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December 2nd, 2010

Status update, December 2010

Back at work (the paid one) and time to spend another lunch break on a status update.

The ending cinematic

Yes, the single player campaign is more or less complete, only the ending cinematic to go. This is a lengthy and complex one, in fact to the point I've had to program few new engine features just because of it. I won't say what and how I'm going to use them – this is the ending, after all, and don't want to spoil it.

I can say, however, that there will be explosions.

Finale

Just past weekend I demo'ed the endgame for Petja for the first time. Don't get me wrong, we share assets all the time, but Petja usually wants to see the essential sequences (i.e. like boss fights) more or less finished. Judging by his reactions, I managed to nail it. To quote Petja; "Okay, you've topped yourself this time".

Yes, I know, I'm an annoying tease :)

The co-op campaign

Once I've finished with the closing cinematic, it's time to start working on the the co-op campaign. And to clarify our earlier Tweet; We don't have to start from scratch with the co-op, the technology is there already, it's just untested. Once we have the levels to test drive, we'll see if it works as it is or does it need tweaking.

And no, it won't take three years to create the co-op campaign; The levels will be essentially the same, they just need to be tweaked for two players both in terms of difficulty and scripting. I honestly don't know how long this will take as this is our first multiplayer venture. Everything might work right out of the gate – or it could need extensive balancing. It could be over in a week or two, it could take a couple of months, only time will tell. I'll keep you up to date on that.

Forums

It's truly sad that the forums went down just when we got them renewed and renovated, but that's the Murphy's Law in action right there. So, basically a lighting storm demolished the servers and the good folks keeping them up were out of the country at the time of the incident. Within the next couple of weeks we'll know if we're forced to start the forums from scratch or if the old board can be restored.

So patience – and holding thumbs up probably won't hurt. On a second thought, it will hurt on the long term, so you probably shouldn't.

Gaming front

On gaming front I've been re-kindling my past passion for PC gaming. No, I haven't bought a new PC, but since Petja did very much so he now has two gaming-capable rigs for us to co-op on. Mostly we've been shooting some aliens in Alien Swarm and chainsawing Tyranids in co-op campaign of Warhammer 40 000: Daw of War II, with occasional trips to zombie-blasting in Left 4 Dead 2. Especially Dawn of War II is a breath of fresh air to my console-oriented game diet, it's been ages since the last time I tipped my toes into tactical and/or strategy games.

When it comes to solo player, the main attractions have been Twisted Pixel's Comic Jumper and Mercury Steam's Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, both games I wholeheartedly recommend. The first of the two, Comic Jumper, is perhaps the funniest game I've played since the golden days of LucasArts. The gameplay is fantastic as well, think minimalist cousin of TAGAP mixed in with beat'em up and occasional shooting ranges.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is an absolute blast. Some might find the slow start an issue – the first chapter essentially a multi-level tutorial with no story progression – but other than that it's fully enjoyable. And without spoiling things, it has an ending that truly dropped my jaw to the floor – the very first in history of videogames, which is saying something. I want my sequel, Konami and Mercury Steam; Announce it ASAP!

Next game in line; Naughty Bear. Psychotic, homicidal plush toys FTW!

Doctor Who

Finally Doctor Who Complete Series Five (or 31, or 11/1, depending on how you count 'em) was released on DVD and BluRay. Simply put; The show continues strong and still keeps amazing me with it's clever plots and awesome scenarios. Matt Smith is brilliant as the Doctor and has made to the role his so smoothly you can't help but to appreciate the man. Smart, a bit quirky and with frenetic pace, the latest incarnation of the series carries the signature marks of Steven Moffatt (Jekyll, Sherlock).

It's also worth noting that if you haven't jumped on the Doctor Who bandwagon yet (what's wrong with you?!), Series 5 could actually work as a starting point. It might make an excellent launch platform for future Whovians, the only blemish being Victory of the Daleks. No, the episode itself isn't bad at all, but it plays around with the idea of Daleks not acting like Daleks, which means it's absolute nonsense for anyone who doesn't know what the heck a Dalek is.

For starter Whovians I recommend picking up Series 5 and one of the three introductionary Dalek masterpieces (The Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks or Dalek). Watch the two first episodes of Series 5 followed by an older Dalek story – and then resume the adventures of the Doctor Eleven. You won't be disappointed.

In the Big Finish audio plays I'm now half way through the second major story arc of the 8th Doctor and it's an unusual one. The story arc itself is very linear, but the stories are trippy and downright experimental at points. Especially Scherzo and The Natural History of Fear play with the natural advantages and limitations of audio-only storytelling in a way that would make them impossible to work on screen. If that doesn't sound appealing, don't be scared away; This 'divergent universe' story arc is a relatively short period in the audio saga of the 8th Doctor and the series will ultimately return to more classic style of both stories and storytelling.

Also worth mentioning is Jubilee, a Sixth Doctor story by Robert Shearman. It's was an eye-opener in terms of how much Big Finish stories have influenced the 'new series'; The aforementioned story Dalek is essentially a more down-to-Earth re-telling of Jubilee, to the point certain scenes have identical dialogue. I truly understand why Russell T. Davies wanted Shearman to base the first Dalek story of the new series on this particular gem, it's near-perfect deconstruction of what a Dalek is.

Oh, the lunch break is over and it's time to go back to work; The boss is staring at me disapprovingly.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin