21 December 2012

Worked on SotX: Chapter 3

Over the past week I made some time to continue work on the third chapter of my StarCraft 2 campaign Shadow of the Xel'Naga. The map is now fully playable from start to finish. There are objectives, transmissions, tooltips and working AI waves accompanied by an enemy hero.

Still, a lot of testing and fixing ha to be done before I can add additional difficulty levels, terrain art, music, sound effects and cinematics. Effectively this should not take me more than three weeks, but I am now on another extended break from mapping to focus on university studies.

15 December 2012

Maya video for University

No, this is not December 21st related...

Over the past couple of weeks me and a couple of other guys learned to use Autodesk Maya and created video showcasing some of the physics of Maya. It was made for a project at my university.

15 November 2012

Video walkthroughs of Lord of the Clans and The Last Guardian

A YouTube user named Alphcarus has uploaded a complete video walkthrouh of my WarCraft 3 campaign Lord of the Clans. You can watch it here.

There is also a walkthrough of The Last Guardian in progess. So check out it out here.

Hopefully Alphcarus will complete the series on TLG and also do videos on Day of the Dragon some day.

05 November 2012

StarCraft Geeks Pickup Girls

This is so silly, I just had to post this!

22 September 2012

Learning Autodesk Maya

My school was offering Maya lessons this week. I went to it for a few days, just for the heck of it, and then got a learner's DVD.After spending 5 hours with the DVD.  This is what I managed to do make today.

They actually showed us how to make this car on the first day of the course. I know my version sucks a lot because some general geometry is off and the details aren't there. Obviously I haven't applied any color. But I'm happy with the inner part of the tires.

The amount of functions this program has seems endless, I haven't even started with texturing, animating, particles, lights and so forth. So far I've only done some modelling but it's a lot of fun. Who knows, maybe my new Starcraft 2 campaign will feature some original models :P

30 August 2012

My experience with Slender

If you are a video game nerd you probably have heard about the game Slender. If not... it's a first person horror-adventure game that is based on the 3D-engine Unity. The player spawns in a dark forest, only equipped with a flashlight and the ability to sprint for a short duration, and he is given the task to collect 8 pages that are scattered in this forest.

Over the past weeks I have read from people (mostly on 9gag.com) of how scary this game is. Many say it's even scarier than my favorite Amnesia - The Dark Descent. Two days ago I downloaded the game. I waited until night and played it. I was walking around the forest for a couple of minutes. Because I had a slight clue of what to expect I had more and more tension build up inside me, but the problem was, nothing ever happened! I was waiting for the big scare, for this tension to finally be released and NOTHING happened. I exited the game after merely 3 minutes. Somehow 'nothing' was already too much to take.

Later I found out that I misunderstood the controls. I tried to use the Enter key to collect pages, wheareas in truth I should have used the left mouse button.

That night I had a dream about the game I had only played for 3 minutes. In that dream I was playing a video game trying to collect pages inside a building while trying to stay away from dreadful tentacle monsters and their master. I had not seen any hentai on that day (at least not the tentacle type). The urban/internet legend says the Slender Man is a creature that abducts children. He is depicted as a very tall man in a suit with unnaturally big limbs. I guess that is where the tentacle dream comes from. Unfortunately I don't remember the end of the dream. Usually I go into inception mode whenever things get interesting :(

Yesterday I was too scared to play the game.

Half an hour ago I tried to man up and give it another try. I don't know how I can describe the game without giving too much away. You see, the problem is, the game doesn't offer very much. The forest isn't very big but relatively there is even less to do. The graphics aren't nice to look at. The game lives mostly by a creepy atmosphere and its shocking effects. If I had to review the game like any other game it would probably score in the 60%-75% range.

If you want your own virgin experience to be untainted then skip the following two paragraphs.

As I was playing the game I was feeling lost all the time (as I am supposed to feel, I understand). I think I was runnning around the edges of the forest all the time, orientating on the fence. From time to time there would be a clearance with a building, some stones or a vehicle. More than 5 minutes had past and I still had not found any pages. Suddenly there would be a continuing booming sound, like a timer telling me I would have to hurry. And all of a sudden this guy would appear in front of me. I lost the game with 0/8 pages collected.

