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There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.

The console gaming world has finally conspired to produce a game that will all but guarantee your correspondent’s purchase of a PS3 or Xbox 360 this year.  Rockstar Games and Team Bondi offer up their take on the mean streets of the late Forties in L.A. Noire, scheduled for release in September.

Now all that is missing from the pantheon of idealised virtual worlds is a Rockstar-like take on Blade Runner’s Los Angeles, circa 2019.

RELATED: Justin Towell of GamesRadar highlights ten facets of L.A. Noire that differ from its mobster-oriented Grand Theft Auto siblings.  It is highly gratifying to note that for once, the main protagonist is a good guy—a policeman—not the usual blackjack-wielding contractor for organised crime.  Also wonderful to note is that the designers have gone to great lengths to recreate an extremely large and authentic layout for the city, based on aerial photography and hand-drawn maps of the time.

TANGENTIALLY RELATED: Long-time readers may realise that your correspondent is not a fan of mobsters, fictionalised or otherwise, owing to their sociopathic and parasitic nature.  This stems from both familial and fraternal association with law enforcers, personal experience with the victims of crime, and a basic understanding that criminals—however glamorously portrayed—are leeches, existing on parasitic sustenance derived from the livelihoods of the law-abiding.  Entertainment offerings like Grand Theft Auto, Goodfellas, the Godfather films and the Sopranos series have no special place in my heart.  They are momentary fun but perhaps, on greater reflection, paying to have someone glamourise the psychopathic is somewhat counter-intuitive.  This observer prefers to valourise those who catch criminals, as opposed to those who, out of sheer greed and laziness, have made a life’s work of preying on the weak.

And, no surprise, Hollywood offers the mob more sympathetic genuflection than it rightfully deserves.  Denis Faye, penning the Technically Speaking column for the Writers Guild of America, shares some insight on the mafia from FBI agent Joaquin “Jack” Garcia:

The only thing I see that’s phony is that they make them into these likable characters and romanticize them. Like in The Sopranos [Created by David Chase], how Tony’s concerned about his daughter and his son. When these guys take their oath over omertà, they’re taking an oath that their old family no longer counts. It’s their new family, the Gambinos, the Luccheses, the Geneveses, whatever, that becomes their family. If somebody’s child was dying and you’re called in by the boss, you better go there. When I see Tony Soprano roughing around with his kid and being nice – I’m sure some of these guys do that, they have a soft spot – but in reality, they could care less. You know what I mean? They’re criminals; they’re psychopaths, and they’re gonna want to go out there all hours of the day and night just to make money for themselves and enjoy themselves…

[Speaking about real-life Gambino family members Greg DePalma (capo) and son Craig (mob “soldier”)]:  You know, I guess when I saw them, I saw how evil they were… Why would you, in heaven’s name, bring your son into that life? Either you’re going to wind up dead, or you’re going to spend a long time in jail. That’s not a good father! You want your kid to become a [law-abiding] citizen.

You sound as though these guys are too three-dimensional in the movies, yet in reality, they’re more two-dimensional.

Yes, right. Think about every mob movie, the way they are. People love what that Mafia represents, but show the other side more, the killing. Think about this. They kill their own kind. If you do something wrong, you are killed. And who kills the guy? The guy who’s closest to the guy who’s going to get whacked, because that’s the guy who’s going to set him up. That’s the life of the mob. Where’s the loyalty? I love you like a brother but now I gotta kill ya? Why is that romanticized?

Sure, there were mob guys I was with who were hilarious. They’d tell stories and I’d laugh. It sounds sick, but sometimes I’d even enjoy the company. But never once did I forget that these guys that I am laughing with could easily stick an ice pick in my eye.

– Faye, Denis.  “Mob Rules.”  Technically Speaking | Writers Guild of America, August 2009.

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Deluxe Reading Jimmy Jet (1963)

One cannot help but wonder whether the ominous horror-movie voice-over was a deterrent (or stimulant) to sales.

An in-depth look at the Jimmy Jet (with colour photos) is available here.

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How did this project get green-lit?

battleship_game

For definitive proof that Hollywood is an increasingly inbred colony of morons, go read these two interviews (1, 2) with Peter Berg, director of the upcoming movie based on the Battleship board game.

This gist is that aliens come to Earth and magically disable our “advanced” technologies (including, presumably, liquid and solid fuel rocket motors, which propel missiles; onboard INS guidance systems; possibly the GPS satellite constellation), thereby forcing a US/Japanese surface action group to engage the alien watercraft with old-fashioned radar-and-eyeball directed gunnery.

I find it incredible that this project has received funding and is going ahead.  Should this project do well at the box office, against all odds and common sense, we will be treated to a slew of board-game-related copycats.  If you’re a studio producer with more money than brain cells, consider these:

  • Jenga: The Movie. Aliens magically disable our advanced construction techniques, such as reinforced concrete, forcing a team of archaeological architects to shore up modern skyscrapers and other enormous buildings with post-and-lintel braces using gigantic rectangular blocks of wood.
  • Monopoly: The Movie. Aliens magically disable our antitrust laws, advanced economic instruments, and force the government back onto the gold standard.  A team of Wall Street oligarchs must achieve vertical integration of transportation, utilities and real estate empires in order to stop them.
  • Ouija Board: The Movie. Aliens magically disable humanity’s higher reasoning capabilities resident in our medial prefrontal cortexes, causing a worldwide shortage of Jonas Brothers tickets.  A team of teenaged girls with a mild predilection for occultism must hold a sleepover and ask a Ouija board a series of increasingly meaningless questions in order to set things right.  (Yes, I am aware that Witchboard and Paranormal Activity already exist.)
  • Scrabble: The Movie. Aliens magically disable our advanced electronic communications infrastructure, causing worldwide havoc.  A team of elementary school spelling bee champions must communicate with the alien spacecraft in orbit, using only enormous city-sized blocks of wood stamped with individual letters of the alphabet.
  • Yahtzee: The Movie. Aliens magically disable our advanced entertainment infrastructure, causing worldwide death by boredom.  An average family of four must battle the odds and stay alive using the dice from their dusty, unused backgammon set, and recording the scores for… no reason whatsoever.
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Jane’s USAF

Probably one of the worst air combat games in terms of flight dynamics and realism, but it had the best game-opening movie this side of Wing Commander.

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Alphasim C-17 Globemaster III repaints

For no reason in particular, some repaints of Flight Simulator aircraft I worked on last month.  The very detailed original textures were created by Pierre Lherheux and Phil Perrott of Alphasim, for their C-17 Globemaster III product.

For the Charleston bird I modified Alphasim’s 62AW/McChord textures, creating the Charleston tail flash, updating the tail code, and re-positioning the aircraft and wing identifier from the lower nose to the upper nose, just below the cheek window.  This repaint is based on aircraft 07-7182, assigned to 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston AFB, South Carolina.

Repaint of Alphasim C-17 Globemaster III for 437th Airlift Wing (Charleston AFB).  Scenery is Palu/Mutiara Airport, Indonesia

Repaint of Alphasim C-17 Globemaster III for 437th Airlift Wing (Charleston AFB). Scenery is Palu/Mutiara Airport, Indonesia

Tail detail showing Charleston tail flash with crescent moon and palmetto.

Tail detail showing Charleston tail flash with crescent moon and palmetto. Scenery is Elmendorf AFB, outside of Anchorage, Alaska.

I also modified the stock Alphasim Canadian Forces paint scheme slightly.  For the CF repaint, I modified all aircraft tail codes / identifier codes to be rendered in the appropriate Canadian Forces font.  (Actually, the font predates the CF and is the same as that used by the former RCAF.)  I also added the missing aircraft identifier on the lower nose, and created versions for all four CF aircraft (177701 through 177704).

LONDON-2009-oct-9-003

Repaint of Alphasim C-17 Globemaster III for CF aircraft assigned to 429 (Transport) Sqn, 8 Wing, CFB Trenton. Scenery is Lake Simcoe Regional.

Tail detail showing 177704 tail code.  Scenery is Lake Simcoe Regional.

Tail detail showing 177704 tail code and 704 identifier on starboard wing. Scenery is Lake Simcoe Regional.

Both repaints are available at AVSIM.com and FlightSim.com, but you will of course need to have the original Alphasim package first.

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Trent Reznor talks sense

When I was a much younger lad, Nine Inch Nails took up about 2 picoseconds of brain processing time.  Didn’t care much for his band, and the odd time you would hear about NIN or its frontman on the news, Mr. Reznor would usually be spouting something whiny, churlish and asinine.  So it was with some trepidation that I started reading this interview with him on gaming site Joystiq.  I don’t know what they did with the old spoiled brat Trent Reznor, but the new guy playing him on that website is fargin’ brilliant.  It’s almost as if his cerebral cortex has fired up and is now able to provide perspective, context and experience to the part that manages his mouth.

Reznor has some truly outstanding insights into the risk-averse nature of music and game studio management, and how it materially affects the quality of the gaming and music experience we have today.  (I have previously discussed the shortcomings of modern games here.)  It’s no coincidence that all the dreck being churned out by the major labels is highly reminiscent of songs and games we’ve seen before.

You previously mentioned that you came up with a video game idea and pitched it to big publishers. Tell us about that game.

Trent: Rob and I have some things on the side that we’ve been working on and one of the things we’ve been talking about doing is publishing or developing video games. A few years ago we took that idea to a few of the main publishers, Midway, Activision, etc. And as first time people in a pitch meeting, it was kind of depressing. Depressing to see that the people in control of those studios and publishers are much the same as the people sitting at record companies.

In a record company, they aren’t musicians or people who love music, they’re people who want to sell plastic discs. They think they have a formula where if they can eliminate the artist from that equation, even better. You see that in the case of the Pussycat Dolls and some of the other fabricated crap that’s out there. What we tended to notice in the video game meetings was that it didn’t seem that there were gamers there. It’s business guys who want to turn the company into a profit making machine. They look at it in terms of numbers, like a Hollywood studio. If it costs “X” amount to make a game, to compete, then it has to be a proven franchise or it has to be similar enough to something they know is going to sell. They don’t want to take the risk.

Do you see any similarities between the indie video game and indie music industries? If so, what advice could you give to those who want to get noticed in the market?

Trent: …The success of the industry as an art form and a form of entertainment will be if it can rediscover itself and to allow for the redefining of what a video game is. Not necessarily targeting it towards just kids or grandparents or whatever. The goal is always to keep a level of entertainment, excitement and innovation.

Again, it seems like games have gone from the golden age — like Robotron, which was only a few kilobytes — to the era of Wolfenstein and Doom, where a boutique shop of just ten guys could create an in-depth, quality game in six months to a year. Now we’re at an era of needing hundreds of guys and millions of dollars and several years to compete with other A-list titles to attract the big publisher that wasn’t as big of a deal years ago. The publisher equates to the record label and now you have an ecosystem where, if you want to compete with EA or Activision, you have to have a mainstream enough title, which turns into a blockbuster movie scenario.

This, again, is the same thing you see with films where a lot of generic, big films come out of Hollywood. Things like G.I. Joe and Transformers, where you know what you’re getting, they aren’t redefining anything, but they’ll make “X” amount of money, because “X” amount of people — including us — will see it. But every once in a while, something different comes along, like a Quentin Tarantino who’ll blow the doors off things and turns the industry on its head. All because it was exciting, innovative and it came from way over there.

– Burg, Dustin.  “Interview: Trent Reznor.”  Joystiq, 24 September 2009.

This man is a genius.  Trent Reznor should be appointed Gaming Czar, given enough stimulus money to purchase a couple sets of high-quality brass knuckles, and sent off with a directive to start bringing Hopenchange to the studios.

Reznor also has some kind words for Nintendo, who have tended to shy away from incorporating hyper-real 3D graphics into every franchise title, and instead stuck with more stylised 3D graphics rooted in the look and feel of the company’s 2D platform-scroller heritage.  That was a conscious decision on Nintendo’s part, targeting the Wii at a broader spectrum of people who like to have fun but aren’t hardcore FPS gamers.  The other console manufacturers have tended to specialise their platforms for the narrower but more techncially demanding subset of people who want games with x number of frames-per-second at resolution y, with anistrophic filtering, antialiasing and so on.

The whole interview is really quite fascinating, and it is to Mr. Reznor’s credit that he is able to see the fundamental dysfunction at the heart of the music and gaming industries.  Another interesting sidebar is provided by interviewer Burg, who includes some of the excised portions of the interview (where Reznor discusses Twitter, smartphones and application development) on his own blog.  Both pieces are well worth reading.

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