Friday, 10 January 2014

I'm a what?! an otaku apparently

                                      


                                         An otaku is someone with a serious obsession towards anime, games or manga; to put it bluntly, this is something I've turned into last year. Not the most productive hobby/obsession of course, it started off with me downloading some anime to keep me occupied when I'm having food or just waiting on something. I also figured it's a good medium for me to improve my Japanese vocabulary (It has been very helpful on this aspect). I'd get to know what the fuss was all about. Little did I know that a lot of my tastes/preferences were going to change over the year.

                                                         It's not that I've never watched anime prior to this, I've watched but only occasionally. It was only until I came across some really good ones that I've taken it more seriously. As in, watching it more consistently and keeping track of every anime I've watched and maintaining a "to watch list"; obsession indeed. Through out the year I watched a lot of anime recommended by friends and some I came across in top 10 lists of various websites. The words "it has taken over my life" have never been more relevant. Wait, not yet, there's more. I've also taken a liking for the opening and ending songs for various anime and eventually I got introduced to jrock and jpop, end result: barely listening to anything English after that. Okay, now the words "it has taken over my life" have never been more relevant.

                           Out of the myriad of anime I've seen evidently I have a few favorites, regrets and those that were just good. I would love to talk about those shows but I haven't yet decided my approach. Create a top ten list? I've read enough such lists to say that it would be pretty dull. Review? not too keen on doing this either but I think I should just keep it simple and just talk about stuff I liked in a certain anime. That would be more convenient I suppose. That being dealt with, here's to hoping I'm more active around here at least half as much as I am on twitter.
                               

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Totally underestimated this next gen feature

                          
                        
                                      What I'm talking about is "sharing", something that was talked about in E3 and during the console reveal. I was in a frenzy for new games and innovations that could blow my mind during that time but I was gleefully being informed about what sharing is instead. Sure seamless Sharing was a convenience indeed but I couldn't really appreciate it with much enthusiasm. I got to realize how amazing this is when I saw a friend live stream his Killzone Shadowfall and Knack gameplay on twitch.tv while giving commentary. Moreover, I could even interact with him right while he was playing! (although it is limited to text). So kudos to the companies that saw potential and implemented it seamlessly. While gameplay videos aren't exactly a new realm to the average gamer, live streaming took it to the next level.

                                                Pay a visit to twitch.tv and you'll literally get to see people playing a game of your choice as we speak. Do note that Microsoft's Xbox One didn't get twitch streaming support yet (been craving for some Forza 5).
                       

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The biggest announcement for me this E3 2013 was an EA game, seriously. E-freakin'-A.

This was the biggest E3 reveal for me this year and I have waited so long for this moment, so long that I feared it might not even appear. This was the E3 where EA revealed a new Mirror's Edge game along with an awesome teaser trailer! it overshadowed the whole DRM and no used game debacle in the console realm for me. My EA hate meter has dropped down quite a bit with this reveal as a result. Without further ado, here's the trailer for the game:
                 The trailer features a new terrific OST just as the original game, everyone who's seen the trailer are searching desperately for the name of that song. More info on the game being that it's a reboot rather than a sequel, which is something I'm okay with considering that the original game was not known for its story. One more piece of information about the game is that it's an open world - I'm glad about that but it's just that my perception of open world was kind of ruined by Ubisoft with their Assassin's Creed fanchise. I know that it's EA this time and it's completely different but still, I have nightmares about it being an open world, first person Assassin's Creed with lots to do but no motivation to do anything what so ever. Also the teaser ended with "coming... when it's ready" this is really great considering how EA usually rushes the game development process with their deadlines. Overall this is a very positive move by EA, so much that I'm almost not hating them anymore.

Breaking the norm: Indie games

Here's a question: Do the graphics in games have to be photo realistic and detailed in order to qualify as good graphics and deliver immersion in gameplay?
Answer: Certainly not and I know enough games to cite my claim. I also don't have to point out that there are many gamers out there who can say the same. Keep in mind that by saying this, I'm not saying that games shouldn't look photo realistic or detailed, just that they're kind of overrated. Now let me bring in the games i.e. games delivering photo-realistic and detailed visuals along with games that don't.

Back in 2008:
Gamer1: "Holy cow! did you check out that new EA/Crytek IP Crysis?! it looks spectacular!! and that nanosuit looks swell!"
Gamer2: "I know! it's a PC exclusive, take that console freaks!! look at the freaking graphics, this is going to be awesome!!"
Now back to the present:
This was the dialogue between most PC gamers back then when Crysis was shown, Crytek even released a demo to show proof of the game's photo-realistic tenacity to those wanting to test it. It was a great demo, it even managed to land an impression on me so much that I bought it (oh look! proof that game demos actually help market a game).
Lets take a look at the gaaaaaaaame:
                                                  
Isn't that amazing? the details, lighting & ambient occlusion and AA; surely these days, certain games boasting such visuals are sighed up on mostly because all that visual glory is just for looks, no actual gameplay improvement. But we're not talking about gameplay, let's focus on graphics. Let's look at another game called Fez, it's an Indie platformer, a completely different genre but speaking in terms of graphics, Fez's environment similar to that of Crysis i.e. it has trees, landscape, greenery, small buildings etc.
Here's a picture of Fez:

Would you look at that, it's just abstract, 3D pixel art but it's so beautiful. I don't know about you out of the two pictures I've got to say that this one, this particular one below really grabs my attention. It looks so amusing: I mean it obliterates the need for photo-realism or detailed visuals in a game.You don't have to be a videogame connoisseur to notice that. And guess what? this game was made by one person! Phil Fish. (Despite this, I didn't buy this game yet - it will have to wait since my wallet hasn't exactly been nice to me these days).
Let's look at some more games, how about the critically acclaimed Journey.
Journey is known for its immersion and serenity it offers players despite its short campaign, graphics were one of the major factors for simulating the serene and peaceful experience, so that game company along with some help from Sony Santa Monica Studios left no stone unturned when it comes to its visuals. The grain animation, the lighting, terrain and wind physics were done immaculately enough to say that immersion has been achieved but wait here's another game that does the same job without most(almost none of them) of the visual perks that Journey has.
Yes, Proteus is the game that defies that norm. It offers a calm and serene experience with plain 3D art and simple sprites orchestrating a beautiful environment. I have played both Journey and Proteus enough to make such a statement. I will talk more about Proteus later but I believe I've made myself clear.

                                            Not to say that photo-realism isn't an admirable trait, game developers need to rethink the idea of it. The legions of upcoming and already established Indie developers have really made us question ourselves about what we look for when we think about graphics in a video game - It's definitely not just photo realism or to render better more finer details, there's more. This has also paved way for faster development time and developers can focus on the actual core gameplay elements, particularly for indie developers. I'll conclude this article with some Indie games which are definitely worth checking out:

 Fez
            You've seen a screen shot, now you've got to play the game, it's available on steam for 9.99$. Two words: Grab it.

Braid
           Braid is second in place of the best puzzle games I've played. I don't know if you like the puzzle genre but regardless I recommend you give Briad a shot, there's a playable demo on steam.  

Super Meat Boy 
           Tough but fun.

Hotline Miami
           Again, tough but gratifyingly fun.

Proteus
           A beautiful piece of work
                 
                                     These games should kickstart your Indie gaming life, you will understand the hype surrounding Indie and even make you look forward for more.


    

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Life of Pi the aftermath

Everyday an endless battle goes through my mind, trying to prove creationism, the purpose of life and ultimately God. Everyone goes through something similar in their minds, I don't know how often but it is evident as a human being. To ignore such thoughts as meaningless would be an ignorance, abandoning all efforts to determine the true purpose of life is in all honesty pathetic. Rants aside, the ripple to silence the chaos in the sea of my mind was the Life of Pi.
                           The movie made a terrific metaphor between atheism and faith - Pi's incredibly adventurous survival in the pacific ocean sounded lively and unfathomable, it is a journey people refuse to believe even though it is true, we live in a world where proof is the fulcrum, the judge and the jury. People's questions won't digest irrational answers that was why Pi had to come up with a story though incidentally accurate subtle nuances made it more believable. By the end of it the movie questioned what story did you like the most? the first or the second. This is a question that eliminates rationality from the equation introducing an opinion and on this stance the first story takes the prize. Finally the film ends with the statement in response to the opinion "And so it goes with God". It took a moment but I managed to fathom the depth in that statement. Mind you the ending differs with perspective due to its depth. My perspective however was a creationist view in that the truth may be unbelievable or irrational but it ultimately is the truth. This really silenced the chaos in my mind, it may be temporary but it is not under appreciated.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Video games under utilized: Simulation

Video games have been around for quite a while but it still remains vastly under utilized due to various reasons. Its potential however is being well exploited in the entertainment industry as far as the technical aspects are concerned (mostly), this has paved way to simulation, a genre most gamers are synonymous with.
                              The most realistic implementation of simulation has to be in the racing genre, four wheelers to be specific. I found out about it not a very long time ago, I was sucked into the immaculate implementation of racing physics and tight control scheme. I didn't play the game on a racing wheel though, it was on my PlayStation Portable, it may not racing wheel realism but the analog stick and the shoulder buttons were quite effective. The game I am speaking about is Gran Turismo - *tagline* the real driving simulator ( I concur). I had also been able to play Need for Speed Shift on PC thanks to my Logitech Gamepad F510, the controller was not simulation friendly and it was built for people with large hands but I got to play through half of the game until I hands started aching. The game had options to adjust the controller's sensitivity but the controller just didn't get along with my hands (the trigger buttons were slightly out of reach). Revving Lamborghini's accelerator in Shift was as close as I could get to actual race car driving, it's a tall claim but I was pretty gratified with the experience. But how close would it have been if I did have a racing wheel full with manual transmission rather than a controller, close enough? assuming it is, would it be possible for me to drive an actual car on road afterwards? maybe, how about taking part in a professional race? sounds unlikely and what about winning the race further becoming a professional race car driver?! I should get my feet back on earth and think through my words. Jann Mardenborough from UK begs to differ, he managed to get his GT racing skills on to the real track, went against 90,000 other gamers and won a week long race camp. Easily a quintessential example of how the effective the medium is. Keep in mind that there were 90,000 other gamers who have taken part in the event solely by Gran Turismo driving experience and none of them had actual driving experience. I have had a first hand experience of something similar when riding a gear-less scooter, it was during the time I played Gran Turismo, the driving mechanics in GT were pretty influential in the real world despite it being a car simulator and me playing it on the PSP.

