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nohighscores.com | Gamers Never Grow Old

NCAA 12 Review

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My final take on NCAA 12 is online at the Mothership.

Overall, not a bad game and in many ways quite a good one. I still think it’s important to hammer on the dynasty mode foibles in a game built around college football, but for the most part this is a safe buy unless you’re anal about certain things, like I am. It’s a curse, really.

Get Excited About Blue Manchu Games and Card Hunter

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I have been sitting on this for a while now and since Gamasutra has unveiled its feature, let’s talk. Now wait. Don’t look at me like that. I realize I’m telling you to get excited about a Flash based browser game. But we’ve known each other for what…five months now? That’s long enough to know that when I tell you to at least pay attention to a game’s development that I wouldn’t just randomly make stuff up, right?

This may end up sucking and you’ll tell me later, “Bill, told you so.”

But hear me out…

Jonathan Chey, founder of the new studio Blue Manchu Games, is a co-founder of Irrational Games and was a key member at Looking Glass. He wants to now create “more genre, nichey games that I really want to make.”

The first project is called Card Hunter. Chey tells Gamasutra:

“The best way to describe it is, imagine I take an MMO, and every time you fight a monster, instead of playing a timer game with with pull downs and buttons that you click, you’re playing a turn-based strategy game. You have little pieces on a board, and you play cards to move those pieces around, and that’s the battle you fight. And at the end of the battle you win some treasure, which you then use to trick your characters like you do in an MMO, but those characters are actually pieces in the board game. So that’s it in a nutshell.”

See? This is right in the No High Scores wheelhouse, right?

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What if I told you that Magic: the Gathering creator Richard Garfield is also lending a hand on the project? Interested yet? Oh, also working on the project is Freedom Force art director Ben Lee and System Shock’s Dorian Hart. Do I at least have your attention yet?

I know it’s a Flash game. I know it’ll be built around micro transactions, but the pedigree of the people working on this game should be enough to put it in your memory bank.

We’ll have more on this as soon as possible.

For now, read the features at Gamasutra.

Unstoppable Gorg Announced

Futuremark has announced its new title, and a cool title it is: Unstoppable Gorg is a “space defense game inspired by vintage sci-fi from the 1940s and 50s.” I love that name. The phrase “Gorg armada” is awesome.

PR ahead:

Futuremark Games Studio presents Unstoppable Gorg, a thrilling new space defense game coming to PC, Xbox LIVE Arcade and iPad. In Unstoppable Gorg you defend our solar system from the relentless march of a(n) fearsome alien race by sending satellites into orbit around planets, moons and space stations. Unlike other tower defense style games, in Unstoppable Gorg you can move your satellites even after you have placed them. When the Gorg armada attacks you can move your satellites around their orbits to best defend against each wave, a convention defying mechanic that brings new vitality and interaction to the tower defense genre.


- SATELLITES in orbit replace the towers and grid layout used in other TD games
- MOVE satellites around their orbits to create the best defense for each wave
- GLORIOUS 3D graphics for added impact, not a sprite in sight
- AUTHENTIC homage to the sci-fi films of the 1940s and 50s

Jaakko Haapasalo, Director of Defense at Futuremark Games Studio tells reporters, “With Unstoppable Gorg we have been inspired by classic sci-fi films to create a game of flying saucers, rubbery aliens, dodgy effects and earnest heroes. Unstoppable Gorg builds on the core tower defense mechanics that fans love while shattering the genre’s conventions to provide exciting new experiences.”

Checking for a release date from Futuremark..

UbiSoft Banging the PC Drum

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A story on Videogamer reveals what we sort of already know.

The PC has more “grunt”. Those aren’t my words, but I get what lead designer Jamie Keen is saying.

“The PC does have a lot more grunt under the hood – or it can have grunt – so there’s a lot more that we can push there. That doesn’t mean to say, ‘Let’s only push PC and leave the consoles behind.’ We will keep pushing to get as much out of the consoles as we possibly can. When we do finally unveil what the console versions looks like, I think people are are going to be surprised. Yeah, there are going to be differences, but it might not be as much as people realise. That’s why we’re making no bones about this being on PC, and everything that goes along with that. There are going to be areas where the consoles aren’t going to be able to push things as much as the PC can. “

So from the sound of it, even though I think there was some back tracking in that quote, expect Far Cry 3 to look damn good on the PC and not quite as damn good on the consoles.

All of this comes off the heels of UbiSoft CEO Yves Guillemot announcing that the long lifespan of current generation consoles is hurting creativity because they’re so damn old. (Those are my words.)

“Our challenge with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox [360] is that we’re extremely limited in what we can do. It’s a challenge for the engineers to provide nice graphics and nice AI and nice sound with a very small amount of memory and computation time.”

Saints Row: The Third Power Trailer

Complete with developer commentary.


El Shaddai El delayed to August 16th

Well, that stinks, I was all geared up for a full week of Japanese gaming madness since I’m on the Gameshark reviews for both Catherine and El Shaddai, both of which were supposed to release next week. Word made the rounds over the weekend that the blue jeans-wearing Metatron won’t be metatroning it up until August.

I didn’t care much for the demo, the crappy gameplay didn’t impress me, and I think the art style is actually really ugly and it looks like a PS2 game with a psychedlic filter thrown over it all. But I’m looking forward to seeing the full game in action, it could have an interesting story and I’m curious to see how it all pans out.

But yeah, every time I think about this game, I just think of Neil Diamond’s “Forever in Blue Jeans”. And something about that dude’s man-bra on the left creeps me out.

Indie Games Summer Uprising Titles Announced

One such game is Speedrunner HD, which is showcased in the above trailer.

The full list includes T.E.C. 3001, Raventhorne, Take Arms, Train Frontier Express, Cute Things Dying Violently, Doom and Destiny and Battle High: San Bruno.

Two more games will be voted on by the community on the official site (http://indiegames-uprising.com/Default.aspx) from August 1-14. The indie promotion runs from August 22 to September 2.

Fretting about Kingdoms of Amalur

I’ve been trying to work myself into getting excited for Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning since I saw it at E3 and it’s just not happening. A lot of people do seem excited for it based on its pedigree -names like Rolston, Salvatore, McFarlane… hell, even Schilling- which I read and think, yeah, that ought to produce something worth watching. Then I see some gameplay footage and listen to people actually talk about the game and any excitement I’ve managed to accrue evaporates.

It’s actually starting to concern me that when anyone on the design team talks about the game, when marketing talks about the game, they make sure to mention as much as possible what a great RPG it is. They’re saying “RPG” so damn much it makes me think of the Hamlet quote, “The lady doth protest too much.” It’s like if they tell us over and over again this is an RPG then when it comes out and it turns out to be just another hack and slash over the top action game with stats then the grumpy RPG people in the corner won’t notice.

Take this PC Gamer preview of the game (which I found courtesy of @ACD8K)…

This is a very positive preview based on a walkthrough given by producer Ben Smith. Here’s a couple bits in no particular order:

It may be a bitter pill for purists to swallow, but introducing hack-and-slash style combat to a traditional genre doesn’t make Kingdoms of Amalur any less of an RPG. If anything, it makes it far more fun.

Strike one.

“I think that the combat really sings on the controller,” Ben states, before realising who he’s said that to, “and the team’s done a really fantastic job of getting a PC control scheme which we’ve user tested a few times now; and continue to learn new things to make it better. It’s actually pretty good.”

He carries on. “It comes very close to giving you all the things at your fingertips that you would have on a controller.” He hesitates. “It’s not… I don’t think… as good… well, I don’t know if that’s the right word. It’s not as… fluid or responsive… but it is good.”

Strike two.

Kingdoms of Amalur is no regular RPG. Developers Big Huge Games has broken away from traditional fantasy fighting systems, and implemented a combat style more akin to hack-and-slash titles such as Devil May Cry or God of War. “We feel that fighting and combat is really where we stand out in the genre,” explains Ben. “We don’t take our inspiration from what other RPGs are doing. Instead, we looked at action games.” A bold move, and one that may not translate so well to the mouse and keyboard.

Oh just kill me now.

Not to nitpick the writer’s choice of words as I’m largely focused on what it says about the game, but saying you were inspired by action games in modeling combat for your RPG is many things (not all of them bad), but one thing it is not is “bold.” It’s incredibly not bold. At best it’s pretty much just an extension of what everybody else is doing right now. Name an RPG in the last few years that doesn’t have action-based combat designed with a gamepad in mind. Hell, even The Witcher 2 designed its combat to work best on a gamepad. Just what are they comparing this game’s combat to? The PC version of Origins? If so, it’s a bad comparison as Origins boasts what is probably my favorite PC interface for an RPG in as long as I can remember. No, the footage in that trailer I put up at the top is not bold.

Still, that doesn’t bug me nearly as much as the comments about the PC controls. Not as fluid or responsive as the gamepad? The poor guy probably just made a bad choice of words, but these people need to learn that their “don’t worry, the PC controls will be fine” attitude towards such things is really annoying to people who like to actually use their PC to play their PC games. You’re doing a presentation for PC Gamer and you’re not showing them the PC controls? That does not inspire confidence.

What it really boils down to, though is that they’re paying a lot of lip service to what a grand and deep RPG this is while showing us almost nothing but over the top combat. At some point that has to change. You’re not convincing me of anything by showing me a rogue that can summon “rock spikes from the ground.”

Yeah, at the end of the day it’s all just marketing and, really, they’re marketing to people who aren’t me. Nonetheless, if the goal is to convince people there’s a deep and mature game here, they need to take a look at the campaign for another recent game that was both an excellent and exciting RPG and featured a lot of action-based combat…

Or better yet, this one:

In the second of these two there’s not a damn word spoken. In neither is there any reliance on “boring” RPG numbers or other stuff that might give the curmudgeons (like me) a warm fuzzy. But despite showing nothing inherently RPG in those trailers, I watch them and feel like I’ve learned more about the game from a montage of cuts -ones that tell me there’s a complete world there- than I’ve gotten from multiple Amalur demonstrations that have ultimately told me that I’m only going to be killing ever-bigger beasties using ever more over of the top animation. Yay?

Orcs Must Die Gets Release Date, Sort Of

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The tower defense game where upon you get to figure out creative ways to slaughter orcs drops this summer, will be playable at Comic Con and is blessed with a (free) prequel comic book.

PR Ahead:

Robot Entertainment announced today that Orcs Must Die! will be available on Xbox LIVE Arcade and PCs later this summer. The game will be playable at the upcoming 2011 San Diego Comic-Con which runs from July 21st to 24th. Robot Entertainment also announced that it has chosen Microsoft Studios to publish and distribute the game. Said Patrick Hudson, CEO of Robot Entertainment, “Players on both Xbox LIVE Arcade and PCs will get their chance to massacre orcs by the thousands soon. We’re excited that Microsoft shares our orc bloodlust and will publish the game.”

Robot Entertainment also announced today they will be releasing an Orcs Must Die! prequel comic book. The single-issue comic tells the story of a world endangered by savage monsters and of the heroes that rose up to drive them back. Orcs Must Die! will be playable at the Xbox Lounge on July 23-24 in the Hard Rock Hotel during Comic-Con. Limited print editions of the prequel comic will be available to players at Comic-Con at no charge. The digital version of the comic will release later this summer, also at no charge.

For more information about Orcs Must Die!, please visit http://www.OrcsMustDie.com

Jumping the Shark Podcast #80

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re just about a year out from last year’s disastrous release of Elemental: War of Magic, so what better time to bring in two of the principles of the spin-off game, Fallen Enchantress, to talk about its (hopefully) impending release? Yep, this week we are very excited that Stardock’s Jon Shafer (lead designer of Civ5) and Derek Paxton (designer of the amazing Fall From Heaven mods for Civ4) are able to take some time out to join us and talk about what they hope to bring to the table with Fallen Enchantress. Oh, and because any dessert needs a cherry on top, we’ve also got Troy Goodfellow back on to drop some knowledge and ensure at least a couple smart questions are asked. Some unavoidable audio issues aside, it’s a good week for Jumping the Shark!

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