I immediately gave it another go. Finally I collected my first page between some tanks. Then the booming sound would appear but no Slender Man for some time. I got my second page after more than 5 minutes. from a gameplay perspective I was already bored at that point. But on the other hand tension was building up inside me, wanting to get out. Then Slender Man would appear but I had managed to evade him. I got my third and fourth page around 10-15 minutes into the game. I believe that Slender Man appears more often the more pages I got. After the fourth page I could feel his breath on my neck. He was always so close to me that it wasn't fun anymore. I decided to walk right into him to finish it.

I could go on about how the game could be improved by making the forest more linear, and adding some narrative, but my conclusion is that this game, like Dear Esther, is not meant as a classic video game. Dear Esther tried to be an audio-visual book. Slender is a test of human fears. The fear of the dark, the fear of being lost, the fear of being followed. In that it succeeds, but in my humble opinion, Amnesia is scarier.

You can get Slender here, for free.

25 August 2012

Continued work on SotX: Chapter 3

Summer is almost over an I barely spent any time on the third Chapter of my StarCraft 2 campaign "Shadow of the Xel'Naga". But the recent mapper meeting with Blizzard has motivated me over the past week to put some effort into the map. The last time I had worked on the map was in April. Back then I updated my blog to inform people of the features of this map. Here's the short list:

- Tug-of-War-gameplay
- Two very different heroes.
- Experience points to level heroes and abilites.
- an inventory and usable items.

Over the past week I spent most of my time on balancing the map for fun combat. Since the heroes the player(s) can control are so different I've been trying create areas that promote their abilities.

The Dark Templar Xerana is very similar to Zeratul in the Protoss mini-campaign. She relies mostly on stealth and melee combat. She uses a Void Prison to effectively eliminate single targets. In emergency situations she can cast a Psionic Storm to get rid of multiple enemies. She can also teleport to otherwise unreachable space. She has an ultimate ability that allows her to duplicate herself so she can deal twice the amount of damage. Xerana should be used to find weak spots in the enemies defences.

Imagine a situation with her standing where the enemy has a Missile Turret and a Siege Tank on high ground. She can quickly teleport to that spot, use Void Prison to block the Missile Turret's ability to scan invisible units, then use her Cloak to dispose of the Tank and when the Missile Turret gets back in action and enemy forces come to help she can teleport back to the low ground, awaiting her allied forces to support them with her Psionic Storm.

The Star Relic, on the other hand, is a massive combat unit. It can use a Pulse Cannon which is similar to the Battlecruiser's Yamato Gun to dispose of enemy Tanks or Spore Colonies. Its Matrix Shield allows it to take additional damage and its healing capabilities can support allied forces. Its ultimate ability is massive shockwave that damages enemies and stuns all enemies that survive the shockwave. The Star Relic should be used to fight enemy waves and crack their defense line with brute force.

Both heroes can use a variety of items:
- Portals allow them to teleport back to the last check point.
- Medkits heal and replenish shields.
- Energy Kits restore energy.
- Enemies can be lured into Spider mines.
- Single targets can be eliminated with a Vortex Bomb.
- Grenades can be used to kill groups of weak enemies.

The gameplay is about 40% complete, including AI, level design and balancing. Level art, audio and cinematics will be started after that. No screenshots until then (I guess). No ETA. This post is just here to let you know the project is not dead.

17 August 2012

Gamescom/Mapper Meeting with Blizzard

At Gamescom last year I had bought a season ticket and only used two of the four days available to me. It was a really stressful experience.  It was so overcrowded that we had to walk outside the main halls to get anywhere, where an unforgiving sun was bombarding us with its heat. There were endless lines everywhere. You would have to wait 2-4 hours to play any decent game. Many people decided that 8 hours was worth the wait to play 10 minutes of Battlefield 3, or Modern Warfare 3. Games that would be releases only a few months later.

Also the tournament area, were we had spend most of our time two years ago, seemed smaller and was also overcrowded. I felt lucky when I was able to find a chair for myself. Not to enjoy the games on-stage but to relax a bit. Finally I had decided to enter the queue for Batman: Arkham City. After three hours I got to play the game for 10 minutes. 5 of which I was trying to figure out the controls and the things that were going on screen. Afterwards I left the building, wondering who in his right mind could get eny sort of joy out of this.

After last year's desaster I had no plans to relive that dreadful experience, when out of the blue, I got a private message from Sixen, the admin of sc2mapster.com. He wrote that Blizzard is planning to hold an hour long meeting at the Gamescom, with people from the mapping community. They wanted to discuss the recently launsched Arcade for StarCraft II and ideas to get more people into mapping and playing custom maps.

A friend and me arrived at the Gamescom building at 10.30am. After some irritation with the entrance we got into the main halls at 11am. We went to Gamescom relitively unprepared so we just decided to take a stroll and see what was going on. Unfortunately my friend had to leave at 12.40 due to work.This year the halls seemed a lot less crowded. The main passageways had a lot of space and even the big name games didn't have queues longer than 3 hours.

The meeting with Blizzard was at 1pm. I arrived there a couple of minutes early, and the only person waiting to get in was Ahli. A dedicated SC2 mapper who made the famous Diablo conversion Mortal Shroud. After the initial greetings the community manager Xordiah explain the purpose of this meeting after which she asked us on how we think more people would get interested into mapping. Some time later more mappers from instarcraft.de entered the room.

I don't want to bore you with the details of the meeting so I'll just sum it up.
We talked about:
- holding more tournaments for mappers and getting more custom melee maps into official tournaments.
- the weak publicity for the Editor, despites its power.
- the complexity of the Data Editor and how to make it simpler for beginners (an easy mode was mentioned).
- Blizzard developers getting into more direct contact with selected mappers (via a private forum)
- in-editor links to tutorials.
- more featured custom content on the arcade.
- ways to improve the arcade.
- some suggestions to improve the editor (campaign support, portrait animations, forced text and ingame help  etc.)

Bear in mind that all those things I mentioned were just ideas thrown around by all the people in the room. But Xordiah wrote down everything and promised to pass it down to the development team.

Originally I wanted to return home right after the meeting, but then I decided to make one quick wlak to the StarCraft II booth. The queue seemed really short so I decided to give it a go. After merely twenty minutes I got a seat and played a round of multiplayer against a kid. We had twenty minutes for a game and I told my partner to not attack to roughly so we had time to play around with the new units. ...

I felt good that I got to play as muc as I had to wait so I decided to give other games a go to. I went to the Bethesda booth were I asked one of the people in the middle of the quee how long he had been waiting there. He surprised me by saying twenty minutes so I joined the queue as well. After 35 minutes we were led into a big hall were I could play Doom 3 BFG Edtion and Dishonored. I tried Doom 3 first. I hate using the joypad for shooters but luckily Doom 3 is a simple enough game that it could be fun. The graphics didn't seem much better than I remembered the original game. Also the 3D annoyed me more than it pleased me. But then again 3D glasses weren't designed for people who already wear glasses. Anyway, I had fun. Doom 3 is still a cool  game. Afterwards I tried the infamous Dishonored. Again with a controller. This time I had my problems with handling the proper weapon for the right situation. After dying three times at the same spot (I hate you electric door) I gave up after 10 minutes. Also my feet hurt because I had to stand all the time. ... Despite it Dishonored seems like a promising game. A bit like Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, a linear shooter were you had many ways to dispose of enemies. I like that.

Before leaving the building a decided to have another stroll. I played a game called Dark, where you play a vampire and use stealth skills to your advantage. Seemed OK, but also unpolished. I will keep an eye on this one. The Capcom queue didn't seem very long so I joined there too. It took us about 40 minutes to move forward, but then we actually entered the booth ... when there was still another queue. A working lady (well, some of them look like hookers) told us it would take another hour before we would reach the start of the queue (or the end, however you want to see it). Quite exhausted I called it quits and left the queue.

The battery power of my mobile phone had been exhausted for quite some time. It was only when I left the bulding that it was 6.30pm. I had spent 7,5 hours at Gamescom.

I left the premise with a good feeling. I am glad I didn't buy a ticket for more than a day but I am also glad that I didn't refuse to go at all. I'm looking forward to next year.

20 June 2012

Afterthoughts on Diablo 3

I don't think anyone's expecting me to write aa full-blown review on the remaining chapters of Diablo 3. Not after so much time anyway. Instead I'm going to summarize my feelings and write down some of the pros and cons about this game.

I've played Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 for many hours. While a fan, I do not consider myself a Diablo fanatic. I spent much more time in the other game worlds of Blizzard, so I'm more the casual Diablo-player. I've played about 50 hours of Diablo 3. I killed Diablo with 2 different classes and got another one (hardcore mode. Has't died yet.) to Chapter 2. It's a very good game but somehow I feel that the Blizzard quality I was used to when I was younger has been declining since StarCraft 2, and is continuing to do so with Diablo 3. Again, Diablo 3 is a good game, but I don't feel like I should play this game over and over again. Let me explain with a pros and cons list.

+ smooth combat
+ fun skills
+ diverse classes
+ heroes speak
+ cinematics and videos of all kind
+ storytelling (books, videos, dialogues)
+ events
+ achievements

- graphics (mod helps)
- atmosphere (gory yes, but no real horror)
- story mostly predictable
- characters remain onedimensional (Diablo was dissapointing)
- exterior levels aren't random enough
- Error 37
- Battle.net makes you feel lonely
- 4 players only
- no PVP

. music
. sound

These are the things that I can recall off the top of my head. As you can see, the list of cons is slightly bigger than the list of pros and I don't even mention the auction house, the loot-system or the skill system that seem to bother more ambitious players.

A couple of weeks ago I uninstalled the game so I would concentrate more on private matters. The worst thing about it is: I really want to give the game more time to grow on me but when I try to reinstall it, it's not responding. I can't reinstall the game. I'm being left with a bad taste in my mouth.

20 May 2012

Diablo 3 - Act 2 - Spoiler free review

Hey, the Diablo 3 servers are still down. So why not write a review of Act 2?

Playing through the game seems to be taking me a lot longer than the average player. Even though I'm an experienced D1/D2 player I do things that no experienced Diablo-player would do: I pick up EVERY item, no matter the color or bonuses (See? I'm not an item-racist!). It's normal to do it when you start a fresh, unequipped character that doesn't take any outside help, but once you get into Act 2 it's pretty pointless. I continue to do it because it adds to the satisfaction of completing as many aspects of the game as possible on my first playthrough. It's just like trying to get as many achievements as possible, or trying to discover every pixel of a map. While it took me 9 hours to complete Act 1 it took me another 8,5 hours to complete Act 2. That makes 17,5 hours. That's more time than the average (experienced Diablo-)player needs for the whole game, and I'm only around 60% done (I heard Act 4 is pretty small, just like in Diablo 2).

I downloaded a graphics mod from www.darkd3.com when I heard Blizzard wouldn't ban people who use it. It allows you to make the game darker but the best thing about it is that it makes the textures look sharper. I chose the "Lesser Darkness" effect because I don't believe that making the game very dark is helping it a lot. It just doesn't fit the actual art-style. Nontheless the ingame-graphics do look more pleasing to the eyes. The textures are sharper and the characters and environment look more realistic. It's a good looking game now. Shame on Blizzard that they didn't add anything like that in the beginning.

The game almost never recycles any environment. The further you are in the game the more variation you will see. Only from time to time the game tries too fool the player into thinking it is a new setting when in reality only changing a bit of the color palette. Act 2 is really clean and bright in some places. Especially the Palace. But it also has dark and stinky sewers, as well as rocky canyons and dry steppes. Although the latter look a bit like last minute drawings.

I read somewhere that Act 2 is where the story actually picks up and gets really interesting but in my opinion it's worse than in Act 1. The actual plot is OK, as you learn more about each character and you feel more smypathy for your own hero, but it lacks the nostalgia that Act 1 had. Like when you where in Tristram and met even more of the old heroes and villains. I can't see too much here in fear of spoiling it for anyone.

Level Design
If you thought Act 1 had small zones then wait until you get to Act 2. The Oasis and the Dry Steppes are probably even larger than some areas in Diablo 2. I also like that they put more traps in the environment, some of which you can use against your opponent, and others work against your hero.

In Act 2 the game adds dungeons that you have to complete in a limited amount of time. Also you have to navigate townsfolk away from bombardment. Those are nice additions but it is clear that combat is still hwere the actual meat is.

Character Build
At around level 16-25 the game has still plenty new skills and runes to try out. At the end of Act 2 I was comfortable with jumping around my enemies, laying traps and  calling companions like a raven or a spider. The game also adds gems.

The fun in combat is really measured by the might of the hero. The faster your hero kills the more fun you have in combat. A combination of electric multishot and slingshots along with the occasional Slow-traps not only kills dozens of enemies but also prepares you for single, larger ones. It's also good to have bonuses from health globes that add to the resources Hate and Discipline that the Demon Hunter has. ALthough I must admit that managing your Life and two different resource system can sometimes be a little unnerving. Blizzard really outdid themselves with the boss fights. Finally it's actually fun to kick boss-butt. The epicness of those fights sometimes reminded me of God of War.

Sometimes I feel that adding new runes or skills isn't enough. The game lacks a couple of extra features that will probably come with an expansion pack. Now I can't even level my artisans anymore. I heard I have to get to Nightmare mode to be able to do so.

I was asked to add a summary to each review :-)

If Diablo 3 were a girl...

Just found this while on an "Error 33" break (the cute little sister of "Error 37").

17 May 2012

Diablo 3 - Act 1 - Spoiler free review

So, I just completed the first act in Diablo 3. Noone who reads this here is going to buy or let go of the game just because of what I am going to write. Regardless, I enjoy reading other people's reviews so maybe others will enjoy my review as well. It also gives me a chance to practice my english writing skills again.

I did not play the Diablo 3 Beta on purpose so I would have a pure game experience when first playing the full game.

I installed the game at about on Monday, at 11 p.m., watched the very good intro cinematic and tried to log into the servers from 0 a.m. to 1:15 a.m., unsuccessfully. Dissapointed I went to bed. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to make this an online-only game? And then why reduce the amount of players per game and make a crappy chat system?Way to go, Blizzard!

 On Tuesday I was finally able to log into the game at about 4 p.m. I hadn't decided on a class until the very moment I was about to pick one. I chose the Demon Hunter. This decision was mainly influenced by playing the Warrior in Diablo 1 and the Druid in Diablo 2, only a couple of days ago. Both are melee classes (unless you play the Elemental Druid) so I thought it would be best to pick a ranged class.

The good thing is that the art-style in itself is well made. Eery trees in the night and a high amount of gore show an effort to make it a creepy game. But, it's just not like older Diablo-games. It's way too colorful to make one actually uncomfortable exploring the environment. Also, while the animations and effects are good as well, they just seem too big and too loud to be actually taken seriously.

Sometimes the skeletons or other monsters do a groan that doesn't fit them (again too comical). Other than that everything's fine. You can recognize many actions just by listening to them. Sound design and music have a nice (re)mix of old themes and new themes.

The story itself hasn't been epic but I admire all the little things Blizzard has done do improve it, compared to Diablo 1 and 2. Besided the high quality rendered cutscenes there are additional rendered cutscenes that look like paper drawings. I also appreciate the ingame cutscenes. Instead of listening to few, but endless monologues by the NPCs, the main protagonist now involves himself in conversations (even though at first, I didn't recognize where that additional voice came from). I also like that that are a lot of NPCs that talk to each other when you walk past them. The Followers that accompany you have some of my favorite dialogues, but it sucks that they repeat themselves too often. It's also very nice that you can find many lore books that are read out lout by different characters, without you needing to stop the action.

Level Design
At first it seems strange that all the roads are very narrow and often don't leave any room for exploration, but after a while you get to wider spaces. The segments aren't as big as in Diablo 2 but I actually think this is a good thing. In Diablo 2 I rarely wanted to explore any of it because it all looked so boring and generic. In Diablo 3 there is always something interesting to look at. Personally it motivated me a lot to explore every inch of every corner, and if I hadn't done that I would have missed many Lore Books and Events.

Quest Design
The quests go hand in hand with the storyline and the level design. Sometimes long term and short term goals are mixed but it is always clear why you do what you do. Sometimes there are random(?) Events you can participate in. You have to escort an NPC, do typical kill or collect quests, or defend specific points. It's much better than in Diablo 2 where you had a handful of main quests and not much variation inbetween them.

Character Build
Yes, I do miss the customization from Diablo 2 a little, but ONLY for customization's sake. There was something satisfactory about spending points in attributes or skills. But overall the system in Diablo 3 is a lot better. Now I don't have to worry about spending points the wrong way and I don't have to look up any guides. I can try out any sort of skill combination which makes the gameplay much better.

The Demon Hunter is very cool to play with. It's a good mix between dealing as much damage as possible while trying not to get hit at all. My favorite playstyle so far was to jump into the middle of the action, plant a couple of traps, jump out again and mow the shit out of the enemies. The rare and unique monsters are so much more fun to fight than in Diablo 2, mainly because it's so well balanced. Yes, it's a bit easy, but hey, I died two times in Act 1. It can only get harder from now on. The boss fights are really well made. Every boss has it's own bunch of skills and often the environment plays a role. having health globes to pick up instead of hoarding masses of potions is also a good idea.

The game feels a bit dumped down, especially when you think of the lack of scrolls to teleport and to identify. But then again, these features are still in the game. You just don't have to worry about it anymore. It wasn't fun anyway to forget to bring a TP with you. I played around with the artisans a bit. It's fun, but too early to say whether anything useful can come out of it.

It took me 9 hours to finish Act 1. I'm happy with the playtime and I'm looing forward to the rest of the game. Especially after beating the actboss and watching the second high quality cinematic.

15 May 2012

Currently playing Diablo 3...

I've installed and started Diablo 3. Great game so far, except that I can't beat that Act 0 boss, the Login Screen. Any help?

11 April 2012

Worked on SotX: Chapter 3

Two weeks ago I continued working on my StarCraft 2 campaign. I developed some features and finished an early playable alpha-version. In its current state the map has the following features to offer:

- A cross between Tug-Of-War- and typical Scenarion-gameplay on a space platform. Remember the SC2 campaign mission where you got to control only Tosh and the armies were controlled by the AI? My map is going to be something similar.
- As the previous maps this one can be played solo or with a friend. In Singleplayer mode the player will control two heroes. In Co-op-mode each hero will be controlled by one player. I know this system is different from what people are used to, because it feels like I'm taking away things instead of offering more. Once I finished all maps I might have to revamp everything. We'll see...
- The heroes are granted experience points and money with each kill. Experience grant levels that allow the heroes to learn new abilities, upgrade previous abilities and also learn Ultimate spells.
- Each hero has six inventory slots. He can buy items from stores.

Its strange to see that the most popular mod-type in WC3/SC2 is actually the quickest to make. I really only needed a handful of features to make it work, unlike all my previous maps where I had to add more and more content and features to make the maps fun. But its fair to say that, due to personal time constraints and the fact that this map has only two heroes this map will a) be shorter than my previous maps and b) offer little replay value compared to typical Tug-Of-War-maps like AoS or DotA.

I will not show you any screenshots because there isn't any eye-candy done yet. This will be done last. For when I get the time to continue on the map my To-Do-List looks as follows:

1. Design interesting areas to fight. Players should feel clever when completing an area.
2. Add secondary objectives and optimize level design.
3. Add AI triggers. Currently they only spawn attack waves but they don't really capture any bases.
4. Balance "cleverness" vs brute force, balance everything.
5. Create interesting level art, audio and cinematics.

There is still a lot to be done and I don't think I will be able to continue working on it until summer. I just wanted to let you know that the project is definitely not dead. It just takes longer than usual.

24 February 2012

Let's Play: Day of the Dragon!

I just found out that a guy nicknamed TheSmokingGamer has created a commented video on the first chapter of my second Warcraft-campaign Day of the Dragon. I will not embed it here but just link it the normal way.
Enjoy (or just go and play the campaign yourself by downloading it from www.hiveworkshop.com)!

23 February 2012

Currently playing Sniper: Ghost Warrior

It's THAT good!

