No Man’s Sky – Who was to blame?

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Just like the rest of the internet, I’m going to talk about No Man’s Sky...

More specifically, about the 1.1 update announced today.

1.1, known as the Foundation update, will add two new modes (Creative and Survival) to the main game, and will begin the Base Building feature, while adding features to existing mechanics like farming. Foundation also promises to improve multiple parts of the resource management side of the game, by making resources easier to store, automate and use. The patch list is one of the longest I’ve ever seen.
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Overwatch #2 – Learning Curves

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In case the last post didn’t say it loud enough, I’m a fan of Overwatch. Being able to feel myself learning new things while playing is a powerful motivator to keep going and play better, unlike the Russian Roulette gameplay of COD, where simply spawning in the wrong place can get you killed instantly.

So, here’s what I’ve been learning so far.

Role Variety

As I’m not much of a PC gamer, and have never played any MOBA-type games before, I’m not very familiar with character types. While I knew that characters can generally be split into the roles of DPS (damage output), Tanks ( taking a lot of damage), and Support (healing or buffing the team), I didn’t really know anything beyond that.

I expected Overwatch to follow that three-type structure, so finding that it actually has 4 main roles, as well as characters which overlap aspects of multiple roles, made it interesting for me. However, it also meant I played some characters really badly at first!

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Overwatch #1 – First Impressions

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It may be a bit early to say Game of the Year, but if Overwatch isn’t my favourite game this year I’ll be surprised.

I wasn’t expecting to like the game quite as much as I do- I was expecting to get bored fairly quickly after hearing there was no campaign. Yet I’ve had more fun on Overwatch than I have on games promising more content and variety.  A major part of the fun is precisely because Overwatch contains “less”.
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Itch.io Cyberpunk Jam

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Cyberpunk is one of my favourite genres both in fiction and in gaming, and telling me a game is cyberpunk-influenced is a good way of guaranteeing my interest (well, that or cel-shading). So finding out that Itch.io– a game-dev community that I’ve often heard about but never really investigated- had a whole section of cyberpunk games ready to try definitely got my attention.

Here are a few highlights; mostly from the 2014 Cyberpunk Game Jam.

VA-11 Hall-A

We’re used to seeing the heroes, villains, and morally-ambiguous characters of cyberpunk in action, but who are they when they finish work?
Who populates the world away from the camera?

VA11 Hall-A, described as a bartender-em-up, lets us look at the personal lives behind the often-impersonal world of neon, skyscrapers and megacorporations.
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Impressions | Destiny

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Two Thursdays ago, we felt invincible.

Our 6-man fireteam blitzed through the Vault of Glass in an hour, successfully enacting strategies honed over the past few weeks. Everyone knew their role and position in every challenge. More than that, we knew to stick together. We worked as one unit: spotting Oracles and broadcasting their location, looking after players rendered blind by screen effects, and synchronising our attacks to take bosses down as smoothly as possible.

It was frantic yet controlled; challenging but not overwhelming. It was some of the most fun on Xbox Live I’ve ever had, and a reminder of why I took the leap into multiplayer games.

Judging Destiny based on nights like that, it would be one of my favourite games of all time.  It encompasses so many things I enjoy in gaming; true co-operation and teamwork; challenging but just-achievable goals; customisable skills and weapons, and a great multiplayer mode. These all combine to make a compellingly playable and engaging experience.

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Game Optimisation, Part 2: AMD vs NVIDIA

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If you missed the first post, which was an overview of the different levels of optimisation a game can have, then you can find it here:

99% of all graphics cards are made by the duopoly of AMD or NVIDIA (NV). As well as controlling graphics hardware, both companies have expanded into software, creating a middle layer that goes between the graphics card hardware and the games software. Both companies have a similar box of tricks, and I’ll explain a little of what they both offer.

While they are similar in many regards, the major difference at the moment is how much influence the company can have both after a game is released and, more importantly, on the development process of a game. Current graphics card poster child Watch_Dogs is the game in focus today.
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Game Optimisation, Part 1.

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First things first, what is optimisation? The general definition is “the process of making a strategy maximally functional; removing deficiencies in a system or process”. In gaming terms, this means a game making good use of the resources it has been given to run in.

In consoles, optimisation is often not a big deal, due to standardised parts. Because all Xbox 360s (for example) have the same resources as each other, a 360-specific game will be developed on the exact same system it will be played on, meaning the game can be set up to work well on the hardware supplied. Of course, some games still don’t run properly even then, but that’s normally a fault of design or programming at a more basic level.

Optimisation can sometimes be an issue when a game is ported from one console to another without fully taking the differences between systems into account. Games released for the 6th and 7th generation consoles concurrently often had issues on the Wii that weren’t present on other consoles, due to the Will having technical specifications lower than the other 7th generation consoles. Games released for the 7th and 8th generation concurrently have the same issue with the Wii U. (For a look at the minor flame war about the Wii U port of Mass Effect 3, look here)

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