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March 19th, 2012

Detailed robots and future QA

I've received quite a lot questions about TAGAPs 2 and 3, so next time we'll be having a Q&A blog post. If you have any questions regarding anything Penguin DT or TAGAP, or anything remotely related, feel free to drop the questions via our feedback form. Feel free to ask anything, except 'when does TAGAP 3 come out', naturally. 'When it's done' has such a bad rep as a release date slogan and we would prefer not to say it out loud.

By the way, I might be doing blog posts a bit more frequently in near future; I have a new office gig and since lunch brakes count as 'free time', my brain is compelled to use those productively in TAGAP land. Since I can't Photoshop or program in C here, it's blogs and game docs.

However this time we're still on our regular programming;

What am I working on right now?

I'm currently creating artwork for a new enemy of a robotic kind. He is, kind-of, an old acquaintance from TAGAPs past. I stress kind-of, as you see, the drastic change of both the setting and the opposing force have freed my hands in terms of continuity. As the result, even the returning enemies like this one have evolved into something so different you're likely not going to go 'oh, this is updated Enemy X, then'. Sorry if I'm being a bit vague, I don't want to spoil this one for you.

This enemy has also been the proof about the cost of HD era. When the current generation was still 'the next generation' and the game prices went up, most gamers cried out loud, cursing the publishers and calling their comments about HD development costs total bull. You know what? It isn't bull – twice the resolution means twice the workload for visual artists and animation riggers.

In order to achieve crisp sprite graphics in 1080p and beyond, we use 2-to-6 times larger sprites in TAGAP 3, depending on the object in question – background objects can be 2x, most characters are 4x while players and bosses are 6x. This means more than twice the detail and more than twice the work. An easy example; A bolt in an armour of a robot. In TAGAP 2, that was one 3x3 sized circle with a colour and shading – but now it's two textured and individually shaded circles, one representing the front face, while the other is whatever we can see of the bolt edge. With one bolt it isn't a big difference, but it all stacks up.

Still, I'm not complaining. After one full day of work I might have completed only the crotch area of the robot, but damn, the end results justify the ride. And besides, now I don't have to create a separate hi-res composite if I ever need a close-up of this beast during some cut-scene. Or a wallpaper.

On gaming front

Since the previous post, it has been Nordic Weeks for me on gaming front, starting with Alan Wake's American Nightmare (from Remedy of Finland), continuing with the 2012 re-imagining of Syndicate (from Starbreeze of Sweden) and now I'm process of freeroaming in Just Cause 2 (from Avalanche, also of Sweden).

The heaviest hitter for me personally was, surprisingly enough, Syndicate. Not surprisingly because I had low hopes for it – on the very contrary, I'm a great admirer of Starbreeze and their games – but because it turned out to be awesome in a way very different than I expected. I'm one of the few who wasn't outraged about the shift to FPS-land, as I always saw the original as an action game with plenty of tactical options and not as a real-time-strategy, as some seem to call it. For me it was just a change of perspective, not change of genres – just goes to show subjective the concept of a genre can be.

Anyway, my initial reaction was of slight disappointment, as for me the old Syndicate was all about wild Cyberpunk gadgets and weapons. In the new Syndicate the imaginative guns are mostly missing and the gadgets have been replaced by hacking apps. But then the gameplay gets into a full swing and the true killer-app of the game becomes obvious; Adrenaline.

You see, every app you have – from slow-mo DART-vision to mindhacks – uses adrenaline. How do you get adrenaline? Like in real life, doing exciting and epic stuff, and doing it well. This turns the game into something truly rewarding and on higher difficulty settings, quite hardcore; If you perform well and use all tools provided, you'll be able to rank up more adrenaline and thus are able perform even better! In that regard it's a bit like TAGAP, where kill-combos give you with pills, encouraging offensive approach and rewarding success with ability do more combos. This all is wrapped at the end of each level with NASQAD style presentation tracking your performance compared to the previous playthroughs.

Also, the cyberpunk world painted in Syndicate is one of the most well written backdrops in recent memory and I'd really hate to see it all go to trash-bin after just one title. The story on display is not bad, it's very well written and acted in fact, but there's room for so much more. I want to see a sequel, either a direct one or a side-story, I really don't mind which.

All in all, give it a spin if you get a change; You might be surprised how hard-hitting the action can get on an adrenaline high. Syndicate might be a FPS now, but it has a gameplay style of its own.

Doctor Who quick update

Short update on the Doctor front. BBC and 2|Entertain finally released Face of Evil, the debut story of perhaps my favourite classic DW companion, Leela of the Savateem. Watching her introduction story last felt downright bizarre and I feel delaying the release of the story to this late in the release schedule was a huge mistake. Still, now every puzzle piece has fallen into place and I feel urged to rewatch all Leela's stories with the full grasp of what she is all about.

And why is Leela my favourite, despite the fact I had no idea who she was when I first saw her? You see, I started watching classic DW in chronological order on DVD as soon as I had finished my Series 4 of the 'New Who', so by the time I reached Leela's episodes, I had met six Doctors and had gotten used to how this fantastical and crazy world of Time Lords and Daleks worked. Some of the things had gotten, well, almost routine. Then Leela enters the TARDIS and for her everything from a communicator to a digital display is as fantastical as the trans-dimensional, time-traveling police box with an eccentric cosmic hobo at the helm. And that enthusiastic wonder of things bleeds through to the viewer, thanks to brilliant performance of Louise Jameson.

Anyhow, time to waddle off. But remember, drop us some questions if you have any – and I'll be answering them to you, as usual, as well as featuring them in the next blog post.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin