I got to play 2 hours of Darksiders 2, after which I sat down with its lead designer Haydn Dalton. Although I’ve participated in roundtable interviews and press conferences before, this was my first ever one-on-one interview! I was pretty nervous and my questions aren’t as brilliantly formulated as I had hoped, but it was a great first interview.

What’s your role on the game?

I’m the lead designer on the project. So I obviously help come up with the initial ideas and the structure of the game, and then I oversee the execution of the game. Like how the combat plays out, how the encounters work and how the levels are designed. I get to be involved in a lot of different disciplines on the project; the programmers, the animators, whoever it might be. It’s more overseeing things and making sure things are built to a certain level of quality.

So how does the process most of the time work? With what would you start? What do you focus on first?

We firstly try to figure out what type of game it is and what type of things we’d like to see. Obviously we try to see what other games in that genre are doing; you need to know your competition and understand what’s working and what’s not working. And then you try and think of “well, how could we be different in that genre? What can we add to that genre?” And you think of all your cool ideas and you come up with a basic plan of how to execute that idea. That’s when you start to think: to do this we need these tools, and we need these people to do it. Usually it’s coming up with a groundwork plan and you build upon that plan and execute that.

You usually find out that whatever you write down as an idea, sometimes you find out when you’re doing it in practice and you see, that actually it doesn’t quite work. So sometimes you have to either change the idea or you just have to scrap it entirely. We scrapped a lot of things for Darksiders 2, cause it didn’t quite fit. There was potential there, but we didn’t have time to fix it all.

Seeing as this is built on Darksiders 1, how much of those ideas did you already have with the first one?

The cool thing we took from Darksiders 1 is a certain level design philosophy that we have there, and we do puzzle design as well. So those two things were the things that were core: we had to have that. We also brought over the pretty frantic combat from the first one. And then we really wanted to look at the things that didn’t make it into the first game. We originally wanted more NPCs in the game for instance, and more items. Kind of like the loot system we now built.

The first thing was: let’s get the things we really loved from the first one into this one first, and then let’s layer it with cool new ideas on top of that. So yeah, the loot was a big thing, that took a long time to get the balance right on that. And then all the side quests that we did; we didn’t have any side quests in the previous one. It was all about giving the player a lot more choice.

The main characters of the two games have some similarities, but how was it designing a completely new character?

The core set of abilities are similar, but there were certain things we wanted to do: we wanted to bring out more agility in Death. We had seen some original sketches that Joe did for Death; during the first project he had done first concepts for all of the four Horsemen. And Death was a lot more athletic and thin and gangly build, whereas War is more broad and stocky. So we thought what would fit a character like Death and it seemed like he was a lot more agile, a lot more nimble. In combat he doesn’t really stand and block, he kind of flips around, he’s a slippery character. That also fed into his traversal sets; he can scamper up walls, scamper across walls, swing on the bars, he’s a lot more about shaping around the environment, being very fluid. It’s the same thing in combat; rather than blocking, he’ll switch out and attack the person from the side. it was really what did we want to do from an actual gameplay point of view and what sort of character did we want to provide the story and bring those two together.

What about the third and the fourth Horsemen? We briefly see their silhouettes at the start of this game… do they show up during Darksiders 2?

[laughs] You’ll have to play the game to find out. The other two are basically Strife and Fury. Fury is the female Horseman; she’s the one with the whip. Then you have Strife who uses pistols. They definitely have their own character; and we have ideas as to how they’d be like if you ever got to play them. But we can’t really tell right now if they turn up in the game or not.

I love the look of Fury, even only her silhouette looks awesome. I want to see more of her!

Yeah, Fury’s pretty bad-ass. I like the whip that she’s got; it segments and extends out. I can imagine that being a very cool thing to use in the game. You could use it to latch on to things…

That sounds a bit like Ivy’s [from Soul Calibur].

Yeah, she’s got a sword that segments too. Ours is kind of like an energy whip with metal bits.

We saw some of the Realms in the demo; how many different ones are we going to see?

Well, you start within that snowy Realm. Then you’ve got the Maker’s Realm, which was the kind of lush one. That’s one of our biggest Realms. Then the third one is another big one, that’s the Kingdom of the Dead; that’s pretty much the same size as the Maker’s world, but it’s all based in the underworld. And then we got an area for Angels, and also an area for Demons. They’re not as big as the Maker’s world and the undead world, but they’re pretty big areas.

When I was playing the demo I came across some areas that I couldn’t figure out and access yet. Are they just difficult puzzles or are there some abilities that you only gain later on  that allow you to access those?

It could be a bit of both. We do have some places that are vey clear challenges or barriers. The way we design the levels usually we have a hub area and spokes, like corridors and sets, that come off it. Now when you keep passing through this central area you become familiar with things within that area. For instance, something that’s considered a gating mechanism might be in that central area; so when you pass by it several times and when you see whatever it might be, like the yellow glowey balls on the walls: you’ve seen it, but you’e not quite sure what it is. Then as you pass through it a few times, you might get the ability down here to clear those things and you always remember: “oh, I passed that thing like two, three times in that area.” So you go back to that area and that usually progresses the story on in a much more advanced way. That’s how we design things for small areas that you at least pass once or twice; it keeps it in the player’s psyche when he’s playing the game. So there are visual gates where you can’t get passed.

Then some of the bits are just about trying to read the room: look at where the traversal points are, see if it’s a traversal problem. Or do I need to use an item that I’ve already used before, but now I have to use it in a unique way in this instance. It’s forcing me to make that logical jump; sometimes that’s a little bit hard for players; normally games don’t puzzle the player logically. They’ll do it physically, like: I’ve got to beat this guy down, that’s very clear. But then when you already know how to push a switch in a wall for instance and when you get to part where there’s a switch you can’t get to. You start thinking “well, how am I going to do it” . You realize you’ve got a bomb and think oh I wonder if I can throw that against the switch, will that be pushed in cause of the explosion? And that’s what it is: the player is making that logical step to do the next bit on their own. We try not to do too much hand-holding with that. It’s very fulfilling from a player point of view; you’re sat they’re thinking “what the hell am I supposed to do” and then when you do it, it’s like a little mini moment for yourself, it’s satisfying and you feel all good about yourself. That’s what’s different about Darksiders from an actual action genre type of view; we have a lot of those things in the game, where we just expect a lot more of mental challenges from the player.

What type of levels of achievements/trophies can we expect?

Usually people talk about the 60/20/20 split: 60% is for the core game, then there’s like 20% for skilled players, which are skilled based achievements, and then there’s 20% which is for the ADD I-need-to-collect-everything type of guy. Ours is more like 70% for the main play through, and then we probably got 20% for the skilled player and then 10% for the guys who really want to collect everything and find every single item. If you just play the game start to end, you’ll get a big chunk of achievements just for playing the game. We know that not many people finish games now, so it’s like at least you’re rewarded and giving them a little push to keep playing on.

I think it’s a little deceiving; at the start you just think “oh, it’s just a simple action game”. And then you start seeing the loot, and you start to realize how deep that system is. And you’re like “hang on, I have to start managing all this stuff”. Then you really got to start thinking “what’s my thing, what am I trying to focus on”; do I focus on skills, do I focus on magic? And then you start looking at the skill tree ; and then you go “well, okay, my thing is strength, I’ll start looking at Harbinger stuff, which is based on melee combat”. And maybe my skills and weapons should feed into that as well. So it’s all about these little choices; the player can choose to invest as much or as little time he wants in it. We definitely think if you invest time in it, the character will definitely be more tailored to the way you play.

Two weeks ago I got invited to a “hands-off” demo of the first person shooter Metro: Last Light, the sequel to the 2010 game Metro 2033. Having not played its predecessor, I was initially hesitant to come by and take a look at the new game. Would I “get” it? Would I miss something by not having played the previous one? Can I review/preview a game of which I don’t know the full back story? But then I realized: that shouldn’t matter at all. I’m certainly not the only one out there who hasn’t played the first game!

The original game was based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Both the game and the book got sequels (Metro: Last Light and Metro 2034) and even though the original author has worked on both, the sequels don’t have anything to do with each other. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where humans have survived by living underground in Moscow’s vast metro system. Our protagonist is Artyom, a 20 year old survivor, that has to deal with the various issues the new world has to offer, including mutants, nazis and other rival bands of survivors.

I was planning on writing up and exactly describing what I saw in that demo, but it turns out that the entire demo is now on YouTube. So instead of describing it all, I’ll just post the video here and let you guys see it for yourselves (yay, for lazy blogging!):

I like the look and feel of the game; I always enjoy post-apocalyptic stories and seeing the different ways they can come to life. The underground metro system looks suitably creepy and dark, while the above ground left-over bits of Moscow look exactly like you imagine a post-nuclear city would look like. I initially thought the story looked quite straight forward, but I’m intrigued by the whole hallucination thing in the plane: clearly both Artyom and Pavel have the same experience… I’m very curious to see what happens next.

Gameplay wise I think this looks like the type of game I could loose myself a couple of hours in. I like how immersive the game feels; there is no HUD and no blinky-look-an-item-is-here-highligter, with you only having to rely on your own eyes, your watch, your visible ammo and signs of how you feel (like heavy breathing and blood spatters indicating that you’re hurt). Even though I like how immersive this looks, I do wonder how much more difficult this will make the game. A HUD and item highlighter will be available in the end game, but you’ll always have the option to turn those all off.

Metro: Last Light looks like it could be a great game, and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on it and trying it out for myself. I also now am quite curious to see how the first game was; the story seems intriguing and if it’s similar to this one, I wouldn’t mind playing it.

It’s time for another half year round-up post and this time it’s all about games! I started this post last Thursday, but with all the busy-ness around BarCampBerkshire (more about that later!) I couldn’t find the time to finish it. The cool thing though is writing this post actually inspired me to talk about these games at BarCamp and giving people the opportunity to share what they were playing.

In total I played 7 games the past half year, completing 6 of them. One a month that’s not too bad! Btw, if you want to add me as friend: I’m Rivanny on Xbox Live and MissGeeky on PSN.

I used to be mainly a Playstation gamer, but in the past year I’ve noticed I’ve really started to like the Xbox 360 much more. It’s mainly because the PS3 dashboard sucks a lot in comparison to the Xbox one; I always get confused on the PS3 as to where I’m supposed to look and find things. I think that’s mainly cause the PS3 is more text based than the colourful pretty image based Xbox. On top of that, the OCD green monster in me loves the way Xbox handles its Achievements; being able to compare your Achievements to your friends and trying to do better than them is so addictive.

Alan Wake

As a kid/teen, I loved those creepy Twilight Zone-y Stephen King-esque TV series. More often than not they would be about a stranger coming to a small town and something paranormal would happen in one way or another (and how often was the protagonist a writer?!?). Alan Wake feels like one of those TV shows. The game is split into 6 chapters, with each one ending with a cliffhanger of sorts and each subsequent one starting with the opening’s title and a summary of what happened last time. It actually feels like you’re playing a TV show. I thoroughly enjoyed that structure; it gives you an easy way to put the game down, come back a week later and get up to speed with what the story was again. The story is about bestselling thriller writer Alan Wake, who suffers from a two-year long stretch of writer’s block and travels with his wife Alice to the small town of Bright Falls for a short vacation. The game starts with Alan coming to in a crashed car a week after he arrived in Bright Falls, not remembering anything of the past few days or what happened to Alice. And he’s being attacked by mysterious shadows, who clearly want something from him.

The gameplay is quite interesting; instead of just having to shoot the “monsters”, you first have to shine your flashlight at it to destroy all the darkness inside. Only then can you switch to your gun and kill it. Walking around the levels is creepy as hell; you know how when you’re watching a horror movie and a character walks into a dark room and you just know something is going to jump out any moment? It’s exactly that, but way more effective, cause you’re actually controlling the reaction. It’s not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it and gets your heart racing in a relaxing manner (the same way watching a horror movie can be weirdly relaxing).

Mass Effect 3

Epic. Despite what you might have heard about the ending, most of Mass Effect 3 is good. It’s got some of best story lines I’ve seen in a video game and it’s hands-down the best sci-fi universe created in recent years. What annoys me about most sci-fi books/games/movies with aliens is that it almost always ends up being about the humans vs the aliens. What I love about Mass Effect is how you have all these different species with their own unique background stories and conflicts. It’s pretty much the same reason why I loved Babylon 5; the humans are only one small piece of this big universe (sidenote: if anyone can recommend books with a similar premise, let me know in the comments).

If you haven’t played any of the games, I’d recommend going back to the start and actually play 1 and 2 (although if you really can’t be bothered with the first one or are playing on PS3, try at least to play ME2). The story in ME3 is great, but it makes the most impact when you’ve been around these characters longer than just the one game. There’s a part in ME3 that actually made me cry, but I know that this is only the case because I played the second game.

The ending… I am a little bit disappointed with those final 10 minutes, that they weren’t as awesome as they could have been, but they don’t negate the fact that the entire series has given me over 100 hours of great gameplay and storytelling. Plus I choose to believe a certain theory which (if true) makes everything in the game make sense. At this point I don’t even care anymore if this theory is true, but for me in my mind everything feels nicely wrapped up. And I’m happy with that.

I also of course have to mention the multiplayer; I can’t begin to count the number of hours I’ve lost into playing that. I wasn’t expecting to like it that much, but it’s been so much fun and it’s great being able to play WITH friends (instead of having to run around and kill your friends). You play in a team of four and have to survive 10 waves of alien attacks, with a mission happening during your 3rd, 6th and 10th wave (like defend a certain position). There are three difficulty levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) and the further you go the more you start thinking about battle tactics and how to combine different powers, characters and weapons. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you have friends shouting at you through your headset.

Fable 3

Ah, Fable 3. I enjoyed Fable 2 a lot, and while I did complete Fable 3, it felt as if it was a much simpler game than 2 was. Having seen trailers for the new Fable addition, it seems to me as if this series is progressing in the wrong direction. Well, wrong for me. Fable 2 had your standard RPG type menu with an inventory, overview of your powers, a map, etc. In Fable 3 this was replaced by a magical series of rooms. Yes, rooms. Each time you wanted to look at your map or change a weapon, you got transported to a room and then had to walk to whichever thing you wanted to check. Seriously?!? Whoever came up with that *brilliant* idea? I love the jokey, non-seriousness of some aspects of the game, but I still expect there to be a decent game basis. There were just too many bits of Fable 3 where I felt like I was wasting time doing trivial stuff.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I had heard about the problems of this game beforehand: the boss battles were a lot more annoying than the normal fights and the game felt unbalanced. I still wanted to play this game though, so I ended up trying it on Easy: and it’s a whole lot that way. I was mainly playing this game for the story and couldn’t care less about how tricky I make it for myself. For the achievements, there’s also NO difference at all with playing this game on Easy vs Normal. There’s a special achievement for playing on Legend, but every single other achievement you can get on Easy.

I loved most of the world they described, but not what they chose to show. You start off the game in the slick offices of Sarif Industries with the promise of this high-tech advanced society. Instead you end up on the “futuristic” streets of Detroit, which just look like normal streets, and the high-tech offices and shiny apartments, which just look like normal offices and apartments. Everything looks so bland and copy-pasted; there’s not enough character in the surroundings. Things get a bit better once you’re in Hengsha, but I just have a feeling this all could have been done better.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

If I had played this game when it originally came out (5 years ago), I would have been more impressed with it. It’s a good game, but there are a couple of things that didn’t feel as slick as they could be (especially the trophies, but I understand they were only added later). The story is great though, and I’m really looking forward to playing the sequels.

Halo: Combat Evolved (Anniversary)

Because I was a Playstation gamer before last year, I had never played any of the Halo games. Cristiano has always been saying how good it was, and how much fun he had playing it with his house mates, but I always thought it was just another first-person shooter. I’d also never had an Xbox (or a good PC) to try them out on. So when the anniversary edition of Halo: CE came out, Cristiano finally convinced me to play the co-op game together. And of course it was a lot of fun.

The anniversary edition is basically a remastered version of the first game, with updated graphics, added online co-op, achievements and hidden content. The cool thing with the updated graphics though is that with just one key press you can switch back to how the old game looked like; it’s not exactly a useful feature, but I thought it was pretty neat. The hidden content includes terminals that provide new back story, and skulls that can change the gameplay (like most of the sequels of the original).

I’m not great at FPS’s (my aim sucks), but the co-op campaign is quite doable with the two of you (although we did struggle a bit with the last mission). You get just as many aliens attacking you as you would when alone, and being with the two of you makes the respawn work much more to your advantage. The story is great, and I really want to continue with the series now. ANybody have an idea whether Halo 2 will be remastered soon?

Dragon Age: Origins

This is the one game I haven’t completed yet… and I’m not sure I will. I like the story and I like the world, but there are just certain parts of the gameplay that annoy me. The battle mechanics aren’t fun to me at all; it almost feels as if I’m learning all the skills and powers as I would for a D&D game. Which is fun for a D&D game, but in a video game I want something a bit more thought-out than that. Then there’s the way you have conversations with NPCs; it sometimes isn’t very clear how the dialogue tree is layered. I kind of want to finish this game, but on the other hand part of me is just thinking: I can’t be bothered.

So what games did you play the past couple of months? Have you played the above games? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments!

Monopoly is one of those games I have a love-hate relationship with. I used to play it a lot with my siblings and Dad, so I’ve got some great memories playing that game. But Monopoly itself though? The actual gameplay? I don’t really like it. Chances are that it’s because I suck horribly at it, but there’s just something about the gameplay that hasn’t clicked in my head. Most other games I can quickly see what the logical approach of playing the game is, but with Monopoly I’m sorely lacking that.
Despite that though, I used to love playing it and my family has quite a couple of different themed sets of Monopoly (Star Wars and Pokemon are my favourites). So I might have squee-ed a bit when I saw this awesome Princess Bride version:

These rings from shapeways shop Ammnra Creations are pretty cool. Sadly they’re not meant for me; they all look awesome in the pictures below, but they come unpainted and I really do not have the talent to paint them as precise as that myself.

Mass Effect Thermal Clip N7 Ring

Mass Effect Omni-tool Ring

Mass Effect Garrus’ Visor RIng

Portal GLaDOS Ring

Portal Space Core Rings

Assassin’s Creed Apple of Eden Ring

Assassin’s Creed Apple of Eden Pendant

I spent most of yesterday evening watching the E3 media briefings; they’re always fun to watch and you always get to see all the new trailers. I thought I’d do a roundup of the cool stuff I’ve seen so far; there are some games that look awesome and I can’t wait till they’ll come out.

Assassin’s Creed

I loved the previous Assassin’s Creed games, but I hadn’t really found anything to be excited about in AC3. Setting it in the US during the revolution just doesn’t appeal to me at all (I was hoping for London or Paris). Seeing these trailers though reminds me that it definitely is an Assassin’s Creed game and that like the others I’ll most probably fall in love with it. Connor still doesn’t seem as crush worthy as Ezio was though.

Halo 4

I’ve only played Halo CE so far, but seeing this trailer makes me want to play the others!

Tomb Raider

The Tomb Raider games were some of the first games I truly was addicted to, so I’ve been curious to see how this reboot turns out. I like the look of it, but it doesn’t feel like Tomb Raider to me yet; so far it seems more like Uncharted, but with a female protagonist.

The Last of Us

I’m not sure yet about The Last of Us. The gameplay looks so smooth and fluent, but I’m wondering how much choice as a player you actually have (and how much is on rails). The world and the characters look interesting though, so I’ll most probably give this game a try.

Watch Dogs

This looks like it good be quite fun! It doesn’t seem like your normal type of gameplay, and I wonder how much freedom you get to hack into and mess around with stuff. Interestingly enough the QR code cube a waiter is wearing in the second video actually leads to this website

BEYOND: Two Souls

Ooh, this looks good. I still haven’t played Heavy Rain, but it’s been on my To-Play list for a while.


Awesome trailer. It actually looks like London (unlike Mass Effect 3, which didn’t look even remotely like it). If it wasn’t on the Wii, I’d be really excited for this. As it is though, I can’t help but think that it won’t live up to the awesomeness of the trailer.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

I haven’t played any of the previous Splinter Cells, even though Cristiano keeps urging me to play Splinter Cell: Conviction (apparently the co-op is a lot of fun). It could be fun, but it looks a little too realistic for my tastes.


Looks like Portal meets Tron.

Rayman Legends

If I was a kid, I would have loved this! I used to play Rayman with my brother and sister, but we would always have to take turns who could play. Being able to play this new game with up to 5 players is already cool, add to that your powers are determined by what type of controller you have and it’s pretty awesome!

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a tee-rrific tee. It’s a tee-rrific hoodie. And a tee-rrific hoodie referencing Assassin’s Creed no less:

I think the lighting in this photo might be a bit deceiving though… The hoodie is listed as grey and if you look at the photo of the girl, the hoodie is much darker. Still, it’s a pretty awesome design and I’m quite tempted to get one for myself. They’re £35 on Insert Coin, but sadly they’ve run out of size S 🙁