Escape Plan

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Escape Plan

Escape Plan was one of the original launch title for the Vita, and one of the games that had me most interested in the system when I first saw it demoed. The game just oozes style, and I wanted to see how it played on the new device. Is this game something to load up on your Vita or should you just leave it to look cool on other people’s Vita’s?

Escape Plan_PS Vita

Keep reading to find out the whole story for Escape Plan on the Vita.

Story

This is a puzzle game so story is pretty bare bones… You play as two different characters, Lil and Laarg, two strange ink people who are for some reason imprisoned by a guy named Bakugan.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

Considering that no one ever speaks in this game (although you do hear Bakugan getting upset once and a while), there’s no personification to speak of, and it’s sort of not the point, like in any puzzle game that isn’t Portal, the Story isn’t the focal point.

Gameplay

This is something that I was really wondering about when I first saw the game play. Escape Plan uses almost exclusively the dual touch screens for controls. This input method have you control your characters, and the things around the environment, like moving objects in the level to help Lil and Laarg survive and make it to the next screen.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

The sad part about this, is that it doesn’t really work quite well… I don’t think this has anything to do with the developers not knowing how to use the touch screens, but I think that sadly touch screen controls will always be less comfortable than button controls.

Feats that would be easy to perform with regular buttons become difficult and frustrating using the touch screens, and another problem is if you don’t have massive hands it’s difficult to switch between the back and front touch screens without changing your handle on the Vita, and that lead to a lot of unnecessary deaths in this game. The controls just never got out of the way like they do in other games where you just “are” the character.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

Many times I had figured out the puzzle quite quickly, but because of the slow and clunky controls it made me want to smash my console. This game does not play well.

Graphics

Here is something that the game does really well. Escape Plan runs in a retro black and white art style that really does look great, if Tim Burton worked in game design you might see a few more games with this design.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

The music in the game is also great, using classical music and old tunes to – with the black and white art style – create a cool atmosphere that certainly does make this game a pleasure to look at. It does show a great attention to detail, but sadly that great style doesn’t prevent the gameplay from getting in the way.

Is Escape Plan worth playing?

This is a game with a lot of style, but really it doesn’t deliver on the gameplay side. They had an interesting idea, but at the end of the day

Escape Plan_PS Vita-Gameplay Screenshot-2

I felt like I was playing something more at home on an ipod than a “hardcore” gaming device. It shows that the limitations of Touch screens still persist even when you have two of them. It was a noble effort, but the idea was ultimately flawed.

5.5/10

A good idea but Escape Plan’s controls are clunky and obtrusive.

We Interview Chris Avellone From Obsidian Entertainment: Part 2

Chris Avellone metal

 Chris Avellone From Obsidian Entertainment

Be sure to read Part 1 here!

General Questions About Gaming And Game Design:

What do you think about games that are based around an alignment based system? Are they too limited? How would you enforce the alignment role-playing aspect?

I don’t always believe in a game imposing morality unless it’s part of a franchise (Star Wars). In Alpha Protocol we did away with a player morality bar because in the espionage world, it’s difficult to say whether you’re “good” or “bad,” you’re just out to accomplish your mission and your reasons are your own. I do feel it’s fair if you set up reputation bars for other people, companions, and factions because it’s easier to imagine how NPCs and communities would judge your actions that us trying to judge the player and slap a +/- on it.

I did dislike the alignment system in D&D because it always assumed the player should choose an alignment before adventuring in the world. So in Torment, we let the player be a blank slate and let the alignment evolve (and reverse) over time depending on your actions. We felt that this was a better interpretation of the alignment system and it made more sense in the context of the narrative.

What do you think about the trend that we see in modern gaming where people consider MMORPGs to be RPGs? Is this correct or have they simply not had then chance to play a real traditional RPG?

Advancement schemes are similar, and some of the cause and effect you experience in RPGs is there, and I’d argue the ability to form your own party from other players provides the equivalent of an RPG experience in many respects. You may not always be able to make your decisions and actions felt in the environment because you can’t disturb the MMORPG equilibrium to the same extent as you can in a single-player RPG, but some of the core elements are there, yes.

If you had to remake a classic RPG made by another studio, which one would you remake and why?

SSI Wizard’s Crown or Eternal Dagger because I loved the way they showcased the dungeons and allowed you to develop your character. Pool of Radiance would also be fun (the 1st Goldbox one) as would Dark Sun’s Shattered Lands (which I loved).

What is the most influential yet obscure game you have ever played and why do you find it so important in your gaming history?

Well, in terms of influential yet obscure, that cuts a lot of games out – I feel a lot of the more common games have had a big influence on my designs (Portal, Chronotrigger, Ultima Underworld). If I were to name some “obscure” ones, I’d probably say System Shock 2 is the top of the list (it’s basically a design doc for how to make a great game), Amnesia: The Dark Descent for introducing a challenge mechanism that could simultaneously terrify you, Bastion’s narration mechanics, and Wasteland for proving to me how you could use game mechanics in the context of a “conventional” RPG to make some truly brilliant levels if you took a step back and thought outside the box.

What was your favorite character from RPGs you have worked on and why?

That’s tough, and it varies. I liked most of the Torment cast for different reasons, even Ignus and Vhailor. If I had to choose one, it would probably be Fall-From-Grace, I always enjoyed the premise of a puritan succubus who’s simultaneously the nicest, wisest, and gentlest people you can meet on the Planes. Jennifer Hale did a great job with her voice.

Who is your favorite co-worker and why?

Brian Menze, our concept artist and the lead artist on South Park now. I’ve known Brian ever since the Black Isle days, and he’s been my friend for a very, very long time. We still try and do comic book Wednesdays every week, and the studio would be a sadder place without his presence. He’s brought a lot of characters in the studio to life, and he’s incredibly modest and humble about his pieces, which makes me like him all the more.

Who in computing or video game history has been your idol and why?

Tim Cain, Tom Hall, Richard Dansky, to name a few. Tim reimagined how RPG mechanics could work for me, Tom Hall reimagined how design aesthetics could be applied in unconventional ways (Anachronox), and Richard Dansky never stops being a great guy and helping people.

I couldn’t possibly name everyone, but those are the people that jump to mind. I have the good fortune to work with Tim Cain on this project, and that’s one of my life goals on my bucket list.

First Project Eternity Screenshot

What do you watch/play/listen-to/read while trying to get creative ideas for projects?

Mostly trance music. I can’t listen to anything with lyrics while writing a character, I find the words and inner speech of the character I’m writing gets all jumbled up.

Going to see a live show or play I’ve found is one of the best means to stir the creative pot up when I have writer’s block (or even if I don’t). I have a lot of friends in the theater or who play in bands, and watching them live is enthusiastically contagious.

Other times, I immerse myself in research. Often when tackling an area, concept, or type of game, I try to read as much literature and watch as much media relevant to it (example, for Fallout New Vegas: Lonesome Road, I re-read Damnation Alley again, watched The Road, etc, etc.). When I got back into Wasteland, I started listening to a lot more 80s music, watching 80s movies and even researching 80s commercials to get a feel for the era… I’m embarrassed to say my memories of the 80s have slipped away, so it’s a shock to remember some of the big moments and media of the decade.

Project Eternity Specific Questions:

I always loved the interaction between my party members in some of your previous games, especially in Planescape: Torment. I did not like how rare these interactions did happen though. Do you plan on implementing a more ongoing interaction between the party companions? Have you considered adding interactions that will only happen when you have certain companions in the party?

Yes and yes, we feel companion commentary with each other is a strong means of showing how alive and reactive your companions are – not just to the world and your actions, but to each other’s presence. Plus, they’re fun to write, I certainly enjoyed writing the ones in Torment and would have loved to have written more.

Are we going to be limited in party size? Yes, it would probably make the game a lot easier to be walking around with an army so what we are asking is, what would be the magic number and how can you logically limit the size? Have you considered implementing the hiring of mercenary NPCs?

Party size will be a single player character and up to five companions – or as you mentioned above with mercenaries, you can also round out your party with recruited allies (which you can customize and build in the Adventurer’s Hall).

How do you plan to sell the game once it is finished and live? Retail? Steam? Impulse? GOG?

GOG (DRM-free) and Steam are our digital distribution outlets. We are also going to see if we can work on distributing the boxed version at retail as well, but we have not specific plans on that yet.

Have you considered making certain parts of the game have a randomized value that would add to the replayability of the game? Have you considered randomizing major plot points or the true intentions of certain characters?

Right now, our efforts have been focused on the hand-crafted elements that will make up the spine of the game.

project eternity wallpaper

Will gear be generally usable by most characters or will it require a certain adjustment for use? By this I mean, can a mage wear at least some level of real armor. Also, a dwarf wouldn’t be able to wear a troll’s armor unless he had an armorer make a suit of armor from that troll’s armor. Do you plan to implement that kind of level of equipment realism in the game? Will gear have wear and tear? Will the game offer some level of crafting element?

We won’t restrict gear according to player race. If you find armor, any race can wear it.

Would somebody be able to simply play not caring what the game’s plot is trying to get us to do? What I mean is similar to what’s found in the game Mount & Blade, for which you can pick what you really want to do such as hire one-self out to work for the highest paying empire or faction.

Like an Infinity Engine title, there is a plot, and while we will have dungeons that respawn and events in the world that you can cause to happen through your actions (such as turning a town or city hostile), the game requires some interaction with the plot from the player to progress. That said, we do want the player to feel free in how they approach the plot and feel that they can make the choices they want to make.

Will you give players the option to dramatically change the world in the RPG such as by ending it or potentially creating utopia?

The story hasn’t been nailed down yet, we’re still crafting it. We do want the world to persist in some fashion after the first installment, and even if great changes occur in the first game, there’s still plenty of world to explore in future games.

Would we be able to have our character fall in love with other characters in the game? Do we get to choose this or what if the game chose for us? Would it be possible to start a family, such as in the Fable games or Europa 1400 The Guild?

There’ll be a variety of mature relationships in the game, and you can choose to interact with them as little or as much as you want.

How is time handled in the game? Will the game take the course of a year? Will it take many years with some of the effects from the earlier part of the game affecting the mid and end game?

We’re handling time in a similar fashion to the BG and IWD games. Events happen in more-or-less real-time (real game time, that is, not literally minute per real world minute) except for rest sequences. We probably won’t be advancing time artificially off screen (“Act 1 is over, so X years pass,” for example).

Will the game offer any kind of multiplayer, such as letting our friends take over our party members in combat?

We want to focus on the single-player experience and make sure that’s solid. We don’t have any multiplayer plans at this time.

Would you let players submit translated versions of the game in other languages that haven’t yet been scheduled for translation?

They would most likely be part of the translation efforts if they wanted to volunteer. We’d welcome the help, and we’ve already received a huge amount of support from international fans that would love to do the translations for us (and if you are one of them and you’re reading this –thanks again).

Do you plan on updating the game with expansions once the game is released? How often would this happen? Would players be able to make their own mods or expansions once the game is live and would an editor be made available eventually?

We would like to do this, although we’re still examining how the pipelines for expansions would work. We don’t want to promise something that we couldn’t do until we’d done more research. We recently released an update with our modding views – we like modding, we want to encourage it, but we don’t want to promise it unless we know we can do it, or else we’d do our players and backers a disservice.

Although I have asked about technology already, since this is such a game changer, I made it a separate question: Will this universe have guns or gunpowder?

It has both. Gunpowder weapons exist, though they are single-shot wheellock variety, and are primarily used to give mages an unprecedented run for their money.

Will all the major races be humanoids or will you implement at least one really weird non-humanoid races a major player in this world?

We’ve got a selection of races, both seemingly-traditional and ones that are more off the beaten path. Some of the concept pieces we’ve released (notably the female dwarf) should give some clues as to what to expect from the choices for race in the game.

What’s the major mode of transportation in this universe?

Foot travel is the primary mode of transportation, although occasionally players may find themselves magically transported somewhere. To speed up overland travel, we will implement a map UI so the player can quickly move their party to locations they’ve already discovered. Note that our map UI is similar to what’s been found in the Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate games, not Elder Scrolls or Fallout 3/New Vegas-style fast travel.

What kinds of religions will we see in the game?

This will fall on Josh Sawyer (our resident theologian). More to come on this as the world is fleshed out in future updates.

The Interview: Mari0

Mari0

Perhaps you have seen the video floating around the internet of our favorite plumber carrying a special tool from another one of our favorite games. Mari0 is a project being work on by a group of programmers over at StabYourself.net. The game brings together the classic Super Mario Bros game with elements from the Valve game, Portal.

Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with Sašo Smolej from StabYourself.net about the game:

Tell us a little about Mari0?

Mari0 is what happens when you take the NES classic and add one of the best received concepts in the last few years: Portals. It’s a feature rich, close to original remake of Super Mario Bros. with portals, map editor and co-op. We will also deliver a story with custom maps with the game, and will allow users to send us their maps, which we will host on our server to be downloadable by anyone from ingame.

 How did you come up with the idea for it?

Maurice started working on a SMB clone in January, and in April we came upon Dorkly’s Mario with portal gun video. The original idea before seeing the video was adding the same multiplayer that is found in “New Super Mario Bros. Wii”, but that changed after discovering it. Since the whole code is optimized for multiplayer, it was really easy to add co-op (With any number of players) though, so that helped.

Mari0 - multiplayer

Since this is not a mod, but a full game can you tell us about the process of creating it?

Before we started hammering away on the keyboard, we had to think the concept through, see where problems may arise and what we would have to change in order to keep the game fun. It’s not as simple as “Take Mario and add Portal Gun”. We had to start at the very basics: Level drawing, movement, collisions, controls, all that junk.

It really is a lot of work to recreate a whole game. We’re ripping graphics and sounds as we go, and compare the game a lot to the real thing to make sure we’re getting as close to for example the jumping physics as we can. After we had a solid and playable foundation and thought things through, we started adding Portal logic, as well as mouse support and everything related. This is an example of a trade that we have to make between “playability” and “close to original”, because one the one hand, Super Mario Bros. obviously doesn’t have a mouse, but on the other, having to use the arrow keys to point the portal would be a limiting solution.

We have also decided to break free a little from NES graphic restrictions concerning anything Portal related. Once we’ll be completely done with the Portal gun (we’re close!), we’ll start thinking about the story and level design.

 What made you go with the classic 1985 Mario Bros?

It’s a game everyone (or at least everyone 16+) remembers from their childhood, and we love to play with people like that: Give them a familiar environment and then surprise them with a modern twist. We think that’s what gives these games their appeal.

Can you give us an idea of the stories you might explore in the game?

We’re still collecting ideas, thinking of the direction we’ll go. We can’t say anything specific at this point since it will probably end up being completely changed.

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What are your plans as far as music?

We have gotten an offer from a music artist whose work we quite liked, so he will probably be writing the music in a Portal 2 soundtrack style for the Portal levels we will ship with the game. The original levels will use the original music, for nostalgia sake.

What is your favorite classic video game and why?

Maurice: It probably really is the Super Mario Bros. series, especially the third one. It just has so many levels, worlds and side stuff, you can really tell Nintendo went all out on this one to create the best game in the NES library.

Sašo: It’s kind of a hard pick for me since I grew up with the PC, never really having the opportunity to play console games. I think Outlaws and Jazz Jackrabbit would be my pick since they’re the most memorable of the games I actually played. I did of course play games like SMB, but a bit later than most other.

When do you think the playable version will be ready?

I’d love to be able to give you an answer, but since this is a pure hobby we’re making our own times and can’t give you a solid date. We keep telling ourselves “This year” but hopefully it’ll be in about 2 months or so.

You can check out and keep up to date on Mari0 at their official website – http://stabyourself.net/mari0/

Portal: No Escape

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Portal: No Escape

Hollywood is always looking for a good movie, to bad they usually don’t find one. A big trend is making a movie based on a comic book or a game, well here is your chance Hollywood make one about Portal. Portal would not make a very good movie you say, check out this awesome video and make sure its in HD with the sound turned up.

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Razer DeathAdder – Transformers 3 Collector’s Edition Review

razer-deathadder

Razer has released their Transformers Collector’s edition of the DeathAdder mouse and I had a chance this weekend to try out the purple Decepticon model. The mouse has a shiny metallic purple color to it and both the scroll wheel and Decepticon logo lights up. The design looks great but in the dark with the neon-like colors, it looks awesome.

Let’s talk highlights, first off the DeathAdder features at Ergonomic Right-Handed Design. What this means is the DeathAdder is made for right-handed users and is designed for maximum comfort. When you grip the mouse, your hand rests comfortably on the base so when you are gaming for long periods of time you don’t get pains or feel fatigue that can happen with other mice designs.

Larger or small hands the DeathAdder feels as if its molds to you which is important in games with fast movements like Battlefield. The scroll wheel is a bit larger then on some other mice, but not to big that it feels cumbersome and it has 24 individual clicking positions. The rubble and groves on the wheel work perfectly with your finger when scrolling or pressing down on it.

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The two side buttons are easy to reach with your thumb and feel sturdy when you press down hard on them. I like that these side buttons are a decent size and of course, they are programmable so you can customize it to your favorite games. The two top mouse buttons are also large and wide enough for various finger positioning.

As for performance, I tried out the DeathAdder in various games from Call of Duty to World of Warcraft, Portal 2 and World of Tanks. One main selling point of the DeathAdder is the 3500DPI 3.5G Infrared sensor, this deals with precision when moving the mouse and with sensitivity in games and within windows.

In games like World of Tanks depending on what tank you are playing you may want more or less sensitivity. I noticed right away the sensitivity of the DeathAdder was much higher by default from my other mice so you may need to adjust your in game setting if you are not used to it.

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However, even with increased sensitivity I quickly adjusted because of how the mouse flows and reacts to my movements even when I get a little twitchy. So when you are trying to shoot a tank from far away or locking in a headshot the DeathAdder shows no sign of negative acceleration meaning you can move with speed and ease and quickly get the shot off.

This is also due to the 1000HZ ultrapolling, which deals with response time. For you old school FPS people, remember spinning your mouse for a railgun shot in Quake 2? The response time of your mouse can be the difference between a kill and a wild shot so with a response time of 1ms on the DeathAdder, you do have faster feedback, which can give you an advantage in competitive FPS games.

Now you can control and tweak all the DeathAdders setting in the control panel provided by Razer. Here you can control acceleration, horizontal and vertical sensitivity. You can also change button assignments and control the glow effects of the mouse. Best of all the on-the-fly sensitivity control means you can alter the sensitivity within a game without having to exit the program and adjust your settings in Windows.

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The DeathAdder mouse glides across multiple surfaces, which is good for those who hate using mouse pads. I used the mouse on various surfaces including my wooden desk and even though I still prefer my ultra-thin mouse pad, the DeathAdder worked well on each surface.

A few things to note that also gives the DeathAdder a nice touch is the gold plated USB connection and the 7-foot braided fiber cable. Nothing sucks more than not having enough cable if you keep your PC further away than normal and the strong cable design is great if you are a little rougher on mice than normal gamers.

Overall, we give the DeathAdder the Obsolete Gamer stamp of approval for overall comfort, performance and design. If there is one negative point it would be the price tag. At $60 the price is a bit high for a mouse, but for advanced gamers and gaming professions it is worth the cost.

You can purchase the DeathAdder Transformers 3 Collector’s edition at Razer,

There Are Games On Macs. It’s True!

PC vs Mac Steam
PC vs Mac Steam

For those late to the party, Macs are finally getting some PC gaming love from Valve’s digital gaming distribution service called Steam. With this new cross-platform addition to the Macs arsenal, the chic liberal Starbucks drinking hippies can now play Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal, and other Valve games built on Source. For those who weren’t aware, there was an offer to get iPod ear buds for the purchase of a Mac copy of Team Fortress 2 which could carry on to your PC version as well since the Steam Cloud works cross platform. I mention this because it also means that whatever saved state you have on your PC will move over to the Mac and vice versa so you don’t have to start all over again.

One other neat little quirk is that Mac players don’t play with only Mac users as some other games seem to segregate them to their lonesome selves. The battle against the PC and Mac can now take place with more than just words. Someone in your L4D2 team using a Mac? Let a tank flip a car on him while you rush to the safe house. Tired of the shit talkers on the PC talking down to your little apple? Become a spy, pretend to be his friend, sap his sentry and take a nice stab to their back. Finally, the war can be waged.

The scenario I described does sound a bit immature but I assure you that the internet is serious business. From personal experience, playing TF2 since the Mac launch I have seen Mac and PC users alike verbally assault one another in a brutal fashion and even personally attempt to dominate the OSX or Windows lovers specifically. It has brought a new flavor to gaming online in Source games and it’s a welcome rivalry that I think many are glad to finally play a more aggressive stance in. The only downside I find in all of this is when someone asks me if they should buy a Mac I can’t say “There are no games on a Mac.” With World of Warcraft and Source’s amazing multiplayer online games that’s all you’d really need to have as a Mac user. Before someone begins the debate that Call of Duty is better than Team Fortress 2 and that is reason enough to not buy a Mac… you need to eat a bag of dicks. Team Fortress 2 is superior to Call of Duty. I know this may cause some internet rage but that’s my stance on it and if you haven’t given Team Fortress 2 or any Valve games a chance yet you can purchase the entire Valve Library for $66.99 this weekend. That’s 22 games for the PC and 6 are available for the Mac. For those who have yet to play Steam on the Mac, what are you waiting for? Let the shit talking and rocket flying begin!

Portal is Free!

Portal Logo
Portal Logo

Portal is Free!

Until May 24th, Portal is now free. The game is short and most people can beat it in a few hours, so it’s worth checking out this short classic before the free period runs out, if you don’t have it already.

Portal is available for PC and for Mac.

Click here to get the game free and play it now.