Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Simpsons: Hit and Run - Frustrating license garbage

Don't let yourself fool by the positive reviews, this game is the same garbage as many other license games, on top of that its an awfully frustrating experience.

First of there would be the story or better lack there of. The game really doesn't connect to the Simpsons at all, instead you simply have a GTA clone featuring Simpson character. All your missions resolve around collecting stuff or driving trough checkpoints on a timelimit, so don't expect any puzzle solving or dialog that would actually construct a story or make the game world feel alive. Then there are the graphics that are somewhat acceptable, but suffer quite a bit from tearing artefacts, a few framerate drops when your car casts smoke and lack cell shading, which makes it look very different from the show. Proper facial animation are also lacking.

The voice acting itself is ok, but when the dialog itself is pretty uninteresting and boring that doesn't really help much.

In the end what puts this game down the most however is the missions design. Basically everything resolve around collecting things on a time limit, an at times extremely strict time limit. So you spend very little time having fun and instead most of your time learning the track to get a perfect run done, as basically every little mistake causes you to restart a mission, especially in the later levels. The chances of making a mission on the first try are slim to none.

Overall the game is just very frustrating and very little fun, while making little good use of the license material.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Why the Wii can't win

A lot of people all over the internet currently speculate that a lot of publishers and developers are moving onto the Wii, after all its selling at record speed, so its just good business sense to do so and soon the Wii would have plentyfull high quality third party tiles, right? Sadly for all those Wii owners, nope, that is not the case.

The Wii is, in terms of pure hardware power (RAM, CPU, GPU, etc.) a generation behind the rest, which means the Wii can't handle many games that are developed for the XBox360/PS3 right now, due to heavy use of crowd AI, physics or large environments. The result of this is that the Wii is an isolated platform, games might be developed for the XBox360 and PS3, but at the same time they can't be developed for the Wii. The word multiplatform this generation is getting the meaning of XBox360 and PS3, but leaves the Wii out in the dark.

So what does that mean for the Wii? It means that the Wii is up against the PS3 and XBox360, not up against the PS3 or the XBox360 when it comes to attracting third parties. So from a publishers standpoint that means you currently have 6 million Wii against 13 million PS3/XBox360. Its not rocket science to figure out for what platform a new game should be developed. Looking at the monthly sales numbers also turns out that the Wii is losing ground against the XBox360 and PS3, which means the potential for decent third party support is shrinking, not growing.

So while the Wii might sell more then XBox360 or PS3, it just isn't doing good enough to sell more then both combined and there lies the problem. Whenever the big potential AAA titles are searching for a platform, the XBox360/PS3 will be more attractive then the Wii. This doesn't mean the Wii won't get third party games, but it means that the Wii won't get the big titles. As a gamer, that doesn't look like a good future for the Wii, Nintendo themselves of course don't really have to care, they might still come out as number one this generation, but as you can see above, even if it becomes number one this still doesn't mean it will get good third party support.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Why I hate the Wii

Back when the Revolution was announced at E3 I, as a loyal Nintendo customer for 15 years, couldn't wait to buy one, Nintendo was always good at innovations, so what could go wrong? Well, as it turned out, lots of.

First there was the controller, which just didn't have enough sensory to make true 1:1 mapping happening, meaning all the great innovative games I thought of simply were not possible or would need to be scaled down to the point where they simply weren't interesting any more.

Secondly there are the graphics and CPU, I don't mind the lack of HD, but just shipping a slightly improved Gamecube in a new box doesn't cut it either. The Gamecube was in term of power for the money the best console hardware ever released, I expected the Wii to be of similar quality by *todays* technical standards, it however doesn't get close, no shader support, no anti-aliasing, etc. The Wii would have been outdated if it was released three years ago.

Third there was the price, I wouldn't even have minded if the Wii is being technically last-gen, if the price would have reflected that, but it just didn't. $250 for the Wii is ridiculous considering the Gamecube was $200 back in 2001.

Last not least, the most important aspect, the games. As before Nintendo completly failed to attract third party, after the N64 and Gamecube they should have known better, thats just inexcusable. Also Nintendo talked about "big idea being more important then big money" back at E3, today however the Wii is as close a platform as ever, neither is it open to indie developers nor does Nintendo actually support small games, PS3 and Xbox360 online shops are full with small games, both improved classics as well as completly original ones. The Wii on the other side only offers non improved classic, nothing original, no additions like network play and all that at a high price. And if that all wouldn't be enough Nintendo did their best to piss of Gamecube owners, not only was there support in the last years pretty substandard, they also delay Zelda:TP a year just so that they could hit the Wii launch, they also turned SuperPaperMario from being a Gamecube into a Wii game and who knows what other games suffered similar fate. If Nintendo would have wanted it should have been trivial to pack Wii and Gamecube binaries on the same disk to get a smooth transition, turning all those titles that don't make much use of the Wiimote into multiplatform titles, but they simply didn't, Wii titles only run on the Wii, even if they don't make any use of the Wiimote or that little bit of extra processing power. And if that would be enough, Nintendo also failed to have any real Wii titles ready at launch, those titles that made use of the Wii ended up looking more then techdemos then fully blown games, and even with Metroid and Mario on the horizon, I still miss that developed from ground up killer title that shows me that the Wiimote actually works. Wii Sports is all nice and good, but its to simplistic. Mario64 demonstrated what the N64 controller was build for, the Wiimote is still missing something of similar qualities and neither Metroid (lock on is still there) or Mario (mostly analogstick control) seem to make all that much use of the Wiimote.

So to sum it all up: The Wii turned from being a small, low cost, innovative console, into a high price, low-tech, recycle fest.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another World

Today the 15th Aniversary Edition of Another World arrived and it looks pretty good, but not perfect. The vector graphics itself aren't enhanched, only the backgrounds and in a few situation it comes to small graphical errors because of that (tentancles show up from behind the background).

In addition to the hires version of AnotherWorld this edition also includes a nice Making Of video as well as some very interesting development docs. The original Amiga version is included as well. This version is a definitive must buy for any fan of the original game.

One little problem I had was that the game didn't work on my plasma display due to its non-square pixel resolution, so Another World would only run in letterbox, to fix this I wrote a little utility that forces the game window into 1024x768 while using 16:9 aspect ratio, the tool is available at:
BTW: The image on the top right isn't from the hires version, but my own recreation of the intro scene.