The mobile gaming space that was once dominated by Gameboys and Atari Lynxes (Ha!) has now been supplanted by iPhone and Android devices. Graphic advancements, miniaturization of arcade classics and new twists on genres have made the mobile platform a force to be reckoned with. One of the most popular genres in “phone gaming” has been the “Endless Runner” one. Games like Canabalt, Temple Run, and Jetpack Joyride have been downloaded millions of times and have been on the top of numerous mobile “best-of” lists.
Their main objective is to jump or run through a space while collecting objects and avoiding falling or hitting obstacles. They are the best kinds of games for quick gaming sessions and scoreboard junkies because they scratch the “I don’t have lots of time to game” itch. I can’t tell you how many countless hours I’ve eaten up trying to beat friends and family in my chase to be number one. For all that said, the runner grind of the collection can also be a bit boring at times. I’ve stopped playing just as many of these games because they don’t add anything to the experience besides the usual run, jump, rinse, and repeat.
Luckily while at IndieCade East this year I came across a game that wanted to do something different with the runner genre. During the game slam, a young woman named Jenna walked up to the podium and gave a quick presentation about her game called “The Golden Arrow,” a game in which a bad-ass, monster-killing princess is the protagonist. My ears perked up and on screen was a retro, 8-bit-styled runner game that added a narrative to the timeless runner formula. I knew that I wanted to find out more about the game, and she said it would be hitting the iTunes store in the upcoming weeks.
I got my hands on the game and let me say, it really is a great game. Monster & Glitch, the one woman indie development studio headed by Jenna Hoffstein, makes a game that combines a fun, accessible playing foundation, delightful and propelling soundtrack with a charming narrative that both makes the game stand out and pushes the player forward.
The mechanics are straightforward: varying presses of the screen will determine height and duration of your jump over and across multiple platforms. Various objects will be put in your way to stop your journey, but through some quick responses and some help from smart game design you can extend your runs and get closer to your monster-killing goals.
Your score increases the longer you run but the twist is in how the story unfolds. After you run a certain distance you will receive a scroll that gives you another part of the narrative. In most runner games your progress resets after you die, but in Golden Arrow your runs are cumulative from one scroll to the next. So you will only have to travel the distance remaining after your last death. Being able to “pick up” from where you left off makes the game such a delight to play and keeps you engaged in the process. It totally removes the potential frustration that can happen in a game like this.
You can gain running speed by jumping into stars on the playfield. More important are the randomly placed rocks that you see in the world. I found that running into them slowed you down and gave you a little more control over jumping, especially if you need to make multiple jumps on a platform. Once I learned to slow down it exponentially lengthened my runs and thus my high scores. I was tops on the leaderboards for about ten minutes, until being dethroned. (Brianna, Jest, and Marmarh I’m coming for you!!)
Golden Arrow’s music also is a highlight. Wonderful vocals fill the start and story screens while pulsating chiptunes push you along your trek. Wait until you get to the 6,000 meter mark and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
The story of the princess who finds her prince has been commonplace in many an enchanted tale, but there are a couple of poignant story bits there for discovery. I won’t spoil them but will say that some of them surprisingly touched me on a personal level. Once you finish the tale, you will appreciate the care with which Jenna weaves her story together.
Golden Arrow is great because it doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel, and in many respects it didn’t need to. What I believe sets this game apart from many of the games on the market is that it didn’t try to hook me with micro-transactions or time gates. It got me hooked by giving me addictive gameplay wrapped in a fun and engaging story. I suggest everyone pick up this game on the iTunes store for the low, low price of $.99.
Also I had the chance to sit down and chat with Jenna Hoffstein and talk about the game and how it was to develop The Golden Arrow. Check out our exclusive interview here:
Dead Space 3 is a game that everyone should play – especially other developers. Not because the game employs any interesting gameplay mechanics, or expands what you can do with an established franchise. Instead, Visceral Games and EA are showing the gaming community how you can easily run a series directly into the ground by running away from what made you great. Unfortunately and ironically it seems as if the title of the game has also described its latest iteration.
We pick up the story some 200 years after Dead Space 2: the Unitarians have surpassed and supplanted their EarthGov rivals and have become much more powerful. So powerful in fact that they now have their own black-market-loving militia. Our favorite necromorph-stomping engineer, Isaac, is back and has been trying everything to forget the past. Everything, that is, except for Ellie, the one-eyed survivor from the Sprawl incident. It seems that in the time span from the last game, you two have become romantically involved, broken up, and now she’s dating a jerk who forces you – at gunpoint – to help him save her. Isaac can’t catch a damn break.
I won’t go into spoilers in this review because for as forgettable and rushed as I think the product was, I want people to experience the narrative for themselves. Rather than do that, I will discuss the wrapper and not the candy.
Many Dead Space fans bought into the story and universe for a couple of reasons: wanting to be scared and really liking gory action. The first game introduced an eerie world filled with atmospheric solitude and a “strategic dismemberment” concept. Coupled with an iconic design for the protagonist, it created a very different and fresh take on the horror genre that captured people’s imaginations. Dead Space 2 expanded on that with updated graphics, a broadening of the mythos and ramped up the gore factor to ten. Dead Space 3 took almost all of that meaty foundation and actively chips away at it.
This is why this game is so frustrating. Early on, when Visceral announced this sequel, they gave us a glimpse into a game that wound up resembling Gears Of War more than Dead Space. Cooperative play and soldiers shooting at Isaac were the showcases. The gaming community saw this, heaved a collective sigh, and waited for a new trailer or word from producer Steve Papoutsis that the elements that embodied the series were still intact. Steve’s response was to reassure everyone and ask then to give the benefit of the doubt. After finishing Dead Space 3, it’s left me more disappointed than anything.
For every advancement made, the game feels like it takes a step or two backward. Gone are any of the memorable moments that you found in Dead Space 2, like the needle in the eye scene or any of interactions with the NPC’s.
The design of the characters seems a little off as well, especially Ellie’s. Her animations and speech often seemed rather disjointed. The addition of the Unitologists as a fighting force and enemy was a poor choice and removed any tension or horror that could have been. The allure of the crazy religious sect was that they were shadowy and all you really knew about them was their undying allegiance to the makers. When you meet them now they are nothing more than a SWAT team, hell bent on killing you. Adding enemies with guns, while providing only a tacked-on cover system that doesn’t really work did the game a disservice and lessened the final product, in my opinion. The new co-op character, Carver, didn’t really add anything of significance to the mix either in my solo game; although I hear he is fleshed out a bit more in the co-op missions. Everything in this game seemed a bit throwaway: the story, environments, and villain all seemed to be an afterthought. Even the small transitions that occurred when you put on a new suit seemed to be rushed. I loved the way the camera would focus and hang on your visor after you put on a new suit, though – it just added the small touch of flair and badass-ness that makes you want to be Isaac. The lack of those small touches makes me feel like the game was either rushed in some way or that the team put their efforts in other unseen places.
I will say this: the gun building in the game was the highlight for me. At first I scoffed at the two-gun approach, but in retrospect it made me experiment much more and try out new combinations more often. My assault rifle/rocket launcher combo made parts of the game much more enjoyable. I learned this the hard way when some boss battles took twice as long because I didn’t have the right weapon setup. It felt like in older games you could get away with just using a plasma cutter if you wanted to play that way but in Dead Space 3 you need to manage your toolset in smart ways or make a Swiss-Army type gun that suits all situations. Most people won’t know this unless they are told or find themselves consistently on the losing end of a fight.
Dead Space 3 had a bunch of things going for it when it was announced: it came with the foundation of having a pretty rabid fanbase, super interesting story with great characters, and some of the scariest tension-filled moments since Doom. It falls short on most of the things that made the franchise great, and adds unnecessary fluff to try and compensate. It seems like the tradition of weak third games in a trilogy has reared its ugly head and the Dead Space series looks to be its latest victim.
For the folks who rent this game, understand that there is an online pass required if you want to play co-op. I didn’t know this when I rented from Gamefly and was super disappointed that EA would gate a major feature behind a paywall. I know that this has become the way of the world, but it still stings a bit when you want to have the full experience in a narrative-based game.
Once I have a chance to run through the game on co-op, I will post my review on what new or interesting things are on that side. Hell, if you want to play co-op with me and help me review it, send a friend request to KAHJAH1 on PSN.
The “SoundShapers” is a series of articles and interviews that spotlight a different member of the Sound Shapes community weekly. Check out other posts here.
This week’s shaper is a mainstay of the community and has made some pretty cool levels. I was attracted to some of his creations because I really like symmetrical levels. Many of this shaper’s levels are great because they are, in the words of Tart himself: short, sweet and to the point. They offer a challenge to both novice and veteran players and show that he has firm grasp of the platforming genre.
This week’s Shaper is Old_PopTarts
My two favorite levels from Tarts were “Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and “Say CHEESE!!”(1sl).
“Escape from Guantanamo Bay” – was really fun to play because of how the red elements are placed in the level. The “kick box” enemies were placed in such a way that it reminded me of the game “Plinko” from “The Price is Right” TV show. You have to time out both your jump to avoid the boxes and where you land on the safe areas. It was a small part of the level but stuck with me after playing it.
“Say CHEESE!!” – is a level that resembles what you would see through a camera’s viewfinder. You can see this from the level’s community screenshot but it looks even cooler when you play it. The level is pretty straightforward: dodge all the red dotted lines on the periphery while trying to gauge your jumps on and off the circular treadmill. It’s simplistic in its design, but challenging to finish. It took me more time than I thought it would to complete, but I felt like I accomplished something once I was done.
After playing Tart’s levels I reached out to him for a quick interview:
TSP: Give a little background on yourself and why you decided to play Sound Shapes.
TART: State-side born in a town called Peoria in Illinois. You may have heard ”If it plays in Peoria, it’ll play anywhere.” I’ve been a gamer since the first Nintendo system all the way to the Vita. I’ve always been into platformers and who doesn’t love music? A game that mashes them both intrigued me. I’m familiar with Jonathon Mak from the game Everyday Shooter so this game definitely caught my eye. It’s a very interesting concept and works very well in action. It’s a gem that I hope everyone has a chance to play!!
TSP: How do you plan out your levels? (Music first or art?)
TART: I like plan out my music first and get the basic layout of each screen before I start to shape my level. I find it’s much easier to start with symmetrical shapes for the whole screen and tweak from there. If you rush and just place notes randomly, there’s a chance your level won’t be as polished. You can have a whole song done but as you progress you replace certain sounds with entities from the game to compliment or replace without compromising the integrity of your song.
TSP: Do you make your levels on the PS3 or Vita?
TART: I had an unwanted visitor in my home back in May, so unfortunately I don’t have access to a PS3 at this moment. Soo I do all my Shaping on the PS Vita, which is extremely intuitive and very well thought out. I favor the touchscreen/pad in tandem. It really makes shaping and positioning a breeze.
TSP: What are your favorite levels that you’ve made and why?
TART: I would say my favorite level I’ve made is “Escape from Guantanamo Bay”. It was my first fully fledged level, albeit short, sweet and to the point, I believe it’s a well rounded level. I’m currently working on my next Sound Shapes level and it’s a bit more ambitious than “Escape from Guantanamo Bay” and I am having a blast making it. I really can’t wait to release it and see what others think of it!!
TSP: What is your favorite level you’ve played and why?
TART: Picking a favorite level I’ve played is an extremely tough choice. There are many works I am fond of by creators such as: Daftbomb, TheBeejAbides and TonyTough among countless others. Favorite levels from each would be “Cheer-up Buttercup” by Daftbomb, and “A Nightmare on Church Street” by TonyTough each respectively and in no particular order. If I missed you I am terribly sorry!!
TSP: Any tips or tricks that you’ve learned?
TART: Save and save often! I’ve heard of hours lost on projects due to nasty bug that is to be resolved soon. I have fortunately not had this issue (knock on wood.) I am still learning as I go, so I may not be that helpful. I gladly pass that on to Daftbomb and his instructional levels for just this! I will point out that you must take your time and try not to rush if you want your level to be polished and fun.
TSP: What would you like see added to the game in future updates that would make your creations even better?
TART: It has been mentioned before, but I would love an option to set the tempo for screens individually to set the right tone and send the right message. I would also love to see new Sound Shapes entities and new color palettes. An option to cue strings of levels and play them back to back would also be welcome. I would have loved to have a “ghost” mode as well but have been told Queasy Games would need a fully deterministic engine to do so :/
I would like to first thank Queasy Games and John Mak for this lovely gem. Everyone who even remotely likes platformers and music should give this game a go. I would also like to thank Kahlief for this opportunity to share my thoughts. Lastly I would like to thank the all the creators for giving me tons of content to obsess over! A special shout-out to Redespair, MilkManiac, DUSTINISGOOD and BeejAbides for setting such high bars on speed-runs and look forward to meeting you all on the Sticky Ball courts. ^_^
Big thanks goes out to Tarts for being a part of the series and sharing his thoughts on his work. A huge congrats also goes out to the SoundShapes crew for winning “Best handheld and Song in a Game” at this year’s VGA’s. Two really dope DLC launches this month wrap up a pretty amazing year for us as Shapers and there is more to come. I can’t wait to see what new levels come about from all these goodies. As for us at the Spawnpoint, we are wrapping up our #SoundShapers series next week and we hope to see you there.
As a child of the 70’s I remember two very distinct things growing up. I can remember hearing my first Hip-Hop song (Sucker MC’s) and playing my first videogame (Space Invaders). I can recall hearing my uncle play the record on an old turntable that caught every pop and hiss of the wax while it revolved, and being mesmerized by the feel of the kick drum that boomed from our stereo’s speakers. I also remember when my Grandmother brought home this box of awesome-smelling plastic called an Atari. It wafted this subtle aroma of non-biodegradable plastic and rubber and came with this meat mallet of a controller with the one red button. So simplistic in its form factor, but this design has cemented it in the bedrock of videogaming’s foundation.
I talk about these two very different things so fondly because they (along with my family) have influenced and constructed huge pieces of the person I am today. Hip-Hop culture imbued a style of talk, dress, self-confidence and a way to navigate the world around me. Videogames opened my mind to new worlds, concepts and language. It provided a place for me in which intelligence and logic were not the exceptions but the rule. They both ran parallel but for me also took on a symbiotic relationship; one that today is the basis for most of my friendships and social interaction.
This crossover in my life made me think about some of the games I’ve played over the years that best embody what “The Grandfather of Hip-Hop,” Africa Bambaataa, calls “The Four Pilliars of Hip-Hop”. They consist of MCing, DJing, B-Boying and Graffiti Writing. Here are some of my favorite examples.
Def Jam RapStar released by Konami in 2010 was the Hip-Hop version of karaoke. The “watch the bouncing ball” gameplay left a lot to be desired but was the best thing most home console gamers had to satiate their inner battle rapper. To date this is the only game that even comes close to replicating or giving the player the feel that they are emceeing.
ToeJam and Earl -
PaRapper The Rapper -
It all really started in 1997 with Beatmania, a game from Japanese developer Konami. One of the earliest home console rhythm games, it mixed both a simulated “keyboard” setup with a turntable for scratching. It was hugely popular in Japan but much less so here in the states.
The game that really made an impact on this front was DJ Hero from Activision. It incorporated most of the gameplay from the Guitar Hero series and mixed in its own version of DJing notation to make the game feel like you were actually mixing and scratching. The game surprisingly wasn’t a big hit. My guess is that this was more due to the oversaturation of rhythm games in the market, and less because it was a Hip-Hop game. (Though you could argue that Rap music is harder to use because of some of the profanity and repetitive hooks in most commercial songs, and that fact could have led to the disappointing sales.)
There is one game that comes to mind when talking about this pillar. B-Boy from FreeStyleGames launched in 2006 with not only authentic breakdancing moves in but an awesome soundtrack that had some of the most recognizable songs in B-Boy battle history. The motion capture that must have gone into that game must have been extensive, looking at how smoothly the animations blended into each other. While watching a couple of YouTube clips, I wondered what a next-gen version of this game would look like. I know it would be niche but it would be great nonetheless.
Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure from Atari and the mind of Marc Eckō, was a real “love letter to Hip-Hop” kind of game. It embodied and celebrated bomber culture and “backpacker rapper” lifestyle. It did this by having a bass thumping soundtrack from RJD2, having its main character Trane voiced by prominent underground MC Talib Kweli and using tags from world-renowned graffiti artists . They brought authenticity to a game that most critics and people in the gaming community passed over. Although the game had issues, it gave a great glimpse into the graffiti scene and urban culture.
A couple of games that have to be on this list because of their status as “classics” are the games from the Jet Set Radio series. Set in a futuristic Japan, they told the story of skater gangs who needed to graffiti their turf, and escape the Shibuya police and rival crews. The first game debuted on the Dreamcast in 2000 with the sequel coming out two years later. The game was known for its vibrant graphics, eclectic soundtrack and graffiti mechanics. By using the analog stick you would mimic the sweeping motions that would draw out your tags. It felt innovative and intuitive and immersed you in the world; the added ability to make your own specialized tags brought the whole experience together as well.
In all of Bambaataa’s infinite wisdom, I believe he left out one very vital element of Hip-Hop: beatmaking. This is the integral piece that never made it into the pillar structure that holds up the culture today. The funny thing is that videogames for a long time now have been used in making music, and especially rap music. I recall a couple of friends that would compete in “beat battles” here in New York. One specifically would come and do his sets with a 13-inch TV, a PS2, and a copy of the game in the video below:
Up to that point it was unheard of to use a gaming console to make fully fleshed out tracks, but he did pretty well against his competition and won a couple rounds on some nights. It showed that videogames had a reach far beyond your living room. They became more than just tools for entertainment and games, but also musical instruments.
The convergence of Hip-Hop and Gaming was one that the founders of Hip-Hop culture could not have seen coming. These innovators reaching back into the past to snag African beats and poetry pushed forward new systems and thought processes that have influenced many of the music artists we have today. The same can be said of the Pongs, Space Invaders and Pac Mans: their reaches have metamorphosed into the Gears of Wars and Heavy Rains of today’s games, showing just how everything influences everything.
The beauty of this is that although they are on very separate tracks, in my mind and heart they are passengers on the same train going into hopefully a gorgeous, thoughtful and conscious destination.
I have two vices: videogames and basketball, I’ve probably played every iteration of the digital version that you can think of. From Double Dribble to Slam-N-Jam 95′ the sport has seen numerous changes. With each technological advance we’ve seen a huge improvement in graphics, commentary, AI and physics. All this brings me to today’s topic: The Digital Dunk Contest.
To show you where I would love to end up, let’s start at the beginning: in 1988 Jordan Vs. Bird had the first videogame dunk contest. The funny thing about it was the fact that you could only play as Jordan, so I’m not sure how it was really a contest. (But did you really want to play as Bird?) You were given a selection of ten dunks to choose from and relied on a timing meter to execute the dunk you wanted to perform. The game captured the likeness and signature moves of Jordan plus gave you a challenge while trying to pull off his dunks. I think I might have played this one aspect of the game more than anything else.
Here is your throwback video to illustrate:
Fast forward to 2005 and Electronic Arts is holding court with the NBA Live series. EA decided to go all-in with both the use of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend and Sprite branding. They also added specific commentary from Ernie Johnson and Kenny “bring out the the gospel choir” Smith. What made this version of the contest special was that for the first time you could bounce the ball off of multiple structures around the court, use different gathers and throw down some pretty awesome dunks. With minimal effort, it was still really challenging to the player. The multiple button layout of the Xbox made it easier to map specific controls to different moves, and it gave the player the ability to modify a standard dunk into a more spectacular one.
We move ahead to the time between 2008-2011 where 2kSports adds their version to the mix. They decided to run with a street motif having the contest in a mocked-up urban playground and snagged Hip-Hop and streetball legend Bobbito, aka DJ Cucumber Slice, for commentary. This quickly became the most annoying addition to a sports game since the concept of first-person football. Grating voice-overs aside, this looked to be the pinnacle of what mo-capped dunks, physics and graphical fidelity could be in our generation. Then you picked up the controller and had to fight through a mess of uncoordinated inputs, Street Fighter-esque quarter circles and nonsensical tutorials. I believe that 2k had a great idea in theory but botched some of the execution. Check out the example below:
NBA 2k13 recently showcased a small snippet of what the new dunk contest will look like:
And to say it looks a bit disappointing is an understatement. I will admit no one has seen the final product and I will hold final judgement until I get my hands on it, BUT the move to make it less interactive and more casual really is off-putting. A guitar hero-esque highway that requires nothing but follow-the-number button pushes is the last thing most basketball fans would want. So let me run down a couple of things that are needed for a fun, engaging and challenging dunk contest.
- ATMOSPHERE: The venue, having the dunk contest in an actual stadium with all branding helps a great deal with this and I’m happy that 2k finally has this in the new game.
- SOUND: Kenny Smith can be your ace in the hole and also the land mine that blows up the whole shebang. If you listen to the hype that he brings in the clip below, you see how much it adds to the experience. It has just the right amount of energy and is very contextual. It makes you feel like you are watching a live event and not a bunch of stitched lines of dialogue. Also most importantly the crowd needs to sound excited or disappointed about whatever dunk is done or awful judge score is given. If you’ve watched the past couple of years’ contests you can tell just how a dead crowd kills both the dunker and your personal viewing pleasure.
- INTANGIBLES: This is the part of the article where I play “All of the Lights“. The smoke, flash, player intros, full motion video, overlays, and even music should be blown out. Make it flashy but realistic, make props cool and fun, stop making the court look like they are fixing potholes for your local utility company by giving them construction obstacles to jump over. Introduce a human prop, maybe try to incorporate tandem dunks or wearable items.
- CONTROLS: Here is where the I think 2k can make their mark by taking a page from an old NBA Live book. The controls in the Live 95′ version could be tweaked and updated. Put in a couple more modifiers and make navigation easy with a decent video tutorial and you could absolutely have a winner. Making the player feel like they are an active participant is the key to making any dunk contest viable and should be the first things developers prioritize.
Check out these last two videos that pretty much sum up what I am hoping for in a new dunk contest — pay close attention to the audio and presentation and imagine what an NBA2k13 or next-gen engine would bring to the table.
I have been gaming with a particular group of friends for over a decade and we’ve all gone from being young miscreants to pillars of our community. Our gaming habits have changed a bunch due to many reasons: children, marriages and work to name a few. So I find myself needing and wanting new people to play with who both are engaged in having fun, are around my age and most importantly NOT douchebags. Usually I would play with random folk but as any gamer who has picked up an Xbox or Playstation mic in the past decade knows, “It ain’t safe in them thar hills.” If I wanted to deal with misogyny, racism and homophobia I would just watch a Republican Debate.
So when deciding how to approach this article, I asked myself, “What makes a good teammate?” and, “Where do I go to find like-minded gamers?” I asked friends, did a little research and even spoke with a pro-gamer acquaintance for some ideas. I’m hoping that some of my findings might help you if you are in the same rut that I’m in.
First up is GameBattles, recently snapped up by Major League Gaming. This mega leaderboard is the place that many people who are looking to find clan-based competition would go. Those wanting to go pro in a game like Call of Duty, Halo or Gears of War seem to congregate here and find people to scrimmage against or recruit. Having used GB in the past I found it a great tool if you already have a group of people you like to play with and trust them to have your back in a firefight. Leaderboards and global rank I’m sure are great at building camaraderie (if you are winning) but don’t seem to help with finding new people to play with.
Next is a site that I was exposed to by YouTube sensation WoodysGamertag. Woody has been streaming his gaming exploits for a while now but would always refer to a site called Hupitgaming. Hupit stands for Helping Unite Players Into Teams; the sole purpose of it is to get folks who have similar play styles and gaming habits to play together. It’s like Match.com for gamers with more shooting and fewer walks on the beach. When you start using the site, you put in a bunch of information about yourself and how you like to play. Your particular gaming style, platform of choice and a few other details are needed. Once you’ve finished, your Gamertag or PSN name is uploaded and if other folks have similar tastes you can send them a friend request and a message.
It’s pretty genius and the process is painless. After setting up my profile I had a couple of friend requests on both my PS3 and Xbox and the folks were pretty cool to play with but after a couple of days we stopped playing with each other. Maybe it was due to the times I was on or not on for that matter. I will say that the people I “met” were nice and didn’t have the attitude that I see with many super competitive gamers. Many people I’ve come into contact with are just rude, not only to their opponents but to their own teammates. At this stage in my life I don’t have the time or energy to deal with that, so any way I can lessen that stress is welcomed. Overall I would say that Hupit is a great site to help with finding people to play with. I will definitely try it again and update this post with some of my findings.
Lastly, I reached out to Ritchie Martinez, who you may know better by his online moniker TeRRoR. He is a pro gamer that is just coming off of a huge win at one of the country’s biggest Gears of War tournaments titled “Hypefestation”. He and his team Infinity had an awesome come-from-behind victory and showed just what great communication and team play can do when implemented correctly. After watching, I reached out to him via email and I asked him some questions pertaining to how he found his Infinity crew and if he had any tips on recruiting better teammates. He also shared some insights on playing as a pro, here is our interview below:
SP: I see from a recent interview that you did at HYPEFESTATION, that you and the rest of Infinity have been together since Gears 2 came out and you guys are still going strong. How did you meet the crew that you run with now? Online, Real life friends?
TeRRoR: To clarify we started playing together at the very end of Gears of War 2 in which we only competed on Gamebattles which was an online tournament that we ended up winning. Ribs and I met online , we tried him out a couple of days before MLG’s (Major League Gaming) roster lock and felt like we meshed extremely well. Atmo and Flamez we also met through online. A lot of us in the community know each other from competing the last few years.
SP: As a pro player are there different things that you look for in teammates that have evolved or are different since going pro?
TeRRoR: Well I think maturity and knowing how to take positive criticism is very important in this sport. It seems as if many teams fight and argue over losing scrims and that’s definitely not the case when it comes to Infinity. I just like to play with people who enjoy perfecting a craft so that we make strategies as routine and smooth as possible. I can finally say I feel like I found the right combination in my teammates.
TeRRoR: Unfortunately we don’t have the proper funds to practice in person as much as we would like to so we just wing it on XBL. We all try to get on around 6:30pm EST and run at least one or two practice cycles before the night’s over. My gaming schedule is pretty open for the time being but I find myself playing other games outside of Gears of War in my free gaming time.
TeRRoR: The great thing about Gears Of War is that it’s a very tactical game, you aren’t going to kill me across the map unless you have a power weapon. This means that you have to develop a plan to try and find a way to slowly pick off the opposing team one by one. As opposed to COD it seems that if I see you before you see me, the majority of the time I’ll be able to kill you. I think that is a huge difference when it comes to tactical shooters.
TeRRoR: There was no true strategy involved, Ribs and Atmo are great friends and were pretty much looking for who they might wanna play with. The team belonged to Atmo since Gears 1 and since the brand is very important to the Gears community we kept the team name. Ribs recommended me to Atmo who then agreed it might be a great fit so for a little while we were a team of 3 looking for a fourth. The best way to try people out is by trying them out in a match, in our case an online match (Gamebattles). Social media can be a great way to communicate with free agents but unless you know how someone plays I don’t think it’s a great idea to recruit through it.
TeRRoR: Well since online play is very frustrating we do conflict a whole lot when it comes to strats and map placement, but everything seems to go out the window when we are playing side by side. It seems to feel like when we are together we have a better understanding of each other. It’s usually me starting the conflicts, getting on the guys cases being that I like to run things smoothly I’m sure they understand so they just let me go on a rant. LOL
TeRRoR: Well we really try not to separate ourselves from the rest of the community, but it seems as if the quality of scrims seem to change when playing against a team who isn’t pro. They don’t take it seriously, they run around doing things that shouldn’t be done, and it can just be very frustrating because then we just get less practice from it. We have been doing a better job at mixing it up to try and prepare and counter all kinds of strats thrown at us whether its a pro team or not.
TeRRoR: I’m really interested in seeing if we can possibly compete in another shooter, but I don’t see it being a main focus point at the moment being all four members need to be on the same page.
TeRRoR: Well I feel as if the guys over at Epic are doing a great job with communicating with the competitive scene. They have already done some tuning for us and we appreciate it very much. We give them a lot of slack because everyone has a vision on how the game should be played, but our community is very strong and it seems as if a lot of us are on the same page when it comes to what we are looking for in terms of competitive balance.
TeRRoR: I do think that more tourneys would bring more light to E-Sports but we need to push for a bigger cause. I hope that one day gaming can be taken seriously and players on pro teams are getting paid on a salary. This would help so that they can focus on just doing that instead working a 9-5 job and not having time for the passion of gaming. I just personally hope to see the E-Sports community grow as a whole. (I don’t think I’m asking for too much)
Finding other quality people can be a daunting task and we are to a certain extent far removed from the days of having folks over for gaming sessions. Some of this is due to life just being in the way, the growth of online console gaming and even the lack of split-screen has lowered the chance of having gaming friends that are worth having around even after your system is off. I hope that some of you try a couple of these options if you are looking for cool people to play with, and if you have some stories of how you met awesome people to play with please share your stories in the comments below.
Starhawk is trying to regain it’s title as one of Sony’s flagship franchises, piggybacking off the huge successes of Warhawk which ushered us into the next generation of console gaming. With a totally updated art style, single player campaign and revamped multiplayer LightBox Interactive are looking to stake big claims in 2012.
I was lucky enough to snag a beta code from Frankie Peppers over at @starhawkradio (thanks again Frankie) and have some initial impressions that I would like to share. I will update this once I have more time on the sticks but here are some of the things that I’ve noticed.
The graphic style is beautiful, it mixes Sci-fi and Western with a drop of Mad Max just for flavor, this is conveyed by having characters with bio-luminescent veins running through their bodies. Those blue streaks aren’t just there for aesthetics, they play directly into the story-line. The developers have incorporated this idea of “Rift Energy”. This energy is what motivates all those in this world, it has a multitude of uses from health to ammo and most importantly the game’s currency. A currency that wraps around what I believe to be Skyhawk’s most ambitious idea.
The B&B (Build and Battle) system is something that only a genius or a mad man could have come up with. I’m sure when the person who came up with the concept walked into the programmer’s room they wanted to hit him/her with a garbage can. The system basically lets you build structures, weapons and vehicles in real-time almost anywhere on the battlefield. If you need a wall to protect yourself from fire, drop one right in front of you. Need a jetpack to get around the map? Build it.
After playing for a bit it almost becomes second nature to navigate the radial wheel and pick whatever you need to help your team out. I would say so far that they nailed something with the B&B system — something that you won’t really find anywhere else.
The Warhawks are back and now have a bi-pedal mode (I will avoid making Transformer noises) which feels really intuitive and easy to navigate. The flying felt as good as ever but until they let us play with the bigger maps you won’t really be able to stretch your wings. Aiming feels tightened up on all vehicles and standard weapons, voice communications sound clear and so far with the amount of people logged in there isn’t any lag to speak of.
So far the beta only allows CTF games but they are insanely fun, I’m hoping to see very soon what else LBI has up their sleeves. From the numerous tweets and posts on their blog they seem to be listening intently to the user base and that can only breed good things for the gamer.
I will update this post in the future once patches and other updates have been made and will report back here. Also, check out our Google+ gaming podcast “Character Select”. We will give a code away so you can try it too.