Modern Warfare 3 re-uses assets, internet goes apeshit

November 11, 2011 - 2 Responses

What do you get when you’re part of the development team that is tasked with pumping out new releases of the best-selling franchise of the generation year-on-year? What do you get when you have three different studios working  and collaborating on individual aspects of a game, another team handling a port, and two different publishers taking care of localisation?  What do you get when half of the key staff from one of those  studios leaves mid-way through a somewhat troubled development? What do you get when, working to a strict, global deadline and under immense pressure, you manage to put out another AAA title in a franchise that’s regarded by many as the pinnacle of its genre?  The answer to those admittedly long-winded questions should be “why, a bloody great big pat on the back, Rory”. Unfortunately, what you actually get is some whining sod moaning about a van.

Horribly, and almost comically, underestimating the sheer amount of work that goes into a top-tier, annual release like Call of Duty, Chris Hawke over at Gamer’s Guide to Life recently put out an admittedly very well-written and humorous article, simultaneously slamming Infinity WardSledgehammer GamesRaven SoftwareTreyarch and Neversoft (seriously, all those studios worked on MW3) for one of the most paltry, insignificant and frivolous ‘offences’ that’s ever been brought to light.

During a trailer for Modern Warfare 3, Chris happened to notice a parked Marley & Griffin van, which, shock and horror and “oh my god won’t somebody think of the children?!”,  also featured in Modern Warfare 2. This, he says, “represents laziness…copy-and-paste design…a lack of ambition and, perhaps most irritatingly, a lack of pride”. Now, let me just start by saying that I don’t particularly have an issue with Chris or his article; it was an amusing read and he did raise a valid point or two. However, to say that re-using a two-year-old asset from a direct prequel to a game in the same series, timeline, setting and canon as itself is, frankly, ridiculous.

I understand some of the points that Chris raises – Activision make hundreds of millions of dollars from the CoD franchise every year, and their competitors at DICE are going balls-to-the-wall to ensure that their latest offering inBattlefield 3 is a huge step up from its predecessor. I understand if he doesn’t agree with the design philosophy inherent in the CoD franchise. I understand if he thinks Bobby Kotick is a bit of a cock. But what I don’t understand is how he can be so vexed about the recycling of an asset that he feels the need to write an article about it, and I know I’m being massively contradictory there.

Despite explaining how he’s lost his faith in Modern Warfare 3 over this pesky vehicle, he goes on to say that he’ll buy the game anyway as it’s ‘unavoidable’ – it’s not, because I’ve managed it. He then goes on to cite Half-Life as a ‘classic’  which, in his view, “went the extra mile to make the best experience humanly possible”, apparently overlooking Valve’s tendency to recycle assets themselves. This is why I can’t take the article seriously.

Enough about poor Chris, though; it wasn’t actually him who particularly cheesed me off, more the discussion that arises around this topic time and time again. At some arbitrary point in time between the releases of Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops, it apparently became cool to slate and slanderise the Call of Duty franchise. I’m by no means saying that Infinity Ward are a perfect developer or that their games are the pinnacle of the industry – I’m more of a Battlefield man, if you must know – but if you make the claim that a re-used van in Modern Warfare 3 is going to hinder your enjoyment of the game in some way, you’re completely and utterly nuts.

Ironically enough, Battlefield 3 has an absolute ton of re-used assets from Bad Company 2, and the ones that were developed specifically for it are copied and pasted all around the different multiplayer maps – take the interior of the buildings in Seine Crossing, for example, or the shipping crates in Kharg Island shamefully ripped from its predecessor. It’s almost unmissable, but does it make the game any less enjoyable? In my opinion, no, absolutely not. In any way. At all.

Besides, maybe Marley & Griffin just has a really big infrastructure.

 – Rory


The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword file select theme leaked

November 9, 2011 - Leave a Response

Continuing the barrage of Zelda news, it has come to my attention that the Main Menu/File Select/Fairy Fountain (yadda, yadda, yadda) theme that will be featured in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has been leaked, and it’s positively beautiful.

As many of you undoubtedly know, Skyward Sword’s soundtrack is largely orchestrated – a first for the series – and we’ll be hoping that the rest of the score lives up to this cracker. Interestingly, it’s the only piece of music in the game actually composed by Koji Kondo – the man famed for his involvement in the series’ magical tunes. Give it a listen here.

 – Rory

The Legend of Zelda symphony extends into 2012

November 8, 2011 - Leave a Response

Following the overwhelming success of the live Zelda orchestra performances across the globe, Nintendo have announced that they will be extending the show into the new year. Grandly titled The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, the tour will travel across the United States, with the first date being held in Dallas on January 10th, 2012. Tickets range from $19 to $115 and are available to purchase here. Members of Club Nintendo will be eligible for 15% discount until November 30th.

Additionally, a 3D video performance of the Legend of Zelda Main Theme will be made available via SpotPass to Nintendo 3DS owners this week. Similar videos are planned for the near future.

Press release.

– Rory

Nintendo announces new Zelda-themed 3DS

November 8, 2011 - 2 Responses

Ah, Nintendo. Forever amused, it seems, by toying with our flawless and discerning sense of style. No other company pumps out products in so many different colour variations quite like they do, and, seemingly unsatisfied with last month’s announcement of Coral Pink and Ice White 3DS systems, they’ve been at it again.

In their insatiable quest for variety, Nintendo announced today that they will be launching a new, Zelda-themed 3DS system to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of that most heralded of franchises. Adorned with the same black plastic as the Cosmos Black model, the Limited Edition bundle also sports a number of aesthetic changes.

The most obvious one can be seen on the front of the console: a pretty, gold decal print which features the Winged Triforce, Link’s ocarina and what appears to be Sheik’s harp. The visual feast continues when the console is opened up; a gold 3D Slider and a gold trim on the A, B, X and Y buttons, as well as the D-Pad, round off a rather tasty looking SKU. The Circle Pad, however, remains gray.

Details are scarce as of now, but the Limited Edition console will release on November 25th in Europe, and will come bundled with a copy of  The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D.

– Rory

Sitrep v2.

September 11, 2011 - Leave a Response

As you may or may not have noticed, it’s been a while since I last updated the site. I’ve now started another blog focusing on another one of my passions – football –  as I’d like to get as broad a portfolio as possible. OWiiLY? will have to take a bit of a backseat for now as I start University, but I’ll still be updating it from time-to-time.

Check out the new blog at The Town End.

– Rory

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword features RPG-like upgrade system

July 23, 2011 - One Response

After the release of Twilight Princess in 2006, famed videogame designer and Pope of Nintendo – Shigeru Miyamoto – famously said that it would be the last Zelda of its kind. At a time when people were unsure of the seemingly ‘new’ direction Nintendo were heading in, and of the consequent audiences they were attracting, many took the quote as a doomsday declaration for the series, speculating that Hyrule would be forever consigned to the history books, or to crappy spin-offs and peripheral pack-ins like Link’s Crossbow Training.

Other, more level-headed and less melodramatic fans took it to mean something altogether more positive in that Miyamoto was recognising something that Zelda fans had recognised years ago – Zelda needed to change. Wind Waker was, visually, a pleasant change from the usual greens and browns of Hyrule, but structurally it remained virtually identical to its predecessors. Skyward Sword  has promised to offer a somewhat different approach to overworld exploration and progression, with a central hub-world, somewhat akin to its DS brethren – Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.

Those games were certainly a departure from traditional Zelda fare, but the design choices inherent in these pocket-sized outings were likely made in the name of file size conservation and, primarily, tailoring the titles to the handheld experience. With Skyward Sword already offering a teen drama storyline, an orchestrated soundtrack and a brand new villain, what else does a console Zelda have to do to shake things up? Voice acting? Blood and gore? Multiplayer?

Nope, nuh-uh and not a chance; what Zelda has apparently been missing these past couple of years is an RPG-esque equipment upgrading system. In a recent hands-on demo with Gamespot, Bill Trinen of Nintendo of America let slip a few details about a leveling-up system that the game features.

They’ve built an entire upgrade system into the game. So for example, right now you can see that Link has his traditional shield, but he actually will get a lot of different shields in the game.

He will start off with a very basic one, and then as you fight enemies, you will recover kind of these treasures or artifacts that you can then use as resources to upgrade your items. And you can do that with your shield, you can do that with the beetle, and some of the other items that you have where you’re able to kind of combine your collection of rupees and your collection of resources and improve the items that you have.

Whether or not one of those ‘other items’ is Link’s sword is both unknown and doubtful. Additionally, whether this will be a somewhat pointless pursuit or an integral point of the game remains to be seen, but this, coupled with all the other innovations that Skyward Sword is bringing to the table keeps it at the tippety-top of gamers’ most anticipated releases of 2011.

– Rory

Nintendo ‘willing to invest’ to secure third-party support

July 7, 2011 - 2 Responses

It’s not a new concept to the industry; Microsoft reportedly paid $50 million for exclusive Grand Theft Auto IV DLC and were even accused of money-hatting Namco in order to secure the exclusivity of Tales of Vesperia, but paying for third-party content is not something that Nintendo has openly admitted to. Similarly, Jack Tretton – President of Sony Computer Entertainment of America – has, in the past, proudly proclaimed that Sony ‘don’t buy exclusivity’, whilst also taking a side swipe at Nintendo, who, in the eyes of Tretton, have a tendency to rely too heavily on first-party production.

While Tretton is world-renowned for talking from his arse, I do believe that particular comment holds some merit. It’s unlikely that Nintendo took his words to heart, but it’s no secret that criticism can be a compelling catalyst for creativity, and Nintendo’s relationships with third-parties have elicited criticisms abound. To what extent you believe their words or not aside, Nintendo have, since the Wii U’s reveal, been promising much-improved third-party support, suggesting they’re willing to learn from, and, more importantly, act upon, their shortcomings.

At a recent shareholders meeting, Satoru Iwata was questioned on the Wii’s frequent software droughts, and if Nintendo had plans in place to prevent a similar situation with the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS:

We think it very important to make several hits from the third-party software publishers within the first year from the release of the platform, while offering Nintendo software seamlessly. In order to achieve this goal, we have shared information about the new hardware with the software publishers earlier than we did previously and built a cooperative structure, and we are developing several titles in collaboration with these publishers. I cannot talk in detail about the names of the titles, or with which publishers we are currently collaborating, because we have not announced this information yet, but what we are aiming for with the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U is, platforms which have much more software and a wider variety of software than the former Nintendo DS or Wii. Therefore, we are thinking of creating an environment where software from other companies will become hits.

Nintendo claims to have shared the hardware specs of the Wii U earlier than usual, but developers such as Bethesda have indicated that they ‘know nothing’ about its capabilities. To me, this is worrying. Huge, Western developers like Bethesda are of the precise ilk that Nintendo should be trying to get on board. Bethesda, BioWare, Infinity Ward, Rockstar, Valve, Crytek – names that core gamers recognise and respect, names that will sell, and names that will promote system sales. I don’t work for Nintendo, I have absolutely zero inside knowledge or sources at Nintendo, and I have never claimed to. In that sense, I also have absolutely no idea who Nintendo is courting and who they’re not, but if a studio as big as Bethesda has been left in the dark, then it doesn’t fill me with confidence.

After the initial excitement and positivity coming from select studios, promises of core IPs like Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield heading to the Wii U were made by developers Ubisoft and EA, respectively, but their relationship with Nintendo was already fairly strong. So, what about those who are seemingly less inclined to develop for Nintendo’s latest console? What kind of Nincentive (sorry) will be offered to them? Money, of course!

Please understand that Nintendo is prepared to invest in order to make this a reality.

Problem solved? We shall see…

 – Rory


Grand Theft Auto IV mod looks better than real life

July 6, 2011 - 7 Responses

Life has its ways of proving us wrong  and altering our perceptions, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Today, it’s for the better. Recently, I was joining in on a discussion on – of whose homepage my ugly mug is currently featured – about photorealism in videogames and whether or not they’ll ever be able to convincingly recreate reality. I said no. Well, to elaborate, I argued that, unless we see some major advancements in the way that certain assets are modelled and rendered in the next few years, that developers simply can’t, and won’t, devote the man hours required to meticulously render the inside of a character’s nose, or the individual veins in leaves.

It seems that the community does what the developers can’t. In a move that has made me sorry for opening my big, stupid mouth, I have been stunned by one fan’s work. A community mod for Grand Theft Auto IV  has been released and it’s positively jaw-dropping. The mod uses something referred to as iCEnhancer 1.2, and whilst I’m not entirely sure what kind of technical witchcraft and wizardry is going on behind the scenes in this mod, I do know is that it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Sure, the foliage still looks a bit questionable and it’s still discernibly different from ‘real life’, but it’s mightily impressive; for that level of graphical fidelity to be achievable by technology that’s commercially available today fills me with excitement for the future of videogame verisimilitude.

– Rory

The state of play – Wii U and the ‘core’ gamer

June 30, 2011 - 4 Responses

We’ve heard it time and time again from Miyamoto: how a game looks should be secondary to what new ideas, innovations and surprises it brings with it, and whilst I’m inclined to agree with his omniscient words, I am only human, and as such, I find myself hopelessly drawn towards shiny things, and, like the dudebro that I am, that includes graphics. A massive part of my infatuation with Nintendo lies in their seemingly unique philosophy of videogame design – substance over style.

If you’ve been following what Nintendo has to say about the Wii U recently, you’ll have noticed that there’s been a distinct lack of discussion about its graphical capabilities, as was the case with the Wii. The implications of this may present cause for concern to some, but to me, this is just Nintendo’s way of taking the emphasis off presentation, and onto innovation and ideas, as has always been the Nintendo way. This quote from Animal Crossing producer Katsuya Eguchi summarises their viewpoint:

“Rather than compare specs with Microsoft and Sony, I’d like for people to view this as a different type of machine altogether. For me personally, what’s most important is what makes Wii U original, and that’s the controller.”

If the Wii taught me anything, it’s that a game doesn’t require modern vertex shaders, heaps of normal mapping and per-pixel rendering to provide an entertaining experience. Why, then, do I find myself snooping around the Internet at night, restlessly hounding down the faintest whiffs of articles pertaining to the graphical capabilities of the Wii U? Curiosity can account for much of it, but there’s simply no denying that advanced hardware can lead to more immersive, more enjoyable experiences when – and only when – it’s twinned with solid design.

First, lets tone down our expectations. Nintendo have stated that they’re trying to strike the balance between sophisticated hardware and affordability. As with the Wii and the GameCube before it, they want the Wii U to be the most financially viable console on the market in order to broaden appeal. Therefore, the Wii U was never going to be an absolute powerhouse.

Of course, Nintendo had to step up to the mark and provide a console that at least matched current gen offerings, – anything less would’ve been, candidly, embarrassing. Improvements in hardware are essential and, alone, they are usually enough to constitute the boundary between generations, but is there really a necessity to go above and beyond what’s already on the market? Looking ahead to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720, Nintendo will no doubt want to remain competitive to a degree in order to receive acceptable-looking ports from those platforms – something that the Wii kind of missed out on – but to put it simply, who cares?

Let me start by saying that I don’t hugely care for the whole casual vs. core debate; it’s full of generalised, ignorant, inaccurate and arbitrary views, categorisations and opinions which generally amount to nothing. However, I do think there is a clear divide between the two, and it’s at least worth talking about.

Despite what the ubernerds at NeoGAF might have you believe, the average ‘core’ gamer isn’t going to notice if Call of Duty Wii U runs at 720p whilst the Xbox version only runs at 600p. Nintendo fanboys aren’t going to care if Arkham City has better lighting effects on Wii U than its current-gen counterparts – they’ll be playing Zelda and Mario. Parents and kids sure as hell aren’t going to care about how many GFLOPS this thing can push. The only demographic that will care has already been lost by Nintendo, potentially forever – the dudebros.

The dudebros will not see the Wii U as a viable upgrade for two reasons.

  • It has Wii in the name.

  • It has a slightly unconventional controller.

Sadly, it’s as simple as that. Your average FIFA nut will not play with this controller. End of story. Besides, all their chums are already on Xbox LIVE. Do you really think they’re going to trade friend codes? Because they’re not.

“But, but, but…the developers!” I hear you cry, and cry you might – third party support is something that may prove to be hugely important to the success of the Wii U, so they ought to keep them happy; righting the wrongs of previous generations is a priority. Reggie talked about ‘ticking boxes’ for developers – powerful hardware and 1080p output are two of those boxes, but I personally feel there are more important shortcomings that Nintendo ought to tackle, namely a solid, robust yet flexible Online infrastructure.

Besides, third party developers seem perfectly happy with the system’s horespower. Japanese developers commented on how the Zelda HD demo simply isn’t possible on current consoles, whilst EA don’t even seem to know how powerful it is, and don’t seem to care; as far as they’re concerned, if it can run Battlefield 3, it’s powerful enough.

So, why do I care? Frankly, I enjoy a visual feast. Whilst I’m of the mindset that how a game makes you feel is more important than how nice it looks, I can’t help but want both – style and substance. Above all though, a hidden, illogical part of me just wants to see Nintendo really make a balls-to-the-wall machine with cutting edge specs, a robust Online system and heaps of third party support and I really, really don’t know why.

I am a multi-console owner. One of the main reasons I enjoyed this generation was due to the fact that I had two complementing systems – the Wii and the Xbox 360 – that offered two totally different experiences. In a utopian world, Nintendo could offer me the best of both into one package, but I just know they can’t – so why would I want two consoles which offer almost identical experiences? As long as the leap to Wii U is in line with current technological advancement, I don’t really care.

After re-reading this multiple times, it’s nowhere near as concise or succinct as I’d hoped, so I think it’s time to wrap up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Nintendo improving their game in the fields of hardware and Online networking is by any means a bad thing; it’s something that I very much welcome. However, I don’t feel that graphical prowess should ever be the main draw for a Nintendo console, and to me, it feels like all this talk of upping third party support is a somewhat futile effort to pander to a crowd which will never be satisfied by anything that Nintendo does.

 – Rory

Nintendo of Europe announces pre-order bundle for Xenoblade Chronicles

June 28, 2011 - One Response

Yup, still Europe only. Sorry, North American gamers – you might want to skip over this post altogether. European gamers will be able to get their hands on Monolith’s Xenoblade Chronicles on September 2nd, 2011. What’s more, if you pre-order the special bundle, you’ll also receive a limited edition Classic Controller Pro in red, three signed posters and a reversible sleeve with alternate cover art as voted for by fans.

 – Rory