Would You Kindly Get Me Into the Gaming Industry – Resurrection

 

Our contributor Nathan continues his journey into games design.

Now it’s been an awful long time since I have written an article on my journey into the gaming industry and it’s because of 2 reasons. Reason the first, I have moved house and I have spent a lot of time sorting, unpacking and throwing out stuff. Reason the second is applying and obtaining a new job. In case you don’t know, I am a communication engineer, I won’t go into detail, but I have to make ends meet somehow, I decided to leave my old work in search of of better pay and opportunities so I had to dedicate some time into applying, interviews and eventually learning the ropes of the new job, so unfortunately the Train2Game stuff has had to take a bit of a back seat. However it is the new year so it is about time I started working again.

So I have to pick up from the decision you guys made last year on what game I should design. Before I carry on I want to say a huge thank you to all that took part in looking at my ideas and voting for them. I was shocked that the hacking action adventure game won seeing as Watch Dogs was out and I believed that everyone would vote the survival horror purely for that reason. However, I am happy with the result and I believe I can take this game a long way if things go well, especially as I have knowledge within the IT industry through working in it for almost 5 years. I have even given the game a name, X: initiate. The idea behind this came from work where you use certain commands to perform certain tests. I chose X: as a back door way into computers and networks and initiate as in to initiate commands.

There are still a lot of things to consider, especially as my brief has to between 15-20 pages including sketches, story bible, storylines, character creation, gameplay controls etc. There is still a lot to do but at least I have a name and a basic idea of the game.

The background is slightly futuristic, you play a computer hacker with a very unique set of skills. He/she (haven’t decided yet) has an implant in their brain to control and monitor their epileptic fits (a bit weird and probably can;t be done in real life, but this is video games). Through the years of being interested in computers and hacking, the player has managed to hack their own brain and plant themselves in the computer and network world. The players main aim is to get recognised by a well known hacking group in order to fully unlock his potential and safeguard his future as a hacker.

I have some ideas for missions too which are as follows, some inspired by real life events:

  • Hacking a record company for a rival company so they lose money by leaking a new album
  • Planting yourself on a USB drive to access a highly secured technology firm to ruin a launch party of their latest product
  • Bringing down a firewall for a local council to expose their secrets
  • Hacking a bank account of a celebrity and donating money to a charity due to slanderous things they said
  • Hacking a video website and playing a music video instead of the video they searched for (this will be known as Black Bettying after the song Black Betty)

These are a few ideas I have, there are more that need tweaking but hopefully there will be some progress with the storyline through the next couple of months. I will keep you guys updated with any thoughts and ideas I have, also if you don’t like any of my ideas or think you can improve on some, please let me know and if the game gets created, I will make sure you are rewarded (highly unlikely but a man can dream).

In terms of the work for Train2game, this has also taken a back seat as I realised that I need to start doing the portfolio work before I proceed any further. I will have to go over everything I’ve learnt, hopefully the portfolio will help me out a little bit in recapping but we shall see. In conclusion, I am very excited for my year ahead with Train2Game, there is also another Game Jam taking place later this year. I am unsure whether I will attend, but we shall see. Hopefully it will be better than last years experience.

Nath

The Lost Lighthouse: The Weekly Rapture 29 – 2014 Holiday Special (Not Pro-Khan)

Welcome back to The Weekly Rapture, brought to you by The Lost Lighthouse.

This week was our 2014 holiday special, and by that we mean we summed up all of our favourite TV shows, films and video games from the past year into nifty top three lists and blabbed on about why we loved them all. We also read out and judged some of your favourite nerdy things of 2014 too!

Download this episode (right click and save)

If you have any thoughts. questions or opinions on anything this week you can as always get in touch through Facebook or on Twitter @lost_lighthouse, email us at thelostlighthouse@live.co.uk or sound off in the ‘leave a reply’ box at the bottom of the podcast page on the website.

Late Video Game Review – Alien Isolation (PS4)

Adam infrequently reviews games weeks after they are released because he has a job and can’t complete them fast enough. Potential spoilers included.

Last month I finally moved on to a next-gen console, as two games I had been looking forward to all year finally came out. Alien Isolation was the first of these games, and one that has proved fairly divisive with regards to various review sites and their opinions on the game. I finished it a couple of weeks ago, taking a bit longer than I usually would with a game and then struggling to find time to write up what I thought about it due to currently having a huge workload (I miss the days of having a job that I could leave at work). Anyway, here are my somewhat belated thoughts on the game.

