WBX: Microsoft to buy Epic? Don't make us LOL…

WBX: WinBreak Exclusive
IRISHprik411 pointed me to an article at dbtechno.com which said Microsoft was planning to buy Epic. Unfortunately for them, it’s completely bogus. It might get them some hits, but it’ll die off soon enough.

After CliffyB stating, last week, how Epic intends to focus the majority of their work on consoles, I can’t expect that they’re suddenly going to buddy up to Microsoft. Further cementing the idea that Epic is out on their own, today they announced the implimentation of Scaleform GFx, which “…[enables] artists to create scalable data-driven UI elements for menuing systems, overlays, HUDs and animated textures directly on 3D objects. GFx also provides an innovative text and font system specifically designed to enhance productivity and streamline localization.”

Additionally, I got in touch with a source “friendly” with Epic who, preferred to remain anonymous, who had this to say: “Its a rumor, lol …. well, rumors start easily …. I’m not sure where it came from, or why.” I just had to include the “LOL” in his message, reaffirming that Epic isn’t going anywhere, and they’re certainly not about to join Microsoft Game Studios. Clearly the most popular game engine right now (what game have you played lately that didn’t have the Unreal Engine logo at the beginning!?), Epic still has enough money to resist even the best offers from Microsoft, if they were to make one.

War: It's good for video games (2 of 2)

In January, I had a chance to check out the Frontlines single player demo. It gave a nice cinematic intro, and a brief “the story so far…” moment. Today, I finally took the time to try the multiplayer demo which has made its way onto the Xbox Live Marketplace.

Frontlines, again, has an amazing story concept, and very good combat execution. Allow me to share with you what I posted on Unscripted360’s forums back in January. The following, about the Single Player demo, was my micro review of the game.


I think the game is going to be pretty damn good. Then again, the Demo for Blacksite: Area 51 made me drop $50 on that the week it came out, and I sold that four days later!

Still, the graphics are impressive, the story line is eerily plausible, and the idea that the game is acted out by the player as a soldier, but told from the point of view of an Associated Press writer is pretty freakin’ brilliant (English major geekyness coming out!).

I love Squad Based combat games, where you don’t really have to rely on the squad or direct them. Much like Halo. You get the feeling of a large battle, lots of people fighting along side you, but you don’t have to worry about giving them orders like in GRAW or Rainbow Six. Area 51 was similar, where you could give a few orders here and there, but a lot of it, the AI handled themselves. I like that.

The graphics are certainly “this gen” – not much has been spared here, save for a bit of dynamic lighting, which might be nice… then again the level is broad daylight in a desert-city, so maybe ‘night-time’ missions will be a bit more impressive.

All in all, I’m fairly excited about what I’ve seen so far, and will certainly consider picking it up!

After reading a few people’s comments, I think I can counter a bit of it. The game does indeed feel a little slow, but some of us are used to Halo, where we’re playing a super soldier. This is still supposed to be contemporary combat – think of the “America’s Army” games. I thought that demo had even slower player movement than this.

Similarly, with the ‘sluggish’ tank controls… I’ve never driven a tank, but I don’t see them changing much in the next fifteen years. I don’t think a tank is intended to speed along the way they can in other games (again, Halo?). It takes a few seconds to get it going from one direction to another… but if you hold down that ‘sprint’ button (RB, by default), like you’re running, it gets a bit of a boost. I did have some awkward troubles with it only wanting to turn one direction, even after I pressed the opposite, but I figured I just had to learn the controls a little better.

Also, as far as the AI goes, I’d like to see a bit more of it. Just because it’s not ‘aggressive’ doesn’t mean it’s no good. If I were in battle and saw someone jump out in front of me, I might instinctively turn and run, too. I had a few instances of it running from me while I was in the open, and a few instances where I was getting tagged, and I couldn’t tell from where!

Now, onto the more recent multiplayer demo.

Frontlines: Fuel of War’s multiplayer demo menus are clear and easy to navigate, but the lack of a clear lobby is very confusing. I was suddenly presented with a battlefield. No clear description of the map, or level – just “do you want to join this game?” I pressed a to join the game. I then chose a class (a weapons loadout), and deployed. Deploying seemed to take an inordinate ammount of time, considering the match was already udner way. In some instances I pressed the deploy button several times, only to go back to the loadout screen! Then I saw a smoke signal and headed right for my first objective.

Upon arrival I expected instructions for capturing the site, or at least a timer, showing that if I stayed in a certain area long enough, it would capture the zone… but nothing. I get the capture point, get killed, then stay dead for a few minutes, until it’s the end of the match and I’m back at the main menu.

Upon joining another match, my lag is so bad that pressing the dpeloy button multiple times, again, does nothing. I change teams, then deploy, and it works – but every step I take sends me backwards ten.

Finally I connect to a relatively lag free server. The smoke points actually were capture points, and there are other communication stations you capture by standing infront of a computer and holding the X button. It sure seems like a dangerous thing, especially with the lack of communication I was experiencing from my team, but it worked out pretty well in the end.

The fun part comes as the “front line” of the war changes. When the game starts, the map is dividied in half, with capture points in the middle. The team that captures those expands their control of the map, and more capture points, deeper in the losing team’s territory, are assigned. You are fighting for the front line, that is all. It does no good to run to a capture point that is not active and unguarded. It was a very smart use design that allows them to use these large scale maps, but localize the battle, rather than having it spread all over.

Match lengths can be anywhere from five minutes to an hour. Seems a bit overkill – let’s hope somebody simply WINS in that ammount of time… I’m not the kind of patient person that wants to play an hour at a time, on one map… I suppose with the right company, it could be fun, but I would need to understand if and how they have implimented a party system a little better, when the full version comes out.

As a sort of bonus, the multiplayer demo also includes more of the “story so far” in a Field Guide. You can learn more about the nations involved in the war, weapons, vehicles, loadouts, and role equipment. My favorite little feature is the War Timeline. A quick read of that shows just how much thought went into this universe. While I may have found a few typos and inconsistencies in what was written there (English major geekyness strikes again!), I assume it will be fixed when the game launches, and I believe it is that story that is going to sell to a sometimes forgotten niche market, those who love storylines in their shooters!

All in all, I enjoyed the demos, but I honestly expect that I will be picking this game up shortly after launch, if not at launch. But I have to admit, I think it’s mostly because of the single player storyline!

War: It's good for video games (1 of 2)


I have been hearing a lot about these new war games lately, Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, and Frontlines: Fuel of War. Today, I intend to talk about both.

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty takes a very Command and Conquer “Red Alert” approach to things. It is a “what if” universe, that rewrites history as we know it. The demo opens with a Nazi bombardment of New York City, circa 1940. As you, a construction worker climbing the I-Beams of an finished building, witness the first wave of the attack hit the Statue of Liberty (an ominously threatening act to open a up with) and come ashore with fighter planes, Zeppelins, and paratroopers, you are immediately thrown in to the action.

Without so much as a “ready, set, go” you are off, trying to make your way down the building. Your first encounter with a Nazi soldier is quite simple: press B, then press up on the d-pad. Take him out, and take his gun. Then you can proceed to have fun picking off paratroopers and making your way through New York’s city streets and buildings. That’s… really? That’s about it. The demo just ends in a plume of smoke squeezing its way down the streets, with a visual eerily reminiscent of 9/11 footage.

The demo doesn’t take you very far, and doesn’t really leave you with much of a cliff hanging desire to play more. The combat mechanics are pretty straight forward, nothing too – a big feeling of the first condemned game, when using the d-pad to execute ‘finishing moves.’ The graphics aren’t on par with many of today’s titles, which is a shame, considering it’s using Unreal Engine 3. In fact, it feels like a budget title – like (I hate to say this, because it’s not that bad) King Kong. I certainly don’t see myself spending $60 for it, and this is why I’m a huge proponent of games that take the “value pricing” approach to things… for instance, when Project Sylpheed launched at a realistic $40, instead of $60.

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty has some very interesting story concepts, and has their imagery right. The concept of attacking America, and New York City in particular, is still something that will get under the skin of many. If I were Codemasters, I would do something to play the controversy card: that might sell a few extra copies of the game. The smoke funneling through the streets, bombing of the “Statue of Liberty” – these are powerful, powerful images. The unfortunate problem is the game engine is so basic that these images don’t hit home with the cinematic oomph that they should.

All in all, I want more of the game, more of the alternate universe, more of the feeling that I’m Joe construction worker and I’m America’s last line of defense. But in all honesty? I’m not about to pay $60 for those feelings. It may be a long while before it’s in the bargain bin for $20 or less, so this game is on my “pick it up used” list.

[update 1] Find 360 in the wild: Win Uno… and the winner is…

FIRST, the submissions. 😉

GuyWhoLovesRice submitted a whopping FOUR pictures (remember, I said you could submit as many as you want).

TXPaladin submitted one, which he noted that because it included both the requred 360, and the TX in his gamertag, should count for bonus points.

LancerX7 said he looked all week and found nothing, then finally hacked his Logitech G15 keyboard to give us this message:

And then there was silence… there were no other submissions. Six total submissions from three total readers. Well, for the record, I enjoyed TXPaladin’s picture the most, but… because of the dedication of only three contestants making our first contest all the more special, I’m going to award the game to ALL THREE CONTESTANTS! EVERYONE IS A WINNER!

TX Paladin will get the official Uno CODE, for the other two, I will be “gifting” the game to you. I had no intention of doing this going into the contest, my pockets aren’t that deep, but I wanted to thank you all, and hope that maybe you spread the word. Thanks for taking part in our first contest, and making it memorable and enjoyable! Even with only 3 contestants, I consider the fact that I have any pictures to show off, a sucess. 🙂

Update 1: seems as though I’m a little more used to the “Wii.” I can’t “gift” games, and even the ability to gift POINTS seems to have been a “holiday promition” that billing.microsoft.com has disabled!! Very strange. I will work around this, I do not go back on my word! Lancer and Rice, you will be getting Uno, just hang tight! 😉

[update 3] The UNO Giveaway is over!

Update 3: the judging shall commence… stay tuned! Or even turn on your Xbox incase you get the winning message!! 😉

Remember, the contest ends @ noon EST on Sunday. Get your submissions in.

Now, I know a lot of poeple already have Uno, but I really expected a few people to enter just for fun! Maybe contestants are waiting until the last minute, maybe finding the number 360 in the wild and snagging a picture is harder than it sounds, I don’t know. All I know is that as of right now, your odds in this contest are really good.

Plus, we’re already concocting our next crazy scheme! 😉 More contests on the way, folks, stay tuned!