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System Shock 2 Commentary

This is actually pretty old, but I realized that I never made a post about it. Adam Sessler serves as host for OtherSide Entertainment and guests including Ken Levine while they play and discuss System Shock 2. There is a lot of great anecdotes around the design and development of the game, but unfortunately the audio quality is all over the place. Someone really should create a KickStarter to replace Adam’s dollar store microphone. At least Paul Neurath and Ken Levine sound good.



Before There Was ‘Fortnite,’ There Was ‘Starsiege: Tribes’

Starsiege: Tribes quietly turned 20 years old back in November. It seems a lot of people don’t really remember the game or the major impact it had on multiplayer shooter designs, but Ben Lindbergh over at The Ringer wrote an excellent article about it. It is all part of their series highlighting some legendary games from 1998 including Half-Life, Metal Gear Solid, and Ocarina of Time. They are calling 1998 the “best year ever for video games”, and I maybe have to agree with them. The only other year that comes close in terms of big influential releases in my opinion is 2004. Anyway, the article is a great look back on the game and its influence. From the article:

At E3 in Atlanta in the spring of 1998, a newly announced game named Starsiege: Tribes took aim at the whole history of first-person shooters, a burgeoning genre whose hallmarks had crystallized quickly.

In front of a large convention crowd, lead designer Scott Youngblood led a live demo that introduced the PC title to the public. “It started off running around an interior that looked just as good as Quake,” he recalls. “And then [I] go out to the exterior and they see this huge terrain, and then [I] just jump off and then jet-pack to the ground. Like, ‘Holy crap.’ They’ve never seen anything like that.”

“It blew people’s minds,” remembers lead software engineer Mark Frohnmayer. “He was running around like, ‘Oh, yeah, first-person shooter,’ and then all of a sudden rounds the corner and there is this huge terrain in the distance and he runs out there with a jet pack on. Like, ‘What the fuck.’”

In the era of Destiny, Battlefield, Far Cry, and Fortnite, it’s difficult to grasp how limitless Starsiege: Tribes would have looked to the E3 audience only a year after Quake — Id Software’s gloomy, Gothic, muddy-looking successor to Doom — became widely available on Windows. “Now it would be totally normal,” Frohnmayer says. “But back then it was the first time that you really had a high-fidelity interior environment and a high-fidelity terrain environment, and they blended seamlessly.” In a preview posted after E3, Gamespot raved that Tribes “renders scenes with sharp backdrops for miles” and, with appropriate awe, reported, “Instead of waiting … to load a massive outdoor map, the game just moves along without pause.”

Ask developers and players alike to reminisce about Starsiege: Tribes, which turned 20 on November 30, and those three words — “the first time” — form a frequent refrain. Much of Starsiege: Tribes seemed so far in advance of its own time that two decades later, it’s still similar in concept to contemporary titles.

Tribes didn’t just anticipate later trends. It also played an important part in popularizing them. By earning critical kudos, cultivating an active online community that persists today, and demonstrating that the previously undone was doable, Tribes influenced future developers even without being a massive seller. Before such features were standard fare for first-person shooters, it boasted a sophisticated character class system; an emphasis on teamwork, coordination, and team objectives rather than gleeful fragging alone; player-controlled single-person and team-oriented vehicles; a major publisher green-lighting a multiplayer-only release; and ingenious network code that supported an unprecedented number of players amid massive indoor-outdoor environments, in an era when most players were still stuck with dial-up connections. And, maybe most memorably, it offered a degree of verticality and freedom of movement that’s rarely been replicated.

The Ringer

You can read the full article here

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The Resident Evil 2 “1-Shot Demo” was released the other day, and I finally had some time to sit down and check it out. Its called the “1-Shot Demo” because you only get to play it for 30 minutes, which is enough time to finish it as long as you don’t sight see too much. I managed to finish the demo in a little over 20 minutes, and I have to say I really like what they have done. I played Resident Evil 2 multiple times through back in the day, and I was worried that there would not be a lot of new stuff to see here besides a fresh coat of paint. Based on what I was able to see, the police station was greatly expanded on, and I kept running into new puzzles and gameplay mechanics. If the whole game has been expanded on in this way then I think it is going to turn out to be pretty awesome. The link to download the demo is below, and you can check out some of the screenshots I took as well. If after playing the demo you want to pre-purchase the game, Green Man Gaming is currently selling it for up to 26% off.

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PlanetSide Arena Announced

PlanetSide Arena was announced today. The game will feature a number of multiplayer modes, including a 250 player vs. 250 player mode, a Battle Royale mode (solos and teams of 3), Search and Destroy, Deathmatch, Global Conquest, and more. I really do enjoy the core infantry combat in Planetside 2, and I could see that working well in a more round based setting. It looks like they are reworking the class system (Assault, Engineer, Combat Medic) and are adding new passive and active abilities to those classes. Oh, and everyone gets a jetpack!

A round based conquest mode similar to Battlefield could be fun, especially at the scale that Planetside is known for. I am a bit more skeptical about how well a Battle Royale mode would play. I also can’t help but wonder, who asked for this? People play Planetside 2 because its so different from any other multiplayer FPS. If people wanted a different experience they could go elsewhere to many other games to get it. Battlefield V just launched, and we all know there are dozens of Battle Royale games to choose from now: PUBG, Fortnite, Call of Duty, Ring of Elysium, Islands of Nyne, Daybreak’s own H1Z1 and even the upcoming Battlefield V battle royale game mode. They are really going to have to do something unique to get people to pay attention to this, and I am not sure just having everything on a larger scale is enough. I have a feeling this game will play just fine but struggle to find an audience.