Friday, February 27, 2015

Hate Plus OST Review

  • Name: Hate Plus OST
  • Label: Christine Love
  • Composer(s): Isaac Schankler
  • Number of Tracks: 20

I recently managed to get the Humble Bundle titled "For Lovers (of Games)" which meant I ended up with a lot of Japanese style visual novel games – one of them being Christine Love's Hate Plus. While I've finished the game I've yet to type up the review, so in the meantime let's take a look at the game's soundtrack (which was also included as part of the Humble Bundle).

The soundtrack contains 20 tracks all of which are very short (usually less than two minutes save for the ridiculously long "Cake!" which clocks in at 21 minutes) although you could almost discount the 6 second track "Probe" since it’s really just a sound effect.

The soundtrack starts off with a bang thanks to a catchy, vocal number called "It's Not Ero!" with vocals by Senah Kim and lyrics by the game's developer, Christine Love. Admittedly some of the irony is lost on me with this particular track since despite its happy, care-free music, the lyrics have dark undertones that only fans of the original game, Analogue: A Hate Story, would understand (I actually didn't get very far in the game.)

The rest of the soundtrack contains mostly short, ambient, minimalist stuff which I don't tend to like, although they work well when listened to in the game. Particular favourites of mine include "Dream", an appropriately dreamy and lovely piano piece that reminds me of the soundtrack from "The Shawshank Redemption", the toe-tapping and melodic "Vision" which reminds me of the game Frederik Pohl's Gateway and "Old" which sounds very serious and formal with a hint of the blues to it.

The rest of the soundtrack is okay save for the noisy or discordant tracks such as "People" and "Birth" that are really hard for me to get into.

Score - 5/10

Hate Plus has a great soundtrack when listened to in-game but probably doesn’t work so well as an album you’d listen to on your playlist save for the excellent vocal number "It's Not Ero!" (which is unfortunately very rare to hear in the game).

I managed to get this soundtrack along with the Humble Bundle but at the moment you can either get it as DLC off Steam for $5 USD or off Isaac Schankler's Bandcamp site for the same price.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Where are they now? - Stephen Beeman

Stephen Beeman was project director for Wing Commander II

When people think of Origin Systems they probably think of the big names like Richard Garriott (aka Lord British) or Chris Roberts. However, there were plenty of other people to help make the company whose motto was "We Create Worlds" a reality. One such man was Stephen Beeman who features on this week's "Where are they now?"
Beeman started his career doing boring stuff, at least by gamer standards, but no doubt very important work for his customers. Between 1984 to 1986, Beeman worked as a programmer developing math coprocessor libraries for medical imaging systems and also developed a custom database solution for call centre management. It wasn't until 1987 that he got a chance to embrace his passion for games: board games in fact. Beeman worked at Steve Jackson Games on a vehicle combat board game called Car Wars but only for about a year since in 1989 he moved to one of my favourite development studios of all time: Origin Systems.

Beeman only worked there for a few years but would end up contributing to a few of my favourite games such as Wing Commander (as a programmer), Ultima VI (as a writer and director) and Wing Commander II (as writer, director and software engineer).

Beeman left Origin in 1992 but would continue to work on gaming related projects over the next several years such as working on the 3DO console, working at Microsoft on Kinect prototypes and even returning to Origin in 2000 for a short stint as Director of Online Technology for Ultima Online.

So what has Beeman been up to in recent times? Well in 2009 he formed his own company called Gizmocracy LLC which focuses on the development of mobile games using Unity. Since last year, he's also accepted a position as Senior Lecturer at the DigiPen Institute of Technology teaching students an introductory course on Network Programming. Beeman continues to be pretty active on his blog and Twitter feed so unlike many of his peers, he hasn't disappeared from the limelight :). While it'd be awesome if Beeman developed PC games again it seems he's focusing on iPhone games for now. :( We can always hope he rejoins the Glorious PC Master Race - maybe with some games on Steam? :)

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Stephen Beeman ]
[ Stephen Beeman's Blog ]
[ Stephen Beeman's Twitter Account ]
[ Official website for Gizmocracy LLC ]

Monday, February 23, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #170 - King's Quest VI - Girl in the Tower


Composed by: Chris Brayman and Mark Seibert

Girl in the Tower is a track that would sound very familiar to those who have played King's Quest V as it borrows heavily from Cassima's Theme - which makes perfect sense since King's Quest VI is all about the love story between Prince Alexander and Princess Cassima. Mark Seibert worked on Cassima's Theme so it's no surprise that he also worked on Girl in the Tower but what was different is that he wanted to give the song the "top 40 love ballad" treatment and make it into a duet. Seibert wrote the song in 1992 although it wouldn't be until the next year that a CD-ROM version of the game would be released and allow players to hear the song sung in all its glory by Bob Bergthold and Debbie Seibert (with Ron Delarm on guitar).

These kind of duets were really popular in the early 90s but even then I could tell this was absolute and utter cheese. Now that I'm older though, I've come to embrace the cheesiness that was the 80s and 90s, and even though I may have not liked the song when I originally played the game, I was impressed that so much effort was made in placing digital audio into one (since it was a pretty rare thing back then). Consequently, despite my best intentions, I'll never be able to forget that chorus:

"GIRL IN THE TOOOOWER! I'M REACHING OUT! PLEASE TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!!!"

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 9 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

So which games do I think are worth checking out next week (23rd Feb to the 1st Mar 2015)? There's three this week and here are my picks:

There Came an Echo

  • Release Date: 24 February 2015
  • Availability: Steam (Not available for pre-order), Direct for $14.99 USD
This game was apparently funded via a Kickstarter campaign back in 2013 but I only heard about the game a couple of months ago. The game is advertised a real-time strategy game where you're able to use your own voice to issue commands. Voice recognition isn't anything new and not even in the world of games although it seems what they're doing in There Came An Echo is a bit more advanced than uttering one word for a command. In There Came An Echo it seems you can string words together to make basic sentences (e.g. "All units shields up" as they show in one of their gameplay trailers). Ultimately, the game may be a bit gimmicky if it's relying on voice commands as its main feature but you are also able to use a mouse-driven interface if you so choose. On the audio front, the game promises some veteran voice acting talent such as Wil Wheaton, Ashly Burch, Yuri Lowenthal, Karen Strassman, Laura Bailey and Cindy Robinson. The game will also feature music from Jimmy Hinson aka Big Giant Circles as an added bonus.

I'll only need one voice command when playing this game: "KILL IT!"

Homeworld Remastered Collection

  • Release Date: 25 February 2015
  • Availability: Steam for $29.74 USD
The original Homeworld was a classic Real-Time Strategy game with revolutionary gameplay. Not only did you have to worry about moving your units in two dimensions but in three as you were commanding ships in SPAAAAACE!!! The game had a great soundtrack too and an appealing story as you tried to navigate your Mothership through several encounters as it tried to make its way to the eponymous homeworld. So now Gearbox Software has apparently remastered the original and the sequel with sharper graphics. As I never really played much of the original Homeworld, despite its legendary status, this collection is perfect for those like me who want to give it a go but on modern PCs.

It's Homeworld Jim but not as we know it, not as we know it, not as we know it

République Remastered

  • Release Date: 26 February 2015
  • Availability: Steam (Not available for pre-order), GOG (Not available for pre-order)
Finally we have a game that was also a Kickstarter project but also happens to be a remaster (2015 must be the Year of the Remaster) however the original version was only released a couple of years ago, so it seems a bit strange to do a remastered version so soon after. Interestingly the original game was a mobile game but the remastered version sure doesn't look it - maybe that's why it's being "remastered" for PC? Anyway, the game seems to be a sci-fi thriller action adventure with stealth elements which sounds good to me. From the gameplay videos, it looks a bit like Watch_Dogs with respect to the parts of the game where you had to direct a person to safety. Like There Came an Echo, the game boasts an impressive voice acting cast including David Hayter, Jennifer Hale, Dwight Schulz, Khary Payton and Rena Strober. The only thing that is ringing alarm bells for me is the fact it's described as a "survival-horror" game in some places. Survival Horror isn't exactly one of my favourite genres but if it's only done sparingly I could probably handle it :).

It's the Hunchback of République!

So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Where are they now? - Ken Allen

Ken Allen - composer and game producer

The next person to feature on "Where are they now?" Wednesday is a guy I've mentioned a few times previously on this blog. A man of many talents, this week I'll be talking a bit about Ken Allen, and I'm not talking about Wikipedia's entry for Ken Allen which is apparently on an orangutan that lived at San Diego Zoo; I'm talking about the composer and game producer who got his big break into the gaming industry while working at Sierra in the late 80s and early 90s.

Allen went to college with his original plan of becoming a music teacher and he did land a job as one for a private school but under the condition he also taught math. Allen hated math and there wasn't enough demand for a full-time music teacher, so he eventually left. Allen took a job sorting mail at the post office in order to pay the bills but he continued to have a passion for music as well as gaming. He wrote music for local churches and theatres and even taught himself to program some games in BASIC and assembler.

In 1989, Sierra was advertising their need for a new composer so Allen applied for the role and against all odds, beat some stiff competition to land the role. He started working at Sierra in April that year and some of his earliest work at Sierra includes the music and sound effects programming for 1989's Thexder 2 and sounds for 1989's The Colonel's Bequest. It wasn't until the early 90s though did Allen compose some of the most memorable pieces of music from Sierra games such as 1990's Oil's Well, 1991's Space Quest 1 (the VGA remake), 1991's Jones in the Fast Lane and (his favourite) 1991's Space Quest IV. He's even responsible for the Sierra logo theme, so if that sound bite is forever ingrained in your memory, you have him to thank.

Unfortunately, Allen didn't stay long at Sierra due to a misunderstanding about his pay and he eventually left to work with a lot of ex-Sierra employees (such as Jim Walls) at Tsunami Media. He joined the company on the condition that he would be able to produce his own game and Tsunami Media stayed true to their word when after scoring music for games like 1993's Blue Force, he wrote the story and directed the sequel to 1992's Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch, Return to Ringworld (he also composed the music for both games).

Tsunami Media didn't last long though and Allen found a job with Interplay in the mid 90s. He composed music for 1994's Descent and also produced the CD-ROM version of Star Trek: Judgment Rites. He was also working on another Star Trek adventure game that would've been well ahead of its time called Star Trek: Secret of Vulcan Fury but this was unfortunately never released.

Allen continued to work in the gaming industry but mainly as a producer such as being the producer of 2000's Nox by Westwood Studios and most recently as a producer on the 2011 MMO Rift.

In 2013, around the same time that a whole lot of other Sierra alumni started Kickstarters, Allen started up his own campaign seeking funds for an album called "Under the Half Dome" that would basically remaster a lot of the music he composed over the years (with a particular focus on Sierra). The project had a very modest goal of $10,000 USD and the goal was exceeded by $11,090 USD with a grand total of $21,090 USD. It's now been two years since the end of the Kickstarter campaign and Allen is still working on the project although along with the increased workload of having to work on SpaceVenture (a Kickstarter project by the Guys from Andromeda) he's found reacquainting himself with the composition software used nowadays as challenging and partly to blame for the delays:

I've had a bit of a learning curve with the VST technology and the complex DAW software in use today. Imagine if you were an artist and the last software you used was Deluxe Paint, and now you have to suddenly have to become an expert using Photoshop. It's like that.

While it has been awhile since the end of the campaign I have the utmost confidence that Ken Allen will deliver and when "Under the Half Dome" is finally released it will be aural bliss.

LINKS:
[ MobyGames: Ken Allen ]
[ Guys from Andromeda Podcast Episode 3 ]
[ Kickstarter: Under the Half Dome ]

Monday, February 16, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #169 - King's Quest VI - Journey to the Realm of the Dead


Composed by: Chris Brayman

The next track to feature from King's Quest 6 is a pretty short one and to be honest it doesn't sound as good as I remember it - although maybe what is really memorable is what it accompanies which is when (SPOILER ALERT) Prince Alexander rides upon the winged horse (pegasus?) aptly named "Night Mare" - I say "aptly" named because the horse takes you to the Realm of the Dead and it's apparently a demon. The track is relatively short, mainly because it just plays during a cutscene as you ride Night Mare, but wow what an awesome cutscene it was (at least as good as it gets when staring at the back of a horse's head).

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 8 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

So which games do I think are worth checking out next week (16th Feb to the 22nd Feb 2015)? There's only two this week but here are my picks:

Hand of Fate

  • Release Date: 17 February 2015
  • Availability: Steam for $24.99 USD
Hand of Fate has been around for awhile now. You may have noticed that it entered Steam Early Access back in July last year. You may have known about the project even earlier if you happened to be one of the game's 1,395 Kickstarter backers (yours truly included). Why did I decide to back the game? Well it was probably the first serious attempt at a game by an Australian developer that I saw on Kickstarter and it seemed to have realistic goals (despite the very modest $50,000 funding target). Anyway, in a recent Kickstarter update, the developers have announced that they're aiming to release the game on the 17th February 2015 which I guess means it will finally be rid of the Early Access label. The game advertises itself as a mix of a rogue-like/card deck-building/action RPG game (yes, I know "RPG game" translates to "role-playing game game" but whatever) which is an interesting mix and it sounds like the sort of game that could be very accessible and easy to learn, but difficult to master. Hopefully I'll get some free time next week to give it a shot!

This guy's way more intimidating than the King of Hearts

Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore a Fedora

  • Release Date: 20 February 2015
  • Availability: Steam (Not available for pre-order), Direct for $15.00 USD ($30.00 USD for Deluxe)
Not quite sure why I'm interested in this game but it's definitely got a catchy title. It may have something to do with the fact that it seems to be inspired by film noir or that the protagonist is a super sleuth. Whatever the reason I think it's one worth looking out for, especially those with an appreciation for lo-fi 3D titles or ones who love mystery games.

A cat wearing a fedora as a sidekick? Neat.

So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ Review


One part of Japan I can't comment on as I've only been to Tokyo... and Okinawa

  • Developer: OVERDRIVE
  • Publisher: MangaGamer
  • Release Date: 30 September 2011
  • Time played: 3 hours

For Valentine's Day, the fellows at Humble Bundle decided that they would have a bundle called "For Lovers (of games)" which features mainly Japanese manga-style games - most of them of the visual novel format. The reason why most of them are probably applicable for Valentine's Day is the fact visual novels are usually dating simulators too - i.e. you play the role of some guy or girl who goes about their daily business meeting several potential girlfriends/boyfriends along the way - eventually settling on one by the end of the game. While all of them have an element of this, most games in this bundle seem to at least try and break the mould (with the exception of Roommates). Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~ is one of them despite the very Japanese-sounding name.

I don't know if it's because I played a few of these visual novels as a kid, I'm a hopeless romantic or I'm just a fan of the genre in general (I like Choose-Your-Own-Adventures after all) but I decided to spend a few bucks to get all the games in the bundle. I didn't have it in me to spend the $35 USD to get the Hatoful Boyfriend pillows though...

Anyway back to Go! Go! Nippon!: this game is apparently still very much a dating simulator but it can be quite educational too for those who have never visited Japan before. As I only visited Japan about a year ago, I thought it would be interesting to see what the game had to say about the country (and even the places I visited) when compared to my own impressions.

Plot (4/5)
In Go! Go! Nippon! you play the role of a foreigner who is visiting Japan for the first time. Most of his knowledge of Japan has been gleaned from anime and manga (which is always a good start) and this actually results in his first mistake as soon as he steps off the plane: he assumes that the housemates he'll be staying with in Japan are guys due to his understanding that Makato and Akira are male names. However, he soon finds out that they're actually unisex names and his hosts are actually two attractive sisters.

The game chronicles your character's short one week trip in Japan as he visits Tokyo and surrounding cities with the two sisters. A romance will develop between your character and one of the sisters during the course of the game. While I found both the characters of Makato and Akira adorable (which I guess is meant to be the point) I was also quite interested in the tours that both of the sisters give as you visit Japan - I'm serious! While anyone could read up about the history of Japan some of the cultural nuances are harder to find. Thankfully, this game does a pretty good job in highlighting a few of them as I found myself agreeing to many of the points mentioned taking into account my very own first trip to Japan.

Gameplay (2/5)
Despite the game advertising the fact you get to be a tourist in Tokyo, this is very much a dating simulator at its core - basically your typical Japanese visual novel. This means there's a lot of reading involved with the occasional moments where you get to choose from a set of options. I believe in this game you'll only come across the ability to choose maybe 4-5 times. So it's not too high on the interactivity stakes.

One interesting aspect of the game which I guess the developer thought would make it more useful as a tourist guide is the fact it allows you to enter the current exchange rate between USD and JPY, or EUR and JPY. It then calculates how much the trip costs overall but unfortunately since you don't really get much choice on the activities, it's limited in its use.

Also, for those who are veterans of dating sim games, you may be disappointed to find out that you don't really have any say when it comes to conversations. All you do is pick where you want to go and that ultimately determines which girl you end up in love with. On the plus side though, it's very simple to basically figure out which girl you'll end up with once you know which parts of Tokyo are spent with either Makato or Akira.

Oh also be warned that there are a couple of instances of "fan service" in the game (e.g. one of the girls being completely naked but with her hair being strategically placed to cover her breasts). It's probably no surprise that the publisher, MangaGamer also sells hentai games on their site but this is very tame in comparison.

Oh God... the toilets!

Sound (4/5)
There isn't much in the way of sound effects so not much to recommend or complain about there, but the default volume is a bit too loud (easily fixed by accessing the sound options menu, which is separate to the main options menu)

Music (3/5)
The game tends to have your typical Japanese-style, visual novel game music which I'm not a big fan of most of the times.

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics seem to be better than other visual novels I've played, at least with respect to bringing the characters of Makato and Akira to life. The backgrounds look good too but there was probably some cheating involved as it looks like they just applied a painting filter on actual photos of landmarks.

Replay (3/5)
There are two girls that you're able to court in the game so there's consequently two different endings to the game (one play-through is short though and will take you only 2 hours). You'll also get a choice of three out of six suburbs in Tokyo to visit as well as picking which restaurants to go eat at which will encourage at least one replay. You're also able to generate Steam Trading Cards for this game - no Steam achievements though

Polish (5/5)
The game has got your typical visual novel interface - so there's a lot of clicking past text boxes involved. It does have the nifty feature of skipping text (until the next decision point, although they're few and far between) as well as scene replays.

Score – 7/10

For the dating sim fans, Go! Go! Nippon! is short, heart-warming and educational and despite having only played it for a couple of hours, I quite enjoyed it. From the little I've seen of Japan, it seems rather accurate in its historical descriptions and cultural observations. It also offers the occasional handy travel tip. Is it worth the $9.99 USD? Probably not. I think $4.95 USD would be a fairer price. Would I recommend this to gamers who aren't into dating sims? Probably not either. It's very much targeted for a niche market and that's Go! Go! Nippon!'s only real drawback.

Go! Go! Nippon ~My First Trip to Japan~ is available from these retailers:

Is the game worth $9.95 USD?: No. A fairer price would be $4.95 USD.

If you like this game, you might like...

[ LINK: MangaGamer store page (contains adult content) ]

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Where are they now? - Adrian Carmack

Adrian Carmack and John Romero in 2014

Okay, I promise this is the last guy I'll talk about from id Software - well sort of - at least the last of its original co-founders. There's not as much information on this character but it's time to talk a little bit about Adrian Carmack (not related to John Carmack) who worked as an artist for id Software for over a decade.

Adrian Carmack was born in 1969 and was fascinated with the art of early video games although he has always wanted to work with fine art and he initially never intended to work in the games industry. He did end up applying for an internship at Softdisk's Gamer's Edge division at the age of 21 - Gamer's Edge being a bi-monthly PC game disk publication started by John Romero. There he would meet the other id Software co-founders besides Romero, such as John Carmack and Tom Hall.

After working for a short time at Softdisk, Carmack along with the others founded id Software in 1991. During his time at id Software, Adrian Carmack created the art and graphics for many of their best-selling hits of the 90s such as Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, Hexen: Beyond Heretic, Quake, Quake II and Quake III: Arena.

Carmack also provided art for 2004's Doom 3 but then left id Sofware in 2005 to pursue his passion for art. He apparently sued id Software that same year claiming he was effectively fired by them in an attempt to force him to sell his 41% stake in the company. The case appears to have been later settled and Zenimax Media acquired id Software anyway in 2009.

There hasn't been much word about Adrian Carmack in the decade after he left id Software but last year a newspaper site reported that he is now the owner of a luxury 5-star resort in Ireland. So I guess he managed to get his millions after all since the place wasn't cheap (apparently he paid "considerably" more than the 5.5 million euro guide price).

While it's a shame Adrian Carmack seems to have distanced himself from the game industry those images that are ingrained in our memory of fighting Nazis, demons and aliens in the 90s are all thanks to his efforts.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #168 - King's Quest VI - Seagull Theme


Composed by: Chris Brayman

This track plays during the opening sequence to King's Quest VI aka Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (Sierra really loved their puns hey?). I don't know why this particular track sticks in my memory; maybe because the music was such a perfect fit for the seagull which features in the cinematic? Or maybe because the cinematic looked so awesome, at least for a game made in 1992. Unfortunately, when I tried to view the cinematic in my GOG version of the game, the animations in the video suffered from pretty horrific stuttering so it makes it impossible to enjoy. Oh well, can't have it all I guess?

Apparently this track only features in the CD-ROM version of the game which is the one I originally played.

Chris Brayman is also a familiar name on the Choicest VGM list as he was also composer for the Quest for Glory II soundtrack. Way to go Chris Brayman!

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 7 - 2015


Spotlight Sunday is a way for Choicest Games to feature PC games that are scheduled for release on the following week - games that we consider worthwhile checking out.

So which games do I think are worth checking out next week (9th Feb to the 15th Feb 2015)? There's only two this week but here are my picks:

HIT

  • Release Date: 9 February 2015
  • Availability: Steam for Free
I really like the concept of bringing the board game of Cluedo into a computer game format. Or something along the lines of an Agatha Christie murder mystery. Basically someone is the murderer in the group and it's up to the rest to determine who that person is before it's too late. This is why I enjoyed the concept of the game The Ship although sadly despite me purchasing the game, I don't think actually many people still play it and I was unable to recruit any of my friends to give it a go (despite giving them free copies). Enter the Free-to-Play title HIT which seems very similar in premise to The Ship although it seems to be taking its styling cues from Team Fortress 2 i.e. 70s spy flick. Like a card game I've played before called The Resistance, this game has a majority of the players trying to co-operate and achieve a goal but one of the team is actually an impostor, a spy, who will do his/her best to sabotage the team's attempts at completing their objective. It sounds like good fun and hopefully the game will be a big success for the guys at Shifty Chair Games.

If this guy isn't based off Colonel Mustard then my name is Professor Plum

Evolve

Arguably the biggest release for next week is Evolve - a sci-fi co-op shooter by the guys that brought us Left 4 Dead, Turtle Rock Studios. I love co-op shooters, and the Left 4 Dead series is a damn good one. I also love sci-fi which is why I really loved Alien Swarm as well. Evolve seems to be inspired by both of these games so how could it fail? The only thing that is making me put the brakes on pre-ordering is the price. At $79.99 USD on Steam, that's pretty steep - especially considering you can get both Left 4 Dead games at half that price...

What's that coming over the hill - is it a monster? IS IT A MON-STER?!

So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Where are they now? - John Carmack

R-RAGE-R-R-R-R-R-RAGE-RAAAAAAAAAAGE

For today's "Where are they now?" we feature another id Software developer who worked with John Romero and Tom Hall. In fact he ended up working there for much longer than his colleagues: over two decades in fact. The man I'm talking about today is John Carmack, programming genius and responsible for several graphics algorithms used in gaming such as Adaptive Tile Refresh (used in Commander Keen), Binary Space Partitioning (used in Doom and Quake), Surface caching (used in Quake), "Carmack's Reverse" (used in Doom 3) and MegaTexture (used in Rage). So where exactly did Mr Carmack come from and what's he up to nowadays if he's not working at id Software?

Carmack was born in 1970 and grew up in Kansas with an early interest in computers.

In the 1980s when Carmack was 14, he along with some other kids broke into a school to steal some Apple II computers. Carmack used a combination of Thermite and Vaseline in order to melt through the windows. Their heist was foiled though when one of Carmack's accomplices tripped a silent alarm alerting the police of their robbery. They were caught and Carmack was arrested. He was sent for a psychiatric evaluation that described him as having "no empathy for human beings" and "a brain on legs". After the evaluation he was sent for one year in a juvenile home.

After completing school, Carmack attended university for two semesters before dropping out and becoming a freelance programmer. He joined Softdisk in the late 80s where he would meet his future id Software colleagues, John Romero, Tom Hall and Adrian Carmack. After working on a few games, Carmack along with the future id crew developed Commander Keen which was published by Apogee Software under the shareware distribution model from 1991 onwards. Shortly after, Carmack, Romero, Hall and A. Carmack formed id Software.

The early 90s was the golden age for id Software and Carmack's role was instrumental to the company's success mainly due to his work on game engines. He worked as a programmer on 1992's Wolfenstein 3D, 1993's DOOM, 1993's Blake Stone, 1994's Rise of the Triad and 1994's DOOM II. In the late 90s, Carmack focused working as a programmer on a new series called Quake which had its debut in 1996. This was followed by three sequels although Carmack was only involved with 1997's Quake II and 1999's Quake III Arena (one of my favourite multiplayer deathmatch games of all time). Carmack was also involved in developing the engine for one of the most critically acclaimed PC games of all time, 1998's Half-Life.

In the 2000s, Carmack worked on several mobile games with his wife Katherine Anna Kang (who he married in 2000) such as 2005's DOOM RPG, 2008's Wolfenstein RPG and 2009's DOOM II RPG. He was also the Technical Director for 2005's DOOM 3 and is credited as a programmer for the id Tech 4 engine which was used in the 2007 game Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

Carmack was Chief Technical Officer on 2011's Rage (which I really didn't enjoy) before finally leaving id Software for good in 2013 to become CTO for Oculus (the guys that are trying to bring back Virtual Reality to the masses). Carmack apparently left id Software because Zenimax Media, parent company of id Software didn't want to support Oculus VR with their games.

According to Carmack's pretty active Twitter profile, he's still working at Oculus to this day. Also, only last year did his son Ryan Carmack (who was 9 years old at the time) release his first computer game called Angry Face. Maybe one day Ryan will follow in his father's footsteps. With a father like John Carmack, he's surely got a foot in the door...

LINKS:
[ Wikipedia: John Carmack ]
[ MobyGames: John Carmack ]
[ John Carmack's Twitter Profile ]

Monday, February 2, 2015

Choicest VGM - VGM #168 - King's Quest VI - Seagull Theme


Composed by: Rob Atesalp

This badass track plays when you're driving the streets of Lytton in your patrol car. Check out that awesome beat and that rockin' guitar :). Almost tempted to just blast this through my car speakers as I cruise around town... for real :).

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Week 6 - 2015

Starting today, I thought I would make Sundays a day to cast a "spotlight" onto games that are released on the following week (where weeks start on Monday). Next week is Week 6 of 2015 so this will encompass games that are released from 2 - 8 February 2015. Most of the games I'll be checking out are mostly Steam games, but you might find the occasional GOG game or retail game from EB or JB Hi-Fi as well.

I'm also planning to no longer aim to generate daily posts on Choicest Games anymore. Considering it takes on average two hours to prepare, draft, proofread, type and format each blog post, it really is eating into my time for what is essentially a hobby. Also, the more time I spend typing up posts, the less time I have playing the games I'm supposed to be reviewing!

So from now on there will be three regular posts on Choicest Games each week: Video Games Music Monday, Where are they now? Wednesday and Spotlight Sunday, with this Sunday being the very first one.

So which games do I think is worth checking out next week? Here are my picks:


Apotheon

As you know, I'm not really into platformers but this one definitely stands out from the rest of the crowd. The developer, Alien Trap Games, who previously worked on a game called Capsized (another platformer which has rated pretty well with Steam users) have now decided to set a platformer in the world of Ancient Greek myths and legends. Not only have they done that though but they've managed to make it look pretty choice too, like the art you see on the side of Grecian urns. If you're into platformers or Greek mythology, this is definitely one to look out for.



To Be or Not To Be

  • Release Date: 4 February 2015
  • Availability: Direct for $11.99 USD
Steam has been recently releasing a whole bunch of "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" style digital gamebooks, visual novels and interactive fiction. While some gamers might deride these as not being "real" games, little do they realise this is exactly the sort of games people used to play back in the 1970s and 1980s, and that without them, the PC games industry wouldn't be where it is today (thanks to the growth of adventure games during the 1980s and early 1990s). Anyway, this is another one of those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure games and in this one you get to play as three characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet! You're able to stay to the original plot or try things your own way. The game also has a lot of artwork by some famous comic strip artists such as Mike Krahulik (Penny Arcade) and Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal).



Cities XXL

  • Release Date: 5 February 2015
  • Availability: Steam for $39.99 USD ($31.99 USD pre-order, $19.99 if you own a previous Cities XL game in your Steam library)
While I never really got into Cities XL I can appreciate that there isn't actually much competition at the moment for good city builders. Sure, the Tropico series is pretty good (and probably still one of my favourites) but the recent SimCity while pretty to look at and observe, was severely lacking in the epic scale department - something that the Cities XL series does really well. So enter Cities XXL which is apparently a more polished version of the game with a better engine and UI. Also if you pre-order now you'll get 20% off and if you owned one of the previous Cities XL games you'll get a whopping 50% off. Not too shabby especially if you like the series.

So are you interested or excited about any of these PC games being released next week? Which games are you looking forward to?