January 3, 2014
Reports from the Frontier – A Starbound Journal
Greetings, Universal Travelers.
I have journeyed long and hard in order to bring you this information. After many arduous hours of mining, murdering, and mayhem, I am finally ready to tell you all about Starbound, and just how awesome it is.
The player starts as someone lost and abandoned by the culture from which they come. In a derelict ship, with no fuel, they beam down onto an unfamiliar planet. Anything can be waiting for them at the end of your quantum journey. It could be a village of friendly robot merchants, or the tomb of an ancient bird-man warlord. It could even be nothing, a planet with only resources and wildlife.
The first good point here: The player wants to wander and get lost. After the initial introductory quests that show how to construct a crafting table, an anvil, and initial armor and weapons, the game lets the player loose. It helps that the quest one gets after building an anvil is to construct a resource heavy marker that summons a boss which will almost assuredly destroy you.
Once that happened to me, I realized that I needed to leave my starting planet to find more resources. That is when the scope of the game hit me.
Each of those star blips are individual systems with 2-5 planets within them. The only thing that limits where one can travel is the fuel reserve (fun point, the interstellar spaceship that the player uses is fueled by wood and coal) and the progression made (achieved by killing that boss I mentioned earlier).
In terms of how the game actually plays, those players with experience with Terraria will feel right at home save for a few mechanics associated with specific weapons (the Starbound spear is worthless, while the Terraria spear is surprisingly useful). You run around, gather resources to craft things, explore to gather more resources, and then build.
One thing that sets Starbound apart from other exploration games is the sheer amount of things that you can find to decorate your buildings and ship. The art associated with all these things is great too, as long as you can appreciate pixel art. For a game in early beta, it sure is nice on the eyes.
Chucklefish also does a good job of paying attention to the community, and what players are doing. The beta was released with modding tools and people have taken advantage of that, as have the developers. There are currently 765 mods in the official mod forum, and that number rises every day. They have already integrated a few different mods into the main game, with the permission of the creators of course. These include automatic turrets, a skyrail system a la Bioshock Infinite, among other balancing mods. They way that Chucklefish is working with the community is commendable, and how I think all early access games should do things in the future.
All that said, the game is still in early beta. Crashes happen semi-frequently, the launcher is finnicky and likes to lock up on some computers, and the multiplayer takes some thinking to figure out. Also, there have been two universe wipes since release with one more looming on the future. One thing that concerns me is the lack of incentive to stay on one planet. Once I got my more advanced gear, I started to wander the universe, stripping resources out of planets and killing everything to get gear, then moving on to the next planet and doing it all again.
I am very excited about the future of this game, and cannot wait to see what Chucklefish is planning for the future. They have announced ship progression and customizable ships as possibilities for the future, as well as the implementation of the questing system. That said, there will not be a shortage of things to do in the game for the foreseeable future.
Anticipate more updates from me on the progress of the game, and even more to say once the actual release date is announced.
January 3, 2014
Open World Survival — With an Eldritch Edge
SKS Games are bringing “The Forest” to PC and the Oculus Rift with an alpha to be released later this year. Check out the latest trailer below.
Looks pretty extreme, right? Adding that element of horror to the popular open survival/exploration model is a great idea, and the production values that SKS are bringing to the table only enhance that.
According to the devs, the gameplay will focus more on stealth than the trailers seem to show, and the creatures deep within the cave systems might not even be killable, so stealth will be the go to in order to survive. This even applies to crafting, as the player will be able to use leaves and mud to fashion camouflage for both the player and the traps they surround themselves with.
Optimization will be a high priority for the team once the alpha drops (on the ambiguous date of 2014). It seems that the developers are going the early access route and will be releasing a paid in alpha on Steam. It went through the Greenlight process late last year.
December 19, 2013
Loot the World and be Merry!
Are you bored with the holiday shopping? Do you wish for something to hold your interest while you duck, dive, and dip through the holiday crowds? 2K games and Gearbox Software have you covered. This past week they released the Loot the World app, which is available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app is free and will have you grabbing loot for your characters in Borderlands 2. The app syncs with the email you used for the Shift profile and will transfer loot to you in game. How do you get this wonderful loot you say, simply by scanning QR codes. Those wonderful little black and white pixelated gems are your keys to getting weapons, shields, and a handful of other goodies. The interface is quite simple with 4 tabs at the bottom, one being your inventory which can hold up to 20 items. Once you have snagged something you want, you spend stamps to send it to your character in Borderlands 2. There are plenty of ways to get stamps either by QR codes on products or through Randy Pitchford’s Twitter periodically. I went around Target with my fiancee the other day and was scanning QR codes while she shopped, I got to play a game, she got to do Christmas shopping; a win for both. You can check out the few screens of the app below I took with my phone, and it is available for free in both the App Store and Google Play, unfortunately it is not available for Windows Phone.
December 9, 2013
No Man’s Sky is Jaw-Dropping
The Spike VGX was this past Saturday. What is the VGX you say, well it is what replaced the Video Game awards shows of the past, for better or worse. The award show was very hard to watch, more than normal. But out of the train wreck comes something very unexpected, and for the better. The 4 guys over at Hello Games (famous for Joe Danger 1 & 2) have pulled the lid off their newest project, No Man’s Sky. No Man’s Sky is a mix of space/FPS combat and exploration, but with a twist, every world is procedurally constructed. Procedural is built by algorithms instead of constructed by hand, which most games typically are. One game that has procedurally created worlds is Minecraft. The other catching tidbit to No Man’s Sky is the travel and exploration, if you see a planet or moon, you can travel there and be the first to discover. them. The game is an MMO of sorts with every player in the same galaxy starting on the edge and working inward towards the center. There are still plenty of details that are being kept under wraps, but from the video alone, this has me extremely intrigued. Seeing the seamless transition from planet surface to space is jaw-dropping. The game has no release date, no specified platforms, but from the No Man’s Sky Wikipedia page (no the most reliable) is showing PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Hopefully it hits all platforms but this is being built by 4 guys in Guildford, UK, but man even if it hits only one, it sounds and looks fantastic. Enjoy the first look at No Man’s Sky.
December 4, 2013
Starbound Beta Launches With Awesome Trailer
I have been following the development of Starbound, the newest game from Chucklefish, for what seems like an eternity.Starbound has oft been called a “spiritual successor” to Terraria, but this is a misnomer. Terraria and Starbound share an artist and basic gameplay premise, and that is pretty much where the similarities end. Today marks the launch of the first stage of the open beta. You can buy the game on Steam for 15 dollars and get started as soon as the download completes. Check out the trailer below and stay tuned from updates from me as the beta progresses.
November 22, 2013
John Carmack steps away from Id Software
Games Industry International is reporting that id co-founder and Doom developer, John Carmack, has left the developer. Carmack recently became involved with Oculus VR, the company responsible for the Oculus Rift VR head set. With his departure from id software, he will be taking a full time position as Oculus VR’s CTO. Carmack has had a huge influence in the industry and technology. id’s latest title, Rage, may have lacked in the story and fun department, but there is no denying the tech behind the game was nothing short of impressive. id and Carmack have always pushed technology with each new title the studio has released. John Carmack is one of my favorite lecturers and hopefully he will make appearances at Quakecon going forward. We wish Mr. Carmack nothing but the best in this new endeavor and what will come from his time at Oculus VR.
November 18, 2013
Gamerchat is back, discussing what we want from Next Gen.
Our podcast is back after a long hiatus, we are sorry for that. Real life can sometimes hinder our schedules is unpredictable ways. Brad (thesoundman) and I are talking about what we want from the next round of consoles, and what we would like to see disappear as well. We will be doing a series of these, with various people, taking about what we liked and disliked about the previous generation we are leaving behind. Enjoy.
Intro Music – “Master D is for Dance (Rise of the Albatross)” by Gario from Bionic Commando Remixed – Ok, Let’s Grove (OverClocked Remix)
October 23, 2013
Bionic Commando Rearming the Remix
This week has just been a splendid week for video game music as we saw the release and Gaming in Stereo featured soundtrack to Batman Arkham Origins yesterday, and today the release of Bionic Commando ReMixed: OK We’ll Groove! Well to be honest, the latest from OverClocked ReMix hit yesterday, I was just so busy I didn’t have a chance to give it a proper listen. Now that I have the album set to repeat I must say, it is one of their finer efforts. There is a variety of music genre’s that can be found on the album, everything from dubstep (the wub wubs), trance, to synthetic orchestra, jazz, and rock. They somehow mesh very well and some even feature some of the original chip tunes from the NES title. All the tracks despite polar genres, all have a great energy to them. One thing I love about Capcom, even current Capcom, is their high energy music output. I love the electronic mixes we see in Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, and the interesting music we saw from some of their downloadable titles such as Mega Man 9 & 10 and Bionic Commando: Rearmed. I unfortunately was late to the party with Bionic Commando, my first time with the title was in 2008 with Bionic Commando Rearmed. I loved Rearmed, and if fact, just played through it again not too long ago. Bionic Commando ReMixed: OK We’ll Groove is available for your listening pleasure and as a free download over at OverClocked ReMix. Down below is the official trailer for the album and one of my favorite tracks from the album. Have a listen and download the album and support this great community of talented artist.
Master “D” is for Dance (Rise of the Albatross) – Gario
I love the high energy and the staccato stops. No your speakers are not broken, just a great effect used well, effectively.
October 22, 2013
Gaming in Stereo: The Dark Knight Rises
This Friday sees the release of Batman: Arkham Origins, a prequel to Arkham series developed by Rocksteady. Arkham Origins takes place roughly 5 years before Arkham Asylum and puts the Dark Knight in first contact with many of his rogue’s gallery that we know of today. The game takes place during the Christmas holiday, and as a blanket of snow covers Gotham, Black Mask issues a death warrant on the caped crusader. The game not only received a new development team, WB Montreal, but a new composer as well. Christopher Drake took the musical reigns from Ron Fish and Nick Arundel, and created something that sounds both familiar to both fans of the Arkham franchise and the recently wrapped Nolan trilogy. Though Drake has scored Batman media before ( Batman: the Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Under the Red Hood, and Batman/Superman: Public Enemies), I was hesitant, just as I was with the new voice cast, until I heard the final product. The final product maybe one of the best Batman soundtracks to date, to no discredit of any previous soundtracks. The soundtrack is well put together with sweeping stings, racing electronic beats, deep brass, exploding percussion, and even some well know Christmas jingles make cameos. Let us dive into the defining soundtrack of Batman: Arkham Origins.
Arkham Origins Main Title – Christopher Drake
This is the main theme for Arkham Origins. The beginning of the this track is very reminiscent of Hans Zimmer score from the Dark Knight trilogy. Starting at the (0:11) mark we get that same electronic beat, explosive percussion, and deep brass sound. At (0:33) the track makes its own impression with a sweeping strings and a proud lower brass sound at (0:53). At the (1:26) mark, the track kicks the tempo up again including a chorus this time. This track feels like we are watching Bruce in a flashback of the events leading him to become the hero he will be. The main theme seems to hold the same character building we will see from the story, and we couldn’t have asked for a more grandiose entrance.
Assassins – Christopher Drake
Now I have not played the game yet, but from the title I am guessing this the main theme for villains Black Mask has assembled to hunt down the Batman, and it could not be more epic. Starting with racing strings and a deafening bass hit, it goes directly into a low key piano romp at (0:09), the track doesn’t let up. I love the use of the brass, especially towards the (0:30) mark with the staccato notes followed by the whaling note. The track is as epic as the villain cast charged with hunting down the Dark Knight, enjoy!
Arkham Origins Suite – Christopher Drake
There are a lot of familiar sounds from the previous tracks but there are hints at other tracks, including the very spine chilling Joker theme, which is a twisted version of Carol of the Bells. Nothing like hearing the Joker’s cackle over a Christmas jingle. Enjoy the culmination of the Arkham Origins soundtrack.
October 17, 2013
Arkham Origins New tv Spot and Soundtrack Preview Does Not Disappoint
Hot off the presses this morning is the newest trailer in the marketing machine for Batman: Arkham Origins, and it does not disappoint. The trailer clocks in at only 0:53, not even a full minute, but what we get from it is so much more. The trailer shows how the one traumatic event scars Bruce for life, leaving him emotionally dead. Though now a man with a purpose, I love how they show through the years and even through his training, he is broken; those emotionless eyes are haunting. This could be one of the most emotional trailers I have seen for any medium, reminds me of the Dead Island trailer from a few years back; you get goosebumps every time you watch it. One event, one random act of violence, one life voided of emotion, and that life changed for ever. I was on board with this title since the last trailer and seeing actual gameplay via E3. Though Rocksteady may not be doing the title, it will be using many of the mechanics and changes they made to the Unreal 3 engine. With Arkham Asylum and City, WB Games have created a franchise that has come to define action/open world games and superhero games in general, I highly doubt they would let that bar slip now. Again, below is the new TV spot for Batman Arkham Origins which is out on October 25th worldwide.
The next section talks about the soundtrack and some of the titles maybe potential spoilers, read with caution.
While I was looking for the trailer above, I came across a sampling of the soundtrack from Arkham Origins. Thanks to the people over at the YouTube channel BatmanArkhamVideos, they have taken the samples of the official soundtrack and strung them together into one huge preview. Overall I am very impressed with what I heard. I was hoping that we would get the return of Ron Fish and Nick Arundel from Arkham City to reprise their efforts, but instead they landed Christopher Drake in the composers chair. Drake has scored several other DC media, mainly animated features, with his most recent outing on the animated adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns. The whole soundtrack interest me, but there are a couple of track in particular that interest me. The main theme (#1) and the end titles (#31) have reoccurring themes that I would like to see develop into something grand. Arkham City had an incredible main theme, here is hoping Origins can outshine it. Two other tracks that have caught my ear is is The Night Before Christmas (#2) and Carol of the Bells (Joker’s Theme) (#12). I love the chimes and sleigh bells in (#2) giving it a eerie feel reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. Carol to the Bells is a traditional Christmas Carol, that is turned on its head and been given a nice, big smile. The bells and distorted guitar bring a haunting and evil presence to something that is suppose to be filled with joy, I love it. There is a lot to love from this soundtrack, and if you want to hear more of the these tracks, there is another preview over at Water Tower Music’s SoundCloud page.