Saturday, July 28, 2012

GRID, Dead Heat, H2Overdrive: Three Arcade Reviews

Ok guys, while on July 9th's exciting Dave & Buster's expedition (complete with Daytona USA footage), I also had the chance to play some other racing games.  And at this D&B's, there was a TON of racing games. Unfortunately, only Daytona USA and Club Kart (which I've never really talked's Chuck E Cheese fodder (so is Scud Race) ) in terms of Sega racers.  So I decided to play some other racing games.  Bear in mind that each of these following games cost slightly more than Daytona USA so every time I played one of these games, that meant one less run at Daytona USA so these better damn well be worth it.  These brief reviews are only based off of one play session so take 'em with a grain of salt.


This is the arcade version of Codemasters' racing "classic," GRID.  Surprisingly, this arcade version was distributed by "Sega Amusements" as you see the Sega logo plastered all over the thing.   Now, this game is off to a bad start for me because the game's dingy "realistic" hues still turn me off.  I mean, look at the box art of the game for gosh darn's sakes:

When the Xbox 360 logo is more colorful than the rest of the game then we have a problem.  The game's format is similar to Scud Race--four cars. four tracks.  IMO, that's disappointing.  In 1996, four tracks/cars would've been okay but it's 2010 (when the game was released) and based on an existing console game so cut me some slack.  Not only that, but three of the cars are American (Mustang, Viper, Challenger) and one is Japanese (Supra) so that's a great mix there (compare to the four nationalities of Scud Race cars).  There's only six cars on the track, not eight, not twelve, which is another disappointment, seeing as this isn't some PS1 racing sim people, it's 2012, remember?

Putting all that aside, I admit the gameplay itself is not that bad.  I picked the San Francisco track and some medium-level car, I forgot which one.  Indeed I picked manual transmission--the gear stick is like that of OutRun 2 & Crazy Taxi--shift up and shift down only.  It reminds me of Project Gotham Racing but with dingier hues.  Handling is a bit drifty and I had no idea how to drift so I just cornered hard on every turn and hoped for the best.  That seemed to fair well as I moved up from 6th to 3rd just before the finish line.  Only problem is you never seem to reach OutRun/Daytona speeds of 180+ mph which is kind of a bummer.  There's also a bit of car damage (including car doors flinging wide open mid-race) so that's kind of gnarly without being Burnout-ridiculous.

Overall, you could put some time into this game since it's not shoddily made but with only four cars & tracks and limited top speeds, I only see so much worth in this game.  Better off buying the console version for cheap I suppose.  LAZY REVIEW SCORE: 7.4

Dead Heat

Ah, Namco, we meet again.  I heard about Dead Heat a couple of times and I wanted to know what all the fuss is about.  It looks like a crap Fast & Furious clone with loose Ridge Racer elements plus photo booth in one slick cabinet.  And we all know that in this Facebook/Twitter/awesome Blogspot era, everyone wants to slap their mug shot all over the place so what's not to love about this game???  Well, I'll tell you...

While writing this review, I have my conflicts on whether or not I'm factually correct.  For instance, this four-player Dead Heat setup DID NOT have gear shifters available on any of the dashboards.  I don't believe I was asked at all to choose Automatic or Manual Transmission.  But the pictures/footage I looked up online show that the game does, in fact, have a four-gear stick shifter.  But in my recollection of my game, there was no stick.  I'm serious folks--I could've sworn that this version of Dead Heat didn't have Manual Transmission.  If for some reason the game did have manual, then I was never made aware of it at any time during the game. EDIT: I recall seeing a couple of Fast & Furious cabinets that didn't have a manual stick at all so I believe there may be Dead Heat cabinets without the stick too.

As an aside, I'll say this.  Aside from a few exceptions such as Mario Kart and non-traditional racers (like Super Sprint or Bang Bang Racing), if your racing game does not have manual transmission (not even a simple hi/low gear like OutRun/Crazy Taxi) then it sucks, period.  I don't care if it's a "crap" racer like Cruis'n World, you get that gear shift working or else my interest drops rapidly.  Another reason why we need to round up all copies of Burnout & Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit and have a bonfire Fahrenheit 451-style.  EDIT: The way I see it, if you program different gears into to the game (to resemble an actual car, not just one long gear), then I'd better damn well be able to switch through them.  How hard is it to implement manual?  Press a button and the gear switches instead of automatically.  Wow, that was hard.

So what else is there?  Well, when choosing my car out of a lineup of generic street racers like the Corvette, Skyline, Viper, Supra, etc. I only had like, what, 9 seconds to choose a car?  So I scrolled through the cars then all of a sudden--BOOM, I was locked into the Dodge Viper.  Once again, I have a feeling that I'm inaccurate again because upon consulting other gameplay footage, they had more time with the car select.  But once again, I swear that I only had 9 seconds.  I just don't get it.  Nine seconds isn't enough time to pick a car when you offer so many cars as it is.

Then the best part of all, smile for the camera!  Now, the last thing I want the game to do is to take a picture of me and make me stare at it for 3 minutes!  God Forbid the game actually "stored" the photo in memory and used it as an AI photo for people who play the game after me!  That's probably not true but there's way too many mysterious faces in the game as it is so I don't know if they're recycling or not.  Either way, I just got up out of the seat and boom--game now has a picture of an empty seat.  Haw haw.  You can also tie your photo to your own account and come back and earn extra miles for paint jobs and stuff (remember, flame decals add 50% more horsepower) but the last thing I planned on in this moment was playing the game ever again.

Look at these people, they're demented.

Holy cow, how about the gameplay?  Well, there's for tracks--New York, San Francisco (dayum, this city is in every racing game these days), Chicago, and London.  I picked London cause...I really don't know why.  The tracks are supposedly based off of real city layouts (you mean like Project Gotham Racing???) but that doesn't excuse the fact that just four tracks is crap, I'm sorry.

Your car starts out with three NOS boosts.  Okay, nitrous in a racing game, never seen that in a racing game before so w/e, sounds neat.  Press the NOS boosts within the first 15 seconds of the race only to find out that the NOS doesn't come back.  It doesn't recharge like in other racing games so that's a bummer.

Car handling...well, it's loose in that you have to be careful while turning lest your car rubs the outside wall.  Either way, nothing about the game felt taxing at all.  The AI cars always stayed on your ass because of rubber-banding, that I know.  The landscapes were at least colorful and the sense of speed wasn't that bad (180+ mph) but that's all I got out of the main gameplay itself.  It was just mundane for me.  Taking a photo of myself wouldn't have sweetened the deal at all.

Then, as abruptly as you can imagine, the race ends.  I literally only played for 80 seconds.  Once again, this is my personal recollection and may not be accurate for other Dead Heat cabinets but I truly do remember saying, "Holy cow, that's it?"  I'm stunned that such a racing game could be so short.  I thought we moved on from crap short races like Cruis'n USA but no, nothing's changed over the last 20 years.  What a huge letdown.

This game's garbage.  Aside from the photo gimmick, nothing about this game is really any better than Fast & the Furious.  And since F&F is already terrible enough as it is, this game is truly mediocre.  Your money's better spent playing a Sega racer.  LAZY REVIEW SCORE: 4.4


Oh God, another Raw Thrills racer.  This can only turn out badly.  So there was a twin cabinet setup at D&B's and I decided to give it a shot since I hate myself and want to take the hit so that the rest of you don't think about playing this lousy ass game.  EDIT: Thanks to the anonymous poster who said that this game was just published my Raw Thrills and actually not made by them.  Bonus point on the review score!

I'm just kidding with this game sucking so bad.  Anyway, I heard that NBA superstar Rajon Rondo owns his own personal H2Overdrive machine.  How do we know this?  Check it out.

Good for Rajon!  However, I have different opinions.  The game has seven tracks and nine boats.  It plays pretty much the same as Hydro Thunder.  Pick a boat, pick a track, use the handle to speed up, collect the little blue/red boost thingies, and race to the finish.

I picked the hard track "London Underground" as well as some other hard difficulty boat.  Anyway...there's really not much to say about this game.  It's practically Hydro Thunder but with different stuff.  Problem is the game didn't seem as "exciting" as Hydro Thunder was.  This H2Overdrive version felt washed up.  Hence while I was playing the London Underground level, I was driving through these dark alleyways, dodging police boats and buoys while bouncing off the walls.  I tried doing the jump trick to reach the high boosts\ but failed because they must've changed how to do it or I'm just an idiot.

The London Underground level wasn't that great.  After plowing through dreary canals and sewers for a minute, I had a sneaking suspicion that I would fall through the ground into a vat of lava/radioactive waste.  Instead, I hit a ramp and flew into a happy forest setting with a sign that reads "Ye Olde Finish Line."  That's great, Raw Thrills, after fumbling around the most depressing level ever, I finally see blue skies and a few hints at something pertaining to Renaissance England and the race is over.  It only lasted about 90 seconds which, like in Dead Heat's case, isn't great.

Like in Dead Heat and every other Raw Thrills racer, you can save your progress with a password.  I really don't know what for but it seems like another gimmick to get people to play more than once.  Overall, this game is just "meh" to me so that's what score I give it.  I'd probably take Hydro Thunder over this.  LAZY REVIEW SCORE: 6.0


There were a couple more racing games at D&B's such as Fast & Furious Super Cars, Fast & Furious Bikes, Dirty Drivin', Need for Speed: Carbon, Tokyo Police Cop (wtf indeed)...I mean, what's the point of playing any of these games?  Playing any of these games meant one less play at Daytona USA so why waste my time with that dreck?  It also meant I had to wrack my brain even more writing more details about these non-Sega racers.  So I went to play Daytona USA and that was the end of it.  BTW, yay Olympics.  So that began today?  Cool, back to watchin NASCAR races...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Daytona USA Real Life Pics

So Saturday, July 7th, me and my dad went to the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Speedway.  However, we're not going there yet.  On Sunday, July 8th, because my dad had an extra day to chill out, like the good little tourists we are, we drove up and down International Drive looking for go-kart tracks.  Not the wooden go-kart track at the Fun Spot, the legit 45+ mph go-kart tracks.  Too bad we couldn't find them and by the time we did, the places were closed.

What else do we do?  Let's go back to the Dave & Buster's we visited months ago.  Can't go wrong with an arcade with a Sega racer in it.  Let's play some deluxe Daytona USA cabinets.  Oh, and take some pics while I'm wearing my Daytona hat.  That's right, cause I'm awesome like that.

Look, Dave & Buster, someone who can actually PLAY this game correctly.

They see me rollin' in the black #5 Hornet...

My time sucks, look away everybody.

My initials.  Be on the lookout for these elusive letters.

Hey Nagoshi, where are you???  Soliciting porn stars for the new Yakuza game???

That's right, I'm playing Daytona USA, one of the greatest games of all time.  So Piss off, EA, go whore out the NFS franchise.


I played about six races, nothing out of the ordinary happened, although I found out the pink #6 cabinet had a broken pedal (tragic).  And no multiplayer races, those are bad since everyone else is clueless and get by purely on catchup/rubber-banding.

I also played some other racing games while I was there.  And I'm going to review those time.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Steam Sales And Civilization 5, Oh Snap

Well kids, papa's in the house and he's bringing Steam games...  I recently bought Bang Bang Racing, Sonic Generations, Binary Domain, Renegade Ops, Counter-Strike Source, Garry's Mod, and...Civilization Five.  All of these cost me less than $15 except for Civ 5 which cost $30 for the GotY and Gods and Kings expansion but that's okay!  It's worth it.

I don't want to go into too much detail about Civilization but the premise is you control your own civilization from ancient times to the present as you build cities, discover new technologies, and ravage enemy forces.  The game's turn-based (like Advance Wars) as you play versus multiple civilizations at once (either AI or human players) and can either work together, isolate from each other, or obviously wage war.  No matter how you play, there can only be one "winner" thanks to multiple win conditions.  And since the world is randomized each time and fog covers all the unexplored parts of the map, it's interesting to see how each game folds out.

Here I am, I'm Egypt.  I never started war with anyone (peace through strength) but when the Incans and Arabians started getting testy, I whooped their asses and they backed off.  What "country" you pick really doesn't matter although each has their own few different units and abilities.  For instance, Egypt has chariot archers, Rome has centurions, Japan has samurais, USA has minutemen, etc.  Otherwise, many of the gameplay elements are practically the same between every player.


All of a sudden, while playing this game, I came to the realization this game is a metaphor for real life.  Well, what do I mean?  Each "country" is its own person.  Technically, since all the things you see on the screen are aspects of yourself and are under your control, hence you yourself ARE your own civilization.  The goal is to better one's life through many improvements that you do in the game:

1. Expand, build farms, provide resources, create new cities, meet new people, glance into the unknown.
2. Discover science, accrue knowledge, learn new things, improve one's current situation.
3. Create culture, engage in the creative process, learn about music, art, other cultures, faith in God, happiness, etc.
4. Diplomacy, make friends, work together, pick and choose what you want others to know, etc.
5. Go to war, defend yourself, take what you want, compete with others.
6. Make lots and lots and lots of money.

Look at it this way.  In Civ, you can only spend so much energy each "turn" on certain things.  You can choose to pimp out one of the six things above.  If you invest heavily on expansion, then you sacrifice your military.  Or you build your military, then that's money wasted on expansion.  Or if you go science, your culture drops and you feel miserable.  Or you can go culture but fall behind in the tech wars.  You can spend a lot of money making friends or keep to yourself.  Either way, it makes you think "Did I just pick the right thing?"  This happens all the time in strategy games--you either win or fail by a few simple choices.

Think about this--what is your daily routine like?  What do you do and how does it help and/or hurt?  Like here's some examples:

1. Go to sleep, but for how long?  Is it worth staying up/sleeping late?
2. What do I eat?  Do I eat at home, do I go pick up something elsewhere, or do I seek out other people to go eat with?
3. What do I do at school?  Do I work on Super Sprint?  Battle Fortress Tortoise?  My regular homework?  Or do I do nothing?  What's the pros and cons of each?  How much work can I get done on any of these right now?
4. Who do I talk to at school?  What do I say?  What is my mood like?
5. Play a video game?  Well, what video game?  Play some Daytona USA?  Or some Rock Band?  Or some Counter-Strike?  Is it worth putting aside many hours on a game that may frustrate you more than anything?  Or am I playing games to get more insight on life or just to relax?
6. Watch TV?  What channel?  Or should I watch a movie instead?  Or should I not watch anything at all?
7. If I have to take a risk on something that has a chance of failure or not getting the returns I like (like learning a new skill, perhaps), how long should you stretch it out until you decide it's not worth it anymore and cut your losses?
8. You want a job, huh?  Well, where do you want to work out of your realistic options?  Or would you prefer not to work at all?  I'd like to think this has a HUGE impact on someone's life.
9. Obviously this is a big one too.  You want a girlfriend (or boyfriend)?  If so, then that's a whole new level of diplomacy there--that's war games we're talking about.
10. Should I update the blog?  What do I talk about?  How much effort do I put into it?  If not, should I read the game blogs and learn more about Sega and/or other game devs in general?  If I come to an engrossing yet long article, should I read some or all of it?  Or should I read random articles about crap just for the sake of learning trivial (but cool) things like this?

I'm fairly certain learning about rubber ducks in the ocean will benefit me some day.

Now I'm overthinking things because most of us wing these things every day.  "Oh, I'll do whatever is most urgent at the time--I've done fine on autopilot, etc."  But it makes sense to me especially with this grad school I'm at.  The new year begins as people flood into the building, many of whom have never lived in this town nor met each other in person.  It's an near-enclosed environment so you're basically working with the same 60+ people all the time.

Now you're one of those students.  You look around, try to meet whoever you can, but you know those people best whom are the closest to you, usually through coincidence (you're put in desks near each other or you're working on the same team).  So you form bonds based on these things you know and have to pick and choose based on their personalities (outgoing or shy, friendly or mean) & interests (what's his/her goal?  to learn a lot, to make great games, to make money, to show off to other people, etc.)  All the mean time you have to manage your life in and out of school (i.e. doing homework, paying the bills, learning about the town and how to live, etc.).

The Sims is kind of a joke compared to real life.  The Sims is a single-play sandbox game in that you can just piss around and do whatever you want--there's no end or "win condition" to the game.  But Civilization is multiplayer and it's about working around other people to progress one's set of goals.  Although there is no "victory" condition is real life, eventually the close group of people you worked with before will swap out as you're dealt another game with all new different people.  The game of Civilization never ends.  And you may not win but maybe, just maybe, you can "lose" the least.

EDIT: The reason I make this post, as stupid as it seems, is because there's a lot of things I've done that were poor decisions in the long run that I've made among colleagues of mine.  And Civ 5 reminds me of that.  So be careful how you manage your time & resources.

You know, while Civilization was interesting, I'm going to take a break from it for a while.  Two main reasons: the games can be TOO long (to go from 4000 BC to 2000 AD can take about 6-8 hours, even on the fastest settings) and at times the game can get stagnant (not expanding, not moving armies around, waiting as you move up the tech tree as money automatically flows in).  Therefore, I plan on moving to other games for the moment, finishing my duties (including Super Hyper Sprint) and actually putting my time to use.  Hopefully you will do the same.  The Daytona pics are overdue.  Later.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bang Bang Racing Preview, Review, Compliments

Hi guys, so there's this Steam sale thing going on right now so let's take a look at the games.  Oh, what's this, a racing game called Bang Bang Racing, let's check it out!  Videos:

Right now, Bang Bang Racing costs 3.39 in United States Dollars.  Even if this game's a dud, can you really complain about paying that much?  Besides, from one "Indie" racing game dev to another, this one's for you.  Seriously, I'm in need of a new racing game and I'm not touching Ridge Racer: Unbounded with its $30 price tag.  And personally, I think I had more fun with this $3 game than I did with games worth ten times the price.  It's a "Bang" Racing Game for your buck.  *noshameinthatpun*

So a quick rundown about the game: There's twenty cars in four classes--five muscle cars, five GT cars, five Le-Mans cars, and five Indy/F1 cars--each with slightly different characteristics.  There's also eight tracks which spoof existing locations--Daytona, Laguna Seca, Long Beach, Monaco, Nurburgring, Bahrain, Spain, and some snow level.  Because of the game's cartoony style, the tracks have been greatly embellished to give you lots to look at, such as palm trees, Japanese cherry blossom trees, fake billboards, buildings of various sizes, overpasses, and numerous elevation changes.  In other words, it's a damn good looking game.

The thing that ultimately makes or breaks the game is the camera.  It's kind of like R.C. Pro Am except the camera actually attempts to face parallel with your vehicle at all times.  At first, turning left and right can be massively disorienting since it takes a while for the camera to catch up, leading you to blindly drive in some direction besides straight (think Grand Theft Auto's driving camera) but in all honestly, you get used to it after a while.  Sure, no close-chase/first-person cam sucks but you get a better view of the action happening all around you so that's good.

Now about the cars. There's nitrous boosts that charge up automatically over time and when you drive through the "pit stop" (PRO TIP: Hit the pit stop as often as possible even if you're not damaged just for the turbo boosts alone.).  While turbo boosts are a common racing gimmick, here they're used well because it can give you a tactical advantage.

There's also the ability to brake which becomes phenominally important at higher speeds.  You can't powerslide Sega-style but it's still good fun to sling the car around, plus it's not an easy game by any means so it is rewarding once you get a hang of it.  Left, right, gas, brake, turbo.  Five buttons is all you need.

There's also oil & water slicks that inhibit your ability to turn for a brief time as well as a few shortcuts too.  Fortunately, there's no Mario Kart weapons present so it rides the fine line of being goofy fun as well as a truly serious racer.

I should mention this game can be played with the keyboard or an Xbox 360 controller.  The keyboard controls are okay but still tough to use.  Once I plugged in that 360 controller, my skills doubled and I enjoyed it more.  So be sure to get a joystick before playing.  This goes for every PC racing game, obviously.

I think the game's great but there's three caveats that must be said:

1. Having "beaten" the game in about four hours, I'm still left wondering what to do besides time trials and racing the computer over and over again.  The CPU's tough on the harder difficulties without being broken cheap (no rubber-band AI) so that's great.  There's split-screen multiplayer but no online multiplayer which is a bummer.  I question the game's replay value but c'mon, it's just a $3 game.  Though some of you may get better mileage out of this game since I'm so "good" at racing games or something.  The first two tiers of cars may be too slow but the game picks up when you get those LeMans/F1 cars, pshyeah.

2. I think the game personally errs too much on being "cute."  While I don't mind driving Micro Machines around cartoony tracks, it would be great if they took a few cues out of Sega's playbook and made the racing more "intense," such as meaner engine sounds and car rumbling at top speeds.  But I don't know for sure if that would make it better...I'm not a game PRODUCER people, I'm just a lowly programmer who does what he's told.

3. Come on, enough with the dubstep, let's get some ROCK AND ROLL in this joint.  Something that really KICKS.  No really, the music in this game is ok but that definitely-not-autotuned lady says (I think) "moooonayyy" or something like that too much.

Kind of like Days of Thunder (now rendered null & void thanks to Daytona USA) and 3D Pixel Racing (didn't play it but gameplay looks similar), this is an Indie game that pops up out of nowhere and exceeds your expectations so PAY DA MAN for actually making a racing game that entertains me.  FUN FACT: There's about 30 people that worked on this game and almost all of them have an accent in their names.  In other words, this isn't a US-made game.  It hurts me to say this but as an American, Europe & Japan are leagues ahead of us in driving games, sorry.

I think the game is great and that you should buy it now.  You have until July 23 to buy it at such a low price so do it now.  Just do it...

REVIEW SCORE: 9.0 out of 10.  Also check out my friend Dave's post on this game too.  It predates my post by about a month so props to him too.

BTW, Super Sprint is still better.

EDIT: Also be sure to buy Renegade Ops off the Steam store for under $4 too!  Do it for Sega!  Or buy four copies (one for you, three for friends) for under $8!  Wow, ya gotta love Steam!!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Burnout Needs More Flipping SUVs

Hello folks, I have a big stack of stuff to talk about but not enough time so I'll leave you with this brief post.  I was browsing an article on Need for Speed: Most Wanted (the new one) and my eye glazed over something interesting in this promotional image:

See that Ford Explorer police SUV in the upper right corner with the red arrow photoshopped on it?  Anyone mind telling me why that 2-ton SUV is popping a wheelie on its back right tire like that?  Not just a normal wheelie--this is a BIG wheelie that's about to roll the damn brick over which doesn't make any sense.  Ever try to not just roll a car but flip three wheels (as opposed to two or four) at once?  Not that easy.

Did the SUV hit some other car?  No, doesn't look like there was anything in its path (besides that other SUV it's about to hit) plus there's no visible damage present meaning it didn't plow into anything, I guess.

Did the SUV hit a bump or a ramp?  Nope, just flat pavement with a few rain puddles.  Sure, there was that curb/sidewalk to its right but hitting that would elevate right side, not the left.  Maybe it was trying to counter-steer the right wheelie and flipped the left tires as a result.  But then why are the front wheels pointing straight as if the driver wasn't reacting to the flip at all?

Also the SUV is driving in the opposite direction of the criminal which means it had to build up a lot of speed heading straight for that other SUV & railing (ker-splash into the water) which makes no f'n sense whatsoever.  Wrong way, buddy.  To elevate three wheels (as opposed to four) on a heavy SUV that high with nothing nearby to instigate liftoff is befuddling.

So what's REALLY happening here?  Was there some ramp off-screen we didn't see?  Was the dumbass cop trying to turn on a dime so hard that it rolled itself in the process?  Did the SUV use hydraulics?  Did the cop go into "stupid AI mode" like in GTA/Driver in that they bounce recklessly off every damn thing (including the innocent drivers they're trying to protect) in a vain attempt to wreck you?  Or did Criterion dumb down the car physics so everything bounces around like plastic bottles filled with helium?

That cop's just playing Cruis'n World, what else.

No, seriously, check out the hi-res image for yourself and see.  WTF, Criterion.  Flipping cars over in unrealistic fashion in promo images--this is too much.  Police will do anything to stop criminals.  Token John Bunnell introduction.  Put him in Most Wanted and I'll change my mind on this lousy POS game.  Joyriders in luxury cars think this is fun & games but to us cops, IT'S A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

That's Why They Call Me The...

Well guys, I got good news...for me anyway.  I recently agreed to a programming job at a legitimate game studio!  I got a phone call last Saturday (at the Coke Zero 400 with loud music over the speakers) offering me the job and today I signed the paperwork away.  This "internship" lasts from August to December and comes with a modest hourly wage.  My job duration (and wage) may receive an extension in January assuming I play my cards right and can stick with the company in the future. TLDR: I got a job.

But first, before we move on, I will NOT tell you what studio I am working at.  It could be anywhere in the world.  Any size or number of people.  Making games of any genre or for any platform (including Dreamcast homebrew).  You may or may not have played one of their games recently.  You may have heard of this studio often or not at all.  It could also be Electronic Arts but I'm not telling.  I will also not share my level of "enthusiasm" for working there.

I will give you two hints right now to alleviate any concerns:

1. It is NOT Sega or any studios with ties to them (i.e. Sumo Digital).
2. It's a company that I feel "good" about working at, at least as of right now.  After surveying the field of realistic candidates, it's one of the top studios I had a choice of attending and I feel fortunate to get an offer there.  Other than the inevitable fear of failure & embarrassment, I remain optimistic (hell, it's an internship...I'm supposed to be a "noob" at first so there's less worry about making mistakes).

Also, it's worth saying we're grown men now.  I'll do my best not to make witty remarks about the company or any of its games nor will I spoil any NDA's (assuming there is anything worthy of being mentioned).  It's not school anymore--this is the workplace and your reputation & job is on the line.  This doesn't mean I'll hold back on my cutting remarks--I'll have plenty of good & bad things to say about games but this company is off-limits.  And most certainly no 4chan/Reddit topics like "I'm an anonymous employee of (insert company), ask me anything."

Anyway, sooner or later you may find out where I'm working--either I or someone else will reveal it to you.  But for now, it's confidential.  You're all overwhelmed with curiosity which is you a reason to keep reading my blog.

Still a strange sensation to have a serious job even if it's not until a month from now.  See, beforehand, you went to school for a few years and graduated.  Went to college a few years, graduated.  Went to grad school for a year, graduated.  Assuming you don't do anything egregious like get expelled or arrested, you know when you're going and leaving and it takes a lot of the guesswork out of it.  But here, with a job, there's no telling how long I want to stay here.  I can walk out of here at any time, either by my choice or not.  That is scary since you are more prone to screwing up more than ever yet you have more options available than ever.  Oh well, that's the expectation that comes with being a man.  A working man...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Super Sprint Copyright Woes

Before I get into the events of this weekend (NASCAR race, etc.), let's get this out of the way now.  Turns out that the Super Sprint 1.1 zip file was taken off SendSpace due to "copyright infringement."  Don't worry cause it's not THAT big of a deal.  I'll address what I know now.

For starters, I was NEVER notified by SendSpace at all that the file was taken down.  No e-mails, nothing.  Only due to curiosity did I log into my SendSpace account to see that the file had been taken down.  Had I never done this, I would've never known that the file didn't exist anymore.  What's up with this crap?  Sites like YouTube and SendSpace (both owned by Google) will send you e-mails for the most dumbass crap like "A user  subscribed to your channel" or "Here's the new file you uploaded" but they can't notify you when you break the rules?  Thanks, SendSpace, a little notification would've helped here.

But f*** that, what I really want to know is what the violation was all about.  If you click on the words "Violation of Terms" next to what was once my file, it takes you here to the copyright infringement section--I highly doubt it's anything besides copyright.  So...who instigated this?  SendSpace, Warner Bros. (the current Super Sprint IP owners), or somebody else altogether?  What I assume (and this is how YouTube works) is that some Warner Bros. folks were somehow notified of the existence of this game (either from their own Google searches or word of mouth from others) and decided to send a takedown letter to SendSpace.  Therefore SendSpace was obliged to take down the file on WB's behalf.

Strange because if a copyright takedown happened on YouTube, at least you were able to contest your video if you believe it wasn't copyright infringement (counter-notice).  But here on SendSpace--it's just gone.  No warnings, no feedback from the original copyright owners, no admonishment, nothing.  I don't know how much this instigator actually played my game--they could've just glazed their eyes at the title, saw the words "Super Sprint," and then instantly removed the thing although I believe it's Fair Use if you actually play the damn game and see what's in it for yourself.

In the meanwhile, Version 1.0 still remains on SendSpace so I see this as evidence that WB was led directly to the Version 1.1 link while completely missing the 1.0 link.  Ha, I'm going to get the 1.0 version deleted too but so what--it's super outdated as it is.

I'm looking through the Fair Use laws again for the millionth time and thinking about how they apply to my version of Super Sprint.  The main reason why I think someone would get anal over my game is because I use the same exact game title.  Okay, that must be changed and now is a great time to do so.  But the rest of the game?  I use a few edited graphics and a few concepts (i.e. get wrenches to upgrade, dodge the tornadoes, pick the track using the steering wheel, etc) but is that truly enough for copyright infringement?  That's like saying I infringed on Call of Duty & Battlefield because I made a game with soldiers shooting each other with guns.  Then again, with Sega and their vague patent on the green arrow from Crazy Taxi, I'm not surprised if anyone of Viacom's sinister nature would bully any poor fool who barely scratches the surface of one of their copyrights, no matter how irrelevant it is.  Does Warner Bros. (or anyone else) have secret patents related to Super Sprint that I just don't know about?

BTW, it just dawned on me that it's not 100% guaranteed that Warner Bros. was involved.  It could be anybody else that's only slightly relevant like MicroProse, Nintendo, or even Sega.  It's ridiculous and a little more information would most certainly help.  On top of notifying you on copyright notices (not via e-mail, mind you), YouTube also references the party that claims the copyright you used such as Viacom (they're responsible for whacking 99% of all suspended YouTube users).

Anyway, besides the title, some graphics, and a few pieces of music, the rest of Super Sprint is just trace elements of "abandonware" racing games and a bunch of idea I concocted on my own.  It's not for profit and is actually a vast expansion on the original Super Sprint game as I start to combine ideas from more games than just the 1986 arcade game.  Not to mention that the Super Sprint IP was seldom used in the last 10 years--oh hey, there's rushed ports for Gameboy Advance and Playstation Network.  Do you think for a second that my version of Super Sprint will put a dent in Warner Bros. profits?  Not to mention that my version of the game was only downloaded like--what--20 times in the last few months?

If there's any guide, it's that changing the main title should be enough.  Take a look at Victory Road--the fanmade game that emulates aspects of Daytona USA and Virtua Racing.  It still has the title but it uses music,  recreated tracks, and logos from the original Sega titles.  Problem is Fair Use is an incredibly hazy thing--Sega may be chill with Victory Road but Warner Bros. may be seething over the new Super Sprint game.

I guess part of the reason why is that my Super Sprint is debatably better than the original Super Sprint, therefore Warner Bros. can't have that.  Which also explains why the Streets of Rage remake was canned by Sega because it was superior to the original version while the Sonic CD remake was saved because it was on-par with the original copy of the game.  Newsflash to all game devs--if you don't want people recreating your games then make better versions for yourself!  Seriously, at times, these programming enthusiasts can do a better job than these million-dollar studios and it makes me sick to hear about these things.

All I would like is more information from somebody at Warner Bros. (or anyone with a legal background) to give a fair explanation on what's going on here.  Sure, there's things I could do with the Super Sprint game to deviate from the original copyright but c'mon man, this is a grad student's fan game that serves to praise the original Super Sprint as well as other ancient racing titles.  But regardless, I should address any copyright issues NOW because if I plan on working on this game for many months into the future, then it's best to be safe.

I also wonder if the Warner Bros. spy played my game and actually liked it.  Gimme some feedback on the game itself too, that would be helpful :)

Finally, if I so felt like it, I could change the filenames and reupload the game on SendSpace or any other file sharing website and possibly get away with it, but that's absurd and will probably get my SendSpace account permanently banned.  Until then, if you want Version 1.1, just send me an e-mail or leave a comment to this post and I'll get back to you on that.  Also, if you have any ideas for a new title and/or want to help design new logos/title screens, let me know about that too.  I gotta go to bed, back to school in the morning, boo........

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Going To The Coke Zero 400 & Playing Bad NASCAR Games

Good news!  My dad drove down to Orlando and tomorrow, we are going to the Coke Zero 400!  It's the second race at Daytona in the NASCAR season.  Anyway, not much else to say but I'm stoked.  I also won't bring that goofy Daytona sign like last time (clearly Sega doesn't give a damn).  But let's hope Aric Almirola in the navy blue #43 car wins!!!  Or Junior.  Or pretty boy Jeff Gordon.

But first, we spent Friday night checking out stuff.  So we go to everybody's favorite destination--International Drive.  And we go to the big McDonald's with the giant Play Place, arcade, and bistro.  Waited in line for 20 minutes for what--an expensive chocolate shake?

Anyway, about a year ago, I went there and played Sega Race TV.  Here's my review and it wasn't that great.  Now in Sega Race TV's place is an actual NASCAR game.  It's no Daytona but we'll make do with it.  Is it NASCAR Arcade, the "other" stock car game by Sega?  NO!  It's Global VR/Electronic Arts' new NASCAR game otherwise known as NASCAR Team Racing!!

It's clearly easy to dismiss this game since it's made by evil EA but whatever--let's plunk five bucks on this piece of crap.  You can pick from about 30 official drivers so I went with my favorite--f***in' Kurt Busch in the blue #2 Miller Lite car without the Miller Lite logos!  Then I picked JUNIYAH with his red #8 Budweiser car without the Budweiser logos!  I see what you did thar, EA.  There's six tracks--Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte, Indy, Phoenix, and Bristol.  There's other cars in "expansion packs" but those were the only six I saw for now.  You can also pick 4-gear manual transmission although you can't drift and I don't see a point other than that it's l33t somehow.


So what do I think of this game.  It's like a really stripped down version of NASCAR '08.  But as you start the race, there's an obnoxious load time with the scrolling bar...something I thought I'd never seen in an arcade game ever so that's a good start.  You start in 30th place and make your way to first.  Thing is it's pretty shallow and you can bounce off other cars with reckless abandon as your momentum keeps you going forward at all times.  Handling isn't as responsive as Daytona USA 1/2 so it's kind of "flingy"--you have to muscle the wheel just to keep from veering left and right when turning.  Drafting other cars gives you a "turbo boost"--let's you drop the hammer like in Days of Thunder.  You can reach 240 mph at times.


I think the game's okay but it's pretty stupid easy just like Sega Race TV.  You get extra time by completing laps and not by moving up the pack like in Sega's version.  The sense of speed is good (not great) and the soundtrack is appropriate & rockin' but other than that, there's not much home to ring about.  The graphics are a bit plain but it's also a bit outdated so I'll let that slide.  Yet at one point, there was a huge pileup with tons of smoke and as I drove through it, the framerate hit the floor.  Pathetic, that seldom happens in Sega Racers.

I played multiplayer twice.  In single-player, the AI at least gave you a fight.  Here, the AI parts like the Red Sea as you and the other guy.  Rubber-band AI kept my dad in the game and it was the last person to get a draft boost who wins.  I won at Daytona but lost at Bristol as I ran away crying.  I now disown my father and I hate my life.  Just kidding, this game sucked so who cares.

Anyway, I can't hate this game but with only six ovals and little reason to use manual transmission, it's a "meh" game.  If you get an upgraded version, you can up the score a bit.  Also if there were endurance modes (mandatory pit stops and more competent AI) it would be cool.  Still leagues better than Fast 'n Furious, that's for sure.

Final Score: 7.1 out of 10.

I'll talk more about that NASCAR race later.  Damn I can't wait for that.  But if Kevin Harvick wins again, I'm gonna go "Nooooooooooo......"

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 4th: Your Right To Play Racing Games Like GeneRally

How was your guys' July the 4th?  Did you exercise your right to ignite a bunch of explosives in public places?  Me, I exercised my right to eat a big FIVE GUYS burger, fries, and large drink all in one sitting.  "Haha, fat Americans," well I'm not fat so STFU.  I wonder if Five Guys will be legal in 5-10 years.  Same thing with fireworks.  You never know so until then, keep on rocking.

Anyway, I want to keep this quick as possible.  So I'm looking at more little racing games and I come across another game that greatly resembles my Super Sprint remake and it's called GeneRally.  GeneRally?  Does it have anything to do with genetics/natural selection?  No, shut up and take a look:

Unlike Super Sprint, this is an actual 3-D racing game with incredibly simple textures and geometry.  Not bad--it looks nice and clean.  The camera is fixed in the same place so all the action takes place on the same screen so you can call it a 3D Super Sprint if you like.  There's a multitude of car models (F1 cars, drag racers, sedans, go-kart, monster trucks, etc.) and tracks to choose from as well as other "sim" options like the ability to adjust damage, fuel consumption, and tire wear (yes, that means pit stops like Indy Heat).  Oh, and you can configure your own keyboard input and screen resolution.

By the way, there's a track editor too.  You can create "big" tracks (cars are very small) or "small" tracks (cars are very large) though the camera is always stationary.

You know, I might as well get this out of the way now and that is I never once tried to "emulate" GeneRally or any other arcade racers while working on Super Sprint.  As a matter of fact, GeneRally was really an afterthought until I decided to give it a spin recently.  I like the game a lot but the handling is a bit stiff compared to my Super Sprint, it's really hard to see which direction to go, and the AI is quite unforgiving.  Plus there's only six cars max and there's no "Arcade" mode of sorts--you're just picking a bunch of options and it takes a while to prepare the races you like.

What is this?  A racing game for ants???

But I cannot criticize the game since it looks damn good.  It was made in about 2003 (the old menus give it away) and was only recently updated in 2011.  You can download the game free off of their website.  It already has 200,000+ downloads so it's obviously a big deal.  There's message boards dedicated to the game too.

Like I said, working on Super Sprint, the only two games I believe I tried to emulate was the original Super Sprint arcade game and Virtua Racing (the drift physics/visual effects in particular).  But because my game is being released in 2012, of course it's going to look like crap.  But I really don't care because A. it's a "student" game that I'm trying to learn from, B. I like the old-school arcade style, and C. it'll still be unique and unlike any other racing game out there.  Indie games like Minecraft and Fez were deliberately made to look retro/pixelated so what's the big deal with Super Sprint?  Really, I'm doing the best I can on Super Sprint regardless of what other people do and I have confidence that it'll be good.

While I've slightly stalled on Super Sprint lately, I'm sort of at a crossroads on what to add next.  I have plenty of options, though some of them don't make sense other than that they're just cool and interesting.  16-car Super Sprint was kind of the same thing--it's ridiculous but I had to try.  Whatever new features I do add I plan not to intrude on the core experience if you simply don't want them there.  Here's some things I came up with:

* Fix online multiplayer, add dedicated servers, get up to 8 players online (very difficult).
* Add more car and track choices (sensible if I had some good sprite artists on the job).
* Add banked turns, jumps, sliding doors (can be done but it'll take a while).
* Add helicopters (also doable but not high on my priority list).
* Add manual transmission or a handbrake for Sega style drifting (know how to do it but adding a 4th key would be pushing it).
* Add rolling starts and mandatory pit stops (overkill and maybe just for fun).

Right now I plan on improving the AI just a bit more (add some raycasting so they can detect objects in front of them and act accordingly--go after wrenches and dodge oil slicks) and fixing a few sprite things and I'm done with Version 1.2.  I also added drafting/slipstream ability.  Oh, but you'll find out more about that later.  Adios.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sega & Midway Similarities: The Death Of Gaming Giants

I read a good article on SEGAbits detailing five reasons for Sega's recent woes and they are as follows:

1. Poor marketing
2. Poor scheduling
3. Terrible games from '05 to '08
4. Terrible Marvel games
5. Too many new IP's, not enough old ones

Right now we are all bummed out about Sega.  But I cannot get too upset anymore.  This is to be expected for Sega.  I'm hoping this is a cathartic stage in that they'll turn around, albeit they'll have nothing to show for the next couple of years besides Football Manager and a few more Dreamcast ports.  But you never know cause just when I think they couldn't be any dumber, they either totally redeem themselves or reach unprecedented levels of dumb-ness.  It's a game of Chutes & Ladders and I can't guess where they'll be in 5-10 years.

And now for your feature presentation...

I did some research on Midway (and Atari and Williams) Games a few months ago.  I should've brought it up sooner but now is a good time.  You see, Sega and Midway had a lot of common.  See this:

*  Both were old-school distributors of arcade/amusement hardware, including slot machines, jukeboxes, and eventually bona-fide arcade cabinets.

* Both had their own "League of Legends."  Midway: Ed Boon, John Tobias, Eugene Jarvis, and Mark Turmell.  Sega: Yu Suzuki, Yuji Naka, Toshihiro Nagoshi, Tetsuya Mitzuguchi.

* Both were prolific at arcade games.  Both had their own lines of fighting, shooting, and (lots of) racing games.  Mortal Kombat<->Virtua Fighter.  Maximum Force & Area 51<->Virtua Cop.  San Francisco Rush, Cruis'n Everything, Super Sprint, Spy Hunter, Hydro Thunder, STUN Runner<->Virtua Racing, Daytona, OutRun, look on the right side of the screen.

* Both were known for pushing the envelope in terms of edginess.  While Sega had Sonic, Streets of Rage, Toejam and Earl, and all that "Sega does what Nintendon't" bullcrap, Midway had Mortal Kombat, Rampage, Smash TV, NBA Jam, and NFL Blitz.

* In the turn of the millennium, both  got hit hard by the decline in arcades.  In '99, Midway stopped manufacturing pinball machines and in '01, stopped manufacturing arcade games altogether.  Sega also suffered the same fate but at a much slower pace (i.e. AM2 released OutRun 2 and Ghost Squad in '04, Sega still continues to make arcade hardware--Ringedge & Ringwide--though it's awfully underutilized).

* Both were "bailed out" by private investors following the arcade heyday.  In '03, American media magnate Sumner Redstone bought a majority of Midway's stocks.  In that same year, Sammy Corporation bought out Sega.

* Both their "League of Legends" bailed out to create new studios.  John Tobias left to create Studio Gigante.  Eugene Jarvis left to create Raw Thrills.  Yu Suzuki left to create YS Net.  Yuji Naka left to create Prope.  Tetsuya Mitzuguchi left to create Q Entertainment.

* Both lost a s***-ton of money & prestige during that period.  Sega obviously lost billions for years after the Dreamcast debacle.  Midway lost $115 million in '03 as they began shutting down studios, including Midway Games West and Midway Adelaide, that same year.

* Both published a ton of mediocre games since then.  In Midway's case, this included BlackSite: Area51, Vin Diesel's Wheelman and Psi-Ops.  In Sega's case, the Marvel games are a great example.

However, unlike Sega, Midway actually did go bankrupt.  In '07 and '08, there was a revolving door of higher-ups getting their asses kicked out the door.  In '09, Midway defaulted on its $240 million debt and crumbled into a million pieces only to be devoured by Warner Bros. for a measly $49 million.  At that point, Midway's stock were worth less than a dollar.  Rumor has it that whatever remaining Midway execs were devouring caviar and wine while "Rome" burned.

If there's any good news to be had post-Midway, it's that their franchises aren't completely dead.  High-quality Mortal Kombat games are still being produced by Warner Bros.  NBA Jam and NFL Blitz got remakes from Electronic Arts.  Hydro Thunder got a remake for Xbox Live.  And, love it or hate it, the Cruis'n games made a comeback in the form of multiple Fast & Furious games for arcades (including a terrible Wii port).

The good news is that Sega's "death" has been a much slower process, mostly because Sega still has Japan's support while Midway only had America to rely on.  I only hope that Sega learns from Midway in that they aren't eating the caviar while their company continues to die.  I think the changes  they've made says "Well, we know we suck but at least we're going to do something about it," which demonstrates more maturity than Midway ever did IMO.

Also, I was thinking about Sega and what we would do if they actually did perish from this earth.  Would it be THAT terrible?  All those IP's don't just disintegrate into thin air--they are still in existence.  Midway's prime IP's still get love today.  Who's not to say Sega's old IP's couldn't get the same recognition?  Maybe someone else will give Sonic their dues.  Maybe someone else will actually bring back Daytona.  Maybe Yu Suzuki will be able to make Shenmue 3 no longer bounded by the shackles of Sega-Sammy.

To be disappointed with Sega's death would mean to be disappointed that they missed the opportunity to return to "glory."  Yet clearly as of their condition today and the trends in game design it's very unlikely this'll occur even if they remain alive for a long time.  Everyone says that today's Sega is only a hollow shell of their former selves and will continue to be mediocre regardless of what happens.  I hope I'm proven wrong and that Sega and the fans stay resolute.  It's always great to remain optimistic but, as you've heard plenty of times, it's necessary to prepare for the worst.

"No society is guaranteed perpetual existence." - Mark Levin

Still we have faith that Sega will live and by God, even past the grave they will.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Multi Theft Auto: A Better GTA Than That Stupid GTA IV

This isn't meant to be a wordy post but you learn something new everyday so check it out.

Learned about a new mod today for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on the PC.  It's called "Multi Theft Auto."  It's supposed to be like Garry's Mod for GTA in that you can mess around with many other players in a single GTA world.  Obviously, the main hook for me is the massively-multiplayer racing modes.  Here's some vids and I have to tell ya, I'm stunned how much you can do:

European Pro doubt there are guys from The Netherlands practicing 18 hours a day.  Anyway, there's a huge amount of stunt tracks like out of San Francisco Rush.  And the OJ Simpson "chase the pink car" mode is f'n gold.

Just a traditional race.  I'm not a fan of the glowy node things but it looks great.

Another race mode with incredibly annoying music and changing vehicles (you mean like Sonic All-Stars Racing 2???  Sumo Digital are SLACKERS).

Deathmatch mode--cops vs gangsters.

Stunt movie.  OSHI--IS THAT GUNS n' ROSES???

A better version of DiCE/evil EA's Battlefield 3.

Rage face mod and some weird demolition derby/stunt map.

Driving on Rainbow Road...I still hate this music (sorry guys).

EDIT: This is just a handful of gameplay videos I found out.  It just scratches the surface.  So there's a lot more to do with this mod.

I remember playing online GTA for Vice City years picked from a couple different characters (a cop, Tommy Vercetti's gang, a bank robber, etc) who had different weapons and you ran around town shooting each other.  You could also have car races but there were no in-game rules for that--the other players had to coordinate to do this.  And yet this mod has greatly evolved since then.  I like this because it proves A. that fan mods/creations are awesome, maybe even better than the multi-million dollar studios and B. that "old" games like GTA:SA, Half-Life 1, and so forth are not down and out.

Guess it's worth checking out if you're into this sort of thing.  The community is still alive but for how long, I don't know:

Clearly we cannot bring up other racing games without bring up Sega so here's some GTA mods for that:

Initial D.

Derpy Sonic needs to get away on a snowboard!