Gran Turismo 5 teenage player becomes real life racing driver
                        
                                      Here's a thought, if it had been so effective on grounds of racing won't it be an economical and safer solution to play the game rather than actually feel the thrill of the ride on a real racing car or a bike. Many would disagree on this, I don't blame them nor do I insist on reverting to my suggestion but I'd just like everyone to think about it. I don't want to intimidate/demotivate anybody talking about how risky racing at high speeds can be but it would prove to be a terrific practice ground for those who are hell bent on experiencing the thrill of driving at-least. To support my theory, I'd like to point out an unfortunate event that had occurred in my hometown not a long time ago, the unfortunate death of former Indian cricket captain Azharuddin's son. He was a victim of a road accident which had occurred as a result of high speed riding. He was young and had a thirst for thrill which is obviously normal for someone his age but he didn't have to go through such great lengths for it. I find it disturbing to read the news let alone speak about it but if you still happen to disagree I'm just going to say that I'd be better safe than dead. This is but one of many cases of death caused by unsafe driving practices in my hometown.

Azharuddin's son laid to rest

                                     I have heard BMW had its own simulator for their cars which was meant to teach people on road (not a race track) driving and I'm pretty sure everyone's aware of a flight simulator which is something any airline pilot has to experience before he gets to navigate a real plane, similarly video games can be very helpful on grounds of on-road safety. Driving simulators have been around for quite a while but they are under utilized or they may be having low production values, as a result this still remains a vastly untapped potential among many of the video-game medium's attributes. In conclusion, I hope this post brings light to the under valued simulation genre and its real world applications that could possibly save lives.
Here's a fun online driving simulator to light up the moment: Driving Simulator

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Grand Theft Auto V - a rant and an adoration

About five years have passed since one of the greatest pc games was released - Grand Theft Auto IV; it's a name almost everyone who has done some pc gaming is synonymous with. Agreed that the game has a violent and considerably aggressive theme to it but one has to admit that the series have shown what a video game sandbox's potential is. As a result open world has become a feature endorsed and appreciated in video games to this day. GTA IV was special as is every other GTA game but it was different which by no means was a bad thing. It's different nature was criticized by hardcore fans of the series but that didn't stop any one from playing it or loving it. For starters it had improved visuals as per the "current gen" console hardware standards and simply put, it was amazing, memorable if not mind blowing. Apart from that, it had an improved combat system, a gripping story line and some terrific characters. Now, I will stop writing a miniature review of the game and get to the point which would be me adoring the amazing GTA V trailer 2 and some thoughts on the game
                                                             
                         It seemed a little too early for a GTA V but then five years is a long time, also Max Payne 3, Red Dead Redemption and China town wars have been keeping me busy in the mean time. Now that the grand daddy of open world games is going to be here, it does deserve a moment in the lime light of my blog. First off, the trailer featured three new protagonists - Franklin, Trevor and Michael who happen to be as quirky and impressive as any GTA protagonist in the city of San Andreas, I hope nostalgia strikes hard when I surf around the city. The visual end again has shown considerable improvements with detailed facial animations and some noticeable improvements in the environment but more importantly the trailer has promised some explosive missions which was something that GTA IV lacked by a little but noticeable amount; I surely don't doubt Rockstar's performance and promises, not one bit. But what I long for in the upcoming iteration is not a 10 on 10 game but a proper PC port! I am forced to explicitly mention this because of GTA IV, it was more of a pain than a video game solely because they(Rockstar) failed to optimize it for PC properly. It really pains me to even think about the troubles I've had to go through just to make sure the game was playable. I finished the game but it could have been a lot more of a pleasant experience if it weren't for the poor job in optimization, I don't understand what Rockstar had done delaying the game for months and delaying it again for a month only to release a broken, troublesome game. As for GTA V Rockstar decided to do the unthinkable, forget about releasing a poor pc port, it decided to skip the platform entirely! rather they said they were contemplating about a pc and a Wii U port. Thinking/contemplating about what?! what in God's name is that supposed to mean? We're talking about a platform with which they actually make the game, they wouldn't be what they are today without it. Agreed that making a PC port is not as easy and convenient as a console but c'mon! we're not talking about just some developer, Rockstar is an experienced developer and publisher, it isn't as though games properly optimized for pc don't exist. They do, some do a marvelous job at it at that (Capcom, Square Enix, EA etc.). This is a long rant but a rant worth the lime light, Rockstar could've been on the top my favorite developers list if it weren't for the GTA IV PC disaster. Thanks to a petition signed by thousands of people, the PC port has been confirmed and will be out some time this year, all's well that ends well I guess.
                                    To wrap up this messy little post, I do believe that Rockstar can deliver but my only worry is about the game's PC port, I suppose that's enough said.