Steam have a rather timely offer given my last post on STALKER 2, buy both STALKER Shadow of Chernobyl (SoC) and Call of Pripyat (CoP) for £6.24 !! Interestingly the offer doesn’t include Clear Sky but that is another story ;-)
This is a real bargain and a perfect opportunity to experience these fantastic games, so go and grab your copies.
Remember, to get the most out of Shadow of Chernobyl get the STALKER Complete fan made spruce up mods.
STALKER 2 in the works, STALKER 2 in the works, STALKER 2 in the works. … (calmly reclining) and I’m mildly excited about this. :-) Not a huge amount is known about the follow-up to the first trilogy of STALKER games yet, the original press release was somewhat short on details. However, we do know that the same studio (GSC) are already working on it and it might use the Crysis engine.
I found the original trilogy to be somewhat of a flawed gem – breathtakingly exciting, compellingly authentic and very engrossing; but sadly each title lacked a certain ‘something’ that ended up detracting from the experience. Luckily a number of talented community members have released various spruce up mods which (especially in the case of Shadow of Chernobyl) really make the games feel MUCH more complete and enjoyable, greatly enhancing what is already a phenomial gaming experience.
If you’ve not played a STALKER game before I can’t recommend enough grabbing a copy of Shadow of Chernobyl (£9.99 currently on Steam) along with the STALKER Complete 2009 fan made spruce up mod and Call of Pripyat (currently £19.99 on Steam or £14.99 if you own either Shadow of Chernobyl (SoC) or Clear Sky). Somewhere between these great titles is pure gaming gold, I really hope GSC find it for STALKER 2. Roll on 2012!
We have oh so many reasons to worship at the gilded feet of ATi and Nvidia at the moment – their continual graphics development has lead to some extremely immerse and consuming games of late, with the promise of still more to come as the Silicon wars heat up. Although many have heralded the start of ‘real life’ or (‘VR’ in the 1990s) quality computer graphics as just being ‘around the corner’ in practice we are nowhere near. (Ask anyone who does Ray Tracing about their render times). :D
Despite significant leaps of late, GPU hardware presently lacks the horsepower to pull this feat off and as a result, game engines utilise trickeries which enhance the final rendered images on our screens. HDR/ Bloom to simulate ranges of lighting, AA / bump/parallax mapping to give flat textures the impression of having three dimensions, film grain and post processing (to name just a few) are all examples of ways in which we are catapulted into the darkest realms of the minds of game developers.
And you know what – it works. It works because the vast majority of games are not based on real life and there is a good reason for this – they would probably be slow paced and/or boring. It is much easier to transport a player into a gritty or glossy world and tell a story where the developer has complete control over the experience – and it is fun. Although please don’t get me started on recoil-less rifles, enemies who can take so much fire to put down you would expect them to look like apple cores, ‘unlimited’ ammo vehicles and some of the other ‘realistic’ travesties that have occurred in recent games.
I would write more on this topic, but I should veer back onto the point. Short films inspired by games are not new, however upto now they were normally poorly voiced over clip shows rendered in the originating game engine. However this is different- I discovered recently; well actually it was back in February so sue me 8) , Escape from City 17.
I can already see the 60 Watt bulbs illuminating above your heads, but for those of you on energy saving varieties, City 17 is the fictional setting of Half Life 2. The fan movie really serves as an advert from ‘The Purchase Brothers’ and it is fantastically put together considering their tiny budget. It blends the oppressive Orwellian City 17 with real life environments seamlessly resulting in a fantastic short video which I highly recommend.
At the rate Valve are working, Half Life 3 Episode 2 may look just like this… probably not worth ordering a bunch of 4870s or 295 GTXs in anticipation 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.
The Command and Conquer franchise has, since its debut been noted for its focus on high quality sound and FMVs. Infact, it was this production quality that initially drew me in to the first Command and Conquer when I saw it at a friend’s house many many years ago. It was the first time I had heard intelligible language uttered in a real time strategy game and coupled with the sound track I was completely blown off my feet. Since then, every other RTS game has embraced the class specific whimsical audio commentary with a gusto and yet, no-one seems to quite do it like Westwood Studios(now .. unfortunately … EA.) The FMVs (Full Motion Video, an acronym that reveals its age) have always been on the grand scale with fairly cheesy acting. Despite of this, they were literally the reward at the end of every level and sometimes gave hints of new units you were about to obtain as you progressed further and further up the tech tree.
There are many great examples and youtube probably (I have certainly seen the majority listed) has them all. In more recent games (read Command and Conquer 3) EA have tried casting big name scifi stars with varying degrees of success. I am a bit biased in this, as I am of the firm belief C&C 3 was a bit of a step backwards from Generals, but I digress.
Today, whilst browsing I came across this video showing cut scenes from a variety of videos from the as yet unreleased C&C: Red Alert 3. The cast list seems to include a more down to earth selection of big names and I must admit I am very excited about how C&C:RA3 is shaping up. According to trylobyte, the cast list is as follows:
Evil Communist Russian with cheesy accent – played by Peter Stormare (Prison Break, Armageddon), Andrew Divoff (Patchy from LOST) and TIM CURRY!! The clueless US president – played by JK Simmonsof Spiderman fame The old humble Allied General (Jonathan Pryce) Hot Communication Officers – Gemma Atkinson 8-0 Ivana Milicevic (the bad guy’s gf in Casino Royale) 8-0 and Kelly Hu (X-men2) 8-0 Tanya (now blonde and played by…Jenny McCarthy )
But anyway, for now.. enjoy and join me in giving thanks to the Church of Conquerology.. . :)
Portal has been a resounding success for Valve. It has shown how a small game with a simple concept can be a lot of fun, but not many people realise that the actual concept is not new. In fact, there was a degree project by a Jeep Barnett at DigiPen called Narbacular Drop in which the concept of jumping through dynamic portals to bypass obstacles was first developed. This was back in 2004, the game went on to win a variety of awards at the time and still has a fan following.
So… why didn’t Valve get sued by the original creators? Simple, they employed them. Valve were so impressed by Jeep Barnett and his project that they employed his and some of the original team. Later on, they became the team leaders of the Portal project, developing the idea they came up and crafting it from the fairly crude “Princess no-knees” to the highly polished product most of us played last year.
A bit of trivia for those interested. :)