Gerard Butler, King of Internet Horror Gaming Bumped?

The newest word out is that Gerard Butler’s upcoming gaming spectacular, Game, will be bumped back to summer of 2009, which frankly is not a bad idea.

It’s the plotline of this sucker that makes it scream “summer popcorn extravaganza”–it’s the not-too-distant future (next Sunday A.D.? Maybe not that close.) and the biggest trend in gaming makes the Uncanny Valley look like a tourist trap.  Humans can take control of ACTUAL HUMANS and send them running through various game mazes and have them blast holy hell out of each other.  It’s almost like the end fight in Doom only, you know, more entertaining.  Needless to say, the poor suckers being used as avatars don’t like this idea much, and one of them (Gerard Butler) decides he’s going to somehow override his programming and shut the game down by killing its founder.

Like I said, popcorn munching extravaganza of hate-fuelled explosions, right?  Right.  After Gerard Butler’s meme-inspiring, spectacularly over-the-top scenery-chewing performance in 300, (fill in the blank: This is madness!  Madness?  This! Is! ______________!!  Yeah, I bet at least a dozen of you just shouted Sparta at your monitor, didn’t you?  Admit it!) it’s safe to say we’ll get something equally over the top on this one.  After all, surely Game is at least kind of 300 in science fiction garb, no?

All things considered, though, I’m really looking forward to summer 2009.

Unreal Tournament 3 Review(7 out of 10)

After over 3 years of waiting, Epic Games released Unreal Tournament 3(UT3) in late 2007 for the PC and PS3. Never fear 360 players, UT3 has just recently been released for the 360 as well. For this review, I have been playing the PC version of the game. Simply put, Unreal Tournament 3 is a huge upgrade from Unreal Tournament 2004 in every way.

UT3 Box Art(PC)

Graphics: UT3 is using the Unreal Engine 3 for some crisp next generation graphics. The downside being that for PC gamers this may mean a pricey graphic card upgrade.

Gameplay: The gameplay is hands-down fun and intuitive. The gameplay formula hasn’t changed since the last Unreal Tournament game, but there have been some very nice features that have been added for UT3. Transportation has been made easier by the addition of the hover-board and a slew of new vehicles. There is also a new mode, Warfare, in which players capture nodes and trigger events to defeat the opposing team, but a good chunk of the modes from UT2004 have been dropped from UT3.

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Video Game Trivia: Break In With Force

Hi, Brian Nathanson.

Since you put up your article lamenting your failure to break into the video game industry, you’ve probably gotten a good deal of feedback. Probably a lot of that feedback is unkind.

I don’t mean to make you feel bad. But I want to be clear that the reason you didn’t get any calls back in response to your resume and portfolio is not some kind of unfairness in the industry. It’s because you presented yourself poorly.

Something that was impressed on me early in journalism was that a single mistake on my resume, a single period out of place, would mark me as a person who didn’t care enough to proofread my work. Anyone who lacked that base would not be getting a response, much less an interview.

The game industry isn’t journalism, but let’s take a look at one of the pieces you’ve been sending to potential employers.

This menu is a very simple model. To include it in your portfolio, you’ll have to impress with your design sense.

Unfortunately, the layout is pretty bad. Pictures from Google Image Search are hastily photoshopped in. It looks like something you threw together for a class assignment you didn’t want to do. If your website is any indication, it makes you look much worse than you really are at design.

Plus, here’s your “missing period”: You list the model as one polygon. As a rectangle, it’s two polygons. This makes you look like you lack even the “base” skills that you say should earn you an interview.

Whether or not this is an accurate representation of your skills, I don’t know. But let’s be clear: It isn’t the industry’s fault. You’ve been competing against people who are so passionate about art and video games that they’ve gone beyond the classroom to improve their skills. If you can’t produce evidence of your passion on first glance, why should someone follow up with you?

This will happen to you in any creative field you go into.

You’re still young. Think long and hard about what it is you really want. Then, instead of waiting for someone to give it to you, go out and take it.

Video Game trivia: 7-128′s games for all

Our article yesterday focused on making mainstream games accessible to the disabled. But what about making games that are designed to be accessible from the ground up?

One company that makes games built for universal access is 7-128 Software, a collection of seven full-time employees in the Boston area.

The initial idea for the company came in the mid-80′s, said John Bannick, 7-128′s chief technology officer. He was working at Xerox under Ray Kurzweil, the inventor of the first text-to-speech reading machine for the blind.

Musician Stevie Wonder was a longtime user of the machines. One day, they got a call from one of his people.

The machine kept talking about a pirate.

Stevie Wonder was not reading a book about pirates. What was going on, they asked?

Bannick went to one of the engineers. As it turned out, the reading machine had been programmed with a copy of Zork,* which Mr. Wonder must have somehow accidently activated.

“I thought to myself ‘Damn! You could write a text-based game for the blind,’” Bannick said.

Bannick started 7-128 Software in 2007, and the company has a library of puzzle and adventure games, all rated for whether they can be used by players who are blind, visually impaired, colorblind, deaf, motion impaired or cognitively impaired. However, 7-128′s games are targeted to everyone who plays casual games, not just disabled ones, said Bannick.

Though Bannick has been working in user interfaces for 30 years, he’s fascinated by the challenges in making games for the disabled not just accessible, but entertaining. “It’s a whole new realm,” he said.

In one case, the company was doing playability testing for one of the games in the “Inspector Cindy in Newport” series, text-driven adventures that take place in 1890′s-era Rhode Island.

The feedback they got back from one of their blind testers, Rosie, was “This is boring. I want to hear some interesting sounds.”

That was Bannick’s introduction to “ear candy,” as opposed to the usual eye candy. The games now have rich incendental sounds like carriages going by, servant’s chimes or grandfather clocks.

The text also describes the world in a way that isn’t necessarily visual. For instance, the game might talk about hearing steam whistles or smelling horses and perfume.

For the future, Bannick is interested in getting a brain control unit and designing a game specifically for this emerging technology. We here at Kwanzoo will be taking a look at these new devices in the next week or so.


*”But wait,” you’re saying. “Zork didn’t have a pirate. Adventure had a pirate.” Since we are also trivia pedants, we asked Bannick about that. Here’s the reply:

“Since the game was re-coded into the Reading Machine, the coders could have used the word pirate. Or the person who told me why the word “pirate” was being spoken (Steve Baum, then head of Systems Programming) confused Adventure with Zork. I do recall he said that there were not one, but two Zork games in the Reading Machine. So maybe he was using the one title to refer to two similar games. Regardless, it did plant the seed that eventually became the accessibility part of 7-128 Software.

“The interesting thing about it was that at that time the Reading Machine software was written in Data General Nova Assembler. Assembler takes a lot more effort to code. Apparently those coders had a whole lot more time on their hands than we do today.”

Video game trivia: The Art of the Hustle

So you’ve got a game idea? Congratulations. You’re going straight to the top, baby. Now you just need to figure out how to separate ten million dollars from a publisher so your employees can eat and house themselves while they make it.

In the service of navigating the business world of video games, there’s an article at Gamasutra about how to make your pitch.

A lot of it is fairly standard stuff. Don’t show up in a tank top and gym shorts. Keep it short, simple and strong. If you see a contract, hire a lawyer.

For those of us outside the industry, it also offers a peep at the odds a developer is facing when they make their case to those with the bankrolls.

With that mentality, however, comes selectivity. Said [Microsoft Game Studios Europe business development director Peter] Zetterberg, “We get about 600 games a year sent in, from pieces of paper to presentations and demos, and 50 of those are demoed to marketing and so on. Ninety percent are thrown out at the door. Six might get signed, one gets cancelled, so one percent get published.”

Have you ever considered the world of independent game development, my friend?