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.