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November 11th, 2016

Progress and raiding tombs

What am I working on right now?

I'm wrapping up loose ends with the first third of the game's finale. Without spoilers, this consists of cleaning up test triggers, adding in missing sound effects, scripting map waypoints and setting up the automap in general.

For the next job, I haven't decided which task I will tackle first; The cinematic that introduces this just-finished section – or the next part of the finale. What-ever I choose, it's a complex undertaking. There's a lot of complicated scripting involved in creating that cinematic sequence, whilst the finale itself moves to the final boss fight – which naturally means tons of hi-res assets needing to be produced.

I've also taken some time here and there to finish writing the missing database entries for the in-game manual. It's now all been written down and most of it has been implemented in the game. The missing ones are still lacking their artwork, but these will be filled in gradually. For example, for all the principal characters, the database uses same artwork as our character wallpapers – so as we introduce new characters here on TAGAP website, at the same time the database fills up.

How we ended up as a tagline

On Twitter, we cover mainly TAGAP and penguins, but every now and then I go 'off-topic', pointing out cool geeky things I come across. And one such things is the upcoming movie adaptation of the legendary French sci-fi comic Valérian and Laureline. The film, titled Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, is being directed by Luc Besson (of The Fifth Element fame) and it looks great – so much so that I had to voice it!

Little did I know that the film has an interesting marketing campaign, turning social media quotes into teaser trailers. So, may I present to you, 'TAGAP approved' teaser trailer for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets;

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I've been a follower of art of trailers since I was a kid. Heck, I racked quite a phone bill back in the day by downloading trailers with a dial-up modem, before the days of broadband and YouTube. So, while I know our quote is just one of the many teasers they've made this way, I find this an interesting and fascinating way to approach things. This turns typically static video clips to an interaction between the marketing and the audience, whilst at the same time increases the likelihood of shares. And all this is happening with a movie I'm really excited for, so that's a plus!

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!

The end-of-an-year triple-A game onslaught is here and I'm drowning in games... with no time to play them! Seriously, I have two new releases unplayed and still wrapped in plastic, one digital one waiting on the hard-drive – and two more coming this month I've pre-ordered. On top of all that, I've been hearing so many good things about the single player campaign of Titanfall 2 that I may have to sneak that one in, too! I need a TARDIS.

All that said, I've been spending my time mainly with Lara Croft in recently released Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the great reboot released a couple of years back. It's been out for Xbox One and PC for ages, but now with Lara Croft's 20th anniversary being upon us, PS4 gamers finally get the game and all the DLC in one pack. And yes, Lara Croft is 20 years old now, in case you missed it and wanted to feel old today.

Following the events of the reboot, young Lara sets her sights on her father's ill-fated line of archaeological study – one that cost him his whole scholar reputation. Knowing that there are mystic powers at play in our world, Lara now suspects her father wasn't crazy after all and heads to Siberia in search of the truth. And it wouldn't be an Indiana Jones inspired treasure hunt without some seriously nasty villains trying to achieve just the same.

As for gameplay, the game expands nicely on the formulas and concepts of the first one. What's more, you can play the game in two ways; Either as a linear action romp in style of Uncharted, or – if you're a completionist like me – explore the wide, semi-open world for the plethora of trophies, crypts and tombs, all with their own sets of puzzles, treasure and skills to unlock. It's not like, say, Assassin's Creed's simple treasure hunts, but proper Tomb Raiding, complete with traps and puzzles of both environmental and parkour variety.

In other words; I loved the game every bit as much as I did the first game. The story is at times at odds with my completionist playstyle – encouraging blasting forward with the plot instead of the rewarding exploration – but the improved gameplay evens the experience out and then some. It also doesn't hurt that the game looks stunning, with some of the best snow effects I've ever seen in game. I really like how the 'modern Lara' is shaping up and I can't wait to see what awaits her in the future. Let's just hope SquareEnix doesn't screw the sequel up with some asenine exclusivity deal next time. Speaking SquareEnix being asenine...

My only grief with the game is a technical one; Apparently the game uses tracking technology, sending stats over to SquareEnix servers. And if the connection between the game and the server is lost at a crucial time, even for a second, the game crashes. I don't blame the developer Crystal Dynamics for this; Similar service was forced upon Eidos Montreal and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided on minute's notice, so all my finger-pointing is towards SquareEnix Europe – and Sony for letting this crap fly.

You'd think that this ruined the game for me, but it didn't. The game was amazing. All I needed to do was to unplug my console from the Interwebs and the game ran perfectly. Also, don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure the latest patch has fixed the issue. Don't let this deter you; Lara's latest adventure deserves praise.

What's next?

I already touched upon this above, but with TAGAP 3 my next task is either an introduction cinematic for the just-finished level – or beginning to work on the final boss. Exciting! Also, I think it's time to start planning on what we will have as this year's holiday season goodies!

On gaming front, it's Toby's Friendship Raid, the just-released Toby-focused story episode for Battleborn! After that, it's a hair-tearing dilemma of choosing between the new Duke Nukem 3D episode, Dishonored 2 and the soon-to-be-released Lego Dimensions stuff.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin