What We’re Playing: Bonfire Night Edition

December 10, 2010

Welcome to the latest installment of What We’re Playing, our semi-regular look at what games the guys and gals here at Splash have been playing lately. It seems hardly possible, but Mount and Blade: Warband has stealthily usurped the long-standing king of Splash Damage lunchtime gaming, Left 4 Dead 2, replacing hordes of zombies with mobs of peons. Add to that Olivier’s DJ Hero 2 escapades, the newly launched Rock Band 3 (complete with keyboard), and IT’s daily FIFA 11 bonanzas, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what goes on here at the office at midday.

But that’s not all. A whole new wave of games has taken over our collective spare time, led by the insidious Game Dev Story, proving quite effectively that it’s all about technique. To find out what else we’ve played lately, and to see our amazing Game Dev Story office leaderboard, keep on reading!

Ed ‘mred’ Reid (Online Services Programmer):
I have seen the future. It is a place where people say, “Mind if I Drop In for some ProKeys on my Keytar?” But beware, the intervening darkages until the arrival of ProGuitar midi pickups will be filled with wailing and gnashing of teeth! Q_Q

Olivier ‘Nosebone’ Leonardi (Art Director):
Z’been a busy week for me in term of time spent in front of a TV/LCD screen/touch screen… so many good games out at the same time.

I played a lot of Game Dev Story on the iPhone, what a good game! Once you’ve started making serious money with your first games you can’t stop playing this! This game is so addictive it’s life threatening!

I started playing Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker on the PSP as well. The game is really well crafted, good story and amazing comic book-like cutscenes. I also played a fair bit of Medal of Honor’s single and multiplayer and I must say that this game deserved better review scores. I really enjoyed it, really intense gameplay, pretty good looking single player and very punishing multiplayer!

Vanquish blew me away in terms of fast-paced action and quantity of things appearing on screen at the same time! Action is frantic with incredibly tough boss fights. Platinum Games did it again!

But nothing can beat DJ Hero 2! Awesome track list, tons of new features, the opening megamixes for every venue are AWESOME! And the new multiplayer modes are really interesting. Playing this til very late every night!

Aubrey ‘Bezzy’ Hesselgren (Technical Game Designer):
There’s a moment in the first boss battle in Vanquish (a big boss. BIG) where I’m hiding behind cover, expecting to be protected from a massive charge shot from the robo-boss’s chest. I’m not. The cover is pulverised immediately, and I’m thrown backward in the chunky laser blast. It’s possibly the most salient metaphor I can think of for what Vanquish does to cover shooters: it breaks them down and builds them up again with Shinji Mikami’s trademark over the top approach to game play.

I may well be biased about Super Meat Boy, having worked with one of the chaps who created it, but I think its metacritic ranking (90!) suggests that it would be impossible for me to be too hyperbolic about how good it is. Tommy is a machine sent from the future to show us what it means to put your heart and soul into a game. You can see the love poured into it from Edmund McMillan and himself. It oozes out like a rare steak (HEY! THAT’S A KIND OF MEAT!). I think developers have a tendency not to trust that a well explored simple mechanic can provide enough appeal to drive an entire game. Super Meat Boy (and also VVVVVV, recently) almost has no choice but to explore in great depth its own simplicity. As a result, you have this incredibly tight and deep control scheme (pound for pound: it’s just two directions, “run”, and “jump”) which rewards mastery, repeated play and leader board leap frog against your friends. I’m playing it on my modded MadKatz TE stick where the controls feel exceptionally responsive. I feel like I’m teleported back to a time when only game play mattered, because there was nothing else to worry about. Except it’s actually better than I remember the games of my youth being. Nostalgia be damned. Super Meat Boy is a class act.

Also, everyone loves Minecraft, and so do I.

Jamie ‘Fishbus’ Manson (Level Designer):
After introducing Game Dev Story around the office with only the simple phrase: “it’s pretty good”, it has brought many poor saps around here to their knees.

For the uninitiated, it is a swell little iPhone game, with plenty of appeal to those who played Theme Hospital or Theme Park mixed in with a little Championship Manager. Cute graphics represent what is essentially a number crunching spreadsheet marathon – of the best possible kind – and you will find yourself sitting down to purely play this game, not just to fill in the gaps of commuting. I’m finding myself playing a heck of a lot of it, pretty well I might add! So far – top in the office leaderboard with my game ‘Get Out Robot’… but for how long?!

Elsewhere in the Mansonverse, Rock Band 3 fell into my lap, and I welcomed it with embracing… legs? Anyway, the keyboard is a joy to use, though I’m not really good with it from a musician point of view. I did play a little for a year way back when yo-yos were considered popular (controversial!). It has the traditional Rock Band / Guitar Hero affair with the typical 5 colour gems, and is fun to play in regular mode. The pro mode is really fantastic, the pinnacle of music gaming in a sad realization. I’m purely in it for the pro drums, which I’ve been enjoying on expert all the time, whaddya expect? All I want now it the little midi doohickey to link it up to my real kit and give that a test run. Might be fun to try out and learn some patterns with a bit of funtacular interaction!

I will also be jumping into Murrrderlands (AKA Borderlands) as well to play the new robot revolution DLC with Exedore, we will pew pew the maths out of many baddies and collect many phat lewts all the way to level 69.

Phil ‘pipster’ Barnell (Production Tester):
N+ is an icy cold wake up call, harkening back to the days gone by where games would tear you up, spit you out and then cackle afterwards. It is by far the toughest and most brutal game I have played in a long time, with me actually stuck on it at the moment. I actually love (masochist!) getting stuck; it forces you to adapt and evolve to new heights, something I sorely miss with most modern games. A toast to the hardcore!

Matt ‘Anti’ Lowe (Associate Producer):
I’ve been playing Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition. Very similar to Cyanide’s first Blood Bowl game but the extra 12 teams and additional multiplayer features make it well worth the extra outlay. My Norse team are happily drinking and smashing their way through the multiplayer rankings as we speak.

I’ve also been trying out League of Legends. It’s a great stepping-stone into the DOTA style gameplay and makes the mechanics and complexity of the DOTA type games much easier to grasp (to the point that even Malarky gets it!), well worth giving a go if you’ve wanted to try DOTA or Heroes of Newerth before but found it a little too intense.

Finally I’ve been chugging through Dragon Age: Origins. It’s an epic stretch of fun and I still have about 20 hours to go. Only downside is, as with all Bioware games, the moment you make a decision to go down one route with your character you’re filled with regret that you can’t play through all the other choices as well. I wanted Stone Golems and Dwarf Berserkers damnit! 🙂

Mikkel ‘mig’ Gjoel (Programmer):
iRacing. Yes still. Yes, I know it’s technically not a game but a simulator. Yes, I will definitely make sure to take a good long look at Gran Turismo 5 and drool like a mentalist over the astoundingly realistic graphics – but until then, I’m happy to scream around tracks in a thoroughly measured, scanned, weighed, molecule-accurate Williams FW31 F1-car!

Richard ‘Fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly (Media Director):
It’s sooooooooo big! Coupled with my completionist traits, I’m working my way through the marathon that is Fallout: New Vegas. So far I’m 60 hours in and have barely scratched the surface, and my active quest list seems to be filling up faster than I can complete them. Did I mention how lengthy the game was? Now at level 20, I’m taking a more relaxed role where I permit Boon, my itchy-trigger-fingered sidekick, to snipe the heads of potential baddies long before they get anywhere near me. It’s great and allows me to further lose myself in the expansive story, which I’m really enjoying. Finally, I can’t finish my spiel on the game without tipping my veritable hat to the Obsidian folks for the Splash Damage perk! Thanks guys, we love ya! 😉

I’ll finish up with Game Dev Story, which I did finally buckle and buy. Muhahah, sorry Jamie, I just knocked you off the top spot on both leaderboards! How boring my commutes would be without this little gem…

Jared ‘jRAD’ Hefty (Lead Tools Programmer):
I’m happily returned to the Wasteland in Fallout: New Vegas, the sequel to one of my favorite games. The game starts slowly, then blasts wide open with interesting quests and locations. There are some welcome tweaks to the gameplay including Damage Threshholds, crafting of health and ammo and management of factions which add a nice layer to the already solid fun of exploration aspect from Fallout 3. I’m 44 hours in and not even close to finishing the main quest line. Awesome!

Paul ‘MoP’ Greveson (Technical Artist):
We’ve managed to get more people onto the Mount & Blade Warbandwagon, and now we routinely have 5v5 or 6v6 lunchtime games, which are a lot of fun!
With each player commanding 5-10 bot units, the games can get quite tactical, with all sorts of flanking maneuvers, archery traps or just straightforward suicidal charges.

The combat system may feel a little, er, haphazard at times, but in the end it always turns out hilarious, and sometimes goes right down to the wire with just two or three survivors of an epic battle duking it out in the corner. With everything to lose, the last thing you want is a massive mallet in your face, but that’s often the way it goes…

Steve ‘badman’ Hessel (Community Relations Manager):
I recently started to venture into Medal of Honor and much like Olivier I’m having a lot of fun playing through it. Like past games in the series, this one feels very authentic and at least so far hasn’t ventured into any over-the-top Hollywood action territory.

I’ve also been slashing/shooting/magicking my way through Fable III and am happy to report that it’s a great addition to the series. Building on its predecessors, it throws a few new elements into the mix and even lets both players use their own heroes in coop.

Lastly, Game Dev Story maintains an absolutely iron grip on my iPhone. It’s an absolutely fantastic little game that I picked up on a whim after Olivier kept on raving about it. …I ended up playing it for five hours straight, which is probably all you need to know. Avoid if you want to get anything else done. Anything at all.

Tim ‘Huntle’ Rose (Associate Producer):
Bringing a controller to a gunfight is a classic gaming faux pas, but never has it resulted in so much fun. Mafia II is one of those rare games that matures like fine wine and helps develops the player’s game palette. I went in expecting a GTA IV style affair but was refreshed to find something completely different. There is an extremely strong central narrative running throughout which forms the basis of the game play. Everything is top and tailed with an atmospheric and engrossing cinematic which setup each chapter beautifully, imbued with the best from Italian gangster-based cinema of the last century. Even the story is as epic, covering years and combining the ferocity of films like Goodfellas with the stoicism of the Godfather series.

The sense of time passing is beautifully captured with the changing of the seasons, the urban decay and renewal of the city, the evolving vehicles and the latest popular music playing through the radio (the use of music is excellent – soft-forcing apt songs as part of the missions). As your character ages and changes so does the city and this is what really makes Mafia II great. The sense of progression is enormous and works wonderfully. “I remember when this was all just wooden shacks,” I thought to myself as I drove along the overpass observing the new slew of concrete creations along the water-side. That, and the latest addition to my Playmate collection…

Game Dev Story Splash Damage Leaderboards

With GDS converting more and more of the iPhone folk at Splash, we’ve got a company leaderboard that we’re very excited to share with you (and, despite all the huffing and puffing in this update, featuring neither Fishbus or Fluffy_gIMp in the top sales spot):

Game Player Sales (Units)
Story Game Dev Mac 76,939,165
Sim Beach 8 Fluffy_gIMp 61,012,615
Get Out Robot 5 Fishbus 46,009,745
SimCity 2000 badman 30,412,558
Cloth Touchers XII BongoBoy 23,278,673
Peewee2 Nosbone 12,106,501
Mo’ Dance 2 Locki 11,065,868

Company Player Value (after 20 years)
Splash Damage Fluffy_gIMp $1,626,973.0K
Gash Slammage Fishbus $513,941.9K
Splosh Drainage badman $241,196.1K
Gruntfuttock Studios BongoBoy $168,285.8K
Maxipants Locki $154, 435.3K
Uber Tardy Mac $95,674.7K
Frizzlogic Nosebone $73,608.1K

If you’ve played Game Dev Story, what’s been your highest selling game and what is your company worth? Do share in the comments, we’re all supremely interested.