Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Rolling Thunder

Inspired by this trailer of the upcoming movie Warhorse, I thought for awhile about my somewhat unhealthy obsession with large groups of equines running over and into things. It would seem that every time I buy a Total War game, the very first thing I do is steer an army of heavy cavalry into a much larger army of peasants (or equivalent unit) and observe the results with childish glee. Who wouldn't? Those peasants with their rags and clubs think they're so good. Got what's coming to them in my opinion.

Seriously though, the horse would have to be the most under-appreciated and almost completely forgotten mammal that has helped mankind get where it is today. For thousands of years they have carried our carts, ploughs and fat arses all over the world for travel, agriculture and especially warfare. I cannot imagine what it would be like charging into battle with a regiment of cavalry, let alone being on the receiving end of one. I imagine the horses would be pretty pissed off though, especially after carrying some poncy British knight half way across the world only to die in the Crusades. Nevertheless, enjoy the following video I made of horses from various movies carrying lazy bastards into battle.

I imagine if I would have been raised on a farm with horses I would probably have become quite a fanatic. May we never have to use these beautiful animals for warfare ever again.

Noteworthy fact:
The last successful horse charge ever performed in a military operation was the Battle of Beersheba (1917) in WWI, performed by the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade. They charged across two miles of open ground in the face of both artillery and machine gun fire. Its probably because the fort had the word 'beer' in it as to why Aussies even attempted it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rage Quit

I really don't know what to make of this game. Game play wise it is probably above average. It is a driving based FPS game with some RPG elements thrown in. I am kind of bored with the whole post-apocalyptic setting in games, especially when they are represented wholly by desert wastelands. Fallout 3 and Borderlands have sated my (apparent) appetite for it long in advance, so it really could just be a case of me not finding the environment interesting. At all. But, I have to say it. Rage looks like shit, and it makes me sad.

It makes me sad for a variety of reasons, the biggest being the simple fact that this is supposed to be iD Game's ( a company I have enjoyed previous games from) new engine technology. Over five years in the making, Rage and its engine are supposed to be the new benchmark for making games. I can see the appeal of the technology (streaming texture/geometric environments) but really, they should have pulled a Crysis and made this for PC only because this sorry console port looks fucking terrible in my opinion. It's not so much the lighting/rendering/polygon count as it is entirely to do with the textures. They are god awful, and the game suffers because of it.

Now I am not usually one to fuss too much over graphics. Sure, I like them. I go to great lengths to see them. Hell, I am a fucking PC Gamer ffs, so it does matter to me. But, if the game play isn't there as well then you won't find me playing it for long. Not to mention I play plenty of games (on console and PC) that you would hardly call state-of-the-art visually. However, my confusion when it comes to Rage has been all the talk about how good the game looks, from console and PC users alike. "Hmmph" I thought to myself, getting my hopes up once again. "Maybe it will look good after all".

Perhaps it is better if I explain my observation in a certain way. The following screenshot of some steps is from Doom II:
Doom II (1994) was also made by iD Games. It uses the same engine as Doom (1993), which for the time was an incredible piece of technology. Sure, you can easily make out the pixels in its 8-16bit texture palette, but for the time it was considered incredibly realistic. The colours/detail of the textures don't detract from the gameplay as everything kinda looks the same anyway, so it all fits nicely. The game is still incredibly playable even today. It is a game I frequently revisit to remind myself about aspects of game design and system architecture as it was a game that pushed your PC to its limits back in the day.

Let's jump a few years ahead. The following screenshot is some steps from Unreal Tournament:
Unreal Tournament (1999) is possibly my favourite game of all time. Released in what I still consider to be the best year in gaming, ever, UT99 was also a game that gave your PC a run for its money. In an era when AGP video cards were actively coming into distribution, games like UT99 were taking things like detailed textures and dynamic lighting very seriously. Besides this, UT99 was enjoyable as hell, looked like a beast and was/is an absolute gem of a LAN game.

The following screenshot is some steps and ridges from Quake III: Arena:
Quake III: Arena, also made by iD Games, was released late 1999. A direct competitor to UT99, it was/is a solid arena shooter. There is perhaps no better arena shooter for measuring skill and efficiency in FPS games than Quake III. It also boasted a significant texture palette, probably slightly better than UT99's and definitely was a benchmark for its time. Unlike UT99, however, it ran quite well on systems due to highly optimized rendering and network code in the format of iD tech's new gaming technology (i.e. iD tech 3).

The following screenshot is from Doom III:
Doom III (2004) was a strange game. It was rather hit and miss for certain audiences, especially those who were a fan more of the frenetic run and gun action of its older brothers. Game play squabbles aside, the game did look great, even with its default textures. Although the game has not aged well, looking rather bad comparatively to modern game's rendering engines, for its time it was considered state of the art.

The following screenshots of some ground is from Crysis:
Impressive huh? Despite the discontent people have for this game (something I have never understood) Crysis (2007) looked absolutely incredible. Taking full advantage of new technologies such as bump-mapping and dynamically lit textures, Crysis made the ground in games look almost photo-realistic. I say almost as, like all textures, repetition patterns emerge if you look at them closely enough (marked above). Nevertheless, it was a minor non-issue to an otherwise stunning game that, admittedly, kicked the shit out of your computer and raped it dead. In my opinion it is the last game to come out that was truly ahead of its time and nothing since then has beat it from a technology-vs-year standpoint.

The following screenshot is of a sidewalk curb in Rage:
WTF is this greasy looking shit covered excuse for a texture doing up in my curb yo?! I think I could vomit onto some dry leaves and come up with something better looking than that. Seriously. This looks fucking horrible, and it is everywhere. All over the damn place. Sure, there are some interesting crease lines and possibly unique cracks in the cement, but jesus christ! Does it really have to look that bad. The problem is, I know this is just a low resolution version of the textures they were actually working with. John Carmack has even stated there is a HD texture pack in the works so the game doesn't look so shithouse on PC. But ... why? Why would they not publish the game with said HD textures in the first place? What possible motive could they have for releasing their game with highly compressed, blurry, indistinguishable textures at all?

.... do I really need to say it?

Don't be fooled. No new engine is going to magically overcome the limitations of hardware that is going on 6 years old. No game studio is going to stop developing for the masses, even at the expense of the quality of their games. Don't listen to people who don't know wtf they are talking about, who are looking through a kaleidoscope from the wrong end. Most of all, don't believe what you see in screenshots solely used for advertising and marketing. What may seem like a beautiful, lens flare filled vista of the vast horizon....
.... is nothing but a fake distraction from the giant turd you are crouching on:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Those are the times

I wasn't originally going to start off this post by talking about this, but sometimes sifting through the mass of utter crap on Youtube can be really depressing. Usually I have posts that are loaded with videos when I am too lazy to discuss something original and sometimes the amount of searching you need to do to find the right videos is fucking absurd. Often you get these shitty videos of a dude with parkinson's disease filming a TV screen on their phone with the holocaust roaring in the background, limiting your ability to both see and hear wtf is going on. Often these videos are the most watched and liked, which I cannot fathom to any extent. I dunno, maybe I am too picky, but I really cannot understand how people can think these sorts of videos are worth even putting on youtube, let alone their constant ability to record stuff while having an obvious seizure.

Anyway, my frustration comes from trying to find some non-hyped up game play of the upcoming CS game Global Offensive. In my frustration in finding anything decent on youtube I have had to look elsewhere, and found something that made me cringe just a little. Basically its CS:GO on Xbox 360 ...

I think what makes it that much more painful to watch (at least for me) is the simple fact that in any of the engagements the guy gets into in the first few minutes would be over in less than a second or two in both CS 1.6 and Source. It's like ... Deagle, point at head, click. Over. Quick, clean, easy. This is CS, the game that birthed the whole 'Boom Headshot' theme (from Pure Pwnage) and here we see two clowns jumping around emptying clips into walls more then they are emptying them into man. It almost looks like a mod for Halo. Maybe the people playing aren't very good, but to me it just shows the obvious difference in control between PC and console for FPS games ... and it bugs me. It bugs me because it should not be considered 'fine' and 'normal' by industry standards, both developer and consumer based.

Nevertheless, branching away from the occasional pile of steaming that Youtube can be at times, one does stumble across absolute gems of video. This is particularly the case concerning an e-sports, fighting game documentary of a player in the US. Taking on the likes of Daigo and Justin Wong at Evo 2010, Mike Ross is the star of FOCUS, an incredibly well put together story about his happenings in the big league of professional Street Fighter IV play.

There are a growing number of videos such as this (e.g. Beyond the Game) emerging slowly over time, which in my opinion can only do good for both the e-sports scene and the gaming industry as a whole. Showing the humanity behind these 'players of games' and exposing the fact that for some, e-sports can and are a profitable venture is a step towards un-demonizing the perspective many people have towards games and game development. Especially in this country.

Roughly this time of the year I start looking forward to things that are on the horizon. While I personally think that this has been one of the best years for games in a long, long time, some of the best stuff is yet to be released. I may just be in a RPG mode, perhaps from playing too much LoL and withdrawal symptoms from WoW, but Skyrim, Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3 are all ranking highly on my list of most anticipated. It would be excellent if we could get a group of us playing Diablo 3 at once, or at least playing it concurrently (not necessarily together). Here's hoping it is as addictive and time consuming as its previous iterations. No surer way of fucking up my PhD research than playing an addictive game too much.

Other than games though (and I should talk about things other than games), the announcement of Evangelion 3.0: The Quickening is also rather tasty. The name though (and I am sure this has been done to death) is rather ironic in the sense that it has been in production for fucking ages. Almost twice as long as the previous installment, which took 50% longer than the one before that. At least Asuka is coming back as a pirate with a sniper rifle this time, shooting things in space. Some kind of cosmic hybrid of LoL's Gangplank and Caitlyn methinks, yarr!

Speaking of LoL (yeah, sif not weave an entire blog post compositionally into some shit about LoL by what seems like random topics), Dominion has been an interesting distraction from classic SR, something that I feel I am infinitely worse at because of it. It is a strange beast though, favouring the tanky dps, mobile and ranged/global ult characters harder than ever. While I find my strongest characters are Ryze, Yorick and Xin, almost every game I play has an enemy Akali, Jax, Rammus, Shaco, Ezreal, Heimer or Gangplank in it. Some of these characters massively counter my favourite picks (e.g. Xin vs Jax) so making a smart choice in blind pick is somewhat impossible. Still, many enjoyable moments have occurred, solo and frequently with friends. The following video demonstrates some of our awesome powah!!

Special thanks to PanicsX, hotpies, MorePieNow, m1ch3ck and fooolishfool for being cannon fodder for the enemy.