What I’ve Been Playing, Summer
I’ve been trying to spend less time writing about games and more time actually playing them, but it hasn’t really helped. I’ve been a bit schizophrenic about gaming, switching between a variety of games I’ve slowly progressed through over the past six months to a year, but have not yet finished. I assume it’s me and my current attention span and not the games, but in the case of Bravely Default (3DS) I had to put that down because of the massive redundancy of the later chapters. Instead, I picked up Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS), which is my first SMT game. I’m really enjoying it and am about 5 hours in (though I can’t tell if I’ve moved slowly or at a regular pace—I’ve just escaped the first Domain). It’s different from what I usually play: the turn-based battles are first person and very dependent on your strategy rather than your strength, and it’s a Japanese school-based game—a setting I haven’t played since Valkyria Chronicles 2 (PSP). I’m not sure when I’ll go back to Bravely Default, but I hit Chapter 6 (of 8) and just ran out of steam.
Another thing keeping me busy is that I’m now one-third of a new gaming podcast: One Giant Pixel, an opinioncast by your regular, non-industry gamers. We have a few episodes up so far, but they haven’t made it to iTunes or a Google Play yet, so you have to listen in your browser from the site at the moment (though some podcast apps will let you add the URL to access it from within the app). We also made a Twitter account for it: @onegiantpixel. Please give an episode a try, and follow the podcast if you like it.
And to further split my attention, I started playing Assassin’s Creed: Pirates (iOS), Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation HD (PS3), and have been playing Super Metroid (VC), Pikmin 3 (Wii U), and The Wonderful 101 (Wii U). Oh, and Watch_Dogs (Steam), but it hasn’t been compelling me to play—the story and writing’s a bit flat.
In AC Liberation, I’ve just completed Sequence 3, but I think maybe I shut the game off too quickly after, because I never got the trophy for completing the sequence. Argh. It had better show up after I finish a Sequence 4; I’d hate to have a gap where a mandatory trophy should be.
Oh, and ia tried to continue playing Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (3DS) but I got distracted by SMTIV. I’ve realized that, as an adult with less free time than I used to have, I’ve started gaming for the sake of whatever whim makes me feel like playing a particular game instead of sticking with a game until I’ve finished it. This is probably more due to the fact that so many games come out so close together these days, and my attention turns to those new games. I guess I shouldn’t mention that I also just picked up Persona 3 Portable (PSP), Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Wii U), which I’m sure I will never ever get to, given my backlog. Sigh. I think I’ve become a collector rather than a gamer (and if you saw the number of I played Steam games I have, you’d agree).
Happy 30th Birthday to Tetris!
Tetris (Russian: Те́трис) is a Soviet tile-matching puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov. It was released on June 6, 1984, while he was working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. He derived its name from the Greek numerical prefix tetra- (all of the game’s pieces contain four segments) and tennis, Pajitnov’s favorite sport.
Gaming Diary: Mark of the Ninja (4/2)
I played some Mark of the Ninja tonight, and hit the plot twist. My favorite part of tonight’s session was when I, as a ninja, lured three guards—individually, mind you—to investigate a spot while I hung upside down above them and leaped on top of each one with my sword, [down arrow] + X-ing them to their silent doom.
I was also turned into ash by the same laser 4 times, but we won’t talk about that.
I love technology.
Lara Croft Has a Great Hair Day Thanks to TressFX
Last Friday we revealed our PC specs, touching lightly on our ongoing relationship with AMD. Today we dive much deeper into Tomb Raider’s PC optimization with the reveal of TressFX, the first real-time hair rendering and physics system in a playable PC game.
It’s no secret that realistic hair has been one of the most challenging materials to reproduce in real-time, as each of tens of thousands of strands casts it own complex shadow and requires anti-aliasing. That doesn’t even take into account the constant updates to try and synchronize said hair with the movement of a character.
AMD and Crystal Dynamics are extraordinarily excited to address this in Tomb Raider, especially noting how important Lara’s iconic locks are to fans.
“AMD Graphics and Crystal Dynamics have partnered to revitalize one of video gaming’s most iconic characters, Lara Croft of the Tomb Raider franchise,” said Matt Skynner, corporate vice president and general manager, AMD Graphics. “Developers at AMD and Crystal Dynamics collaborated tirelessly to leverage the power of AMD Radeon to develop the world’s first real-time hair physics system in a PC game. TressFX Hair combines advanced lighting, per-strand physics, and collision detection to bring unprecedented realism to this final frontier of image quality in PC gaming.”
Using DirectCompute to unlock the massively-parallel processing capabilities of the Graphics Core Next architecture, TressFX hair allows for a quality previously only achievable in pre-rendered images.
DirectCompute is also used to perform the real-time physics simulation for TressFX Hair, treating each strand as a chain with dozens of links, which allows for forces such as gravity, wind, and Lara’s movement to influence Lara’s hair in a realistic fashion. Collision detection is performed to ensure that the strands don’t pass through each other, or solid surfaces. Lastly, Lara’s hairstyle is simulated by gradually pulling the strands back to their original shape after they have moved in response to an external force.
So how can you get in on Lara’s new and improved hair? Graphics cards that take advantage of the Graphics Core Next architecture, such as the AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series, are optimal for the task at hand thanks to the fast on-chip shared memory and processing throughput.
Phew! That was a lot of information! Showing is always better than telling, so take a peek at Lara’s new and improved ‘do above!
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance Review
By Robert M. Errera
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance for the 3DS is an epic amalgam of every Kingdom Hearts game in existence, with nearly every character referenced, every plot line relevant, and every moment of the series significant. Heartless, nobodies, key holes, the Mark of Mastery exam, Disney worlds, black coats, time travel, and more—the game is only missing the unversed and Final Fantasy characters in order to have thrown in every element of the series (though the salesmoogle is included, as well as characters from Square-Enix’s The World Ends With You). Prepare for a compelling tale of snowballed convolution that only someone who’s paid attention through each of the other six games in the series will fully comprehend (though written reports in-game will summarize the previous installments well enough to get by). The intricate plot of Dream Drop Distance will take some effort to wrap your head around, and if you’re just now gaining an interest in the Kingdom Hearts series, this game is not for you.
But complex story aside, it’s a great game, and a great addition to the mythology.