David Crew is a gamer and web lover. Read my blog or else I'll throw a Bomb-Omb at you. Lighted. :)

Games

Zelda Fans Rejoice!


Hey Everyone,

The amazing remixers and composers at OC Remix have come out with two new albums with arrangements based on the Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening music. This means that all the catchy little tunes that came out of your game boy and game boy color have now been remixed beautifully into piano pieces, club beats, and much more. Even if you never played those games when you were younger, many of the pieces are still very beautiful and warrant your attention. It won’t be as musically phenomenal as say, Two Steps from Hell – Invincible, but these albums are still very well done.

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – Threshold of a Dream

Home Page

Album Details and Download

Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages – Legend of Zelda – Essence of Lime

Home Page

Album Download

Advertisements

Revisiting Dead Space


Hey Everyone,

In case the massive marketing efforts of EA haven’t gotten you excited for Dead Space 2, GET EXCITED. If the sequel is anything like the original, we can expect more of the dismembering goodiness and pop up scares of the original. To get in the mood, I played through Dead Space and it still was pretty scary even on the second round through.  Below I listed a few things I’m predicting for the sequel and a couple of hopes I have:

  • Include more psychological scares – the scariest moments from when I was playing the first one, aside fromrandom pop-up scares, were the sequences that didn’t make sense. Necromorphs were explainable, and we knew the rules that are associated with them. But for the sequences where things were not discernible and could not make sense to me would scare me the most. Leave things to the imagination and try to mess with the gamer a bit and their senses, like Eternal Darkness did on the Gamecube.

  • Beyond 4 limbed creatures – The first dead space had some decent variety when it came to the creatures. Besides the normal, “If you change the color of the monster, it’s super powerful!” cliche, there were brutes, crawlers, cysts, dividers, slashers, stalkers, swarmers, and other fun things to scare the crap out of you. But, I couldn’t help being disappointed a little by the number of limbs on the monsters. For a game that prided itself on calculated strikes on limbs to liven up the zombie game genre, there were no monsters with excessive amounts of limbs that were not bosses. Having just one creature that is reminiscent of an arachnid with many different limbs would be an excellent addition.
  • Careful with Isaac’s story – Dead Space 2 brings us a little deeper into who exactly Isaac is and the troubles he’s going through. We’ll hopefully be getting a little more information on his wife, his past, and what exactly is going on in his head. I just hope in the sequel we don’t get too much “muck” to his story. No children, no ex girlfriends, and no other familial drama that isn’t directly related to his deceased wife. Keep the game focused on the horror and on the psychological trauma going on in Isaac’s head.

Aside from those three things, the previews and screenshots have made Dead Space 2 look pretty awesome. Can’t wait to see the reviews on the game and go out and play it for myself.

What about you guys? What do you hope to see from the sequel and what gets you scared in horror games?


The Importance of Music in Video Games


So awesome. ❤

Hey Everyone,

I have always been very geek when it comes to music in video games. Even when it was the 16 bit sounds of my first Super Nintendo chiming away as I combated zoras in Link to the Past, stomped on goombas in Super Mario World, or blasted Mavericks in Mega Man X, I would always enjoy the little tunes that played during each game. It got to the point where I could easily tell what game my friend was playing in the other room simply by hearing the melodies.

The type of Music that’s in video games plays a pivotal role in how well a game communicates to a gamer and can either make or break many video games in development and on the market.

Why do you exist?

But why is the music so vital to a game? Why is it that the thumping drums and airy choral lines in the Halo games more fitting than techno music and banjos? (besides banjos being the most useless instrument in the world). It’s because music is an essential ingredient to building atmosphere within games and evoking certain kinds of emotions in gamers.

Music has a special ability to evoke emotions. The tone colors of certain instruments as well as the overall beat, rhythm, pitch, staff style and much more can influence what natural kind of emotion we get. The dissonant chords and fast strings in Dead Space put nerves on edge, the slow french horns and deep drums of Oblivion soothe you as you ride over luscious hills, and the airy sounds of Venice with the mix of human chatter make you really feel like you’re with Ezio in Assassin’s Creed 2. (Oblivion even won the MTV Video Music Award for “Best Original Score” through an international popular vote.)

Video game music even has grown to be a distinct genre. Take, for example, many of the classical bands that have toured and featured video game music such as the Gamer Symphony Orchestra at the University of Maryland. And those are just classical orchestras playing video game music. There are sites out there that feature remixes and compositions based upon video game music like OC Remix, which provides free tracks you can download that remix game compositions into, many times, utter masterpieces.


But overall, I will be forever geek when it comes to video game music. If you’re interested in some decent soundtracks of video games, check out Oblivion, Halo, Chrono Trigger/ Chrono Cross, God of War 3, and Legend of Zelda Windwaker, Final Fantasy VII and X,  and Metal Gear Solid on Amazon or through youtube. And also, here’s one of my favorite tracks from Ocremix:


Kick – Punch, It’s All in the Game


Hey Everyone,

So I recently borrowed Batman Arkham Asylum from a friend of mine and have been playing it for a few days. I recently unlocked the challenge modes where you can just lay waste to waves of guys trying to rack up the most points, and I must say the combat in the game is just deliriously addicting, but why is it so dope?

Great Sound Effects

Unlike the old Batman show of the 70’s, there are no bonks, blams, pows, or anything of that sort. Each punch and kick feels like a punch and kick and the sounds literally give the animations more life as the enemies crumble before the Dark Knight’s vigorous attacks. Developers take notes, if we want to melée some dudes, make us feel like we’re pounding the guys. =)

Smooth Strings

Attacking one guy and nailing the code animations and everything against that one guy is all well and good, but the really great thing about fighting baddies in Arkham is being able to string combos between guys and attacks so smooth and effortlessly. It’s what makes Arkham’s combat so easy to learn and yet so difficult to master. Assassin’s Creed 2 also makes it easy to string attacks between guys, yet actually landing those attacks to make a satisfactory, bone-crushing hit is always interrupted by the stupid deflection that some enemies in that game have.

Great Animations

So you’re landing great sounding hits and stringing them between several enemies at once, but what really puts the icing on the cake in Arkham is seeing Batman do a slick combo animation where he snaps some guys leg or face so realistically. The smooth animations are especially noticeable when the camera zooms into the attack. Those realistic animations are what immerse gamers even more into the combat.

Now enough about that, I gotta get back to destroying people in Arkham. >=]


Summer Gamer Woes


Hey Everyone,

I absolutely love summer. There’s always so much to do, so many people to see, and there’s no annoying classes and homework (unless you’re an overachieving college student). But at the same time, I’m a summer gamer. I don’t play too many video games in the summer, bun when does being a summer gamer really become a problem?

This past weekend we spent the entire time at a lake house. Every day our whole group would go out swimming, biking, kayaking, boating, hiking, and pretty much everything you could do that’s fun on a lake. It was an absolute blast and we had so much fun.

Yet, there was one kid with us who could not separate himself from the tv at the cottage. I don’t even know why he even brought the system and his xbox up but while most of us  were outside enjoying the great weather, he was inside glued to the tv screen playing a heaping mix of Assassin’s Creed 2, Modern Warfare 2, and Dead Space.

Now I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that he even brought up his system when he knew he was heading to a lake for the weekend, or that he ignored his 15+ friends to play games he could always play at home when he got back. What  runs through a person’s head to make them do something like that? It was one of the few times that all of us could get work off and hang out together at such a sweet lake house, and yet this guy would only have memories of killin’ necromorphs or some other stupid in-game event.

It’s situations like that which help me understand what some of the critics of the gaming world bitch about. Most of what they spew is utter nonsensical idiocies, like Ebert from a couple months back, but I remember reading several stories on game addiction and my friend doing gaming all weekend and squandering his time at the lake really made me think back to those articles.

Now, I would understand his actions a little more if he had spent it playing newer games like Singularity, Transformers, and my personal favorite, Mass Effect 2, but to spend it playing old games he’s had for a while simply for the sake of gaming really makes me wonder about him.

Now let’s hear from you guys! Who else here is a summer gamer and comment back if you’ve had a similar experience.


Man Kills Kitten For Interrupting Game


Hey Everyone,

I stop game, now is airplane time?

You know me, I love an interesting article. This one follows a guy who apparently took his girlfriend’s kitten and flung it across the room. Watch out, apparently he likes vacuum cleaners to do his dirty work too. Full story below:

“An unplugged cord killed the cat.

A Virginia man was arrested on Monday for allegedly launching his girlfriend’s kitten across the room and killing it after it unwittingly pulled the plug on his video game.

Bruce Jamar Walston was charged with disorderly conduct and misdemeanor animal cruelty for tossing the kitten right in front of the woman’s kids, according to local paper The News Leader.

The 21-year-old had been free on bond after a January incident where he allegedly beat a man with a vacuum cleaner.

Walston is being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court later this month for the previous vacuum incident.


New Games Added


Hey Everyone,

I added some new games to the game page from suggestions. Storm the house 3, helicopter, and cubefield have been added, so go check em out on the Games page. or right below
(Revised May 14th 2010):

Storm the House 3

Its time #3 for you to get your stormin going. Suggested by alfiecorbin.

Cubefield

Who would’ve thought that simply moving a cursor through 3D fields could be so addicting? Thanks alfiecorbin!

Helicopter

No introduction needed. You know it, you love it, go play it.(Thanks alfiecorbin)


What It’s Like to Work at EA – An Employee’s Perspective


Hey Everyone,

I stumbled across this little review of a person that has worked with Electronic Arts for over ten years. There’s a lot of interesting little information contained in their review that you may find fascinating, such as the development time and the politics of gaming companies:

Electronic Arts – “10 years of ea”

Electronic Arts Director of Technology

“Pros

EA is known for killing employees to ship games – on brutal schedules.

The deal is: employees also get a lot out of working for EA. I did, at least. There are lots of very talented people at EA, and (usually) opportunity to ‘craft’ your own career. Working on blockbuster titles, for the latest consoles, is fun stuff. Hardcore engineers (like me) love having access to the equipment – and the opportunity to make significant contributions to a high-profile product.

And, if you do make big contributions (the kind that are visible to upper management — like rendering features) it is easy to become a ‘top engineer’. Top Engineers are respected across the studio, and are showered with stock, bonuses, and promotions. For 5 years in a row, I got a promotion each year. My 1998 salary of 50k moved to 75k, then to 90k, then to 150k, and finally to 190k. While the promotions are happening, my stock grants are vesting – and I’m unloading them into e-trade for huge gains.

(employee buys nice house, and car with > 300 horsepower)

Is it a perfect company? Hell no. Does it have upside? OF COURSE. If it didn’t, people would leave. EA employees usually don’t have trouble finding work. They are vocal with their complaints – but are private with the upside (see text above). If the upside wasn’t there – everyone would walk out.

NOTE: In 2010, the state of ERTS is so bad, the upside discussed above has almost completely vanished. Now, it is just a horrible job. But- who else is hiring – at the same salary? It isn’t a fun place to be right now – but – in this economy – it is probably good that a direct deposit check is hitting the account every 2 weeks. Before the bottom fell out of the economy, everything I said above was true. And, it will probably be true again someday. But – so will the Cons. (Read below). Is it worth it? For some people. Usually, young – out of college, and un-married. As college becomes more distant, and marriage happens, the “upside” at EA isn’t quite as attractive. Depending on how high you were able to climb, it might be possible to get into a position where you can continue to pull your salary – and contribute virtually nothing. This eventually leads to depression, however. But, this is starting to sound negative… Go read Cons for more.

Cons

EA is known for killing employees to ship games – on brutal schedules.

Before I continue, I’ll admit that I am happy with my own experience at EA (see Pros). What follows is not sarcastic, but is an honest assessment of what I saw over 10 years of employment (at 3 different studios)

Read with a “just the facts” tone – and ignore the cynicism that creeps in (after 10 years, it is impossible to avoid)

EA does kill employees to ship games on brutal schedules. Seriously. The rumors wouldn’t be so persistent if there wasn’t truth there. Yes, many teams move into a mandatory 6 or 7 day work-week, with 12 hour days (with the occasional over-nighter). At the worst of crunch, I did several weeks of 14 hour days. With a 14 hour day, there is just enough time to get home, get enough sleep to stay alive, and go back to work. This *is* sustainable – for weeks on end, but isn’t much fun. All shipping projects crunch. This was true in 1998, and in 2008 – and every year between. Usually, this is assumed – and everyone (silently) knows that it is coming. Sometimes, when morale in the studio is low, management will hold an ‘all hands’ meeting to launch “new development practices” – and a “more efficient project management system” …. and a promise of a decent work/life balance, and short (or zero) crunch. Employees like the sound of it, but are very skeptical. But, over the next few months, the discover that the Management promises were true!! Sure, there was that ‘one big demo’ that required some late nights, but – otherwise – the work/life balance isn’t so bad!!!

I’m not sure why – but everyone seems to forget that ALL PROJECTS START THAT WAY. The problems start when the team is actually approaching Alpha. Suddenly, the team realizes that major systems – although planned well – have serious integration issues. Oh, and performance issues. Engineers are very quick to blame themselves. They work 10, 11… 12 hour days to work out the ‘critical’ and ‘blocking’ problems. Then, it is back to finishing features (but – uh oh – the Alpha date passed!!) … feature work continues into Alpha, and usually slips a bit into Beta. By this time, the entire team is working killer hours – meals are catered, and hundreds of wives are considering divorce. (Seriously, EA is not a safe place for your relationship). Anyway, by the time crunch arrives – everyone has LONG forgotten about the ‘new project management’ stuff. Who cares anyway?? The schedule is completely blown (because of multiple failures, it isn’t possible to “fault” one person – or one group). Most of the team feels half-guilty for letting the top-management down, and are convinced that they somehow brought this major breakdown upon themselves. So, mandatory 7 day week. We must finish this thing. We’ll learn from our mistakes. We know what went wrong, and we won’t repeat it. But, right now, we need to get this thing Gold – and shipped to sony and microsoft for approval. QA is still finding class A bugs — engineers yell at QA because the bug existed “since milestone 2!!” — why are we just hearing about it TODAY? But, secretly, the engineer also feels guilty for making such a stupid mistake, and works an all-nighter to get it fixed.

He looks like a hero, and management is pleased. Except – all he did is fix his own ‘one-liner’ bug, and it took him all night to track it down. Accomplishment? No. Paradoxical praise? You bet. (Pay close attention to what a company ‘says’ they value – and what they actually reward. EA rewards workers that kill themselves to get things done. Anyone that says differently is either hiding from that fact, or lying).

So, the game finally ships, and everyone goes on a week or 2 of comp time (resembling a coma). The game ships, sales are huge, game goes platinum, screen-shots and press coverage is everywhere. It feels good.

Management calls an ‘all hands’ meeting to discuss the upcoming cycle, and – maybe – promise some big changes. Will it ever change? Of course not. But, notice that EA employees will complain, but they don’t actually quit. Like crack, it is easy to complain about – but very difficult to walk away from. (Did you look at the value of your vesting stock? Holy crap!! I made more on stock that my entire salary last year!!!!) But, this is sounding positive, read Pros for more.

Advice to Senior Management

Oh goodness. I’m not sure what to say… Lean on the titles that make money – and try to get out of the other side of this “lost console cycle” – and economy hit. Maybe that $16 stock will start coming back up. If not, I’m not sure that “advice to management” is worth anything — because the head will be chopped off by the Board. EA needs to turn around soon, but everyone already knows it. If it doesn’t happen, the company will “re-org” again — call it (another) “reset” and lay down big plans for mobile gaming, online, and China. Oh – and replace all the top execs. (If your name includes SVP, you’re done).

EA will either pull off a Phoenix move – or collapse, like a dying star.

The really creepy thing? John R predicted this demise – in 2006/2007 – when EA was feeling fairly bulletproof. If you heard his speech on this, you know what I’m talking about. He gave examples of big tech companies that completely folded – and quickly. He cautioned ‘resting’ on the current business model – and said that it was a sinking ship.

The plans to escape the sinking ship (new business model) failed. Now, EA is doing a 180, and killing all new development. “Focus on the key titles – and build them” (Madden, FIFA, etc). But, how long can you sit like that – and not get run over?

Time will tell.

Good luck, ERTS.

Signed,
the guy floating away on a golden parachute (I traded in the golden handcuffs)

My advice to management: get one of these parachutes – and jump out of the doomed plane.”


Finals Suck


Hey Everyone,

Won’t be around for a couple of weeks with finals, but here’s a couple things to check out while I’m mia:

  1. Steam coming to the Mac with Torchlight and Portal on Wednesday (May 12)
  2. Microsoft’s Natal coming in October (link)
  3. Best selling games for Europe and America for 2010 so far (link)

Alan Wake Review


Hey Everyone,

Here’s is a review of the upcoming game, Alan Wake for the Xbox 360. I dunno about you guys, but this is going down on the must buy list for the summer. 😀

Full Review