All posts by VX2

Bethesda @ E3 #BE3 recap

Last night Bethesda kicked off their first E3 showcase, previewing some of their biggest titles yet. With a night to sleep on it, does it really stack up? Well yeah quite a bit of it does for me at least.

Doom 4, a game that was lost in the ages emerged last night. Bringin the space marine back to the forefront with a heavy dose of super charged attacks with or without weapons. The demo focused on our hero being the badass, taking it to all the demons and sending them packing right back to hell. It was a ton of shock and even Pete Hines told everyone “Hold onto your butts” it was a wild ride but it’s something the game needed, a mix of horror, shock, fear and that fast paced action that Doom used to have vs just a pure shockfest with a flashlight and insane darkness all over.

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ID Tech 666 looks great, the question for some is, are we seeing OpenGL or DX? The lighting and particle systems do push the envelope for results so I guess it doesn’t matter, I know some in the crowd were worried about being oversold on the visuals but if it stays to the Doom 3 standard, it will but you might not be able to run it at that detail for a while or without heavy investment.

Dishonored 2 stepped into the light quickly after, we see Corvo and Emily take center stage as dual protagonists in the world after the collapse. Surrounded with new enemies and challenges they’re both playable with their own movesets and hopefully their own branches of story. It was a short tease but the game looks solid from the features already shown, there’s quite a it of story waiting to come forward but we’ll have to hold on a bit before getting to know more.

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Fallout Shelter teased us all with playing god over our own vault, the game is currently stuck on iOS but with hope and lots of complaints maybe we’ll see it on Android too, for now it’s a game of playing vault master and managing to make your community last through all the devestation by hunting, reproducing and maintaining control of it all. given the game is focused on enjoyment and perks after it should entertain the hearts of fans while waiting for Fallout 4 to arrive.

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Fallout 4 was the big feature of the show, going on to showcase the details of the story, being alive before the bomb, controlling parents before it all goes down and designing so much of your story before you’re even born. With a Skyrim like move in design, Fallout 4 looks to go beyond just the RPG realm and enter an limitless craft and horde area. Being able to design cities, weapons and make the world your own are all critical changes to how one experiences the game.

For die hard fans, the Pip-boy edition of Fallout 4 is probably one of the most legendary things to get, a real life massive wrist attachment that integrates your phone and custom app to create a connected Fallout experience.

Overall the showcase was very positive, it delivered a ton of details about titles either missing in action or surrounded in rumors. Now we just have to wait to experience these games in the coming year.

 

BAM. Reviews – Crysis (PC)

It’s Fall 2007, my X1800XT is ready for battle and wait… okay so it’s not 2007 it’s 2015 and we’re putting Crysis x64 through the paces in a fresh review that’s heading toward 8 years too late. Recently I picked up Crysis on Steam because it was on sale for $5 and it’s nice to have digital copies of things that were once on disc.

For those late to the game, Crysis was the first project by the Crytek team after departing Ubisoft and the Far Cry series, keen to make another visually cutting edge island adventure we saw Crytek go to extreme lengths creating a cinematic PC engine that would tax hardware for ages to come. Crysis takes players into their own action film, powered up with a nano-suit that enhances defense, strength, speed and even offers camo to slip around the jungle and bypass opponents or allow for stealth kills. It’s campy, it has some holes in the story and odd pacing but it’s the whole experience of this story. The cut scenes and the visuals are sharp and real-time which wasn’t all that common for consistency back then that really made Crysis stand out.

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Because of the innovations and coding at the time with Crysis as one of the first Direct X 10 titles out there it was a monster for PC’s to take on and it brought about the reputation as a benchmark for raw power in a system. Oddly enough it still is that demanding, on a R9 290 OC I was able to appreciate breakneck speeds hovering up to 100fps but also witness particle and shader effect moments that went into the mid 20’s at random. Part of that could fall under optimization issues but still it’s a moment that takes anyone back at the fact that Crysis can still throw those blows.

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Story wise, players take on the role of Nomad, one of an elite group of nano-suit powered soldiers taking on a power mad general on a remote island. The goal of course, to investigate and diffuse the situation but what would that be without a bit of tension and unknown to mix things up. Right out of the gate it’s impossible miss the twist ahead, a random flying object disrupts the drop to the island sending everyone apart . As the team tries to get back together the death and chaos start surrounding them, it’s a dash to sort out what’s really going on in the middle of Korean soldiers laying waste to the jungle to catch you. As things hit their twist the story gets a bit slower and honestly a bit sparse, players take on zero gravity and alien hives with a sudden change in plot to survive at any cost. It’s a shame since it had some good potential to do more but there’s a ton of action and enemies to continue experiencing so I guess that was the filler.

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Gameplay is one of the memorable aspects of Crysis, it’s a throwback to Far Cry in this massive open world experience, diving into the ocean, swimming for attack boats, combing through the jungle and essentially taking any path desired to get the job done. It’s still rewarding even now, not just because of those options but what happens when you mix it up with the physics of the game, punching apart houses, blowing up stacked cars, leveling trees in the forest and sucking it all in. Sadly once the midpoint of the game hits, this sense of wonder and exploration dies in favor of a linear progression, it’s one of the biggest pitfalls for me with Crysis when playing. The experience is enjoyable but you’re left hanging after so much freedom and it lingers in the mind while taking on the rest of the story.

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For those used to traditional shooters there’s a learning curve to handling Crysis, the game works to mimic motion and physics so shots aren’t just “aim, shoot, kill, next” tracking players and planting shots ahead of movement to take down active opponents is a critical part of the experience and learning how to conserve ammo as it gets very limited. The rest of the game is fast to pick up on, learning when to use power, defense and how to maximize camo usage without falling into exposure mid-run.

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Graphically Crysis is obviously a very impressive game, when cranked to very high the presentation is competitve to modern titles. Textures are sharp, water behavior and physics are impressive and the experience is just so well honed for those who see it the first time or come back through again to suck up some of the environment. For those running lower end hardware the grading on Crysis is a bit unforgiving though, Low – Very High is a tough comparison even if many of the features are still there just in very crude form. It’s still best to experience Crysis with at least higher resolution textures if your system allows for it.

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So what’s the appeal if the game is just passing 7 years in age and a bit of a mess when it comes to the complete package? It’s that first experience and coming back around to screw around in the world. Unlike other games, Crysis offers full power out of the gate, as a result players can dominate the landscape if they wish especially after a healthy experience through the campaign. Knowing how to shoot, when to use camo, how to punch someone into the sky and appreciating the ability to wreck a house and leaving the patrol to panic over it. There are also console commands to really mess around with the game and at that point the replay value just keeps going up as players maximize the sandbox experience in the first half of the game and master how to handle every possible scenario.

For me Crysis will never be the perfect action game, but it goes just far enough to stand as one of the shooters I can always come back to and appreciate while passing some of the day. Coming back to it after a few year hiatus was a rewarding experience as I hadn’t completed the entire game for some time. Anyone with the PC power to swing the game should give it a look, it’s usually on sale for $5 on Steam so it’s really hard to avoid the purchase, there’s incredible value for that kind of money.

With that wrapped, it’s on to the next roll of the dice in the Steam list.

An adventure of sorts awaits, BAM. reviews

There’s little doubt BAM. has been pretty idle lately, being someone who writes for other sites, works a regular job and manages other network sites there’s not a ton of time to divide for personal projects like this site. Recently I’ve made some adjustments and I’ve realized that instead of chasing down the latest releases I’d just take a look through Steam instead and spend essentially the next year at least going through 300+ releases I own, not including older PC games, Origin, Uplay and anything else.

Will all the games be new? No, not really. Some might be super old but the point is to take a look at gaming a whole or at least games that I own . If I have to mod them to work I’ll note it and if I can recall how I came about the game I’ll note it as well, some of these were review samples ages ago and some were bundles that I bought, others were gifts from friends or family and honestly it’s kind of messy backtracking.

We’ll see how things go after the dust settles, for devs or publishers hoping to join into adventure… I have no idea what to say really. The contact page is there, my game selections will be at random (basically what I feel like taking on any specific day). I promise nothing for places in line, this is more about the experience and the adventure than getting someone launch day coverage, if it was I’d be like 15 years late on some  of these games.

What will coverage entail? Right now I’ll start with writing, if I can get some time to record vocals and edit footage I’ll also include video, ideally I’d have video and text articles going up at the same time but I’m trying to manage expectations and reality now.

That said, let’s get this going, the first game up will be… well, why would I show that? I don’t even know yet but I will soon. Stay tuned.

-VeGiTAX2 / VX2

First Impressions – GRID Autosport PC

GRID Autosport launched during the Steam sale in June, not the ideal situation but at least they marked it down. After having some time hands on with the game though I do question if it should have gone up to full price. Granted it’s pretty, has variety in disciplines for racing and has a familiar and rounded appeal for racing fans but… the execution is where things get a bit strange.

I admit I enjoyed GRID 2, it was simple to jump into and didn’t require much thought, I do enjoy car setups and minor tuning options and it was something I could just jump into. That said… GRID Autosport could offer that same appeal but the assist system really restricts the enjoyment. On top of that, things requested by the community like cockpit view have been implemented but in a limited sense, using blur and low detail models for the impression.

Personally, I don’t like the cockpit view all that much, the new over the hood drivers side mount is actually very alluring to me though as the camera is no longer dead center in the car like I’m driving a McLaren F1 and allows me a bit of genuine perspective on where the car limits are instead of just guessing and using experience to fudge the corners. It’s a good catch by what seemed like a less vocal audience compared to the cockpit users.

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Overall the impressions aren’t awful but the handling makes it hard for new players to integrate into the game, the overbearing TCS and ASC drag the car down, I actually did a test video to showcase this.

The brakes / car computer take over going into the corners and even with a high speed entry leaning for oversteer, it corrects. While this could be somewhat helpful later on, in the early stages of the game it murders the little performance cars like Golf have in the game.

There’s more to explore and a deeper experience with the season mode to experience but it’s a bit of a missed opportunity as an update to the series as it lead up with so much talk about the return to TOCA and improvements. There are some around but it could have come so much further and hit all the audiences.

Test system:

AMD FX 8320 @ 4.4GHz
ASUS R9 290 DirectCU II
Logitech G27 (Manual, H Pattern, Clutch)
GRID Autosport with 4K pack

LA Games Conference 2014 Coverage (Part 1)

So I attended the LAGC 2014 conference this year, it’s been a favorite of mine for quite a while now but with the reduced schedule jammed into one day I wanted to see how it stacked up and what the panelists were bringing to the table.

For newbies to the event, LAGC covers a more business focused track of topics, from monetization models, current trends, state of the industry and where people are going next. It’s not a showcase of game demos and booth girls which is a relief. This year focused heavily on what’s next in the industries, addressing Free to Play and related models, tablets, user generated digital content and crossover challenges and branding.

Tons of large topics although while it might not deliver exactly what was expected it gives some insight to the other side of the table beyond PR and normal channels we interact with.

Next Big Thing in Gaming Panel

Kristian Segerstrale of Supercell, GluMobile and Playfish was on hand in the opening to discuss the next big things and where we might expect them. Topics covered the change of hardcore traditional and casual to midcore titles that brought a new audience (midcore) games like Hearthstone capture this market and it’s likely just the start of this new branch and player base. We’re watching genre’s bend and new changes take over as seen with the MOBA field that dominates the landscape.

When asked about team building and capital to get into these genre’s there was a pretty flat response, about 12-14 staff in development to try and produce a MOBA or RPG and $3-5 million in capital to back it with more post launch to support the new infrastructure especially if it takes off. Lesser is possible with teams using 8-12 members and $2-2.5 million but it will be more work.

The big transition the discussion leaned toward was driving a moba experience to a tablet but the issue is internal testing vs live testing and it seems at the moment Apple is hesitant to embrace allowing companies to run an open beta of an app to work on stress, bug hunting and other things normally discovered in a traditional product release these days. As the platforms for iOS are standardized there’s a huge potential to do something there and create that universal experience. Who does it though is in the air and the big stress was that given the worldwide adoption of these platforms, it could be from anywhere and investors can now digitally manage and observe those teams without having to bring them over, instead just reaching out can be sufficient and cost effective.

Monetizing Games through Free to Play

Universal agreement really hit this panel, F2P gaming is a challenge that hasn’t really found a formula yet. There are models but largely it depends on how you start your development, are you designing for monetization or are you adding it in later? Is the game using monetization for aesthetic growth or is there a pay to win design? All these factors are items to consider and depending on the analytics of the market targeted they may or may not work.

Focal points were making the game fun before focusing on the money, this doesn’t mean you ignore the features or implementation, it’s just not the primary view. Designing for pay to win is a bit of a falling star for many games (Maple Story) and that ideally, free and paid have equal perks to retain those users in the system for the long haul and can be beneficial depending on how micro transactions and ad development are used.

Ultimately the game once it reaches market needs to continue to adapt to the audience instead of trying to mold the audience to one model, Nexon notes that just about every version of Maple Story is different depending on the region, not only does the art and story adjust but even the monetization model. Ideally using proper analytics to study behavior there would be frictionless ad placements when the user is stumped or at an idle point in the game so there’s timed user interaction and exposure. The focal point is delivering an organic experience vs a poorly timed or executed delivery to the end-user.

As Free to Play expands the data is coming in for devs as they witness changes of 8-12% participation on transactions (in-game items) vs a growing 20%+ on consoles, a large factor attributed is the console users are invested in the hardware and likely to continue to invest to better their experience as they’re accustomed to a $60 game and a $300+ system just for this purpose. The big point here is frequency of that content fresh and story updates within the game, what events are being used, how are the ladders working, what is succeeding and is it being nurtured to encourage more.

On the mobile front this is a tougher area, social competition using leaderboards and push notifications getting them to challenge each other at the right moments depending on the usage patterns. Timed updates are essential to getting that return engagement though vs just sending it out there and having custom events that allow higher social interaction with the core team (GM’s, devs).

Evolution coming forward is a change in how these games continue to grow, with mobile there’s the push to see more real time gaming happen on iOS and Android, Fire Age and Clash of Clans taking notes from the PC market and driving higher interaction for more invested hours into the game and higher return rates. This won’t necessarily convert the 35 and above female market that King has reached out to capture but it can bring in fresh players. It’s unlikely we’ll see genuine casual to hardcore crossover but conversions from hardcore to midcore or casual are out there and happening.

More coming soon, stay tuned for part 2 later this weekend

Review – Ducky Shine Zero (Cherry Blue)

The keyboard debate on the PC side is honestly just brewing, while some have made their camp with Cherry Red, Blue, Black, Brown, Clear, Green and so on, there are new entities also jumping into the field.

Today I review none of those competitors or even similar Cherry keyboards side by side. I’ve been a gamer on the PC for decades now and this is my first venture into this area as my main gaming keyboards were the Auravision Eluminix and the Everglide DKT which held on for many years and took shifts with standard OEM boards to avoid burning them to bits.

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First Impressions:

So what do I think? First impressions tend to shine when the product is good, the Ducky maintains that with a delivery that’s solid from start to finish. My only concern was a minor one, the manual for the LED system comes on the included Ducky cutout card, once you flip through that, everything makes sense and it’s off to clicky heaven.

When I went into picking out what mechanical system I would end up with it was a bit of a process, watching all the feedback on gaming and daily use I ended up going for the blue switch. I like the clicking sound and honestly it doesn’t bother me as my desktop audio system is solid and my headphones are fine. Each press is dead on, there’s no catching, no squish or other bad issues that come with a membrane. My old keyboard going into this had a problem with keys starting to catch on the sockets and I’m glad I’ll never revisit it.

After the honeymoon:

So far I’ve used this over a week straight, it’s been a nonstop barrage of emails, contacts, writing code and gaming and I have to say, it’s really so much more enjoyable. The slight frustrations with a key getting stuck, extra characters coming out or not registering is a thing of the past. In gaming I can get the response I need on demand without having to guess if it’s going to properly register or not. When the party is over I can switch off the game and resume my work like nothing happened.

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Deep thoughts:

So it’s well and good that Ducky has produced something that works for everyday action and gaming. Some say the keys are tough to press and honestly I’m not even sure what that means, everything goes down easily and I use this thing about 8-10 hours a day with no issues.

That’s not to say it’s perfect, the blue switch does mean more noise and it brings about the issue of ambient recording. If you’re a streamer even casually or active on TS3 or Vent then you might actually annoy your neighbors / chat guests a bit, the blue switches are loud and in my case I do my best to point the mic in and attach extra foam to dampen the incoming sound but honestly it’s enough to probably irritate others easily. The Zero comes in other configurations though which means even if you want red keys or black keys or brown keys you’re not screwed but you will have to dig around.

Appearances:

I’m a computer mod whore, I don’t even hide that, my case is a Phantom, I use Eyefinity, I have LED case lighting and now my keyboard glows too. It’s a magical thing and honestly I don’t think I would have it any other way. Ducky provides 7 stages of lighting with the option to pulse / breathe for the 8th option, when you’re going to be inactive the keyboard also supports lights out where you can shut the LED’s off  or use the LED light saving mode.

In the day I admit I use the LED’s on a lower setting just because they’re available and why not. In the evening I like to push forward with the full stage 7 brightness to carry things on. It’s a good look and if you use the lock keys, it’s the only way to have even brightness on your keyboard as these are apparently not adjustable at all and always run at full brightness.

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Final thoughts:

Eventually with a long enough span of time, any keyboard becomes a problem or has issues, this is because they’re actively used and abused each day, I felt like a week of daily use was enough time to gauge performance on the keyboard and really get a feel for it. I can say safely that I will probably never go back to a membrane keyboard again, any company is free to try to show me how they can be competitive but there’s a design difference at the core level that divides these two classes for me. Maybe it can be overcome, maybe not, the laptop format keys felt like a last hurrah to try to bridge the cap in distance and try to create a new feel.

The Zero Shine is available online and in stores for about $100 with LED lighting and it also comes in orange lighting if you can track it down. There is a light model that strips lighting out entirely and costs about $20 cheaper if you want just the action and none of the theatrics to go with it. Personally once you get this high, it feels safe enough to just invest the extra if you’re that close.