25/05/09 Update 2: Full version of the Modern Warfare 2 trailer can be found here – and boy does it look good.
22/05/09 Update: New trailer here.
The new Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 trailer looks absolutely stunning, although it gives little away. Disappointingly the gun firing in the trailer sounds like the MP7 from Half Life 2, hopefully it is just a stock sound used for the trailer.
I can only hope someone at Infinity Ward paid attention to my tweeted suggestions, above all I would love the ability to select custom weapon loadouts (via unlocks) when (re)playing the single player campaign. Still, we shall have to see – Roll on 11/10/09
Happy New Year to you all! I have a real New Years treat today, regular (or sporadic) readers will no doubt have noted the high regard I have for some old console games (particularly from my long lost gaming youth days.) Goldeneye is a game that stands out in particular not just for me, but many others. I randomly came across a lengthy piece by Martin Hollis, who was at the time, Head of Software for the Goldeneye (and later Perfect Dark) projects at Rare. His account of the frantic months and years of work which eventually culminated in these masterpieces make for fascinating reading.
So, in the specific case of GoldenEye, and with the benefit of hindsight, the gameplay model was Virtua Cop with a bit of Doom, plus some Mario 64. The theme or setting was (obviously) the Bond universe and particularly GoldenEye. Many of the visual effects and kinetic moments I took from Hard Boiled or other John Woo flicks. Especially, things exploding. Visually, there’s more to that than you might think.
His accounts of the lack of discernable direction or ‘game plan’ for many of the elements speak particularly loudly to me as I am myself now in software development. It is frankly amazing that the project was able to organically mature into the final product given how late in the day some design decisions were ultimately made.
I compiled a list of about 40 gadgets from various Bond films, most of which were modelled, and then Dave and Duncan tried to find levels where we could use them. This is backwards game design, but it worked very well. These models were the game design; there was very little written down on paper. And the models were researched and milked extensively.
Even more incredible was the lack of any real development hardware to properly test their work. Whilst architecturally similar, the SGI Onyx machine they did have was sufficiently different (and underpowered) to make the whole project akin to stumbling blinding along a dirt road at night. From my own coding experiences, it makes me a little edgy if I have been working on a large project (or piece of code) that can’t be compiled or tested until completed. In this situation it is far too easy to make a mistake which could cause untold hours of grief later on. The fact that this lack of ‘comfort zone’ for the majority of the Goldeneye project and not even having the concrete hardware capabilities of the Ultra 64 (later n64) platform until close to completion speaks to the commitment and, frankly, the nerve of the development and management team.
I mentioned we didn’t have an N64 or anything like one. The closest we had was an SGI Onyx or two. Thankfully, as it turned out, the N64 could render triangles much faster than the SGI Onyx. This was shocking as the list price of the Onyx was $250K dollars, and the N64 launched for about 1000th of this price. That’s progress. And it totally saved us, as several of the backgrounds rendered at about 2Hz (2 fps) on the Onyx, without even drawing enemies, objects, or Bond’s gun. My attitude was always, well, if it runs at all on the Onyx, we can probably get it to run at about 30Hz on the final hardware.
As you can no doubt tell from the gushing commentary I am very much in awe of this team’s accomplishment. I can’t recommend highly enough that you read the whole post for yourself.
A previously unknown company called Valve, released ten years ago, a game called Half Life. Heard of it? Thought you might have- although believe it or not, Gordon Freeman’s debut on our gaming systems was initially more of a ‘quickie’ technology showcase, designed to make the industry take note of this up-and-coming game developer. According to Ars technica:
Initially, Half-Life was supposed to be this quickie FPS that would give the company a resume and get us on our feet to do whatever the real thing was that we were going to do. We could learn some stuff doing this, then we’d do some other thing.”
I remember borrowing a friend’s copy of the game and playing it on my first self-built pc, a relic with a 333Mhz AMD K6-2 processor and 128Mb of RAM, gosh 1998 seems such a long time ago… Despite being a phenomenal game in it’s own right, redefining the baseline for game narrative and story telling, the mod community is what really developed Half Life’s appeal. Mods like Day of Defeat, Counter Strike, Natural Selection as well as literally countless others all attracted their own fan-bases and showed what a small group of fans could accomplish. To this day, the degree of flexibility and mod-ibility of the Half Life engines present a target for other game development houses to aspire to.
Well, ten years later and Half Life has been a remarkable success proving to the world that a guy in a lab coat with an unhealthy penchant for physics problems can have the most amazing adventures and get the girl. To celebrate, Valve are offering this classic for $1 over at their online store Steam.
Just a brief post to tell everyone that the PC beta for Call of Duty 5: WaW has started. You have to register with CallofDuty.com who will email you a beta key and then download a ~866Mb client. I have only played it for about a couple of hours so far but I am quite impressed. The engine feels very CoD4-like but the maps and game-play are very different to reflect the World War 2 setting. Lots of new options and weapons so plenty to check out, including the fantasitcally sadistic inclusion of a pack of dogs as the 7-kill perk. Not sure whether or not it is quite up to Call of Duty 4 grade or not yet though….
I came across a cool trailer for the upcoming Call of Duty release scheduled to be unleashed in mid November. The video has certainly whet my appetite but I find myself a little cynical about this release. Given the resounding success of Call of Duty 4 (I can’t believe it has been out so long already) and my general apathy towards World War 2 shooters, bred by continual disappointments from previous releases, I feel like a kid who just unwrapped a game at Christmas from a distant relative and is on his way to his PC excited but quietly hoping it doesn’t suck. Given the (so far) direct correlation between odd and even numbered Call of Duty games being forgettable and awesome respectively, lets hope CoD:5 breaks this trend.
Even if it ends up ultimately disappointing, the trailer is awesome – I am an absolute sucker for cinematic games and trailers.
Yes, it is another post about Stalker: Clear Sky but I have been (and continue to be) so impressed with the quality of the dynamic lighting that I want to share some screen shots I have taken whilst playing. Real time lighting and graphical effects really add a whole new level of immersion to this game, days are bright with sun rays bursting through the trees and nights are so dark that it genuinely influences the player’s tactics.
In the first two images, you can see the shadows cast by the tower creeping along the ground as the sun sets in the distance, followed shortly afterwards by night descending.
Shortly after that, it becomes so dark that navigation without the assistance of your PDA and torch / NVGs becomes difficult. This still, ink black night really enhances the atmosphere of the game leaving the player feeling, at times, quite alone and isolated.
The in-game ‘night’ lasts between an hour to two hours of real time and when the sun rises the entire landscape is literally transformed. In the screen shots below, you can see art work on the wall of the Duty base near Agroprom with the shadows of the trees slowly moving across as the sun rises higher (all updated in real time by the engine).
Although the basic environmental lighting is simply stunning, the range of weather the game simulates is also fantastic, from cold wet downpours to fantastic thunderstorms (which no single screen shot could do justice to.)
I also want to share some screen shots of some of the graphical effects when you come across various types of anomalies. In the tunnels underneath Agroprom, the player has to carefully traverse a winding tunnel filled with jets of flame. In the second screenshot, the player is affected by a burst from the Brain Scorcher outside Yantar.
I am the first one to point out that graphics are not the be all and end all when it comes to gaming, however when a game relies so heavily on the atmosphere it creates as part of it’s story telling machinery it would be unfair not to give them due scritiny (particularly when they are this beautiful.) More screenshots can be found on my Xfire page and more will be added as I play the game.
Yahtzee, the comic genius / professional troll, weighs in on Stalker: Clear Sky in his newest video. Not usually known for praise, it was interesting to see what he made of Stalker: Clear Sky and it turns out his feels about the game mirror what I wrote a few days ago. For those of you unaware of Mr Y’s work, he is the chap behind the hilarious and satirical ‘Zero Punctuation’ video reviews over at escapistmagazine.com and I highly recommend checking them out!
In other related news I am still playing Clear Sky whenever I get the chance and despite being a few more hours into the game (and having lost my shiny rifles to a bunch of bandits *mutter mutter*) I am still really enjoying the game. When I finish it I will write a proper follow up.