Game jams are pretty awesome. A bunch of likeminded and skilled dudes and dudettes get together for a quick collaborative project under a tight timeline. What comes out of that collaboration can be interesting, unique, exciting, silly, stupid, genius, and any other descriptor you can imagine.

We’ll be at the Toronto gathering of the 2013 Global Game Jam, which begins Friday, January 25th at 6pm and runs straight through until Sunday night. We’ll take in some of the sights, sounds and smells, meet some cool folks, then let them jam in peace.

Friday, 1:11 pm – matt

holy crap i loved amped! who could forget the awesome snowskate section by PREMIER snowskates??!?!? wasnt someone sponsored by them? 🙂 amped 3 to this day remains the greatest snowboarding game of all time, featuring one of the largest and greatest soundtracks ever in a videogame. I absolutely loved that game and now that i have my xbox 360 back up, i am going to have to search for a new copy. thanks for that gavin…

Friday, 9:11 am – Gavin

It’s remarkably difficult to provide updates to the page when I’m in meetings from about 9-5 every day.  Pardon my absence.

I’ve been following the THQ bankruptcy case for a while, and it’s been very interesting (and sad) to read about.  Lots of staffers have been posting to Reddit and around the web, and even though they’re just small snippets, it’s been really interesting, and also a bit saddening, to hear the “human” side of things.  We always tend to think of developers as these massive monolithic entities, with maybe a big public face like Bobby Kotick, Cliffy B, Pat Redding, Tim Schaefer, or maybe some famous voice actors in specific works, etc.  But nobody ever thinks about the folks doing the line work, the ones who are actually doing the work to develop the game.

Fortunately, it appears as though in the wake of the auction, there’s been some support for Vigil Games and the Darksiders IP.  I’ve got Darksiders sitting in my account but haven’t played it yet, but I hear great things about it as a well-produced (if a bit over-developed in areas) game that flew under too many peoples’ radars.  I look forward to the opportunity to play it, and if for nothing else than the folks who do the work, I hope that they’re able to find a home.  Platinum Games has been the name bandied about as supporting Vigil Games, so hopefully that works out.

Speaking of SSX and Skate 3, I’d like to give a bit of love to one of my favourite series of sports games – Amped.  When I got my first Xbox back in 2004, it came bundled with Top Spin and Amped 2.  I’m not much of a tennis games guy beyond Wii Sports tennis, despite quite enjoying the sport, but I generally considered myself to be even less of a snowboarding games guy.  But Amped 2 was just crazy, crazy fun.  The soundtrack was good, some underground alt-rock and punk, and the learning curve was nearly perfect.  I never could master the controls with respect to joining tricks, so I could never reach those point limits to unlock some of the further levels, but I had great fun with it for what it was.  I think the best thing they did was design the actual hills themselves – they were able to vary them enough that they actually looked like different mountains in different parts of the world, rather than just “OK the jump is now over here, and here is a new kind of tree”.  I never did play Amped 3 for the 360, but I feel like that’s the game I missed out on the most for the 360.

I feel little compulsion to play SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPY DAWWWWWWWWGS, but that’s not a comment on the game itself.  I know it to be a great game – the reviewers and my friends who have played it with whom I share similar tastes have all told me that.  It’s just one that I’m preparing to write off due to the fact that I have too many other games to play.  It makes me sad to say that, because I know that Squeenix and UF worked hard to produce a game that is of good quality, and I don’t actually want to miss out on that, but I just can’t devote any time to it, lest I sacrifice some of the open-world (and just generally large) games in my account that I’m seriously looking forward to, like Skyrim, Mass Effect, etc.

Watching the Nintendo Direct press conference this week, I admit that I am excited about the future for the Wii-U.  I never played Zelda: The Wind Waker, so an HD remake of that?  Why not?  WW was very highly touted when it came out and plenty of review sites have it as one of the best GameCube games, and indeed game of the year for 2003.  Cel-shading is a unique art style in video games and we don’t see a lot of it.  I know that some people didn’t desperately care for cutesy Link (AKA PowerPuff Link), but it had all the hallmarks of a conventional, superb Zelda game.  I look forward to the opportunity to play it, and I can’t wait to see what they produce for the new Zelda title.

That said, Skyward Sword came out in late 2011.  I adored Skyward Sword, as I have said numerous times, both here and on the podcast.  I don’t need a new Zelda title in 2013.  What I want is a new 3D Mario title, because Super Mario Galaxy 2 was one of the best games of the decade, and I want to see how they improve on that.  I also want a new Metroid title.  Other M came out in 2010 (and let’s be honest, while it wasn’t a terrible game, it did not feel like a conventional Metroid game.  It was downright misogynistic in parts, and Metroid is one of the strongest feminist-themed games in existence), Prime 3: Corruption in 2009, and they’ve had more than enough time to get Retro Studios back on the horn.  As soon as the Wii-U was announced with the tablet controller, literally every single Metroid fan said “THAT IS GOING TO BE PERFECT FOR METROID”.  I don’t want them to rush it, not at all – I want them to take their time, assess user feedback, and produce a Metroid title that is highly polished and fit for the franchise.  However, my patience only goes so far.

The other thing that caught my attention was that Wii Marketplace customers would need to buy their VC games again if they want to take advantage of the continuous tablet-gaming experience.  I would like to stress that Wii Marketplace customers are not required to buy their games again.  Their purchased games will work just fine on the Wii-U, in Wii Emulation mode.  They are only required to buy their games again if they want the ability to play the games both on the television/monitor, and solely on the tablet.  $1.00 for NES games repurchased, $1.50 for SNES games repurchased.  My VC library would be pretty small, if I actually bought any, so it would be a grand total of about $10, if that.  I spend more than that on hamburgers.  In one sitting.

As for Spec Ops: The Line?  I don’t want to get too far into it because I’ll end up repeating myself on the next podcast, but if you have any appreciation at all for storytelling in video games, then you need to play this game.  This game takes everything you think you know about modern military shooter storytelling (which, admittedly, is pretty poor as it is), and turns it on its head.  It’s unbelievably dark and incredibly gripping.  The game physically plays like Uncharted, and honestly, the gameplay mechanics are nothing spectacular – they’re nothing you haven’t seen before.  But it’s everything else that makes this game tremendous.  The environment and ambiance are terrific, the voice acting is on point, the writing actually sounds natural (though the main voice actor is Nolan North, so he could make reading a Chinese food menu sound like the right kind of dialogue), the whole attitude of the game is very Heart of Darkness.  It’ s not a long game – I feel like I’m probably about 1/3 of the way through, at 4 hours in), but the way the story is told is great – exposition, dialogue, cut-scenes, in-game “intelligence” items that reveal story à la Batman: Arkham Askylum, all the conventional mechanics play a role but they’re all quite naturally included.  I look forward to seeing where this game is going, because I’ve already had a few moments where I’ve done something in the game and it has made me feel uncomfortable, and that kind of visceral emotional reaction is exactly what I think this kind of game should be trying to achieve.  Can’t wait to see how it unfolds!

Thursday, 4:31 pm – Ricky

Well, it took… a long ass time, but I’ve finally finished Sleeping Dogs. Finished is a term I’m using loosely, since it’s an open world game with hours and hours of sidequests and random activities.

The game is over for me though – I finished the main storyline, and I feel great about what I’ve played. I enjoyed every one of the 16 hours I spent in a beautifully realized virtual Hong Kong. I shot guns and blew things up, but not nearly as much as in other open world games I’ve played. The hand-to-hand combat made the game extra special for me. Sure, it got a bit repetitive, but the act of battling hand-to-hand in the streets of Hong Kong never get old.

The story wrapped up in a pretty satisfying way, and with the limited gaming time I have these days, that’s pretty key. I want the game to be fun, but I also want to get the story pay-offs during and at the end of the game. There’s a lot to love on that front: memorable characters, great side quests, intriguing plot twists and missions that all link together well.

Why am I not going on with the game then? Because, in my mind, I’m done. I got what I wanted out of the game, and it’s time for me to move on. This is pretty counter to how I used to play open-world games – I’ve 100%ed Bully, Grand Theft Auto 4 and Red Dead Redemption. Granted, this isn’t a Rockstar title, but honestly, if United Front Games wouldn’t flashed across the screen each time you play, you could easily be fooled.

Put this one down as “highly recommended”. I’m really happy that this game found a way to be, and I hope that we see more games in the True Crime vein in the future.

Now, what’s this I’ve been hearing about Spec Ops: The Line…

Wednesday, 3:47 pm – Ricky

An update from the THQ auction. Based on a report from IGN, looks like some assets have been acquired, but some haven’t, most notably Vigil, the creator of the Darksiders series. Here are some of the acquisitions:

  • Sega agreed to purchase Relic
  • Koch Media (owner of Dead Island publisher Deep Silver) agreed to purchase Volition (Saints Row creator) and the Metro IP
  • Crytek agreed to purchase Homefront (WHY?!?! Man I hope they do something with this)
  • Take 2 agreed purchase Evolve (an unamed project from Turtle Rock Studios)
  • Ubisoft agreed to purchase THQ Montreal and the rights to publish South Park: The Stick of Truth

Wednesday, 8:29 am – Ricky

All’s quiet on the Eastern front, and we seem to have misplaced Albert on the Western front. Yet there are games to play and things to talk about! So, here I am.

matt and I played some SSX and Skate 3 yesterday. Unfortunately, SSX is truly a single-player game with “auto log”-esque features: leaderboards, rival challenges, tournaments. There’s not mode for just cruising down a mountain on your board with your buddy, which seems like it should be a keystone for a snowboarding title. Weird decision by EA, and it prompted us to play… a different EA title…

Skate 3 still has everything I love about video games. I’m really hoping a fourth iteration is on the horizon, but I doubt it. After 3 releases in a row, EA went completely silent on the series. In fairness, I don’t see much for them to improve on, so maybe I should be thankful we aren’t getting a glorified $60 map pack.

Review round-up!

The Cave released yesterday, and the reviews are pretty mixed so far. The game looks pretty and charming, and I’m sure it has some of that trademark Double Fine humor. Still, it doesn’t seem to be wowing anyone.

Yesterday also saw the North American release of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. A new IP from Level 5, makers of Professor Layton and one of my favourite JRPGs, Dragon Quest VIII, Ni No Kuni looks amazing. It seems to be all hand-drawn art, and it’s getting heaps of praise for it’s systems. Check out the glowing reviews and see if the JRPG genre is gaining strength once again.

Tuesday, 12:27 pm – Ricky

Sad news note: Today is the THQ bankruptcy auction. Lots of talented people will be waiting on whether or not the IP they’re working on or studio they’re working at will get picked up. Hope everyone lands on their feet!

Monday, 8 am – Ricky

Here we go again! Week after week, we deliver.

My favorite game jam running these days are the Amnesia Fortnights, an internal jam at Double Fine. They recently opened up the jam to fans by having folks donate using the Humble Bundle setup, then vote on what concepts they should work on for the next fourteen days. They streamed a lot of the process, so make sure to check it out if you like that sort of thing.