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Alien Isolation takes in the year 2137, fifteen years after the events of Ridley Scott’s Sci-Fi horror classic Alien. You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of the film’s main character Ellen Ripley, as she searches for answers to what happened to her mother and the crew of the Nostromo all those years ago. This search takes her, as part of a team from Weyland-Yutani, to the space station Sevastapol, where a recent salvage ship has brought aboard a flight recorder from her mother’s craft. By the time Amanda arrives however, things have gone awry. The station is in chaos, with a relentless and murderous lifeform on the loose, leaving the remaining populace scared and violent and the station’s AI ordering it’s creepy synthetics to enact strict quarantine rules that largely revolve around choking people to death or dashing their brains out against a wall.

Amanda must find the flight recorder, reunite with the rest of her boarding party and try and reconnect with the Torrens, the ship they arrived on, all while trying to avoid the xenomorph, the ‘Working Joes’ and the looters. This takes you through the whole of Sevastapol, and in standard video game style you are beset by as many set backs as possible. Every time you find an ally they are liable to be murdered horribly, every time you try to use a machine it is broken or on low power, and every time you trust Weyland-Yutani and their high level employees… well, if you’ve see the films then you probably know where their priorities lie and it isn’t with the preservation of human life.

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Your first encounter with the iconic xenomorph is a tense experience, and it marks the start of a lot of heart-in-throat sequences as you try and creep around without it hearing or spotting you, with absolutely nothing you can do to actually kill the damn thing. If it gets you, that is it. Game over man. There are no autosaves or checkpoints either, so saving regularly is very much necessary (you can be killed while saving) and if you find that you have made a lot of progress and haven’t saved in a while, an encounter with the alien becomes that much more stressful. And ‘stressful’ is really what this game is, especially at the start, because you creep around hiding in vents or cabinets, slowly making progress (I noted at one point that I had made it through four rooms in two hours) and then you make a mistake and pay for it. As everyone else seems to have noticed, you die.  You die a lot.

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Supplies are very limited, and whatever tools you do have are merely distractions. Even the limited firepower you do get either doesn’t faze the xenomorph (revolver), stops him very briefly until you have to reload (shotgun) or makes him scuttle away temporarily (flamethrower). Making any noise when encountering other enemies just brings him roaring back, so guns are redundant for a large portion of the game. The motion detector actually manages to up the stress element in a big way, not only because the proximity beeps come out of the speaker in the controller, but the noise actually attracts the very monster you are trying to detect. It is a useful tool for figuring out how far away he is, but later in the game I all but abandoned it in favour of suicide runs clutching the flamethrower. Suicide ‘runs’ is misleading, as I spent almost the entire game crouched. Suicide sneaking? Suicide waddling? Suicide something.

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A lot of the criticism levelled at this game centres around the difficulty and repetitiveness (also that the campaign is too long, which I completely disagree with). The first point I think depends on how casual a gamer you are, because I imagine the difficulty and punishingly unpredictable AI would turn many away. I’m fairly stubborn, I can probably count the number of games I have started and haven’t completed on one hand, and they were probably all due to boredom rather than failure to complete them. I’m not saying I’m particularly great at games, I’m saying I don’t have a lot going on and will happily plug hours into doggedly retrying boss fights. The issue with the xenomorph is that the AI is (usually) very clever and acts differently each time, so you can’t really use trial and error to get round him if you fail. I can see why this would frustrate people, especially as there are times where it seems like you’ve done nothing wrong, but I personally quite liked the challenge. The first few levels are pure suspense, but maintaining that level of stress for too long isn’t the most enjoyable experience. This is when the repetitiveness does start to close in, but when you get the flamethrower you can afford to be a little less careful and gameplay starts to speed up.

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Then comes the obligatory story section when you are rid of the alien (definitely not temporarily), where you get to play as a different character as he tells Ripley how they found the Nostromo beacon, about his team’s excursion down to a familiar looking planet and encounter with alien lifeforms which went pretty badly. It’s like Prometheus, but not terrible. You then have to turn your attention to the station in turmoil, the APOLLO AI and the legions of creepy Working Joe synthetics who are also trying to kill you and everyone else on the station. This serves as a very welcome break in the stealth and hiding aspect of the early game, coming in just before I actually started to find it repetitive. You get a decent few hours when you can actually use all your loud weapons, that earlier would just bring about your grisly doom within seconds.

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At it’s core, Alien Isolation is basically a love letter to the first Alien film. The atmosphere is haunting and perfect, and the retro–futuristic environments completely nail the aesthetic of the film series. The feeling of helplessness, particularly in the first half of the game, sells the terrifying aspect of the creature you are facing, making him a credible threat rather than something you can just take apart with enough bullets. Amanda Ripley is an interesting and driven character, much like her mother despite the terror she finds herself in. Most of the supporting cast are decent in their own ways too, though a few fall a little flat as merely ‘next person to die’ fodder.

