Join the party, Join the survivors club!

So (damn I can't help starting posts with that word (is that a word?)) I've been delving real deep into Left 4 Dead after work. Its hard to not get into it. With all its incredible features, I think one thing that hasn't really been stated about L4D is its ability to act like an on-going party. Initially it was sort of like a WoW raid/instance - everyone get together and had to be dedicated to finishing the whole campaign. "What time will you be playing?" was a question I got asked a lot. So in the beggining it was a very dedicated experience. While this is a lot of fun, the obligation starts to become something that weighed me down when I was thinking about starting a game or joining a game. It was looking to become the same damn problem I had with WoW. I simply don't like being tied to a game by force. Last night it kind of dawned on me that I did not have to treat the game like this. In fact, treating it like this would just take away from it. So I started treating it like a drop-in-drop-out game and encouraging my friends to do that same.

L4D has two major functions that support this: AI teammates and friends lobby. Anytime during the game, you can just hit pause, and select "Take a Break" which will have the computer control you so that the team can keep going. Now the AI teammates are no real replacement for a person but they can perform basic tasks and the part where they excel is saving people from hunters and smokers as well as healing others. They do fail when it comes to performing specific strategies during the "Last Stand" finale levels at the end of each campaign. Now the Friends Lobby is not something revolutionary but is a constant reminder of how damn polished this game is. From the main menu, you can go to a special lobby that shows all of the games your friends are playing in and if they can be joined. You can also create games that are friends only so your they can come and leave as much as they would like. The benefit of this? When you want to play, make a game, and start moving through it on your own. If your friends come online, they can just hop in - no fuss, no muss. In fact this weekend, I am just gonna keep starting matches to move through the game and let people keep coming in and out.

L4D is truly a party that never stops. Just keep the guns filled, grab those pain pills, and look out...cause the ground just started shaking...that means zombie hulk is coming.....


Damn, the hits keep coming don't they? This is some kind of crazy golden age. There have been nothing but super huge releases and you know whats the best part!? It's almost 100% software. No pain in the ass new console crap destroying this holiday season. Its pure gaming good syrup squeezed from an awesome tree in an awesome forest where the awesome gnomes (who take care of the awesome trees of the awesome forest so awesomely) and you pay awesome dolloars for the awesome syrup but sometimes its so awesome you need to get their awesome sauce which is made from really awesome awesome berries which are the most awesome of the awesome fruits which grow awesomly in the awesome forust (which is where the awesome syrup is made in case I lost you somewhere in my awesome rant).

So feeling like a kid on Halloween, I saw the adds around that Left 4 Dead demo was available early if you pre-ordered. Now I know I want to get this game, but I'm not sure for what platform. I prefer 360 since voice chat is easier to maintain and more of my friends play 360 actively then steam on pc. I may end up getting both down the road just in case any awesome mods/maps come out for free on PC, I don't miss out.

Allright, now the real question: How was it? It was f*&%ing great. So some quick background info: Left 4 Dead (L4D) is a co-op multiplayer centric game (though single player is totally avaiable) where one group of players takes on the role of 4 survivors. Your objective? Get to the other end of the stage which happens to be infested with hundreds of fast moving/climbing zombies. So its pretty straight forward but what is so good about L4D right now is the level of polish in its presentation. The game attempts to be cinematic but also is very clear about having "WEAPON OVER HERE" icons pop up that help you find items such as health. You can always turn around and find your teammates who have a nice blue aura appear around them when they are behind walls. Its very clear that while voice chat is important, you can do so much communication without even having to talk to another and in some cases, when it gets really frentic, that comes in handy.

As far the famed AI Director goes (which has been touted (is that the right word?) as this amazing thing that will spawn or stop spawning zombies to scare the living crap out of you and fill the game with tension), its pretty damn awesome. I ran through the demo twice on single player and twice with human teammates. Both times the game changed up its ways to mess with me/us. On one occasion, my team (real humans) were camping near a safe room (locations with ammo/health supplies) and picking off zombies before we had to jump down a hole and cut ourselves off from our supply. The longer we waited, the more and more zombies started to appear from other spots culminating in a horde of zombies literally dropping from the ceiling. It was at this point that we decided to move the f*$% along and get out of there. Things like this add a lot to the tension of the game and make for some hectic moments. The single best moment came when we were deep in the subway and the horde suddenly appeared. We doubled back and jumped inside of a broken down train....

Inside the train I figured "Allright good, there are only two ways to get on the train, we should be just fine" and that is when it got awesome (in a terrifying way). The train started to shake and the zombies were crawling ALL OVER the damn thing. They broken windows and jumped in between our defensive positions. It became an unbelievable awesome cluster f**k.

And now...the demo is up on you know where to find me tonight!

ARZ Update

I know, I know...what the heck. I talked up a storm about this side project and then I just seemingly ditched it. Well after recent events, I've realized I need to get back on track. I won't get too into it here, but I'm forcing myself to work on this project again.

So, getting back on track, I'm still working on some tech for ARZ. I've only got a little more to do and then hopefully the next thing you will see is will be closer to a real prototype.

This demo ( which you can download here ) is the first pass at creating a Hiearchial Grid for this game. The last one I made was for Blobula and I ended up not using it to its full extent. I plan on having lots of objects that need to do a whole hell of a lot of collision with one another so I needed a simple spatial partioning system. With this tech demo, use the arrow keys to move the little white ball around.If you see the objects turn blue, this means that the ball is being tested for intersection. If you see the objects turn red, that means you've collided. And just so everyone is knows, I know the ball doesn't collide with the walls of the level.

So its not much, just proof that I'm working. The next step will have the ball hitting the walls and getting some basic game physics applied to rebound around the enviroment and come to a stop. This is foundation for the cannon basics.

Fallout 3 Survival Tips

Yeah yeah, I'm doing it again. I've gotten so into a game that I'm going to post tips. At least this time I've got the support of most of the gaming world behind me.

Here are a few tips I've picked up:

****** SPOILER ALERT ******

Fighting Deathclaws:
These are truly wicked creatures. The town of Old Giney (which is up north near the NE corner of the map) is filled with these beasts. So these guys are fast and incredibly deadly in melee. Even in power armor, you will take a considerable amount of damage from every swing. The best way to take these bastards is actually more about what you do before you fight rather then during. Make sure you have a nice clean path to run backwards and know how to avoid running straight into a wall. When you finally do see one, do yourself a favor and aim for the legs! If you can cripple these guys there running speed is greatly reduced giving you more time to back up and keep shooting. If you are an explosives guy (like moi) then use 1-3 frag mines while walking backwards to cripple the legs then use a grenade/rifle to clean them up. They have intense amount of health so when you head to Old Giney, come packing!

Back to the Wasteland

The Christmas of 97' (I think it was 97..) stands out to me simply because that was when I discovered Fallout. I remember the tagline was something like "Out of the dungeons and into the wasteland." The game was directly challenging the for-the-most-part standard of high fantasy being the only world you could set an RPG game in. I remember working my way through the game and drawing a story in my head that was beyond what the graphics could actually achieve. While many will disect what made Fallout such a good game, I'll just say something that stuck with me was the total idea of feeling like a scavenger. You didn't fight to simply get an awesome rare item (which hey that is still cool), you fought because you needed every bullet you could get your hand on. You need to scavenge that raiders armor to have enough to trade for more grenades and stimpacks. I am not going to get into the mechanics of it (I'm no designer), but whatever they laid out in that game really worked for me.

Now Fallout 3 has arrived (well it arrived a bit before) and I know, dear reader, that I have been dead wrong about other games (see my now-embarassing Too Human posts) but this is truly one of the most amazing games I've ever played. Whatever the scavenger element was in the previous Fallout's, they got it down perfectly in Fallout 3. On top of that, the world is so compelling that I find myself excitedly wandering, with no quest in mind. I wander with gun in hand, looking for camps of raiders or other baddies, while searching the ruins of America. Thats one thing that I wasn't prepaired for when I got into the game: the enviroments are stunning. So many times in the game you will wonder into an area and have no need for someone to give you lengthy dialog. The world itself will tell you what happened and that makes exploring so much more worth it.

I can't get enough of this game and considering times have been tough personally, its nice to have such an amazing world to step into and dish out sweet wasteland justice. Warning to you evil-doers out there in the wastes - be on the look out if you see a lone man in power armor. He carries grenades...and he knows how to get more.

Friggin Hell!

Look what this guy at work did over the course of a year:

That is a piece for pixel recreation. Don't believe me? (click on the 2nd photo!)