Thursday, June 21, 2012

Watch_Dogs’ Multiplayer: Imagine The Possibilities

Who Will Be Your Watch_Dog?

At the end of Ubisoft’s E3 2012 Watch_Dogs Demo, we saw the game’s protagonist Aiden Pearce drive off after completing his objective. Being pursued by a police helicopter with a spotlight in the air and vehicles on the ground, he hacks a nearby drawbridge and causes it to rise up. He then proceeds to jump the gap, preventing any police vehicles from following. However, it is what happens briefly before his escape that has the potential to be a groundbreaking experience for players. 

You're Being Watched

Pearce receives a “WARNING! Intrusion detected” message on his mobile device. The same device we’ve seen him use to control the city. This seemed to coincide with the arrival of the police. Seconds later, the camera pulls out to reveal another man on a nearby rooftop. The man’s name appeared over his head similar to how a teammate or enemy’s name would appear in certain multiplayer games. The man’s tag was “Bixxel_44”. Bixxel received his objective: “Track Pearce and protect him… at least for now”. Bixxel_44 just became his “Watch Dog” if you will.

Protect Pearce

There are two things I’d like to point out: First, the way the perspective switched from Pearce to Bixxel_44 is an interesting way to transition from single player to multiplayer. Second, Bixxel_44’s handler told him to track and protect “for now”. This opens up several options for how the game could work. One that I thought would be interesting is a city with an underground security organization or two that tasks players with certain missions. Imagine different organizations set up throughout the city that will pay you to collect information, track and protect clients, plant viruses, etc.

The difference between multiplayer and single player would depend on which missions you decide to take and what decisions players make during the mission. For example, using lethal force would lead to law enforcement getting involved which means Pearce would need help to escape. The camera would zoom out to your multiplayer avatar and you would receive your mission to protect him. Protecting him should be done in a number of ways to provide the different players with different options. Taking a non-lethal approach could lead to escaping by your own merits, depending on the mission.

Single player missions would obviously put you in the role of Aiden Pearce, but taking on any of the contracts available in the city would put you in the role of the character that you create from the ground up. Character creation could consist of you leveling up and obtaining new gear, gadgets and skills that allow you to control more of the city. Ubisoft could provide players with a 2-in 1 multiplayer experience, providing co-op and competitive objectives at the same time. You will essentially be working with other players to achieve a goal, say protecting Pearce. However, at some point in the mission both A.I and other human players with their own goals will combat you and your team.

If Ubisoft can manage to keep multiplayer restricted, this game has the potential to be new and exciting. Let me explain! Firstly, not all players will want this dynamic type of transition into multiplayer. Therefore, players should have the option to play a straight up single player campaign. In this instance, the player never loses control over Pearce regardless of the decision made within missions. Players should be able to make this choice early, perhaps at the start screen. They should also be able to change this on the fly, perhaps in the options menu.

The second thing is players should be limited in how they communicate. There shouldn’t be a lobby for players to trash talk each other. I would completely eliminate the use of voice chat as well. The reason for this would be to insinuate the objectives and make players feel like they are playing single player but with a few anonymous partners/enemies. The objective each player receives would be specific to that player. For instance, if the player cap per team is 3. One player is tasked with eliminating the enemies around Pearce, another is tasked with jamming the A.I enemy’s communications and the third could maintain control of Pearce. Just a thought!

The intriguing parts of this idea are the different components to the experience. If a player decided they would just like a standard single player experience, that option should be available. However, the default option would be this dynamic multiplayer experience like nothing I have ever played. I do not know what Ubisoft has planned for their multiplayer, aside from what they’ve given away. However, I do know that the possibility for something mind-blowing is imminent. I would suggest keeping an eye on Watch_Dogs.

So what did you think of my idea for multiplayer? Would you opt out and prefer the standard? Do you have any ideas for how multiplayer could play out in this game? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe and follow the blog (see right panel).


Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Top 3 Most Anticipated Games from E3 2012, Part 3 of 3.


Every year when E3 rolls around, I am usually excited. However, it’s mostly for the showing of the big three publishers. Sure EA, Activision and Ubisoft have some awesome experiences, but the Sony, Microsoft & Nintendo’s line-ups are what usually dominate my excitement leading up to the event. This year was a bit different. Sony managed to give me two games to be excited for. One was a complete, yet welcomed surprise (Beyond: Two Souls) and the other, basically a confirmation of my steadily rising excitement (The Last of Us). When Ubisoft took the stage at this year’s E3, I was expecting lots of awkward blabber and a showing of some of their moneymaking franchises (Assassins Creed & Far Cry). I was not expecting them to reveal a new IP that would actually send chills up my spine, but that’s exactly what Watch_Dogs did.

The premise of Watch_Dogs revolves around a computer system (ctOS) that controls everything around us, including the cities we live in. Ubisoft, with the above video poses the question, “If computers control our cities, who controls the computers?” I was immediately hooked; they were blurring the line between my reality and fantasy. These are the kind of conspiracy theories I’ve debated about quite often in recent years. Don’t you just love it when it all comes together? I do!

The name's Pierce, Aiden Pierce.

Watch_Dogs is an open-world, action adventure set in a fictionalized version of Chicago. The game follows Aiden Pierce, an “anti-hero” of sorts, who can take control of the city and use it as a weapon. I know what you might be thinking, “an open-world city to explore”, hmm haven’t I played this game like a billion times? Well, I love games, but if you’ve played any game a billion times you probably no longer have hands. Anyways, check out the gameplay below and if you are not intrigued, then I guess I am wrong and I except defeat.

Was that club awesome or what? Did you see that security guard get “handled”? What about when he saved that kid from the Lion? Okay, so there was no Lion, but did you feel the vibe of this game? How Aiden was able to get a bio of the NPC’s around him. They are not just there, existing to fill the world; each person in the game has some sort of back-story, a life if you will. The ways we will be able to interact with the city and its inhabitants has me excited. I have a lot of information on my phone; old voicemails, text messages, pictures, etc. I am willing to bet many of you do as well. What do you think would happen if someone were able to walk around with a device of their own and essentially hack-in to our devices to siphon information from them? Let’s just say I’d rather be the guy doing the hacking.

Grand Theft Assassins from the makers of Splinter Cell

Yes, you will still be using your standard hand cannons and boom sticks to get the job done, but the on stage demo shows both lethal and not-so-lethal means of combat. For example, wasn’t that traffic pile-up insane, yet tactical? And what about his melee weapon? That shows we can use non-lethal force, right? Let’s just hope Ubisoft gives us some choice in the matter, which would just make this game even batter than it already seems. This is a modern game, so you know there is multiplayer. I know what you’re thinking, “something does not belong”, but I implore you to remember the Demo. Remember how another character took over at the end of the Demo? Well, that was another player. So, imagine the possibilities. 

Everything is connected

There are still many questions to be answered about Watch_Dogs, but this is what keeps us excited until the game actually comes out or more announcements are made. Questions like, what the NPC’s information can be used for as we learn about them? Also, and more importantly, when is this gaming coming out? Speaking of which, that is the scary part. The demo was running on a “high-end” PC, and is promised to release on PS3, 360 and PC in 2013. However, many believe or more accurately fear, that this will be a “Next-Gen title”. That would suck because it means we would have to wait longer to play the game, but if it’ll look that gorgeous. Bring on the Next-Gen. Also, what about Multiplayer? During the demo and interviews following the developers made sure not to divulge any detailed information on Multiplayer. This is without a doubt to keep us excited for their game, but can you blame them?

So what did you think of Watch_Dogs? Is this a game you could see yourself playing? Are the apparent similarities to GTA a turn-off? I have posted a few links below where journalists in the industry give their take on Watch_Dogs. These links contain a bit more pieces of information on the game, especially the first one that gives some insight on multiplayer.

Want more info on Watch_Dogs check out these links.

Also, check back here on Wednesday as I describe what I hope to be Watch_Dogs’ Multiplayer experience. Trust me it’s awesome!


Monday, June 11, 2012

My Top 3 Most Anticipated Games of E3 2012, Part 2 of 3

Beyond: Two Souls

Number two on my Top 3 most anticipated games from E3 2012 is without a doubt Beyond: Two Souls. The only reason it isn’t number one on my list is that not much is know about it, aside from it being developed by Quantic Dream- the creators of Heavy Rain- and a few other details that I’ll get to in a minute. Heavy Rain is one of my favorite games of all time. The reason for this is the attention the developers gave to the narrative and characters. For my opinion on Heavy Rain, check out my Heavy Rain Review post from yesterday.

What I do know about Beyond: Two Souls is that the story follows the main character, Jodie Holmes, over 15 full years of her life and that the story tells the tale of her connection to the “other side”. Fascinating, right? This game has me very excited for three important reasons. First and foremost, Quantic Dream is good at what they do and that is to tell a compelling narrative that is sure to be gripping, suspenseful and emotional. The second reason is the technology used to develop the game. I would be remiss to describe in words what you must see for yourself, but I assure you, you will be impressed with the Kara Tech Demo (see below).

Awesome right! Excited yet? Just in case you aren’t my third reason, at least for now, should be enough to make you want this game as bad as I do. Two words… Ellen Page! Combine Ellen Page’s acting ability with the intriguing, emotional narrative, new game engine and studio the caliber of Quantic Dream and what do you have? A gaming experience beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. See what I did there? I just couldn’t help myself. Check out the debut trailer of Beyond: Two Souls below.

Also, be sure to check back Thursday for my third most anticipated game of E3 2012. It’s a title I will be sure to keep a Watchful eye on and you should too.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Heavy Rain Review

Heavy Rain

“How far would you go to save someone you love?” That’s the tagline for Heavy Rain, a psychological thriller developed by Quantic Dream. The game poses a question that many of us take for granted. I am a victim of this and I am willing to bet many of you are as well. Heavy Rain is the kind of game that challenges you to stop and ask yourself; how far am I willing to go to help a loved one?

What Heavy Rain manages to do well is tell a strong narrative through its gameplay. It does this by using a gesture-based control scheme so that you can really empathize with the characters you control. In the game, you set out to save a young boy who has been kidnapped. The beauty of the game is that all of the decisions you make throughout the game really matter. Making bad decisions could be life threatening; so if a character should perish in Heavy Rain, they are not playable for the remainder of the game. It completely throws out the tried and true “Game Over” screen out of the window and forces you to really think before you act. The one area where the game falls short is in its difficulty, if you are playing reckless and without regard for your decisions, the game is pretty lenient and allows room to rebound from the mistakes. This can be remedied by playing on a higher difficulty setting however.

Heavy Rain Gameplay Trailer

Heavy Rain has been received well by critics and varies in success with players. This is true for several reasons: the adult themes, the change in theme from the plethora of FPS (First-Person Shooters) that flood the market, and its sophisticated controls that add a deep sense of panic to the gameplay. One thing to note however is the completion rate of the game. The developers have revealed it to be 70% as opposed to the 20% completion rate of other games on the market. Quantic Dream set out to challenge players to play a different type of game, with moral themes and a thought provoking narrative. This undoubtedly lead led to its “M” rating. The main audience for this title is adults who are willing to accept the challenge and ready to embark on a journey not much unlike the ones we live daily.

I think this game should be experienced by anyone who appreciates an engaging narrative. It can be appreciated, not only gamers, but also fans of cinema and other forms of narrative entertainment.  Heavy Rain is an important game because we are all sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers. Above all else we are people and whether we admit to it or not, we effect one another on several levels- be it a small interaction at the local supermarket or a life changing event- we have an impact on each other's lives.

Heavy Rain does what many other games fail to do. It leaves you contemplating your everyday life choices; how you interact with people, the way others view you and the connections formed with the people you meet. It forces you to question yourself and many aspects of your being, it can also strengthen your beliefs of the way people should be treated. Either way Heavy Rain is an experience meant to challenge you mentally and dares you to answer the question: How far would you go to save someone you love?

Did you play Heavy Rain? If so what do you think of the game?


Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Top 3 Most Anticipated Games from E3 2012, Part 1 of 3

E3 is done! Though I was not present to take it all the excitement and spectacle that is the Electronic Entertainment Expo; I have been glued to my television and computer to stay abreast to any and all developments. The event covered many games, among them a torrent of sequels to some of the biggest games this generation: Assassins Creed III, Dead Space 3, and Darksiders II to name a few. The show also included showings from franchises that gamers will be familiar with, yet offering a fresh coat of paint; games like Tomb Raider and DmC (Devil May Cry). Though this year’s show was filled with the kinds of experiences we’ve already had, there were a few new titles that have me intrigued and are without a doubt, my three most anticipated games.

The Last of Us

Can't wait
I remember when the first trailer for the game was released. It depicted an ant with spikes protruding from its body, apparently infected with some sort of virus.

Poor Ant

The video was later updated but remained mostly the same; still showing the poor creature crawling around on a tree branch, but seconds later the screen goes black. We hear heavy breathing and soon after, what sounds like a chain saw being revved up. The trailer ends with a brief pant and loud scream from a female. The trailer immediately peaked my interest and started to build anticipation of the game. The trailer can be viewed on the game’s website here (be sure to scroll over to the very last video). The second trailer is also worth a view and is equally vague, yet compelling and mysterious.

At the 2011 VGA’s (Video Game Awards), the studio behind the game was revealed to be Naughty Dog, the studio behind the Uncharted Series. To me, this meant the game was guaranteed to tell an immersive narrative with interesting, well-crafted characters. At this point another trailer (see below) was revealed confirming my assumptions and solidifying my excitement.

At E3, we finally saw gameplay for my most anticipated game since… well since Heavy Rain, but more about that in part two. We play as Joel, a man with a shaky past and tasked with escorting a young girl across the U.S. We’ve experienced these types of games before; Enslaved Odyssey into the West and 2008’s Prince of Persia being among them. For the most part these games felt like we were baby sitting and didn’t always tell a fulfilling story of how these characters interact with each other and what effect player’s have on it.

Gameplay in The Last of Us is expectedly brutal and suspenseful, but unlike games we’ve played in the past, at least from what I’ve gathered from the demo. I will not spoil the demo; instead I have posted it below and HIGHLY recommend giving it a watch. If you can imagine a world in quarantine, nature retaking what we’ve long inhabited and mankind on the brink of extinction, then I am sure The Last of Us will impress.

What do you think of The Last of Us? Let me know in the comments and come back on Monday for my second most anticipated title.


Friday, May 4, 2012

"A personal lesson in Game Scope"

I’ve recently learned that the decision to adopt a position on the "scope" of a game is common in game design and development. Depending on the team, the experience and the overall goals of a particular project- reducing the scope of a game later in the project could be a likely choice. I would rather make the choice of setting limits to the scope of a project early on.

This in no way means my intentions are to limit the project from day one- rejecting the many ideas the team may have for the sake of a smaller and possibly easier game. In fact, the many ideas are precisely the reason why I would prefer to set limits early.  I think the team would be better off if we fail early and often. If we’re able to do so without wasting too many valuable resources we will be better off. For example, if members of the art team have a particular idea that they feel would really push the “look and feel” of the game we are building, it would serve us best if we try out the idea as early in development as possible. The artist could compile some concepts and present them to the team. We would then make a decision early on if the ideas were usable.  This is a good way to encourage communication and respect among the team as well. Everyone’s ideas will be heard and tried then as a team we will decide what stays and what is cut.

This style I’ve learned is called agile development. This excerpt from the supplied handout Development Lifecycle sums up it’s meaning.

Agile development is characterized by modularity and a frequent review of the state of the project, hence giving the team "agility" to easily and quickly change direction if something isn't working. At the same time, it provides product owners with the information they need and the ability to see progress as it's being made. (Slyke, 2009, para. 20).

“Frequent review of the state of the project” stands out most to me. Frequent review insinuates that it happens often, the earlier the better.

Setting limits to the scope early includes: building prototypes of an idea or set of ideas and testing them to see if they fit. If they work, we keep it and move on to the next. If they don’t we scrap it and move on. This will also ensure that the team’s time and resources and being spent efficiently. For instance, a certain prototype is built for a level and the team feels that it’s a good fit, but also thinks it should be tweaked a bit so the gameplay matches the look. We can move on from that point, integrating the new elements and iterating the previous steps to ensure it all works together. I think this is a lot less of a gamble than building large portions of a game with hundreds of lines of code; hundreds of hours spent on concept art, etc before finally playtesting it and finding that none of it helps to create the product with the highest quality. That would mean back to square one.

I am completely aware that many teams may choose to focus on scope towards the end of development. I am also aware that this may be their preference. However, I feel that in the best interest of the team and the project, making use of agile development is the best way to ensure the maximum game quality is attained and that is to set limitations early.

GamerBloodline was here.


Slyke, B.V (2009). How a Game Gets Made: A Game's Journey from Concept to Store Shelves. Retrieved on 7/5/2011 from

Schell, J (2008). The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. Massachusetts: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.

Waters, K (2007).  All About Agile: 10 Key Principles of Agile Development. Retrieved on 7/5/2011 from

Waters, K (2007). All About Agile. Retrieved on 7/5/2011 from

Monday, January 23, 2012

"2 Games, 1 Genre"

Survival-Horror is a genre that aims to shock players and build tension within its gameplay. In a nutshell they are action games. Still, their purposes are alike. However, simply because two games are of the same genre doesn’t mean their gameplay will be identical.

In Dead Space 2, you are tasked with ridding the world of the Necromorph. To do this you must successfully navigate the environment while strategically dismembering your enemies, limb by limb. Navigation in Dead Space 2 is pretty simple, you push up (forward) on the left thumb stick to move and the right thumb stick controls the camera (and your aim). If you are lost, you can click on the right thumb stick, which reveals an illuminated line on the floor that directs you to your next objective (navigation beacon). Shooting works much like you’d expect, you aim with L1 (L Trigger on 360) and fire with R1 (R Trigger on 360).

In Dead Space 2, you play as a mining engineer who wears a heavy “space suit” uniform, so you are not very agile. However, you do have access to a few melee moves. Including a vicious stomp and a powerful right cross. The enemies attack in waves and usually spawn from vents within the ship. To defeat the enemies you must strategically dismember them. Headshots are not important in Dead Space 2, the dominant strategy would be to cut off their legs, which causes them to crawl towards you and often slows them down. Cutting off their arms first also works, especially for weaker enemies. You can use your kinesis ability to pick up their sharp appendages and use it as a projectile- sticking the enemies to walls. Another ability to use is the stasis ability; you can use it to slow down the faster enemies, which aids in lining up those crucial shots.

In Alan Wake, you play as the title character; a writer who is caught up in his own story that has come to life.  The darkness is your enemy in Alan Wake and to defeat it you will need to stay in the light. The weapons at your disposal are of the typical variety: Pistols, shotguns, rifles, etc. However, the most important weapon in Alan Wake is the light. You find yourself in the forest at night with only a flashlight and a pistol. You must navigate the environment around you while avoiding the dangers. Your flashlight is a powerful weapon, but your battery life is limited. The HUD consists of a compass that assists you in finding your way to your objectives.

When you are facing enemies you must repel the darkness that protects them like a shield and then finish them off with a shot from your firearm. Left trigger boosts the light in the direction of the enemy- effectively blinding them and slowing them down. Holding the light on them for a few seconds takes down their shield of darkness, leaving them ripe for the kill shot. The enemies carry weapons of their own that they often throw at you. Thankfully, there is a dodge mechanic at your disposal that you can use to get out of the way of on-coming projectiles.

There are also various enemy types that come at you out of the darkness. Some are small, some are big and others are fast. Defeating them requires you adapt your strategy while conserving ammo and batteries packs. Other weapons at your disposal are flares; flash bang grenades that explode in a flash of light defeating all enemies in the vicinity and a powerful flare gun that acts as a grenade launcher. There is no melee combat mechanic in Alan Wake. Instead, if you are out of ammo and/or down to your last battery you must run away from your enemies to find the nearest light source. Light sources can be a street light, a power generator or any brightly lit town area. Streetlights serve as check points in Alan Wake and they also refill your health meter. The dominant strategy in Alan Wake is to know your surroundings, like taking a look around when you enter a new area. Look for light sources- they are the key to survival.

Both Dead Space 2 and Alan Wake share many gameplay similarities. Both characters are trapped in a living nightmare and must use all resources at their disposal to fend off their enemies. The similarities don’t stop there; both titles have some elements of environmental puzzle. These include hacking through a security door in Dead Space 2 and operating construction machinery to clear a path in Alan Wake. In Dead Space 2, you must dismember your enemies if you hope to survive the onslaught and you can use their sharp limbs as weapons to conserve ammo. Alan Wake differs slightly in this respect. Conserving ammo is still important, however, running is just as good a strategy as any. Alan Wake has a stamina system in place where your character becomes fatigued after running a few yards, whereas is Dead Space 2 you can hold down a button and sprint continuously as long as the button is held.

This changes gameplay because you have to be more aware of the environment around you. If there are various enemies pursuing you and you are low on ammo and/or batteries, you can make a break for a nearby light source. The dodge mechanic works especially well in these scenarios as well. In Alan Wake, you will often feel that the odds are against you. You have no tangible navigation system- aside from the compass and traversing the forest environments often means enemy encounters. Using light is crucial because if you do not shine light on the enemy your bullets are useless. This is the major differentiating element that separates the two games. In Alan Wake, you will not survive the adventure without consciously using “the light” to your advantage. In Dead Space 2, you have many other means to disposing of your enemy than just bullets. There’s your stasis and kinesis abilities provided by your suit (rig) and your melee stomp and right cross attacks. This removes the focus of the core element of gameplay- Strategic Dismemberment, and places the focus on just pure action and combat. Alan Wake keeps its emphasis on its core mechanic, the Light by using the environment, the enemies and combat to encourage and promote its gameplay mechanics.