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June 16th, 2014

Space church and E3 2014

What am I doing right now?

I just recently finished another level and in the between I worked on more cinematics. These were nothing grand or major, just those small vignettes that keep the story moving between the levels, but it did mean I had to finally wrap up one important element; Pablo's new side-kick / companion. She's been ready, sprite-wise, for quite a while, but this was the first time I actually built her for the game. Also, I had to design her base of operations, something that can be seen quite often throughout the cinematics, so even though the scene itself wasn't major, getting it done shaped a big chunk of the game.

Next up; A brand new level, again something different from the previous ones; Church for hippie space penguins. This one is tough, mainly on the asset creation front. You remember the arc- and roundel centric, yet functional design language you've seen so far? The church is sort of elaborately decorated version of it all – and by decorated I mean to the excess.

The idea is to make the whole thing look like a hand-crafted work of art and in order to achieve it, I have to hand-craft almost every single room separately. It's exhaustingly time-consuming and I've so far only managed to finish the front door. Seriously, just the door – but it's one damn nice looking door, mind you! Next up – stained glass windows.

If this level turns out how I've envisioned it and it doesn't become the biggest memory hog ever due to the multitude of custom assets, it might as well become my 'CGI masterpiece'. Flippers crossed!

Oh, and an update on the Turret Dropper I mentioned earlier; It works! It's pretty wild and I had to add custom routines to the engine just to get it to work as intended, but it's one fun mechanical beast to encounter.

Gaming front

Every time I complete one game in my last-gen backlog, somehow two new have popped to the cue from the bargain bins! I've so far gone through;

  • Portal 2
  • Fuse
  • Splinter Cell: Double Agent
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction
  • Killer is Dead
  • LEGO Batman 2 (replay)

I've also dabbled into Splatterhouse and Devil May Cry (the first one). And the new games in the cue; Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2.

First things first; Portal 2 was easily the best of the bunch. Yes, I'm this late to the party and I honestly have no idea why. The first game is among my all-time favourites and it was the sole reason I purchased The Orange Box to begin with, so it definitely wasn't due to lack of interest. There's little to write about the game that hasn't been said already, but I have to mention the fact that how unbelievably creepy the atmosphere is in this game. While the first game was very light-hearted with some sinister undertones, the sequel is perhaps the most haunting and nightmare inducing thing since Silent Hill 2. Seriously; I found the immortal, insane AIs explaining the horrible things they are planning to inflict upon you ten times more disturbing than anything Resident Evils of the world could come up with.

That said, Portal 2 isn't without its funny bits, the game's second biggest surprise made sure of that; J.K Simmons as Cave Johnson! Not only is Mr. Simmons one of those actors whose presence brightens up the whole production, no matter how big his role is, but Cave Johnson is one darn fun character. Also, the way the whole sequence is written is nothing short of genius and in terms of atmosphere is possibly the closest Portal 2 ever comes to the feel-good vibe of the first game. Which, of course, only acts as a contrast for more creepy stuff to follow, which in itself is, too, genius. In other words; Portal 2 is great. If you for some reason haven't played it, do so now.

Next up? I just chilled out by revisiting Lego Batman 2, which was sort of a comfortable stop-cap before I go way, WAY out of my comfort zone and start the three-game journey that is Final Fantasy XIII. It's been so long since the last time I played a J-RPG and I'm very curious to see how things have evolved in my absence. I just got started, so I can't really say much at this point, but so far it's been a refreshing change of pace.

E3 2014

I was first going to post this blog a week ago, but I realized that E3 was around the corner and we'd better feature that as well. For me, personally, E3 had one single goal it needed to achieve; It needed finally make the 'next gen' look like it's worth a damn. Did it achieve it? Well... yes and no. Yes, because;

Seriously; Everyone knows of my id Software cycle – every new game from them prompting a major gaming system upgrade – and DOOM is no exception. But apart from DOOM, the answer sadly is no, I'm not sold on the idea of upgrading just yet. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind playing Arkham Knight, but it looking exactly like Arkham City, now with more Batmobile, doesn't exactly scream 'worth spending 1000 EUR for'. Right now I have no hurry, I can wait 'till DOOM arrives.

Anything else that peaked my intrigue? Well, yes;

  • Dead Island 2 produced by the folks behind Spec Ops: The Line sounds fantastic and the début trailer didn't disappoint

  • LEGO Batman 3 seems fun, too, though it's no longer 'Batman' but full-on Justice League... in space

  • FarCry 4, because who needs tanks in an FPS when you can ride elephants!

  • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U; While I'm not a big Smash Bros. fan, seeing Mario, Sonic, Megaman and Pac-Man in the same game sure brought a smile on this grumpy old gamer's face!

  • Alien: Isolation is getting so much positive press I'm starting to warm to it, but I'm still so butt-hurt by Colonial Marines that I refuse to jump on board the hype train

So, to sum up; In the wake of this years' E3 I'm slightly more optimistic about the future of videogames. And hey, there was DOOM – that means, as a show, this E3 was automatically 1000 times better!

I guess that wraps things up for now. Stay tuned next month as the TAGAP Day, July 31st approaches – we have some TAGAP 3 media incoming! I'm not sure will there be a blog update prior to that. I hope so, but with schedules like mine you never know;

TAGAP3 >= Doctor Who > dayjob > games > blogs > life

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin