Monday, November 24, 2014

My Thoughts on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

So, you might be thinking, "Why on Earth are you writing a blog post about a Call of Duty game three weeks after its launch?" If so, that's exactly why I'm doing it. :)

There's a tendency– I'd go so far as to call it a phenominon where games are concerned to look at a product at some point in time, make a judgement about it then promptly forget that it ever existed. I'm exaggerating a bit of course but perhaps not by as much as I'd like to be.

The easy explanation is that there are so many games being released on a near-constanst basis these days that any given title has at best a brief window of opportunity to make its mark and be judged, purchased and played before it's swept away by the relentless tide of new releases chomping at its heels.

Confirmed: Jetpacks make everything better!

For a long time, Call of Duty games seemed to be immune to this phenomenon– attracting and maintaining a large player base throughout their intended lifespan and in some cases long after the inevitable, annual follow-up had been released.

Of course, Call of Duty's (CoD's) demise has been predicted for ages now. Like so many other annualized gaming franchises, it's more been a question of when than if CoD would run out of steam and be cast out from the pop culture zeitgeist.

In a lot of ways, "Advanced Warfare" (the latest in the series) feels like CoD's last hurrah– a late-game, surprisingly-compelling (at least to me) attempt to breathe some new life into the series and draw in new fans while staying true to what made it so popular in the first place.

I'll freely admit to not being a CoD expert. I haven't even played a CoD game since "Modern Warfare 2" but I know a thing or two about video games and "Advanced Warfare" is a good one of those.

Yes, there are some issues with it. On the PC in particular, I've experienced occasional framerate, networking and stability (crashing) issues– most of which ironically starting after the first post-launch patch but I haven't been annoyed enough by any of said issues to conclude that they ruin the overall experience. In my view, they are minor annoyances that briefly interrupt a generally-fun romp through a cool (if laughably unrealistic) vision of the future of war.

In all seriousness, the extra mobility provided by the EXO suits
adds quite a bit to the multiplayer experience.

And here's where things get tricky. There are lots of different ways I could go from here. I could talk about the multiplayer and how it's some of the most fun I've had not just since "Modern Warfare," but in any arena-style twitch shooter since the original "Unreal Tournament."

I could talk about the campaign, how its generally fun (if nonsensical) ride is occasionally interrupted by one-off game mechanics, scenarios and checkpointing gaps that don't always hit the mark. Of course, if you've played a CoD game since "Modern Warfare," you're not going to be surprised (though you might be occasionally impressed) by what "Advanced Warfare" has to offer in that regard.

Virtual Kevin Spacey certainly doesn't hurt the single player campaign
and he makes the most out of the material he's given but his presence
in the game isn't as impactful as I thought it might be.

But the really fascinating thing to me, and the reason why I wanted to write this post is the fact that none of that matters. "Advanced Warfare" could be the best or worst game in the series' history and it wouldn't make any difference. The internet has spoken and declared Call of Duty "over." Consequently, you won't find more than a few thousand people playing "Advanced Warfare" (or any other CoD game) on Steam at any given moment these days.

Of course, part of that could be down to being smack dab in the middle of triple-A game release season and I wouldn't be surprised to see "Advanced Warfare" rebound if the technical issues are resolved or once map packs start dropping for it. Still, there's something both intriguing and terrifying as a game developer about seeing a game that in my opinion is quite good being all but ignored due to factors beyond its quality.

Of course, Activision has made its own bed where CoD is concerned– as they did with the Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero series before it but it's a good cautionary tale nonetheless.

Extensive character customization unlocks go a long way toward making your
multiplayer Operator look more cool and unique the more you play.

The bottom line to all this is that I think "Advanced Warfare" is a good, fun game with some minor (if annoying) issues in its current state. The campaign is mostly fun, extremely silly and occasionally frustrating, but worth the ride. The multiplayer player base will probably never be what it was at the height of CoD's popularity but there are still enough people playing that it's not too tough to get into a good lobby for most of the more popular game modes (TDM/KC/DOM/Etc.) and it's a barrel full of monkeys when everything works as intended.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A blogger blogs, sometimes...

"Throw Momma from the Train" references aside, it's probably about time for me to blow the dust off this thing and start making new posts.

As I mentioned previously, I've spent well over a year working a job that effectively prevented me from writing proper blog posts. This was mostly due to said job being extremely draining and time consuming– such that I found it impossible to continue writing posts with the level of quality and frequency I felt was required to move "Vortex-1" forward.

Interestingly, a change in my career trajectory has occurred that would technically allow me to resume posting here on a regular basis; however, I find myself unconvinced that such a return would be the best use of my time moving forward.

I've been experimenting with some other mediums such as livesreaming and pre-recorded video for a while now and have found them to be far more effective and efficient ways to reach an audience than the posts I've made here have proven to be.

Having said that, I do still believe there are times where the written word is simply the best way to convey a concept or entertain an audience. As such, I've decided to resume posting here on an occasional basis when the subject matter warrants it.

What that means is that my efforts will be somewhat divided moving forward between this blog, my YouTube channel, and my Twitch channel– depending on the sort of content I'm creating. As has been the case for a while now, my Twitter account will continue to be the thing that ties everything together. Blog posts, live stream announcements and YouTube video publishing will all be linked there to maintain it as a one-stop shop for all the content I create.

Of course, the big question on many of your minds might be "Does this mean that you've resumed development on your next game?" The simple answer is, yes. I will be making an official announcement about the new game in early 2015 but for now I can tell you that it has been in active development for a little over a month, and will be a significant departure from my previous game "Powergrids." Obviously, more on that later. :)

To wrap things up, look forward to at least a few new posts here by the end of 2014 and a major announcement shortly after the new year.

Until next time... video games!!! :)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Powergrids 1.3

It took much longer than I would have liked but I finally managed to track down the issue that was causing "Powergrids" to crash at launch on iPads running iOS 7+.

Without going into too much detail, it's basically Apple's fault. :) They changed something fundamental in the way resources are released in iOS 7 and simply didn't implement support for the old method in the iPad version of the OS the way they did for iPhone/iPod Touch.

This is why the game continued to function properly on those devices and why it was so difficult to determine the nature of the problem on iPads.

In the strictest sense, there was nothing wrong with my code. Apple just did a better job of managing the transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7 on iPhones and iPods than they did for iPads.

I was also able to make a few basic iOS 7 user interface tweaks as part of this update.

I'm honestly not sure if I'll be able to address any future issues that might be caused by inevitable iOS releases like 7.2 or 8.0, which is why Powergrids will continue to be free on the iOS App Store.

With any luck, it will remain playable on a wide range of devices for a good, long while but with the way Apple changes things unexpectedly in each new iOS version, there's no way to know for sure. :)

Note that this update is not an indication of a return to active development of this or any other game on my part. I simply had an opportunity to spend a little time trying to address the post-iOS-7 issues with Powergrids and managed to do so before that window closed.

If and when I return to full-time game development, I will be sure to let you all know. :)

Also note that those of you using iPhones, iPod Touches or iPads with versions of iOS prior to 7.0 do not need this update. It is strictly to address iPad-related issues introduced in iOS 7.0 and doesn't change the game itself in any way. 1.2 is the best, most up-to-date version of Powergrids for all devices running versions 4.3-6.x of iOS.

Thanks and enjoy!

Powergrids (Official Site)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Status Update and Video Bonanza

As expected, I haven't had much free time at all over the past several months. Work has been keeping me extremely busy and will continue to do so for at least the next few months.

Having said that, I have managed to carve out bits of time here and there to produce some new content that you folks might be interested in viewing.

First and foremost, I have been co-hosting a new YouTube series called "The Safe Zone," which focuses on games with an emphasis on survival. We just released our 10th episode, an hour+ epic that includes our picks for the 2013 Survival Games of the Year and a summary of some recent events of particular interest to fans of the genre.

If you like what you see, please consider heading over to our YouTube channel and subscribing. You can find links to the show's other social media outlets (Twitter, Twitch, etc.) there as well. Thanks!

Additionally, I did my first livestream (for XCOM: Enemy Within) in quite a while just the other day. For those interested in the new expansion pack and/or some Classic/Ironman gameplay, it should scratch those itches.

Watch live video from VTX1 on TwitchTV

I'm not at all sure if and when I'll be able to resume posting here with any sort of regularity, so be sure to follow me on Twitter if you want to stay informed regarding my antics. :)

Thanks and enjoy!