The word alliance assumes that you have friends, for a gamer that's a stretch.
There have been literally thousands of tower defence games over the years, ever since the explosion of popularity that the Defence of the Ancients mod saw back in 2003, and even before that! Some have been good, some have been bad, but almost all of them I've been terrible at. That being said I've tried a lot of them, they are a style of game which I enjoy playing, I enjoy levelling up my units, trying to stop their advances in any way I can, and so I've bought a lot of tower defence games for PC, iPhone, and iPad. When Vectorform contacted Gamers Nexus in order to review their latest version of Galactic Alliance, this version made specifically for the iPad, I was all over it. I'd looked forward to having a go at Galactic Alliance ever since I'd seen it played on Microsoft Surface and, since I'll never be able to afford a Microsoft Surface, I'd assumed I'd never be able to play it. Thankfully, I was wrong.
Earlier this decade, 'open RPGs' were by-and-large the biggest fad in gaming: The Elder Scrolls series bathed in its originality across platforms, bringing the true feel of role-play to life. With the latter part of the decade winding down, we've seen fewer and fewer titles of the genre, and - disappointingly so - more shoot 'em up, multiplayer titles. Yes, Call of Duty, we mean you. The ebb and flow of FPS games managed to wash up a pearl of open RPGs, though: Divinity II - The Dragon Knight Saga. My initial skepticism toward the game was locked into gear with the artistic style of the box art (that had looked very JRPG-esque), but the game itself is far more impressive - and, for the most part, well-written.
Imagine my surprise to find myself laughing at a character voiced by Will Ferrell. I know! Shocker!
There was a time in my life when I would have done anything to play a movie tie-in game, especially one from a prominent movie of the time. Yes, I spent some of my childhood playing those classic Star Wars games for the GameBoy, but there was always something missing, something that I could never quite put my finger on. Eventually I discovered that what that was: I hadn't seen the film in the cinema when they had originally come out. I wasn't born yet. That realisation came later on in life when I played the movie tie-in games of films that I HAD seen at the cinema, Lion King for the Mega Drive, Toy Story 2 for the PlayStation, even Spider-Man 2 for the Xbox. There's always something added to the experience of a game when you've seen the movie it's tying in to. Something that dilutes the inevitable awfulness that, from now on, I'll be calling the “Tie-In Terror.” As far as I'm concerned, anyway.
The Internet is irrevocably the single most expansive compilation of knowledge in the world, and despite its humble beginnings as insignificant packets of data within token ring networks, the phenomenon has a current outreach of two billion global users. It is arguably man's greatest creation - a construct with procrastination-enhancing abilities second to none; somewhat more ostensible is its infinite potential to unite creative minds worldwide - be they mathematicians, undiscovered musicians, writers, or artists - and pool ideas into a sprawling mass of ingenuity. The Internet offers aspiring writers and garage bands an audience of millions of users, largely thanks to pioneer companies like Google and (before it was assimilated) YouTube. In fact, the very website you are reading would otherwise be non-existent without the affordable and forgiving ways of the web. However, as with all modern instruments, fear-stricken politicians of the United States have converged under the nigh-infallible vision of American mega-corporations, thirsty to stifle a new-sprung creative threat.
When I plugged my brand new PlayStation 1 into my TV one Christmas morning, the first game I fired up was Coolboarders 2. I love that game. It wasn't very good and there was really only one mode that was even mildly entertaining, but for some reason I kept playing it over and over again. Single player, multiplayer, no matter what I was doing I could always find a reason to put the game on and play just a little bit more. Ever since that time I've been looking for a snowboarding game that makes me feel the same way, there have been a few contenders, some have failed miserably and some have come close, but nothing made me feel the way I did back then. Maybe it's just nostalgia or maybe, just maybe, the developers of Coolboarders 2 managed to add something that still makes me feel happy to this day. When Gamers Nexus was contacted by Exient to review their latest game, X2 Snowboarding, I jumped at the chance. Not only was it an excuse to play more iPhone games and claim that I'm working, but from the screenshots that I saw it might have been the Coolboarders 2 game I was looking for; from the aesthetics to the modes, quite a few of the things I was looking for in a snowboarding game seemed to be there.
In our quest to interview the ever-expanding array of job functions within the versatile games industry, I had a chance to interview the omni-awesome (totally a word) David Martinez, a public relations 'account executive' at TriplePoint PR. This new column focuses on filling in the gaps between industry professions, so all of you who want nothing more than to delve into the bowels of gaming - short of MLG's bathroom stalls - this is the place to start! Last time, we made it a point to hone in on the often overlooked members in gaming - like audio directors; my interview with David continues the trend of examining the commonly forgotten contributors. PR reps are normally the people that set up the interviews with developers, although it is not uncommon to find them "working the floor" at conventions and expos.
I've been working with David for a little over a year now, and finally had a chance to meet him at PAX Prime (linked above). I'll let him do the talking in a second - but being on the receiving end of bountiful PR-ness, David is as good as they get. As he remarks below, a public relations rep has to be outgoing, open-minded, and generally knowledgeable about their selling points. Whether or not you want to work in the industry, the man is worth listening to! Continue on for the interview.
“Here we go! It's Crrrrrrraaazy Money Maker! Ooooops … erm … I mean Crazy Taxi”
If you walked into an arcade in about 1999, you would have seen the Crazy Taxi cabinet. It was almost everywhere. The fast-paced gameplay would eventually speak to the speed freak within all of us. I spent many of my precious pounds picking people up and dropping them off while attempting to find the quickest route through a busy city in Crazy Taxi. The phrase “Crrrrrrazy Taxi” alone would often catch my highly-tuned sense of hearing (tuned to video game themes in arcades - it made locating them easier), and off I'd wander to find out where, in the maze of machines, my fix was.
Releasing expansion packs at a frequency that challenges a machine gun's rate-of-fire is an old practice, and despite the (disputed) push toward DLC, has not been entirely forgotten. Majesty 2 establishes the player as King of numerous outposts and towns, and through a supremacy-styled campaign, he must conquer monsters and overlords of each map. By using indirect control of heroes - such as beacons with gold coin rewards - our player acts somewhat equivalent to a Dungeon Master / Game Master for tabletop RPGs. That is, you put rewards on BBEGs (big bad evil guys), pray that an adventurous group of wizards and warriors will compete for the rewards, and repeat. The formula is elegant and simple, and makes for a distinctive play opportunity to perform from the throne room (as opposed to being 'the hero,' as is typical in fantasy games).
Level design is akin to writing: eventually, the creative flow of ideas is impeded by some form of 'block' (level designers block, perhaps?). I've done a lot of level design for video games (Majesty 2, Mount & Blade) and tabletop games, and I recently came across a unique idea for planning out a steampunk-based dungeon. Bear with me here - I will be designing this dungeon through use of lyrics in a song; yes, that means lines will be metamorphosed into rooms (or elements) of the dungeon. This trick can be applied to video games and tabletop gaming, and I've tried to make the dungeon described below as neutral as possible. For sake of knowing, I designed this dungeon with Savage Worlds (a Dungeons & Dragons-esque tabletop rules system) in mind.
I realized the lyrics in the song "Re-Education (Through Labor)" by Rise Against had fantastic lyrics for a steampunk or skeletal dungeon. Since skeletons and undead are overdone in level design, we're going to opt for something steampunk-driven. It's more fun, anyway. This trick won't work for every song (you might have trouble converting Bieber or Beyonce to dungeon-crawling), but a lot of rock and punk songs should be convertible. First: Let's take the lyrics and begin siphoning ideas from them.
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