21 February 2012

Games I Played 2011

Another year has passed, so another batch of games I've played. 21 to be exact.+
Attention: The %-ratings I've written are nothing more than a method of comparision to see how far games are apart in terms of fun to me. Please don't post here telling me to go to hell because game XY deserve a 95% or a 50%. It's all just to get your attention :P

Unranked - The Witcher: Enhanced Edition
I started it in June and now it's February 2012 and I still haven't finished it (but I'm in the epilogue though). It doesn't mean it's a bad game, it just means games that take a very long time to complete just don't fit in my tight schedule anymore. In short: It's an epic adventure with a lacking combat system.

edit: I've just completed the gamer after nearly 7 and a half months. It's a pretty good game and I'm looking forward to playing Witcher 2 in the future. I would probably give Witcher 1 a rating of 82%.

20 - Brink - 63%
I only got this one because many guys at my workplace were hyped to play a tactical shooter together. I got it in a 3-for-1 package so I only paid about 15 euros. It it wasn't even worth that. According to steam I spent only 8 hours on it. I really tried to like it, but the lack of any sort of atmosphere, the bugs and the lack of content just sucked every bit of fun out of it.

19 - FEAR 3 - 64%
The FEAR-series was never so much horror as it was a tactical FPS to me. And FEAR3 was actually not that bad once I had foudn out how to properly set the graphics options to NOT BLUR. Its biggest problem is its imbalance in the amoutn of hit points big enemies can take, and the amount of ammunition you collect. I came to a point where I had to fight a mech-boss. I tried around 20 times but I didn't manage to beat it with the low amount of ammunition I have. It frustrated me and I don't plan to return to the game anytime soon.

18 - Project IGI - 77%
I've always been a fan of stealth-gameplay and I was fond of the demo mission of Project IGI when I had first played it. It's a good game but the crippling save system make it harder than it should be, therefore not as much fun as it could be.

17 - Homefront - 81%
It's decent for a Call of Duty-clone with a touch of Half-Life 2. Gameplay, graphics and atmosphere/story are solid. Unfortunately its neither as bombastic as CoD nor offers as much variation in terms of gameplay as HL2. Also its campaign is too short.

16 - RAGE - 81%
This game suffered heavily from technical issues. Not so much from the occasional crash but more the texture loading which took about 1-2 to load whenever your character faced another direction. The campaign tries to emulate some sort of Open-World FPS but falls short because there is just so little to do besides the primary missions. Also the storyline is pretty forgettable ... well, actually not 100%ly... the ending is probably the most dissapointing I've ever experienced in a video game... But why 81%? It just works so well as a FPS: The gameplay mechanics are solid, the atmosphere is nice (close to Fallout), there is a nice mix between shooting and driving.

15 - GTA 4: Episodes from Liberty City - 82%
This is what GTA 4 should have been. Fun, bug-free and with a big variety in mission design. The rest is just typical GTA (in a good way). Open-world with the best mix of driving, shooting and minigaming.

14 - Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 - 83%
I used to be more of a soccer fan when I was younger, now I find it boring. A friend of mine suggested we played a couple of games and I was instantly hooked, trying to get better and better. In the beginning I was losing like 0-12, and now from time to time I can even beat him.

13 - XIII - 83%
Very old schoolish level design, away from the scripted CoDs of today's world. Also the storyline is very nice. I'm not a big fan of cel shading but here it fit nicely.

12 - Dragon Age 2 - 83%
The biggest letdown of the past year is still a decent game. The predecessor is superior in virtually every way but DA2 can hold it's on against most other RPGs. It's still big, with a nice storyline and interesting characters.

11 - Limbo - 84%
A black and white jump and run game with physics riddles. It loses atmosphere points towards the end and its storyline isn't revealing enough, but then again ...  oh, wait I'm not going to spoil anyone. The storyline is fine ;)

10 - Assassin's Creed Revelations - 85%
When was Brotherhood released again to PC gamers? In February? I love the Assassin's Creed series. It one of the few franchises that keeps me wanting more and more but one can feel that Revelations is a bit of a drag. It's great in everywhere that made the previous ACs great (fun, epic, detailed storyline) but its release was probably too early. I hope the next installment brings more new stuff to the series.

09 - Dead Space 2 - 85%
More action-oriented and less subtle than the DS1 but it builds on that. The level art has more variation, the weapons are a bit more fun and you can finally "fly" in space. Only the last level sucked a little because I had to tune down the difficulty to beat it.

08 - Lost Horizon - 85%
It fells like a new Indiana Jones adventure. It has the likeable characters, the visuals and the Hunt-for-ancient-artifacts-to-prevent-the-Nazis-from-taking-over-the-world-story. its riddles are balanced so beginners can complete them while professionals still have a sense of accomplishment. Overall, a fun game.

07 - Call of Duty: Black Ops - 86%
In the beginning I was getting a headache while playing this, because it had a choppy framerate. by the time it was fixed I had missed a large potion of the interesting Cold-War-storyline. The rest of the game is as good (or as bad, however you take it) as any modern Modern Warfare. I plan on replaying it before Black Ops 2 is released (which hasn't been officially announced yet).

06 - World of WarCraft: Cataclysm - 87%
I'm a Blizzard fanboy but I've never been as much into WoW as any other Blizzard game. The whole "raid starts at 7pm"-thing just wasn'tfor me. I want to play games when I feel like to. Nontheless, leveling a Gobling from 1 to 71 was fun. The new/revamped zones are nice and give you a sense of being the hero and not just another soulless merc. I'm looking forward to the time when I'll play levels 72 to 85. Oh, and Mists of Pandaria? Please fuck you. I don't want any Pandas in my Warcraft.

05 - Assassin's Creed Brotherhood - 87%
The best AC to date in my opinion. It has all the strengths of AC2 plus a multiplayer mode, pretty unique in its way.

04 - Bulletstorm - 88%
This game was PURE FUN. It's not like any other FPS but only if you want to. You can kill enemies in so many fun ways and everything is so over the top. The kills, the charactrs, the missions. Play this game if you feel like controlling a T-Rex. I can't wait for Bulletstorm 2!

03 - Crysis 2 - 89%
It feels like a playable Michael Bay-movie and for game this is pretty good. There's nothing quite like it when you see buildings in New York collapse the way do here (Please no 9/11 comments). It's a bit sad that it's not as open-spaced and as tachtical as Crysis 1 was but in my opinion the scripting makes up for it. It's an excellent cross between Call of Duty and Crysis 1.

02 - Portal 2 - 91%
Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles. Why doesn't every game have them. Combined with physics they are so much fun, the Portal-series proves it. Portal 2 adds funny characters, nice plot twists and the most satisfying ending to game of 2011 (take that RAGE!). Fluid portals are so much fun!

01 - Batman: Arkham City - 92%
I loved Archam Asylum for its variation in game design, its take in characters of the Batman universe and the claustrophobic atmosphere. Arkham City traded that atmosphere for a semi-open-world space, and (to quote the joker) it didn't dissapoint. There is no other way to feel more like being Batman than in this game. Flying from house to house, picking off goons. And then there is the Freeflow Combat-System. I've played through Arkham Asylum two times and I never really understood how it worked until I tried the Challenges. I've spent more than a week, day in, day out, trying to get perfect scores and all the achievements. The best game of 2011.

02 February 2012

Diablo 1 and 2 for SC2

Not doing any SC2 mapping myself is certainly not keeping me from playing other people's work.

I've just stumbled upon this fantastic mod that recreates Diablo 1, featuring the original inventory-system, Diablo 1 voice overs and sound effects.

I found it on the EU-server while searching for "Diablo". The mod name is "Dia blo - Mortal Shroud". The author is Ahli.

Also have a look at the following video featuring a WIP-mod that has implemented theoriginal Diablo 2 terrain textures as a tileset.

Diablo III can wait ;)

20 January 2012

Status of SotX and me

As of October 2011 I've started studying media informatics and have been unable to continue any work on my StarCraft 2 campaign.The project is not officially cancelled but I don't see myself continue working on it until at least June 2012. I'm focusing my strength on my studies as I get to learn all the cool stuff I've wanted to (Java, SQL, Web-Programming languages and more).

Making maps for Blizzard RTS games has always been very fun, but also a very time consuming process. My earliest success was Lord of the Clans for WarCraft 3 which took me about 2,5 years to complete. Following projects took around 1,5 years when I had A LOT of spare time.

After two failed applications for a job as a level designer within Blizzard, I think it's best to take a step away from mapping. Instead I want to develop new skills, still very close to the game/media industry but on  grander scale.

I believe SotX has a lot of potential of becoming a great and unique campaign. I wish to return to StarCraft II mapping some time in the future.