Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Insanity

Afterfall: InSanity is an indie shooter horror post-apocalyptic (it actually started as a Fallout mod) thing developed by Intoxicate Studios. It's set to be released on the 25th of November. Here, have a trailer!



Looks decent. Nice production values, particularly graphics, especially for an indie game, and the enemy design has certainly piqued my interest. That's not the most interesting thing about this. What is intriguing about  this game is the way it is being marketed, and sold.

Right now it's being sold at (as opposed to the 'real' price, which falls just short of 35 bucks) $1. That's not a typo - one dollar is the price. And some of it is going to charity. A single dollar for a game that looks to be somewhat entertaining at the very least. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, it is. There's a fairly major catch here. The developers are aiming for 10 million preorders, 10% of which will go to charity (every additional sale from then will be split 50/50 between developer and charity)., and the $1 preorders are fine and valid. However, if they don't meet that target, all the money goes to charity and the game is then released for a one dollar discount (between thirty three and thirty four dollars). And those preorders you made? Gone. Perhaps this video, from the developer, can explain it a bit better:


It's an ambitious goal. Mainstream titles across multiple consoles rarely breach the 10 million copies sold mark, never mind preorders (read: not sales) of an obscure indie horror title limited to the PC. If they somehow make this mark, it will be the 5th best selling PC game in the history of gaming - falling just behind the first two Sims games, World of Warcraft and Starcraft - and will be up there as one of the best-selling games of all time. Let's put things into perspective a little more, shall we? Minecraft, undoubtedly one of the most popular indie titles out there, reached the 3.5 million copies mark recently. Yes, InSanity is only a dollar, but is that enough to balance out its obscurity, genre (horror games tend to either be extremely popular or complete unknowns, with little in-between), and the fact that this desired 10 million is in preorders?

But what if the developers aren't just being optimistic - what if they have a more cynical reason for this. Imagine, if you will, they hit their target. That's nine million dollars for them, another one million for a thus-far unannounced charity and a massive playerbase for whatever sequels (though not DLC, which they claim will be free) the devs produce. And if they don't reach it? Well, that's a bunch of money thrown to charity and the game being sold for a substantially more profitable amount. And the playerbase will still be there. Not all those who preordered it will fork over 30 dollars or so, and there will be some outcry but with the publicity this will, presumably, generate, and the act of giving a lot of money to charity hardly counts as negative publicity. So, it's a win/win for the devs.

So, what do you think? Is this pushing the envelope? Baseless optimism? Or cynical publicity generation?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Heritage

I must apologize about not doing anything blog-related over the weekend - I've been kept busy from both family and university. Regardless, I picked up Opeth's Heritage (HMV finally got around to stocking it), and have given it a listen. It's... interesting.

It's not a particularly good start, to be honest. I've read a lot about how Opeth have moved toward a more prog-oriented sound, abandoning traditional death metal influences in the process, and it's intriguing to see how it all plays out. Interestingly, despite the album being, in many ways, a throwback to the 70's prog bands which have influenced the band (hence, presumably, the title of the album), the songs are generally shorter than on previous releases. Trying to pack so much content into smaller time frames has not necessarily improved each song's quality - the first two 'proper' tracks, after the piano opener, have a somewhat disquieting shift in the middle, which sounds less like the songs are flowing, changing, living creatures and more two shorter creatures stapled onto one another.

The album grows on you, however. Definitely. The aforementioned tracks are the exception rather than the rule - the band definitely prove that they can craft wondrous songs without dipping into the extreme metal pool, with tracks like 'Nepenthe,' 'H√§xprocess,' and the eight minute epics 'Famine' and 'Folklore' being joys in particular. Opeth fans looking for more of their older, heavier stuff should definitely approach with caution, but, the end result of this evolution is a solid album.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Steve Jobs

So, Steve Jobs is dead. I can't really think of a grimmer way to open a post, but, regardless, he reports started flooding in about his death six hours ago, give or take. It was fairly common knowledge that he was ill - cancer - and it was often speculated that this was behind his recent resigning as CEO of Apple. Despite this, however, this still came as a shock.

I don't necessarily agree with all the business practices, or attitudes of either him or his company, but that's irrelevant (although, not, apparently, to the scum of the earth, the WBC) at this point. He has been largely responsible for much of the evolution of technology, from early PCs to the popularity of Mp3 players, and so much more in between. He was, to many, a great man.

RIP.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Feel the Rage

With Rage's release, there's been some amount of controversy. I've yet to play the game and, if reports are anything to go by, I doubt I'll get it at any point in the future, so this is all second hand. As is a lot of my more serious, non-review stuff.

By all accounts, is a functional enough shooter, if a tad boring at times. The problem seems to be, at least for the PC version, that it's a wee bit... broken. Lots of words have been thrown about, including things like 'shitty' and 'console' and 'port,' among other things, but let's examine the exact problems for now. Some of these could be put down as individual problems, but, given the vast quantity of reports coming in about this stuff, there's a lot of reasons to doubt that.

Firstly, and this one if kind of minor, the mouse sensitivity is apparently fucked up. The menu speed is, apparently (I'll be using that word and various synonyms a lot, for insurance) a lot faster than the actual game speed, to the point that people either have to play with low mouse sensitivity to be able to handle the various menus with ease, or precisely the opposite. The game also has a tendency to crash alot. Um, apparently.

There are also, seemingly, a lot of graphical problems. Like the lack of any detailed graphics options. And, by detailed, I don't just mean 'adjust your resolution using sliders,' there is literally nothing beyond gamma, resolution and anti-aliasing. That's a disturbing lack, and, in all honesty, I'm starting to see some validity to the consoleitis comments. Something like this would struggle to slide for a tiny indie title, never mind what is a triple-A title by a fairly major studio. If I remember correctly, one of the major players in id has, in the recent past, made some statements about how Rage would be a revolution in gaming, which makes this lack of attention particularly egregious. There is a texture streaming thing that apparently makes up for this shittiness, but it, apparently, works rather badly, with delays and textures taking too long to pop in.

Apparently the game has so many bugs and glitches that it can be nigh-unplayable. Framerate issues, random crashes, broken audio, bugged character models,the Russian roulette involved in loading a game - the list goes on for a depressingly long time. The developers have released a bunch of (*coughdayonecough*) patches to try and fix the issue. That's another one to check off my list, then, and without any money lost. Huzzah!

Monday, 3 October 2011

ISAAC!

You know how I mentioned I'd work on something substantial over the weekend?

Yeah... about that...

You see, there's been something that's been eating up my time. It's called the Binding of Isaac and it is bloody awesome (with some emphasis on the bloody). For those who don't know, this is a vaguely roguelike-shooter-hybrid-thingy made by Team Meat (or one member of it, at least). It has a few... unique and interesting features.

On each level, for instance, there are various items that give you various buffs and debuffs. Damage boosts, speed boosts, additional bombs, so on and so forth. Standard stuff. Except, interestingly, when items are picked up and equipped, they cause a visible change to occur in the eponymous protagonist. This is where the horror sets in. Your skin cracks and bubbles, poison flowing where blood should be, horns tearing open the skin of your crown, a coat hanger rammed through your vaguely foetal head. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

This is one of the most surreal, nightmarish games I've seen recently. The enemies - from skinless freaks with demented eyes to crying children whose heads have become hives for overgrown flies - are a truly horrid gallery of monsters. There are a number (at least 50), with various different behaviours and tactics. The bosses are just as varied, interesting, and ungodly - examples include the likes of a huge mountain of flesh and muscle which causes pustules to grow around the boss room, and conjoined twins, one of whom chases you around the room while the other floats behind firing balls of blood at you. A lovely bunch of folks.

The mechanics feel good, the aesthetic style is wonderful and, even better, the game is insanely addicting. I've been playing it for several hours and have yet to reach, never mind beat, the endgame boss. And I'm not frustrated. If anything, I'm even more incensed to continue, to find new items to use, new combos to fight with, new monstrosities to destroy. There are some problems, sure - the reliance on luck might annoy some, and there is a strange amount of lag for a flash game - but you will get so many hours of joy out of this it is well worth the price. It's on sale on Steam until Wednesday - give it a look.