The story is strong if a little predictable, but that stems really from the medium of video games and the need for a certain length of experience. The number of times your best laid plans fall apart becomes a little comical, and the Alien is constantly with you and no one else. Maybe it wants a hug and you’ve just misinterpreted it’s actions. Regardless, it would probably seem out of place if his hunting pattern was so truly random that you didn’t see him all game. One of the only issues I actually had with the story in fact, was that knowing the eventual fate of Amanda (revealed at the start of Aliens), you know that she will ultimately survive this experience and so having any sort of cliffhanger ending doesn’t really mean a lot. Unless of course, you factor in the fact that historically Weyland-Yutani have been fast and loose with the truth. Then her whole potential future becomes completely open. So long as it doesn’t get to Issac Clarke levels of ‘wrong place, wrong time’, I’m on board for seeing where her story goes.

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It may have been because this was the first time I played through an entire game on a next-gen console, rather than a few demos and snippets with friends, but I found the gameplay incredibly smooth while playing this. There were very few instances of the game glitching, aside from a couple of time when guns were either floating above or in corpses, and a few times where the alien acted like a T-Rex and couldn’t see me because I was perfectly still and yet metres from his face, but these were hardly game-breaking. Graphically I thought this looked great. There were some choppy framerate issues in the early cutscenes, but I think this was because the game was actually still installing when I started. Other than that, the surroundings were gorgeous. If this is early next-gen/cross-gen graphics, I can’t wait to see what we get in a couple of years. Though at that point we may be so far into the valley of the uncanny that even playing sports games and dating sims will be terrifying.

Creative Assembly and Sega have made a truly faithful Alien game. I really enjoyed it, and if you are a big fan of the Alien franchise then I really recommend you pick it up, with the caveat that it is fairly challenging and pretty scary and stressful for most of the game. I know there are some who find that when the horror is actually happening to a character you are controlling, rather than passively to a character on screen, it feels too real and much scarier. If survival horror is your sort of thing though, this is a great alternative to the standard zombie-fare that usually comes along with that genre. You’re never wanting for revolver ammo in the game, but you also never want to use it and barely need to. This was in fact probably the closest to true survival horror I have played in years, and that was exactly what I was hoping for.

Score – 8.5 Xenomorphs out of 10

Why the Hell Haven’t You Played Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver yet?

Nath sits back and judges people for not playing some of what he considers to be absolutely essential games.

Vampires have become increasing popular in the media in recent years with programmes like True Blood and truly terrible films called Twilight. I think I stomached 5 minutes of the first film and to be honest I was ashamed that I even managed that. However, if we go back to about 1999 a game called Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver was released and trust me on this, it is really worth a play.

You are thrust into the fictional world of Nosgoth, a world ruled by Kain. You play one his lieutenants called Raziel (badass name right?) and you are approaching him at the throne. You have recently grown wings and therefore you are out-evolving Kain. In an act of jealousy, he tears the bones from your wings and throws you into a whirlpool called the Lake of the Dead. You burn and writhe around in pain because Raziel is a proper vampire and cannot touch water until you die. However, you are resurrected by the Elder God, an omnipresent being, in order to become his Soul Reaver and with his guidance, you can enact your revenge on Kain.

Armed with claws, various weapons and magic, you patrol the world 1000 years after you first cast in the lake. Many things have changed, especially the appearance of your vampire brethren, as they have also evolved and become more powerful vampires. You fight your way past all the vampires and absorb their souls to make yourself even more powerful.

You also control the world around you, you can shift between the material and spectral realms in order to reach new heights on the map, or open new areas that weren’t previously there. At a later point in the game, you gain a spectral sword. How can you say no to that?

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Honestly, this game is certainly up there as one of the best games I have ever played. The gameplay is a bit annoying at times, but what do you expect from a game from 1999. The storyline is epic, the voice acting is incredible and it ties in very well with the Blood Omen series and the amazing final chapter, Legacy of Kain: Defiance.

It is available on the Playstation network, although there are some rumours floating about that a reboot may well be on its way. I will be keeping tabs on this, but hopefully we may not have to wait very long to play that game too.

Nath

The Argument: Which Project Should Nathan Choose?

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Help Nathan decide which game idea he should take forward for his Train2Game project!

Here are the concepts (and the details of the project can be found here):

1. A survival horror game called ‘It Begins’. You play a security guard in a large multi-national corporation that specialises in medicine, organ donation and stem-cell research. Your shift starts as normal, however after a blackout, nearly everyone in the building is dead. It turns out a violent poltergeist is loose and is causing havoc and carnage around the building. Your aim is to stay alive and investigate the cause. This can be played on Playstation and Xbox, however it will optimised for Kinect and Oculus Rift for a truly terrifying experience.

2. An untitled, action/adventure sandbox game, where you play a computer hacker. Before I carry on, no this isn’t a Watchdogs clone. You play a hacker who works for the government, but after finding out some ultra-high classified information, you are disposed of. However, you survive and do what you can to take revenge and expose the secrets of the government. Sounds generic, but the idea is that the hacker has the ability to insert himself into the virtual world and run around at will, running from anti-virus, climbing firewalls, disguising himself as viruses, trojans, worms etc. This will be on all platforms.

 

Vote below for your favourite choice!

 

Any thoughts or feedback on Nath’s project, please comment on the full article from yesterday here.

Cheers!

Would You Kindly Get Me Into the Gaming Industry? Chapter Four – Jumping the Gun

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Our contributor Nathan continues his journey into games design.

So as you may have seen from my last entry about my journey of getting my foot in the door of the video game industry, I was somewhat annoyed at the fact that I hadn’t had any coursework to do as of yet. It turns out that I may have been a bit over enthusiastic. I emailed my tutor team to discuss my concerns and I got an email back stating that there is coursework and I should’ve started it 2 sections ago. I did what any student would’ve done. Panicked, drank a bit, panicked some more, drank a bit more and then slept and thought this is a problem for future Nathan.

When I woke up, slightly dazed and confused about the situation I was in, I decided to have a look at the project to see what I needed to do and it turns out it was exactly what I was doing anyway, but it goes into more depth. I have to look at titles, genres, platforms, age classification, the pitch, key features, gameplay description, quantifiable features, story, setting, progression, mechanics, visual styles, presentation, audio, key differentiators, time scales and budgets.

It is a lot to work on, but I would be doing this if I was working in the industry anyway. I’ve just got to keep plugging away and get everything down on paper. It has to be 10-15 pages long too. Not quite dissertation or PhD thesis length, but certainly one of the largest pieces of work I’ve done for a long time.

It’s ok though. I have a strong passion for gaming as you may well know, so no doubt I will get stuck into to it right away. I have an idea to work with as I have told you in the last article, however whenever I am bored at work (which is a lot) I start thinking of new ideas. Last week I had a particularly stressful day at work, but on my way home I came up with a new idea for a game, which now puts me into a bit of a dilemma. I was originally going to reveal certain aspects and ideas of my first game in each article however seeing as I have to write a project on a game, I will have to put it to a vote. So here are my 2 ideas:

1. A survival horror game called “It begins”. You play a security guard in a large multi-national corporation that specialises in medicine, organ donation and stem-cell research. Your shift starts as normal, however after a blackout, nearly everyone in the building is dead. It turns out a violent poltergeist is loose and is causing havoc and carnage around the building. Your aim is to stay alive and investigate the cause. This can be played on Playstation and Xbox, however it will optimised for Kinect and Oculus Rift for a truly terrifying experience.

2. An untitled, action/adventure sandbox game, where you play a computer hacker. Before I carry on, no this isn’t a Watchdogs clone. You play a hacker who works for the government, but after finding out some ultra-high classified information, you are disposed of. However, you survive and do what you can to take revenge and expose the secrets of the government. Sounds generic, but the idea is that the hacker has the ability to insert himself into the virtual world and run around at will, running from anti-virus, climbing firewalls, disguising himself as viruses, trojans, worms etc. This will be on all platforms.

I know it’s not a lot to go on at the moment, but I am struggling to think which one to do. I was thinking the first one, however the more I think about it, I think the second one could be quite spectacular. Please let me know your thoughts*, I would greatly appreciate any feedback on this topic.

Nath

 

 

*This week’s Not-So-Weekly Argument (which you can find here) will be the chance to vote for which of the two you think is the best game concept. Please help Nath out by voting, but please feel free to comment below with any feedback for him too!

The Lost Lighthouse: The Weekly Rapture 23 – The Case of ‘The Mountain’

Welcome back to The Weekly Rapture, brought to you by The Lost Lighthouse.

This week we had a special guest in the form of Kii Smith, our games contributor and resident Nintendian. We all chat about Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, casting news from the Agent Carter series and Tarantino having entertaining hissy fits, while Adam realises he may be deeply attracted to Jon Hamm, Kii hasn’t had a day off since London was invented, and for once Gary is the one who tries to start a feud with a celebrity, only this time it is a celebrated children’s author

Gary in 60 seconds this week was the Sci-Fi classic ‘Wing Commander’, starring Freddie Prince Jr.

The main talking point this week was the EGX video games expo that took place in London last weekend, that Adam and Kii were lucky enough to get press passes to attend on the Friday and had the chance to check out a load of upcoming games. They chat about their experience of the expo and their favourite games  they tried out.

If you have any thoughts. questions or opinions anything this week you can as always get in touch through Facebook or on Twitter @lost_lighthouse, email us at thelostlighthouse@live.co.uk or sound off in the ‘leave a reply’ box at the bottom of the podcast page on the website.


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