Things you should see.

Archive for June, 2011

Missing Game of Thrones

I haven’t blogged for about as long as HBO’s Game of Thrones has been on air. Go figure. It’s my favourite show of the year, but damned if I’m going to sit here and summarise it for you. Go watch the bloody thing.

Now I’m in this unpleasant situation where there’ s a year between me and season 2. Halfway through A Clash of Kings, I’m having second thoughts of reading these novels ahead of the show. Why? Sean Bean is Ned Stark for me now. When I read about Arya being lanky and awkward, Alliser Thorne having black hair or Ser Jorah Mormont, much older, balder and more lecherous than the show’s Iain Glen, I realise something. My imagination is not with you, novel. Whatever you say, I still picture HBO’s Westeros and its cast of characters. You’ve introduced me to people like Stannis Baratheon and Asha Greyjoy and now I’m left to wonder how wildly dissonant the image in my head will be with whoever the producers cast. It’s not a good feeling even though when I started I doubted it would bother me at all.

I also have a whole bunch of questions for those producers about how they’ll tackle the much grander scope of A Clash of Kings. There are dragons this time, duh, and a much wider range of locales. More sets and more CG dollars methinks. Game of Thrones relegated all travels by sea off-camera, no doubt a budget consideration, but there is a stronger focus on the maritime in the second book too. I wonder how the show’s already impressive season 1 budget – $60 million – can possibly stretch to bear these burdens.

Ultimately though I’ll watch it, but you know what would really piss me off? If they somehow messed up the intro. If Dragonstone and Qarth don’t get the clockwork-Winterfell treatment there’ll be trouble HBO.

The Corpse-grinder that is Team Bondi

Here’s a funny story: when I was fresh out of university wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life oh, maybe 5 years ago, I happened upon a game developer in Sydney. It was Team Bondi and they were making, as they described it, ‘GTA set in the middle of last century’. I can’t remember who I saw or even exactly what the role was (no doubt ‘Junior-[insert alternative for shitkicker]‘) but the fact is I didn’t get the job. Thank heavens I didn’t.

Now that L.A. Noire has shipped, and is in fact nothing at all like GTA, IGN Australia has published a riveting expose on what is quit possibly the most exploitative studio in the world. If they’re to be believed, the man above is not only a collosally poor manager, but also a colosal prick. To summarise the article, 100 hour weeks were common throughout the troubled 7-year cycle, the boss was dictatorial despite lacking a clear vision or good management at any level and now 100s of people who worked on the game have not been credited anywhere for the project.

Brendan McNamara takes the cake though when he comments that his only regret is doing it in Sydney. I find it funny that some cocky Brit with one hit under his belt can relocate here, act an atrocious boss, devoid of any talent if the accounts are true, and then claim that the real problem is the Sydneysider work ethic. Fuck him. He rode Sony’s cock to success with The Getaway and even they dumped him for failing to deliver with L.A. Noire. No surprise- between platform shifts, rapid technology changes and the gall for someone in HR to tell me the game was effectively a GTA out of time it’s apparent that vision was clearly lacking throughout.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: L.A. Noire is a bloated, overstuffed monstrosity that wouldn’t have received half its notice had it not coasted on Rockstar’s coattails. Despite that I feel sympathy for the 100s of artists, coders and designers who were mercilessly burnt through by the travesty of management at Team Bondi. According to IGN, many of them will never work in games again solely because of how they badly were ill-treated on this project. McNamara thinks he’d have had it easier had he opened up shop in Canada or the US. Go ahead and do so you talentless tyrant and leave what’s left of Australia’s already-struggling game industry alone.

Duke Nukem Forever Demo Impressions

It turns out that, despite all the bombast and PR that went into the Duke Nukem Forever ‘First Access Club’, it only delivered an underwhelming demo a mere 7 days out from retail release. I guess I’ve already summed up the tone of my impressions right there.

My understanding is that this game uses a version of the ‘Doom 3′ engine Unreal Engine 3 (so disregard my next few comments), retconned to be id Tech 4. The tech is old but none of the games using it, from Quake 4 to the more recent  Brink have been ugly. My thoughts, sitting here in mid-2011 playing a AAA FPS release is that Duke Nukem Forever is plain ugly. Textures even on ‘ultra’ are muddy and nothing from animations to shaders had me very impressed either. In fact the running and strafing animations are so bad, especially on the gun you’re holding, that this looks like it was mo-capped on a shoestring budget 10 years ago. And even while I can hit 100s of frames it still chugged to mid-40s ever little while.

None of the guns had any impact either, really, even though you can still shrink pigs and put the boot in. Everything is hip fired, like the good old days, but even the shotgun lacked a punch. Bluntly, I didn’t get the fun vibe from the shooting and wasn’t amused by the ‘execution’ animations the second time I saw them, let alone the 100th or the 1000th time.

If I were to anticipate the general feelings amongst reviewers next week, I think the common line would be something like ‘who needs Duke in 2011?’ or ‘Duke should have stayed dead’. A game premised solely by bravado and one-liners isn’t enough today and honestly, given how much I adore Gearboxs, I expected more than an antiquated shooter released solely as if to prove something to everyone who said it would never go gold. Duke Nukem Forever seems like a bad joke that’s taken a decade to play out and I ultimately wish it hadn’t bothered.


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