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June 29th, 2012

Late June 2012 update

Okay, this update was meant to be the 'music that inspired TAGAP' thingie I talked about few blog posts back, but as it turns out, Petja, the Penguin DT resident composer is out of the country on a holiday right now, so I couldn't get his last touch input on it. So, it'll be the next update. I promise.

What am I working on right now?

Right now my work is split between mad-dashing to complete anti-whitebox patches for the two first TAGAPs and creating a new enemy for TAGAP 3. I'm not going too deep into the anti-whitebox side of things, as I already spent one blog-full on that. As soon as I get the TAGAP 2 version out, I'll post on our message boards for users to test prior to full, public release.

The new TAGAP 3 enemy, on the other hand, is an interesting one. Again, no spoilers, but I think it could be one of the most fun bigger tier enemies in all TAGAPs to date. It's really a combination of how the enemy looks and how it behaves. This sucker has the most complex attack patterns I've done so far, with multiple movement types and two huge guns it alternates between. In terms of visuals this one is pretty unique as well. Remember when I mentioned in an earlier post that I've been working on Bezier curves? Well the design for this enemy pushed me to it.

At the moment I have the artwork done and the core elements animated, now it's just the matter of piecing everything together into an actual in-game character. Thumbs up and flippers crossed – if successful, this could turn out to be one of my favourite TAGAP enemies!

Kickstarter

Recently, I've been going totally bananas when it comes to backing stuff on Kickstarter. It really comes down to supporting the creative people behind the various projects directly, without intermediaries and corporate bullying. As an artist and a semi-pro creative developer it all seems like an utopia manifested on the Interwebs and I'm doing all I can to support it to my dying breath.

Instead of flooding our Twitter with the stuff like a advert automaton, I decided to compile our Kickstarter adventures into one big post. So, here's a quick rundown of projects we've backed so far;

  • Double Fine Adventure – Needs no introduction. The project that brought me and thousands of others to Kickstarter. Go, Team Schafer, go!

  • Wasteland 2 – Sequel to the penultimate post-apocalyptic RPG that inspired Fallout – found in the dictionary next to the word 'win' – and possibly 'blood sausage'.

  • Hangboy: World War Too – An art book project, World War Too takes the artist's own super-cutesy Hanboy characters and populates the entirety of World War II with them. The result is the most insanely awesome combo of ultraviolence, cute and tongue-in-cheek seen outside of TAGAP. Inspirationally quirky stuff, this is.

  • Republique – This is possibly the most interesting take on video game story telling I've seen in ages, and it's done in immersive, logical manner. And it's a stealth game with David Hayter in it, so it's automatically awesome.

  • Turrican Soundtrack Anthology – If someone says 'videogame music', many immediately think 'Super Mario'. For me, however, it evokes the tones of Turrican series soundtracks composed by the grand Chris Hülsbeck. And when the maestro wanted to create 20th anniversary multi-disc anthology featuring all the music from the entire franchise – plus orchestral arrangements – I sure as hell said 'heck yes!' with my wallet.

  • Carmageddon: ReinCarnation – Our biggest pledge on Kickstarter to date is for this bad boy. Carmageddon was the only racing franchise I've ever really loved, possibly because it's the only one in which crashing head-first into something and spinning off the road into pile of frightened pedestrians wasn't game-over-inducer, but actually preferable. Also, the idea of getting me to play a racing game in multiplayer brought Petja in to invest as well.

  • Phil Tippett's Mad God – Stop-motion short film from the special effects wizard Phil Tippett, Mad God was something that started 20-odd years ago as his side project, but was never completed. After being unearthed by Mr. Tippett's pupils, the project was resurrected via Kickstarter. Experimental animated films may be dime in the dozen, but very few are from the mind of someone with Mr. Tippett's resumé.

And here are the ones I'm about to back and are still in need of your support. Note that I usually throw my money at the project at the end of the backing period. I'm not doing it for sake of only supporting projects that will succeed with certainty, but so I can plan life accordingly; Closer to the closing date I pledge, more money I can likely invest without worries of the stuff running out for life essentials – like food, coffee, meds or TAGAP 3. I'd rather do it this way than be forced to downgrade my pledges to the project runner's disappointment.

  • Antarctica: A Year on Ice – A documentary by Anthony Powell focuses on people living in Antarctica. Not the life scientist nor explorers, mind you, but the crew running the facilities. Footage shot by Mr. Powell has already been used in documentaries like Frozen Planet, so you're in for a really breathtaking Antarctic views. Also, there are penguins. Lots of penguins.

  • Space Command – A tribute to classic sci-fi serials from the 1930s-1950s, reminagined with modern knowhow. The people behind it are professionals who have worked on many things sci-fi, including the modern Galactica and several iterations of Star Trek. Let them theremins sing!

On gaming front

As usual, I spend at minimum an hour a day playing games and this month it's been both backlog stuff and brand new releases. The titles include Max Payne 3, Diablo III, Binary Domain and Dark Void. Next up, I guess, are Conan, Rayman Origins (finally!) and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.

Diablo III was something I wasn't going to get into, as while I liked the first two, I'm not into online RPGs of any sort. And let's face it; Playing Diablo III in single player is about as sensible as playing Left 4 Dead with just bots. Anyway, Petja talked me around and we've had several loot-happy sessions during the past few weeks. While I despise all kinds of DRM that isn't Steam, I really don't mind Battle.net of Diablo III. I see it more as a design choice than DRM; Thanks to being connected to the service at all times, it has the most effortless, snappy and instantaneous game joining I've ever seen in an online game. Like Petja put it, sitting next to me; 'It's almost like, you know, I was sitting next to you'.

However, Diablo III really is a living example of why we haven't done multiplayer in TAGAP and it proves we really shouldn't dabble in it any time soon. If a company with Blizzard's resources, experience and pedigree can't pull it off without ending up as the laughing stock of the Internet, how on Earth our two-man semi-pro team could pull it off?

From games released earlier this year, I think Binary Domain is definitely worth mentioning. As a game, it's a cover-based third person shooter with a squad. It's nothing new, but it's well done. What really makes the game remarkable, however, is the writing. Not so much the main plot itself, mind you, but the characters; There's some real effort put into making every person on your squad – as well as the key NPCs – feel like real people (or real artificial people). This is accentuated with the squad consequence system, which measures the trust of the squadmates depending on actions or non-actions of the player.

It works really well; You'll end up caring about the characters and as the result, the whole journey feels more meaningful than the generic plot outline would leave you to believe.

And that's about it for now. Yes, there's no Doctor Who update this time around – I've had so little time I've only managed to listen to two Big Finish audios. Hopefully next time I've had the change to catch up.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin