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June 23rd, 2016

Progress, E3 and Mirror's Edge

What am I working on right now?

I've been doing quite a variety of things for TAGAP between this and the previous post; I created a new cut-scene, assembled a new boss arena, mixed a bunch of new sound effects and worked more on what I've been referring to as 'Pedro's map'.

The cut-scene I mentioned was an introduction for a late-in-game miniboss fight, so I'm not go into too many details in order to avoid spoilers. I can say, however, that it required me to do some special rewiring on TAGAP engine thanks to the fancy camera work required. That's another remnant from TAGAP2 days completely redone. I'm starting to get legitimately curious how much of the old engine has now been totally scrapped? Oh well...

The boss arena I've been working on has been quite a task as well. It's the closing level of the cathedral section, meaning it needed one more stained glass wall. Crafting these is insanely time-consuming but oh-so-rewarding. These are seriously some of my favourite segments from the art-design perspective.

And one final thing has kept me from finishing the Pedro map; I started converting certain TAGAP2 assets for use in TAGAP3. Most of this is continuity stuff, so we can show Pablo and Pedro on Earth in the opening scenes. Remember, I can't recycle ANYTHING from the first two TAGAPs as-is; Not only has the art style changed slightly, but TAGAP3 is full-HD. So, I spent a week re-creating assets I thought I had left behind by this point. There's still quite a bit of these to re-create, but it was a good start.

But now it's back to Pedro's map. Thanks to new AI routines and clever scripting tricks, Pedro functions great – now it's just a matter of enemy placement and balancing.

E3 2016

When you have been a hard-core game enthusiast from the 90s, it is inevitable that Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, becomes something you have to keep a keen eye on. It really doesn't matter how you view the show or the big game publishers participating in it; It's the biggest concentration of major game announcements on this planet.

What I feared the most from this year was that it would be all about upgraded consoles and VR toy software, with only little real games. Luckily, this wasn't the case; It was mostly about great games as far as the eye can see. Here's our Top 5 Newly Announced Games ones that really caught our attention;

  • Resident Evil VII: Biohazard (Capcom)

    The biggest win and positive shocker to me was Resident Evil VII: Biohazard (or 'Biohazard 7: Resident Evil' in Japan). While I really liked Resident Evil 6 as an intense co-op shooter, it was about as far removed from horror you can get with that monster gallery. RE7 seems to slingshot back to horror territory, relying on building tension in a first-person perspective with a presentation more similar to Amnesia or Outlast. If the PS+ demo is anything to go by, we will in for one truly creepy, atmospheric and pulse-pounding ride.

  • Agents of MAYHEM (Volition / Deep Silver)

    This one is a sort of a spin-off to Saints Row universe that manages to combine most of my sandbox gameplay favourites. Think "Saints Row meets Crackdown with a dose of Syndicate Wars, all done with the personality of Battleborn". Think properly sci-fi open-world game where you control three agents – chosen from the large pool of colourful personalities – swapping between the chosen three on-the-fly for skill synergy. It looks like a blast and from all the action games on display, this took the tightest hold on my attention.

  • Lego Dimensions: Year Two (Traveller's Tales / WB Games)

    I'm sure you know my love for the original Dimensions by this point. If you don't, know that it was my GOTY pick for 2015. And now it returns with a bang, with plenty of new characters, levels and even full campaigns. But all that is irrelevant next to one, special thing; LEGO Knight Rider. Mind. Blown.

  • Prey (Arkane / Bethesda)

    The most curious reveal of the show was definitely the complete relaunch of the Prey franchise. Truth be told, part of me is sad that the original game – perhaps to most underrated game ever made – is now scratched from history. At the same time, the reveal trailer for the reboot is gorgeous, smart, intriguing and exciting. The biggest draw of it all is obviously that Dishonored-studio Arkane is working on an intelligent sci-fi horror FPS – an idea that is so much win it hurts. It might not be Prey 2 of Human Head Studios I was keenly looking forward to, but gosh-darnit this reboot has me excited.

  • Quake Champions (id Software / Bethesda)

    One game that was both the most epic announcement ever and the saddest thing I could think of. Most epic, because it's freakin' Quake! From id Software! But at the same time it's PC exclusive online title and no way in hell can my PC run that smoothly without looking like Quake III. But hey, if you can play it, it's hurray for you!

Extra shout outs to interesting games we knew were coming but we saw more of, including Death Stranding, Bloodstained and Horizon: Zero Dawn. We got to see the single player existing in For Honor, which looks like tons of fun. Zelda looks always good, though I don't have a Nintendo to play it on. And finally I'm beyond happy that STRAFE keeps racking up those 'Game of the Show' awards.

Playlist

Now that my backlog is mostly cleared, the old Backlog adventures spot is now simply Playlist; A chance to highlight cool games both old and new that I've been playing. As always, I believe that in order to make games, you need to play them, preferably with a broad scope when it comes to genres, so each day I dedicate at least an hour to actually playing games. The rest of the free time? There is no such thing, it all belongs to TAGAP!

After DOOM, Battleborn and even more DOOM, I took a run through the city of Glass in DICE's Mirror's Edge Catalyst. The original Mirror's Edge was something truly special and despite its flaws, it has stuck with me all these years. Obviously the new 'reboot' was something I absolutely had to check out.

And I really liked it. This full reboot makes the game an open world you navigate solely via parkour and unlocking gadgets – grappling hooks, EMPs, that sort of thing. This automatically emphasises the best part of the first game; Freeform movement where you can choose your own way to traverse the environment. You can either find your own routes or use the 'runner vision', which highlights the optimal path in an organic manner. Whatever you choose, running is a pure delight and pulling off continuous string of gravity-defying stunts is exhilarating.

I only have one real criticisms towards the game; The story, which is... there. While I did like most of the characters and the world is really interesting, the narrative feels like a Young Adult Novel #824. I know very well that I'm the last person on Earth to criticize others on script writing, but I really didn't care for the story. I'd go as far as to say I preferred the narrative of the original game, no matter how non-existent it was. Fortunately the story isn't really all that important to the experience.

So yeah; If you like different kind of first-person games, virtual parkour or interesting dystopias, Mirror's Edge Catalyst has something for you. The fact it has the most striking visual designs I've seen in a while accompanied by a great, dynamic soundtrack doesn't hurt matters. The narrative might be a let-down, but luckily here it's not the story but the way you run through it that matters.

Thanks to DICE for brining Faith and Mirror's Edge back – now please don't linger this long before you start working on the sequel, okay?

Next up

On TAGAP3 front, it's time to wrap up the Pedro level. One thing led to another and I ended up taking quite a detour from this one, but now I need to return to it.

On the games arena, it's finally time to cause robot carnage in Hard Reset Redux. I played a big chunk of it on Petja's PC back in the day and I loved it – now it's time to experience the whole ride with the improvements.

Also;

TAGAP Day '16

On the closing note, TAGAP Day '16 is approaching fast and we've started planning what kind of goodies we shall unleash this year. While TAGAP 3 won't be released on that day, you can look forward to some special goodies – both in form of media and possibly an announcement. Stay tuned for TAGAP Day '16 on July 31st!

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin