Saturday, December 22, 2012

Serious Remix

Some of you may or may not know that I recently signed up on the OCRemix forums and started working on my first serious remix. I'm planning to eventually submit it to OCRemix and hopefully do some battle against the stigma against LMMS that makes people think it can't hold it's own in music production circles. It's a lot of work, but it's loads of fun.

If you want regular updates on this project, just keep an eye on the WIP thread:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Music And School

You may have noticed a lack of regular deep game design content this month, especially where Infiltrator is concerned. This is due to the fact that this is hopefully my last month of school(I don't have all of the details figured out yet) and I've had very little breathing room or free time. The truth of the matter is that music takes less time and commitment to regularly update. I can give you guys a few minutes of cool music I threw in a week with ~ 4-6 hours of work, but at this stage a notable Infiltrator progress showcase would take a lot longer than that to put together. Hopefully this is a temporary setback, and I can get back to both regular music and game design content within a month or so.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Scope, Ambition, and Realism

I like to think of myself as having some understanding of how to balance anything-is-possible-ambition with where-is-the-feasible-profit-realism. After all, I've released three music albums I care to mention and several hours of music production tutorials. In order to release anything really, you have to understand when you need to spend more time to make something perfect, and when it's good enough and needs to be shipped. You also need to know how to set goals that are ambitious but achievable, especially when working independently in an art like game development. How to balance these ideas while planning the development of a game is the topic of today's article

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Music Hacker Prevails

This week was a ridiculously busy daze, part of which I spent sick. I pushed through anyway and managed to get this episode out in time.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Epic Chiptune

With the holiday came social obligations to exit my secret lair and socialize with my family, and thus I only had time to get you guys a music update this week. Still, it's pretty awesome music in my opinion, so hopefully it will tide you over till Tuesday or next Saturday.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mandatory Defeat

Today I want to discuss- mainly by analysis of examples -a videogame story concept, the closest TVTrope article of which I could find calls Hopeless Boss Fight. It actually applies to any battle in any genre that needs the player to be defeated for the purposes of the story, be it in gameplay or in a cutscene. This tool could obviously be used to the great benefit or great detriment of a story. We will therefore be looking at a good and bad example from the games Megaman X and awful ol' Mass Effect 3.

And yes, this article will obviously be laden with spoilers from all of those games. Also, I feel like I need to warn you that this page conatians TVTropes links, which have been shown to lead to the eating up of countless hours of time when clicked. Unless you aren't familiar with the tropes mentioned, click at your own risk.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Infiltrator Part 43 - Sights On Editor

Do you think this blog is becoming an Infiltrator dev journal with random game design articles and music updates popping up every once in awhile? Then congratulations, you passed the being observative test! Now shut up and read this Infiltrator dev update because I'm already spreading myself thinner than the peanut butter on your sandwich when your little sister Julibop who prefers Jam makes it for you just to get the giant stack of ridonkulous things I do done.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Album Released: Rhyme Or Reason

What more is there to say? Read about it here, listen to it on YouTube here, and download it here. Enjoy!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Infiltrator Part 42 - Swarms Of Warriors

Swing your partner left and right, wrap your code up nice and tight. Throw your partner on the ground,  spend a little time on sound. When you hit them in the face, make your swarmers fly with grace. No ID you wear a hood, warriors also going good.

Also, I'm in one of those moods where all the little personalities in my head want me to do different things at the same-BREAK IT DOWN NOW!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

RPG Classes and Encounters

When this originally came up I wasn't provoked enough to write about it. There was one particular encounter early in the first Mass Effect Game that I had a load of trouble with. At the time I figured that I just hadn't built up my character enough, had put my XP into the wrong skills, chose to bring the wrong squad with me, or was just plain new enough to the game to have difficulty with something easy. I eventually learned that almost every Mass Effect player who chose the character class that I did died more times than they bothered to count at this encounter, not for any fault of their own, but because this encounter was almost perfectly tailored to a different class.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Infiltrator Part 40 - Swarmer Skeleton

So... swarmers. It turned out to be a ridiculous pain to get the swarmers to even home in on a target, but I got through it. The resulting swarmers will now launch and home in on enemies. But which enemies?

Unfortunately, not the most intelligently chosen ones yet. Currently they just target the onscreen enemy spawned longest ago, which is pretty arbitrary and exists only because it was the quickest and easiest to add. I have a few different target choosing algorithms in mind. I'll have to try and weigh each of them in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, and that will be fun.

That's actually it. The swarmer art, as you can see, is basically placeholder. The final swarmers will also be tiny, but they will have a glowing contrail so it will be easy to see them and where they are going. I put so much into working out the simple things that I didn't have time for details.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Infiltrator Part 39 - Tedious Baselines and Reworkings

Aside from the hustle and bustle of the other parts of my life this session has also gone slowly because it was mostly design work. There are some changes that can be expressed via screenshot though, and there is plenty to talk about.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Aesthetics: Color

NOTE: I have indeed noticed that some of my older image heavy posts have lost many of their images. This will not happen with any more posts, as I will now be downloading the images and then uploading them to this site instead of linking them. As long as this site is here, so will the images be.

I often talk about aesthetics and visual style. I'll say that a game makes good use of old graphics technology to create a gorgeous universe with an interesting and unique aesthetic, but you'll have no idea what that means or how a level designer would go about creating such a beautiful universe in the first place. Allow me to explain some of that by going over some of the basic ideas surrounding one of the most important aesthetic elements: color. The only way to gain an artistic ability with color is through experimentation and expression, so I will focus on the technical aspects involved to get you started.

There are four important concepts to understand when you are coloring a space: complements,  contrast, range, and coordination. This is not a standardized set of technical terms or concepts. I have spent ten long seconds making them up based on what I have read and studied.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Backtracking and Persistent Worlds

There are some things that are love or hate for gamers. Half of the gamers really love to go back through an old area of a game and pick up the things they missed, refill their health with a medkit  they left just in case, or hunt for secrets that they previously could not access. On the other hand, many simply cannot stand the way it can break flow or impede on the time they want to be shooting things. While this example uses action games, the idea of backtracking applies to many genres and is looked upon similarly in most of them.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fun Times

So this week got interesting. School decided it hated me on the same week I decided that, ready or not, I was going to finish my next video tutorial.

The upshot is that you guys get a new kind of rushed tutorial, but no game design content because I was busy making said tutorial and handling school. Enjoy.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Storytelling in Games

So you have this great story. It has interesting characters, clever twists, and asks deep and profound questions that make the person who finally receives the story really think. Then, random game pundits in the massive chunk of oddness that is the realm of cyberspace completely forbid the idea of offloading your story to a bunch of cutscenes. "After all, this is an interactive medium," we say, "If we wanted to watch a movie, we would. We are here to play." And no, we-ahem-they don't like the idea of you making the player sit through a bunch of audio logs or pause to read giant chunks of text either.

"Okay, fine!" you say, throwing your hands up as part of your sarcastic concession. "How do I get this amazing story into the game? How can I narrate it? How can I get all of this exposition out without making the player sit through cutscenes or read walls of text?" First, I congratulate you for being truly unique in that you are willing to write a good story for your game, and then be willing to try to find the best way to express it. Second, I would like to answer your question by writing about it in the time when I'm not busy doing school, producing music, creating videogames, experimenting with electronics, or saving the world from trans-dimensional jelly toads.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Infiltrator Part 38 - HUD, EMP, and stability

It seems like I have this internal clock that every few months says "Hey! That HUD could totally be better designed!" I then proceed to completely rewrite the code for it and move everything around. That happened again, but this time I found that I had anticipated this earlier and redesigned the HUD code to be more accommodative to change in the future.

Also, accommodative should totally be a word.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Infiltrator Part 37 - Lightning!

This session was fun but didn't really see a lot of notable outside improvements. It saw one, super cool one.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rhyme or Reason - Album Art

So I have now officially started creating the album art for Rhyme or Reason. Here is the current version of the cover:

I wanted something different from my normal neon cyberpunk thing, so I went with a yellow-green-violet color theme with simplistic typography and some random retro wireframe terrain rendered in Blender. If you want to know why I chose the terrain, I will say that there is no rhyme or reason to why the album cover is as it is.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mass Effect 3 - Extended Cut

Awhile back when I did a from-the-hip-by-the-seat-of-my-pants review of Mass Effect 3, I spent an entire paragraph explaining how I wasn't going to talk about the ending. There is plenty of hate for it and some pretty awesome critiques of it that I can't touch. Then, along comes the extended cut. There is also a lot of good writing about the extended cut, but I have a few reasons to want to write about it myself. Before I get into those reasons(and before you hit the Read More button and blind yourself) I would like to warn you that the remainder of this post will obviously contain spoilers for the entire Mass Effect series and universe.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hardware Fun

Those of you who have spent any marginal amount of time reading my stuff will know that "fun" means ridiculous time consuming issues that one of my personalities can enjoy with a dark sense of humor while I try to get through them. That is pretty much what is going on with my rig right now. And it's so hilarious!

In short: my rig has been having some really interesting problems which I've finally traced to the motherboard. I have to get a new one. That's why there has been a dearth of content for the last week or so. I haven't been able to work on Infiltrator or write up anything about game design or music because my machine hasn't been working. Once this gets worked out I will be back.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Artistic Workflow vs. Technical Fidelity

I've had thoughts about this topic for awhile and just kind of kept them to myself. Now it's starting to flare up in more and more places, so I would like to get behind the increasing number of people saying that pushing new game technology should now be in the direction of improving the artistic workflow rather than the game fidelity. I believe that this should be applied to every aspect of creating the complex piece of art that is a game, but for now I am going to stick to the visual and level creation side of things for simplicity. It also provides a perfect example and happens to be the direction that most tech R&D has been pushing for higher fidelity rather than better artistic flow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Infiltrator Part 36 - Editor Improvements

This short session was dedicated mainly to improving the level editor. After all, once I finish most of the core mechanics, I will be spending a lot of time using it to create the content. Additionally, I'm hoping to release the game with level editor enabled the way it is now. (as a command line option) That way users will get to play around with creating their own levels and all that good stuff. The upshot is that a lot of other people could also potentially be spending a lot of time using this level editor, and I want to make that as painless as reasonably possible.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Infiltrator Part 35 - Here is the Menu

I absolutely hate creating GUI's and menu's. I also love it. I'm awesome like that, so this is the session in which I've tackled the task of creating Infiltrator's menu system.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Infiltrator Part 34 - Style Cam

There isn't a whole ton to say about this session. I guess it's mostly because a lot of the work that got done was under the hood where the end user will likely never see. Still, there are some pretty major changes happening on the outside as well.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Infiltrator Part 33 - Design Explanation #2

There are some pretty sweet updates and features brewing to talk about for the next session summary, but I want to throttle back and discuss the design a bit more before it gets stale. Or maybe it already is stale. Doesn't matter.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Infiltrator Part 32 - Boon Town Shredders

This session was rather fun for me. It saw the completion of several tasks that seemed very daunting. Some of them were just extra's that I managed to fit in within the session time even though I had already met my goals. Put simply: this session was an epic boon.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Infiltrator Part 31 - With a two in it!

The long and painful move from SFML 1.6 to SFML 2 is finally complete. There actually isn't a whole ton of difference, except that now my framerate has taken a giant tan- GUN BLAM IT! Just a minute...

Okay, so now the long and painful-aw skip it.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Infiltrator Part 30 - Shredders + SFML 2

This particular feature addition stretched out over a long period of time for many reasons. All of which are completely unimportant. The shredder AI is almost 100% up and kicking and that's what matters.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Conversation in Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I know that the conversation mechanics in DX:HR(yes, that's how I'm abbreviating it from now on) got a passing mention back in my broad analysis of the game but I never really took the time to give the them a more focused and in depth analysis. I want to look at the large number of things this game does right in this area. These are things that I think we should be emulating and learning from. I'm also going to turn a critical eye on the game to see if we can't also scrounge up some places they may have been improved.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Infiltrator Part 29 - Debug Draw

After a few days I come up with a good set of rules for the Shredder AI. It's a simple four mode program that I should be able to implement in a week or two. I should get started on it, but first let's just make a few little tweaks in order to make sure the gameplay feels right. I mean, what's the probability of getting sidetracked and going off trying to fix huge bugs you didn't know were there? Pretty big I guess. Deal with it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Infiltrator Part 28 - Soundtrack

I'm not going to beat around the bush. What kind of person do you think I am anyway? Do you actually think that I would just try to avoid the subject at hand and try to stall talking about it by blabbering on about something completely unrelated? How does that even benefit me? I am utterly insulted that-oh. Right.

So let's talk about the soundtrack and AI.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Infiltrator Part 27 - Design Explanation #1

The next version of Infiltrator is currently under testing and development. I'm roughing out the base AI code for the shredder enemies but that will take awhile. To pass the time, I'll explain the game design and provide many actual details. I do have a design document of sorts, but it's spread out over several text documents, concept pictures, scribbling on the backs of napkins, and prototypes. While I'm making no attempt to be all formal and complete in terms of this post being the new design document, it will likely be a lot more organized than any of my other notes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Infiltrator part 26 - Circle 2D

The lack of feature additions in this episode can be attributed to the relentless chase of a particular bug which very effectively crunked up the kinaesthetics. Yes I just used the word kinaesthetics, get used to it. And go watch yourself some Errant Signal if you have no idea what I mean.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Infiltrator Part 25: Direction

So a little while back I mentioned that Infiltrator had almost enough gameplay and mechanics to form the base of a real game rather than a profitless unending project for fun. Upon reflection, I think if I change the direction this game was originally going I can finish this sucker at some point and have a mildly playable game in my portfolio. I don't know if any of you have know, but neither of the two games I've finished are really that great, much less an accurate representation of my current skill as both are more than two years old.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gameplay vs. Story

I've done an awful lot of writing about game design. I kind of assumed this was a given, but I've never really stated it before: I think videogames should be an artistic medium. I don't agree with a lot of videogame artists on many points, but we all agree on this one. I think a lot of us also agree that being an artistic medium, it's unique story telling abilities are something we can't give up. This is the driving force behind this post. How do we use gameplay to tell a story anyway?

Monday, June 18, 2012

More Revisions to the Posting Schedule

Looking back over this blog after I discontinued Cognitive Observations, I see a lot of filler posts. I see posts that are more updates than entertaining content, or posts that are basically quickly scraped together excuses for content. This was never what this blog was about. I think this may become an even bigger problem once I stop doing Music Hacker.


Yes, I'm going to be discontinuing my webshow once I finish season 2. The reasons and everything will be discussed in the season finale. The point is that webshow updates made up a  little over one sixth of the posts here, and that kind of content being removed doesn't magically make up for itself. After a lot of analysis, I arrived at the conclusion that I want to choose quality over quantity. That means I want to chisel my posts down to two per week. Where will these posts go in the week? One of them will go on Saturdays, obviously, and the other will be moved from Wednesday to Tuesday.  That way my terribly busy Wednesdays will get a little slack, and there will be new posts for you to read in your spare time on the weekend.

These changes are effective tomorrow. That way I don't have to have anything ready until Saturday. ;P


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Music Hacker: Because I Like Trance

This episode about Hard Trance leads marks the last tutorial style episode in the second season. That means that my special edition season finale is in only two weeks!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Choice in Gameplay

There has been a TON of talk about videogame choice and how it should be done. I have no particular reason to believe that what I have to say hasn't been said before, but even if it has been said a thousand times my repeating it can only add pressure toward applying it. That said, I want to talk about implementing choice in terms of gameplay mechanics and systems. I'm not here to talk about the artistic or writing side this time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

New Album Officiated: Rhyme or Reason

Yep. I've got enough track time not on any album to justify another album project. This time it's flying under the name "Rhyme or Reason." Theme: there is no particular rhyme or reason to why the tracks were put next to each other. ;)

Thus far I've got about 6 tracks filling about 25 minutes, so I'm nearly halfway done already. This should prove rather interesting, as I never really thought I'd keep doing this to the point where I had four albums.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Infiltrator Part 24 - Fighting Fighters

This session was actually finished a few days ago, but I wanted to add a few extra features before I wrote about it. I then found out that said features were quite a bit more complex than I thought, and I ended up moving it to the list of long term features. Anyway, I have some interesting new bells and whistles to show you all.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Video Game High Score Systems

So after a short break, I'm back to hit you all with a new article. This time I want to discuss video game high score systems.  These have been around for quite awhile, so there has been plenty of experimentation with the concept, leaving us with a wealth of knowledge we can use to analyze it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Early Bird

I'll be going offline for a bit and won't be able to post my episode at the regular time, so I've decided to put it up a day early.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Linux Mint 13 - Second Impressions

I'm a Linux man myself. I like Mint especially, as it seems to take the attention to ease of use that Ubuntu is so big on and and mix it with the goals of power, configurability, and less bloat that Ubuntu forgot about. Also, the Ubuntu aesthetic is awful, whereas Mint has an awesome aesthetic. While I've always preferred it to Ubuntu, it never played all that well with my multi-head setup and tended to always find something to keep broken at any given time. I suspected that a lot of this had to do with the desktop manager/environment shenanigans that Linux distros still haven't quite gotten over, so you can imagine my stokedness(which should totally be a word) when Linux Mint 13 came out.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hecticity is not a word

This week/weekend has become excessively hectic. Please accept this Hard Trance release as a symbol of my willingness to do a proper game design article, even if I ended up not having time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Infiltrator - Part 23 - Heads Up

This session has gone almost completely into updating the HUD.

The giant speedometer style shields indicator, while cool looking, was hogging a ton of screen space and giving the player a noticeable blind spot. Thus, I have replaced it with a progress bar like the energy, and have shrunk both of them. The screen now has more space for the action and gameplay, but still provides you with needed info.

That's pretty much all I've had time to do so far. I've been working on the fighters, but they're kind of in a mess at the moment. Right now I'm just basking in the glory of knowing that the HUD is finished. Unless I get far enough to start adding the adventure game parts anyway...


Monday, May 21, 2012

Action RPGs

I like almost anything that takes multiple good things and mixes them well. I like Pizza, programming(a blend of science and art), cross-genre music, a well color coordinated room, and I like action RPG games. But what makes a good action RPG tick? Why do we all love them so? Why must so many articles and analysis' start off with a bunch of questions?

This may be a bit subjective, I.E: why I love action RPGs, but I highly doubt that this won't produce fruitful game design ideas and knowledge.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Infiltrator - Part 22 - Primordial Code

The majority of this session went into one very fun improvement. It's not that great, nor is it something that can be fully communicated via screenshot, but it's awesome anyway.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mass Effect 3 - System Sweep

Deciding how to start this post was hard. But what I arrived at was a rather clever piece of meta in my opinion.

Bla bla bla, Mass Effect 3, bla, bla bla, RPG, bla, lets just jump right in and sweep over all the little remaining systems I want to talk about for now before I start scoping out another game to discuss.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Infiltrator - Part 21 - Optimizing and Upgrading

Well a-whoop-dee-do for me. My game got to the point where it needed optimized. Sometimes optimization is just going through and replacing place-holder code that does the ridiculously stupid with more neat and tidy code that is easier on the CPU, but sometimes it's a bunch of tedious busywork as you try to pinpoint bottle-necks and come up with convoluted ways to circumvent the need for using up vital processing time.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mass Effect 3 - Insert Vivid and Clever Simile About Cover Based Shooting here

After gabbing on about the story for an entire article, it's time to talk gameplay. The action gameplay specifically, as I'm saving the RPG like systems and other stuff for later articles.

The original Mass Effect had a cover system that was fiddly and awkward, but still held up well enough. The cover system in Mass Effect 2 was better, but still broken. So the third, final, and theoretically ultimate Mass Effect game should build on the knowledge gathered from the last two games and create an solid, effective cover system right? WRONG! Mass Effect 3 has the worst cover system of all three games.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Music Hacker - live FX

Sorry if this episode seems a little rushed. I had a really busy week/weekend.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thinking About Advertising

So I've been running this blog for awhile, but only recently have I thought about getting some Google AdSense in here. My primary focus will always be to provide you with free, interesting, and entertaining content, so don't think this a step toward the dark side. I would like the opinions of my readers on this, as you will be the ones who see the ads. Obviously, I would still get money even if you ignore them and don't click on them. But if you feel that ads would in some way ruin this site, please discuss in the comments. If you think I've waited to long and you're just filled with joy that I'm thinking about advertising, also discuss in the comments. I think you get the idea.

 Also, if/when I setup ads on this blog, feel free to complain if they seem too invasive or obnoxious. As previously stated, ads take the back seat in the automobile of priority.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Mass Effect 3 - The Dive In - Story

A little while ago I temporarily emerged from my sock drawer to play some mainstream AAA titles. The last part of this streak was all three games in the Mass Effect series. I actually timed things pretty well so that I ended up finishing ME2 just in time for the release of the third game which I also immediately played through. I thought about discussing it right away before all the hype and fan rage/defence settled down(not that it hasn't,) but that's not my style anyway. I'm not here to give consumer advice, and I'm not here to give everybody my two cents on the ending. I'm here to talk about interesting game design concepts and manifestations in games, and today I feel like Mass Effect 3.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

That OMF thing

I've recently resurrected one of my old projects for fun.

I'm working on animation and pre-viz ATM, but I rendered a full quality 720p frame here for you. I've thrown out the script in favour of a fight between a Jaguar and Katana without context. Sure the removal of a story results in a less awesome video, but it's better than never finishing the project in the first place.

And make up some excuse that this post went up late.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Infiltrator Part 20

This session marks an important milestone, as it concludes at the same time as version 0.0.5. That means I'm halfway to the first alpha, and I've got some spiffy features to show for it. Unfortunately, there are too many features and too little time to do a full breakdown, so I'm just going to quickly mention some of the more notable improvements.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Individual variation in videogame appeal

Every game designer, analyst, and reviewer has to mention this somewhere. I'm sure that almost everything that needs said about this has been already, but everyone still expects me to talk about it anyway. This also has the plus side of offering those of you interested in game design but unfamiliar with this particular idea a kind of crash course to get you stared.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

House of music hacker

This is going up on time, but a little later than usual. I blame YouTube.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Infiltrator Part 19 - $5 feature bin

As predicted, this session was easy and time consuming busywork. It's pretty cool to think how I've set things up so that adding these features is so easy. It's kind of like building a good foundation for your Lincoln Log house, making it a simple matter to add a roof or some more greebles and nurnies. That said, don't expect any amazing, ground-breaking, or super cool features. This is merely another step forward.

I didn't even notice I had a read more button until recently.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Coding After Midnight release at 100%

Uploaded to YouTube and playlisted, available for download on MediaFire, and cataloged on it's own page.

See this page here for all details.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Moral Choice as a Catalyst for Introspection

A lot of the things that need said about choice in videogames have been said already by reviewers and game analysts alike. However, most of what's being said seems to center around developing moral choice as an opportunity for the player to affect the story and reason out moral grey areas. These have the benefits of making the player feel like they're having a legitimate effect on the universe and allowing interesting and intellectually stimulating moral dilemmas. While this is a great direction for videogame design to take, there is more that can be done with player choice that I feel it isn't being given much attention. I also think that a lot of the common complaints for moral choice are about problems that stem from this challenge.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Making Gameplay Feel Relevant

I've been thinking about an interesting problem in my exploration of game design. The problem is easy to explain but difficult to solve. Put as a question, how do you make every moment of gameplay seem to have a relevant a impact on the story? Not just the big picture of a mission(or level or whatever) like "go find X person," but every part of it. The reason I'm bringing this up is because a lot of games seem to suffer from large amounts of gameplay which feel like filler. You feel like your character isn't taking the quickest route between points A and B because the game developer came up with contrived reasons for it to take longer. I'm not just talking about games with choice. Whether the player is actually making choices that impact the plot or not they need to feel like their actions are important and make a difference.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Infiltrator Part 18 - Getting Around Path Finding Obstacles

Fixing a bug like this always makes a programmer feel invincible. Until the next one shows up anyway. Everybody get a Ginger Ale or something to celebrate successful integration of a path finding engine into the Infiltrator code.

This time I'm going to take the example of other people doing a gig similar to mine and try to break down the problem and what went into solving it for those of you who aren't programmers. This should still be entertaining for those of you who are programmers though. This will help make following this series more of an interesting set of problems and solutions and less of a screenshot log. Buckle up, this is going to be a kind of long but still awesome ride.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Posting Schedule and Review Format

I like writing. It's the type of delicate blend between science and art that always rubs me in a special way. Unfortunately, I don't practice it as much as I once did. Upon considering why this is, I noticed something rather interesting about the way I handle game reviews/analysis. I can't seem to make up my mind about whether I'm doing the normal consumer advice game review thing, or whether I'm analyzing and commenting on various aspects of a game.

Upon reflection I think my preferred choice would be game analysis. This means away with review scores, and away with a hastily scraped together paragraph at the end of every game analysis set attempting to explain who will and won't like the game. Rather than taking entire games or entire concepts, I will free myself to discuss, comment, and analyze whatever game related subject I find intellectually stimulating at the time. This will probably result in more entertaining and enlightening writing because I write best about a topic when I find interesting and stimulating.

Another topic that's crossed my mind is my posting schedule. After my comic strip went on hiatus I pretty much stopped posting on Mondays. I plan to change that ASAP. Either this Monday or next I will again start posting content on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. If I find time and inspiration to do a comic every once in awhile it will be posted on a Monday as another Cognitive Observation.

Let's see what kinds of interesting things get cooked up within the next few weeks. ;)


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Infiltrator Part 17 - Straight for Him!

See what I did with the title there? I've taken up the habit of naming sessions and episodes with clever quotes instead of formal titles. You can also see that Infiltrator isn't dead. It's just a pain in the face to make pathfinding work, especially when you spend most of your day studying for tests.

I've not only integrated a pathfinding engine based on the D* algorithm, I've also upgraded the grid drawing engine. The grid now handles three types: occupied, unoccupied, and part of a path. Green tiles are part of an AI path, blue are empty, and red are non-traversable occupied tiles. There is one little problem however.

In the screenshot above, I'm using 32x32 sized units to demonstrate the flexibility of the engine. The problem here is glaring. The drones are indiscriminately plotting a course straight through the walls as if they aren't there. The worst part is that I have no idea what's causing this. It's crucial that I get this pathfinsing system smooth and polished because AI is going to be built on top of it. I'm sure it's nothing extremely serious and that I'll be able to fix it soon, but we'll see.

And that's really all that's been going on during this session. It's not much visually, but it is quite important under the hood.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Music Hacker - More Trance for Everyone

This was admittedly an easy and short episode to do, but I needed it here to segway into the next episode about completing your trance sound.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Air juggle

Choosing a title for this post was a bit clumsy. To get to the point, I'm messing around with several different projects right now and doing different things in each. I'm obviously working on Infiltrator, so lets start with that.

Infiltrator is at a very important crossroads. What I do now will effect Infiltrator all the way until it's finished. Currently I'm porting the code over to SFML 2, and then I'm going to look into redoing the camera perspectives and setting up path finding.

Next we have 'Cybernetic.' Cybernetic is my ongoing Blender3D fun project. I have a short movie in mind, but I really just do a ton of different blender files with characters and stuff that I could use in the short. If at some point I have enough content to tell an interesting story, I might devote more resources to that. Here is a screenshot of a droid I'm working on:

In essence, I have a lot of different projects going on, and they are all moving slowly. Music Hacker is still on schedule, meaning episode 8 of season 2 will air on the 24th as planned. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Infiltrator Part 16 - Path finding a' la doom

I have the terrible feeling that this is the point where this project will fall. Consider that I've stopped doing Cognitive Observations due to time constraints(guess I should officiate that sometime,) slowed down working on Infiltrator, and need to learn a completely alien facet of game development in order to continue. At any rate, here's a quickly scraped together report of the progress Infiltrator has seen during this session.

Yes, I'm still avoiding  calling this a screenshot journal. What you're seeing is an overlay of the enemy vision and yours. The next important part of Infiltrator is path finding, and the first part of that it to create a level grid with data about each unit. My grid system is a little clunky ATM, but I'm still trying to get some basic D* path finding routines built in.

Additionally, I'm also thinking about reworking the camera rig. Currently it's a top view fixed rotation scroller, but I'm thinking about turning it into a rotating camera where you always face the top of the screen. You would no longer be aiming at the crosshairs, since there wouldn't be any. You would move the mouse left and right to turn, giving a more immersive and action friendly movement engine. The problem is that this has huge effects on the core of the game as well. It could turn into a huge change, ending up being more work than it's worth, or it could be awesome.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Music Hacker - More Dubstep

Apparently the show isn't dubby enough 4 my fans, so here's another episode about Dubstep.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Deus Ex Human Revolution - Conversation and Upgrades

And so we come to the third and final part of my amateur analysis and critique of many of the elements of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Let's start out with a bit about the conversation mechanics in this game.

The conversation mechanics in this game are pretty solid, although a lot of the choices and conversations could better have been written in my opinion. I like that you can even install augmentations to aid you, allowing you to use pheromones and better read the person you're speaking to. This is just one of the many elements that help reinforce the idea that conversation is an important part of this game. Many parts of the game allow you to talk your way into places rather than shooting your way in, presenting what is possibly one of the best social engineering engines in a AAA game that has so many different systems. Yes, you can still accidentally select conversation options because you were skipping dialogue, which is something that is really starting to get on my nerves about most games. The people designing conversation engines should really do something about this.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Deus Ex game without an augmentation based upgrade system.

The upgrades are fairly well balanced, each choice encouraging a certain play style. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to get enough XP to afford all the upgrades(I certainly didn't), meaning you WILL be making choices. The selection is varied and interesting as well, meaning on your next play-through you're quite likely to be interested in trying a totally different upgrade strategy.

And last but not least, we have the hacking mini-game which you'll have to face in order to access security devices like camera's, turret and robots. You can also use it to shut off alarms and other things, as well as read e-mails that reveal more of the story.

Naturally, the hacking is 100 percent unrealistic, but you're not here for a realistic game. I actually didn't enjoy the hacking that much since there was only a pinch of strategy involved, but I do think it was well designed. Based on my analysis of things I don't get but other people love, I'd say the hacking simulations in this game are pretty good. From a design perspective at least, they're will constructed.

At this point I guess I'm supposed to tell you whether or not you should try the game. Obviously I loved it, if for no other reason than that I love me some Cyberpunk here and there. The only reason I can think of that you wouldn't like it would be if you have excessive graphics demands for games. I think this game pulled off a beautiful aesthetic, so I apparently don't. I recommend you give it a go even if you aren't into Cyberpunk, just because this game rocks on so many other levels.

The inevitable question is also whether or not this game is better than the original. I must say that I loved the original, but I actually enjoyed this game more. Kill me if you must, but I think the previous game's development time was spent largely enough on overcoming technological limits as to hamper the other elements. Then it still ended up looking like the inside of a rusty metal coffee can.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Infiltrator - Evolution and design

Eeks this project is getting old. The newest conceptualization of it was officiated in September of 2011. The original Infiltrator spawned in March that same year. This project is almost a year old. Unfortunately, all of that time was not devoted to progress. The project was restarted from scratch a twice before I finally hit my current design.

The problem is that I don't think any of you know what that design is. You have only seen the project unfolding in front of you. Since I've jumped into the pathfinding rabbit hole, and thus have no interesting progress to talk about, this is a good time to explain the concepts and ideas driving the project.

Lets talk influence. Undeniably, the first game to impact my design ideas surrounding Infiltrator was an old dos game called Solar Winds.

Solar winds was a space shooting simulator RPG adventure game. You flew around space visiting planets and ships, talking to other people and aliens in order to advance the plot. Of course, there were battle mechanics that you had to use, but they were trash. To be honest, the dialogue was sappy and poorly written, the plot wasn't that engaging, and the music would drive you insane after hearing it for long enough. I think I recognized potential though. The way this game was a shooter, but had way more to offer than just plowing through enemies really got me interested. I decided to make Infiltrator more puzzle and adventure based than the next game, which didn't so much influence infiltrator as it did use one of the concepts I was already thinking of.

That's right, the previously reviewed Steel Storm. This game basically used a concept much like mine for an overhead spaceship shooter with smooth FPS like controls. If you're curious, you can read my old review of it, although I can't vouch for my writing or reviewing skills back then.

The resulting design calls for a simple yet deep game with a more focused shooting engine than Solar Winds and a more adventure game/RPG focused engine than Steel Storm. The idea is that you will be able to collect keys, inventory items, upgrade your ship, and have rudimentary conversations allowing for choices, missions, and sidequests. Naturally, this is a pretty ambitious project, especially for one dude. When I started this project, I fully admitted that it was doomed to failure. I was just coding for fun, you know? But as it started to take shape and actually LOOK like it had playable mechanics, I started to forget that. Now that I've started digging into path-finding(since I finished damage mechanics,) I'm remembering just how futile this project really is.

Anyway, that about sums it up. The idea behind infiltrator is that it's a circle strafing top view maniac shooting adventure RPG puzzle game. With a hint of lime.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Deus Ex Human Revolution - Stealth and Combat

A little while ago, I spent an entire post rambling about the story of this game. Lets see how much there is to say about the gameplay.

The main draw of the gameplay mechanics here is a simple yet powerful one. That is, simple to understand and think about. It's very difficult to actually pull off. There are a variety of different gameplay systems you'll be interacting with throughout the game, and all of them mesh and flow together smoothly. For example, I was stealthing around and hiding in ventilation shafts one moment, hacking into computers the next, and then engaged in a gun battle another moment later. Each of these elements play differently, and yet they all fit together to deliver a single, unified game. Let's look at them independently.

The first thing I noted right off the bat was the stealth. It rocks. Like a ton. Like, really. It ROCKS. I was originally quite pessimistic when I learned there was a cover system, but that went away quick when I noticed that I was applying it mostly to stealth. Cover based shooting is still there, but I'll get to that a little later. The main thing now is the stealth. I was originally expecting a watered down, simplified, and immensely boring stealth system. I was pleasantly mistaken. The stealth system is complex, interesting, and easy to start using. It balances quite well as something that takes a only minute to learn, but much practice to master.

Your footsteps make sound, guns without a silencer make sound, sound gives your position and presence away. Letting cameras or guards find bodies will give your presence away. Crawling makes your movement silent. Sound doesn't travel nearly as far past closed doors. The stealth system here is really a good one. This is especially because it mixes so smoothly with the action/battle system.

The action really doesn't stick out here in many ways. In the standard FPS mode, it's a standard FPS. You have guns and they go boom. I actually noticed that the weapon system was watered down in this sequel. In the original Deus Ex, there were different kinds of ammo for different kinds of guns. For example, the crossbow could be loaded with poisonous or tranquilizer darts. In this game, all of that goes away. Certain weapons kill, others don't.

The weapons aren't as intersting and varied as the original Deus Ex, but they're more fun than what you'll see in a cliche' AAA "realistic" shooter. There are actually some variations on the usual combination of the same FPS guns with different names. The P.E.P.S, EMP grenade, mine, R.D.E.D, tranquilizer rifle, and stun gun are all fun and interesting, although not especially. Of course, this game does have the usual canon of weapons(pun intended). There is a shotgun, pistol, assault rifle, and rocket launcher.

The cover system in this game is typical. It works, but it really doesn't stick out. I'm honestly getting bored of cover shooters, and I would have tagged the cover system as a bad thing if it didn't mix in and make the stealth more interesting. For all practical purposes, the combat system is cliche' and unimpressive. Fortunately it's not the forced center of the game. Since this game has so many elements, a functional combat system is just the icing on the cake.

Mainly of note when it comes to this games combat is that it ISN'T your cliche' "realistic" shooter. It's true that it leans a bit in that direction, but it doesn't lean far enough to bore me. This game takes the shooter thing and makes it a smoothly integrated, non-central(unless you want it to be) feature.

Wowzers. This is turning into my longest game review ever. There really is plenty to say about this game. Come next time, I'll talk about the mini-games and conversation.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Deus Ex: Human Revolution - Story and Choice

There is a lot to say about this game. It's so full of good content, yet flawed in enough places to rag on it a bit. This might stretch out over 2-4 posts. What can I say? There hasn't been a good Cyberpunk game in awhile.

I'm going to jump into the story of this game first. One choice I loved, was when they had about half of the intro be in gameplay. Of course, I hated the first-person invisible train track bit, but it didn't last long. Anyway, you play Adam Jenson who works as security chief at Sarif Industries. Megan Reed (your wife? Girlfriend? I dunno.) works at Sarif as well, developing new human augmentation technology and planning on presenting about it at a soon to occur UN meeting.

The security system goes off, and Sarif(your boss) sends you down to the location of the breach to see what's going on. You see a bunch of heavily augmented mercenary dudes killing all the scientist and destroying all the research. You look for Megan, who is in that very section of the building, and probably in danger. Then some big mercenary dude shows up, punches a hole in your stomach, throws you through a wall, chokes you half to death, and then shoots you in the face.

The evil mercenary dudes leave you for dead. Of course, in game intros where the player gets shot in the face, it's never fatal. Sarif pushes what's left of your body to the limit, installing as many of the most advanced cyebrnetic augmentations as possible. After a six month recovery period, you come back to work. And so begins an extremely cyberpunk story where you start by setting off looking for answers about this random massacre where Megan and all her fellow scientists were burned beyond recognition along with their research.

As far as introductions go, this games is not the most creative. However, it does an excellent job of giving the context, setting the atmosphere, and actually immersing the player. The best touch was when you went through the labs looking for Megan before you got augmented. In FPS games, you're probably used to being a super-soldier who can jump 2 meters high and take several bullets before you have to recharge your health. In the beginning of this game however, you play a normal, un-augmented person who is weak compared to the augmented mercs you're up against. This is in contrast to you once you've been augmented. You experience the transformation Adam goes through first hand.

I have to talk about the choice and the endings. First off, your choices have no effect on the plot of the game until the very end. When I got to the end, I had 4 buttons to push, each of which represented a different choice. This ruined everything for me. I knew I was essentially just selecting from 4 different ending cutscenes, so I chose each one and watched each ending. This is NOT how player choice should work. This is worsened by the fact that the only selection that didn't paint you as a liar or someone who gives a slant on the truth painted you as mentally unstable.

On the gameplay choices side however, this game is almost stainless. Almost. We've probably all heard reviewers raging on this game for the mandatory boss fights, so I won't spend your time criticizing something which has already been criticized by everybody else. It was a stupid, bad decision. All the other choices work pretty solidly though. The game does an excellent job holding up a number of different ways to handle each situation, each one having different consequences and outcomes. The game will be worth playing through multiple times for most, just because of all the different ways things can be done.

Another good aspect of the game's story is non-vilification of the player. Many games will impose a set of morals on you, judging your choices as either good or evil. In this game however, the moral dilemma is spun to match your perspective.

That's another thing. When I started this game, I was of the opinion that there was no dilemma. This game convinced me otherwise, although leaving my perspective the same. I'm personally pro human augmentation and enhancements. IRL.

The story really isn't air tight, it's just a few levels above what we've come to expect. I think the story here is a step in the right direction. I would definitely like to see more games with stories like these.

Wow. I spent this entire post just talking a little bit about the story. This serves to exemplify how much there is to say about this game. Assuming the reason I go on isn't just that I'm obsessed with Cyberpunk.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Infiltrator part 15

Two Infiltrator posts in a row. I must be on a roll...

Nope, I'm on a chair.

This post marks the completion of version 0.0.4. There are some really exciting new features. I'm a programmer not an artist though, so if this level looks awful, you can't blame me. ;)

The level editor has become a fully featured monster. You can reposition the player, place walls of any kind and any appearance anywhere, place as many enemies of any kind anywhere, etc. You're looking at my first level ever created with Infiltrators editor. It's called "cells."

It's basically just three rooms floating in the void, connected by some pathways. There are of course some limitations. For example, adding a new type of barrier to the editor must be done manually, and the background image must also be changed manually. That's not really much of a nuisance though, so I'll be working more on game mechanics than the level editor pretty soon I hope.

I suppose I should start working on collision detection and damage mechanics next. I've also got particle systems, enemy weapons, inventory, conversation, menu, AI, and plenty more. I guess I don't have to worry about being bored for awhile yet. ;)


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Infiltrator Part 14

It's been a little longer than usual since I last wrote about Infiltrator. You know how that works though. I'm not on a deadline or schedule, except for other things which sometimes end up delaying Infiltrator.

There are some really cool new features this time though, so lets jump in.

After quite a bit of bug-crushing and complications, I've finally added buttons to save level files from the editor. Just hit F2 to save, or F3 to save the file with a different name. Of course, if you're working on a file without a name, it will ask you to come up with one.

If you're a clever one, you might guess that you can't export all of the level data just yet. You would be correct. But what can you export?

                                               Not a fair way to start a level

The level editor only saves enemies ATM. As you can see, this still excited me enough to mess around. I hope it won't be long before I get the level editor into a more workable shape and can get back to work on core game mechanics. This is important though. I don't want another fiasco where I spend the entire day manually writing a level file by hand to test something.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

MadCat day 2012

Those of who have been following me for a year or more(before I had learned even a pittance about writing,) may remember MadCat day. I would have talked more about the MadCat, but I didn't have time to write a very long post. I'll have to settle for changing my desktop background and maybe firing up my old copy of Mechwarrior 2 Mercenaries.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cognitive Observation #23

I usually avoid posting controversial comics, but this one is vague enough that it could be taken to be against either side. If you're not sure which side I'm making fun of, it's the other one.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Infiltrator Part 13

Yoinkers! Last month was the first time ever that this blog clocked(or whatever you call it) over 1,000 page views. Yay, and thanks for reading!

Anyway, I'm not here to ramble on about stats. I'm here to talk about Infiltrator.

The coolest new change is an important one. I finally added features that allow the player to place enemies of any type in the level editor. I still need to set this up for barriers and finish adding in a feature to export level files though. At least this is a good baseline.

You might also note that I created a new sprite for the player, based on my beloved Xt-mk3 ship. Here is a clearer picture of it in action:

From a programmers perspective, I've also done some cleaning up. I cleared out a lot of unnecessary code, added or improved comments in some sections, and went through a few really messy sections of code to make them neater. It's still teetering on the edge of being a really huge and unintelligible kludge, but at least I'm doing something to try and keep it from falling.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Album officiated!

So, I'm officially announcing production of a new music album. I've got about 30 minutes of music lined up already, and about 10 tracks. I'm officially titling it "Coding After Midnight." The idea here is that it's the kind of music you would play while coding/hacking late at night. Themes in the songs (Yes, I do those now. I'm not just capable of instrumentals you know) centre around things like hacking, computers, night time, dreams, being a geek, etc.

I don't have anything but foggy ideas for cover art yet, but that doesn't really need to be done before the album.

I'm not really sure about the release time. I'm going to say that I think I'll be done within the next 3 months or so, but that's not a commitment.

Anyway, start biting your nails and celebrating that I'm still doing albums for now.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Music Hacker - Audacity and vocals

This is NOT Sunday, and I totally did NOT forget to post here about the next episode of music hacker. At all.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Infiltrator part 12

I said in the previous session that we needed a new player ship. I'm building a 3D model of it in Blender, even though it's going to be a pixel ship in-game. Don't ask why...

I said don't ask! ARG! Because it's fun, that's why. I know you're thinking this isn't going to help Infiltrator get released any sooner, which is probably true. But, if you recall from the start of this series, I said this project was probably headed for failure. I also said that I didn't care, because the whole point was to have fun on the way there.

The model isn't finished, but I'm happy with the base shape. It has many of the elements that made the Pyro GX cool, but doesn't directly copy. This is the difference between an inspired model and a copied model. *Digs out old Pyro GX clone model...*

And a 100% faithful remake of the original PyroGX by a Descent fan:

I debated for awhile as to whether or not I wanted to go 100% pre-rendered 3d for the sprites like the player, enemies, and such. I decided to keep the art style I have now because it's unique and appealing. Pixelships on top of 3D pre-rendered stuff is actually pretty cool.

In the meantime, I feel like I'm getting close with the level editor. Hopefully in a week or so there will be something more cool to show you from there.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Infiltrator Part 11

After having a somewhat longer session, I kinda wish I had more visual differences to show. Lots of stuff is going on under the hood though, so lets talk about that.

The biggest change is the addition of a level editor mode. Just pass in the argument
"-editor" on the command line, and it will start in level editor mode. If you passed that in, you can also pass in the path to the level file you want to edit. Or, if you want to play a different level, you can just use a command line of the format "Infiltrator -level levelfile.lvl" where levelfile.lvl is the path and filename of the level file to play.

As you can see, the gui currently provides you with two major elements. The first indicates which level is being read from the top left of the screen. The second is the object selector, almost dominating the left side of the screen. Objects are organized in four categories, which can be switched between a lot like tabs in a web-browser.

I have code to select different objects when they're clicked on, but it doesn't give the user any indication of which object is currently selected.

I have one last thing to note in this short session review(hey, that's an awesome name for these!) Many of you may or may not recognize the pixelship I drew for the player. It's basically ripped 100% from the Descent 2 Pyro GX, as well as the alien fighter model. This will cause major IP problems if I ever release this game, especially if I get crazy and decide to sell it. So I need to create a new player ship. It will also appear on the desktop backgrounds I make, posters, trailers, menus, etc, so I need a 3d model of it as well.

Right now I'm discussing designs for the new ship with my co-designer while we draw up concept art. No idea when we'll have a new ship ready. But until then, have fun biting your nails and hoping it's awesome.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Crysis 2 - Part 2

After a break, I have returned to complete my review of Crysis 2. Let's start out with the visuals.

Crysis 2 has pretty visuals. There. I mean, that's kind of what we've come to expect from CryTek isn't it? At one point, I thought I was watching a pre-rendered cutscene. I thought my character must be pretty stupid to just stand there. Then I noticed that it was in real time, and I had full control. So yes, the visuals are quite good.

Gameplay-wise, this game feels a little different from the original Crysis. The original Crysis seemed to interact in a way to show how awesome the nanosuit was. In Crysis 2, everybody spends at least five minutes talking about how awesome it is, but it doesn't feel the same. Since the feeling that the suit you're in is awesome has already been conveyed in the first game, the second game makes it feel more like you're actually in the suit.

I like the addition of a visor to replace the binoculars and use for tactical analysis. It's one of those things that makes the suit seem more like a battlefield companion. It's kind of like the new ability to kick cars into the air. They're both things I should have been able to do in the first game. I was always thinking to myself "If I can pick this dude up and throw him through a house hard enough to knock it over, why can't I throw some of these cars around?" That, and throwing cars adds to the awesome macho dude feeling.

Another change to the suit is in power and energy management. You can now use two superpowers at a time, since your suit automatically uses strength to strike and for super-jumps. Of course, using multiple powers will drain energy faster, but it's still a very useful tactical option. Armor mode now drains energy when in use whether or not you're taking damage. If you upgrade that feature of the suit though, it will drain very slowly unless you're taking damage or using a different superpower.

I have to admit that the enemies seem a bit repetitive. I'm not violent to humans IRL, so I was avoiding killing people at all costs(and to see just how open-ended the game really was.) Throughout the game, only 1 person has to be killed by your character. I was enjoying blasting my way through swarms of aliens, but I got sick of it fast enough that I just started cloaking myself to sneak past them all. There are too few enemy types spread out over too much world-space is what I think.

Let's talk about QTE's, or for those of you new to this, quick time events. It's that thing where games play a cutscene and tell you which buttons to push and when to make your character do certain things(usually avoiding death.) Crysis 2 had QTE's, and they're just as bad as ever. Worse is the fact that they seem tacked on like the designers were going through a check-list of features. They seemed out of place in an otherwise glittering work.

While there's only a few interesting weapons, which still fail to be extremely unique, the game does the best cover based shooting I've seen anywhere. That's right, coming from someone who has played whole games dedicated to cover shooting like Mass Effect 2. The problem with ME2 is that cover shooting was all it had going for it. Crysis 2 has a cover system that seamlessly integrates with the FPS-circle-strafing-stealth-ambushing elements of the game.

Rather than gluing yourself to random objects the level designers chose as "cover," Crysis 2 takes a different approach. Simply get real close to almost anything, and you can hold down the right mouse button and move it around to lean. You can lean up, down, left, right, etc. It doesn't matter if you're crouched, or on your feet. It mixes so very well with the other elements, requiring a mix of cover based defence skills, raw speedy action skills, strategic skills, and stealth skills to do your best at the game.

One last thing to mention about Crysis 2 is something that I also found to also exist in the original Crysis. I'm not sure if it's good, bad, accidental, intentional, black, white or anything. I just know it exists. Basically, all enemies take from about 1-5 seconds to recover after receiving an attack. This can lead to scenarios like the end, where I beat the boss enemies to death one at a time with the blunt end of my machine gun. See, you're speedy enough to do a melee in about 0.75 seconds. This gives you the speed advantage you need. Just run up to them and start smacking. This also made several parts of Crysis 1 a lot easier than I thought they were supposed to be. There's a super-climatic part of the game where you have to blast some semi-boss dudes, but it seemed easier than it was supposed to be for this same reason. Just line the four of them up and go down the line shooting them one at a time and they'll all drop without getting in a shot.

So, that's Crysis 2. It's a game with good writing, pretty pictures, and fun gameplay. The hard part here is deciding whether or not it gets my award for being one of the rare sequels which is better than the original. System Shock 2 is the ONLY work on this list to date, game or other medium. Comparing these two is hard. See, Crysis 2 has a better story. However, Crysis 1 feels more free and open, not just from a sandbox point of view. You could even holster all your weapons and break things up Chuck Norris style if you felt like it. Crysis 1 also had some pretty sweet moments that Crysis 2 didn't really match. Then on the other hand, Crysis 2 feels more complete and polished.

All in all, I think Crysis 2 failed to capture the feeling of the original and do something new with it. I'm not saying Crysis 2 is worse than the original, or bad by any stretch of the imagination. You should play both. I'm just saying that Crysis 2 doesn't really seem better than the first to me.

Final Score: 7.5
Why this score?