Wednesday, March 25, 2009

YMPT ON THE QT

We've put our ears to the ground to bring you the latest rumors and speculations:
  • Hard-hitting football sim Madden 09 will receive a sequel by the end of the year.

  • Look for a certain big-name publisher to have the "vision" to snap up some smaller developers during the current economic malaise.

  • Multiple sources have told YMPT that Nintendo is planning to release a stripped-down console whose main selling point is "motion control." But will it compete with the HD behemoths?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

YMPT EXCLUSIVE: Zork HD

You may be wondering where You Must Play This has been these past few months. The answer is simple. We've been on the beat, obtaining our very first exclusive, which we can now reveal: Zork HD! We traveled to Santa Monica, CA, in December to get the first look at this exciting remake of the text adventure classic coming to Xbox Live Arcade this summer.

Now, before the fanboys start spamming the message boards, know this: the game, true to the original, will feature NO visuals. Not even on the title screen. "The Zork universe already exists in gamers' minds," states Zack Grueman, lead programmer at upstart studio Go There Games. "Nothing we could create would compare to that. I don't think the public wants Zork imagery, anyway."

But if there are no graphics, why remake a text adventure in today's world of eye-bleeding high def visuals? Explains Grueman: "People talk about the mind-boggling graphics of a Gears of War or a Killzone, but as an old text adventure geek, what really struck me the first time I turned on an Xbox 360 was how crisply it rendered text - I mean, I could read every last word of the damn legal screen! Immediately I started thinking about Zork."

Once the proper licenses were obtained, Grueman's team set to work reformatting the original game's text in a pleasing Gill Sans font. They then tackled the problem of translating keyboard commands to a gamepad, eventually settling on a setup similar to a cell phone keypad. A box appears in the lower-right portion of the screen, with cut into eight segments - the top segment is labeled ABC, to the right of that is DEF, and so on. Move the left stick in the direction of the letter you want, press the A button, and predictive spelling will take care of the rest. Press the B button to cycle through possible permutations. To spell T-A-K-E, for example, you would press Down-A, Up-A, A, Up-Right-Diagonal-A. For anyone who has sent a text message, the system is intuitive. One wonders why Microsoft hasn't implemented this feature into the Dashboard.

After clearing all of these hurdles, one technical issue remained. "The game looked like crap on a standard TV at first," Grueman admits. "And, since the game is totally text-based, we couldn't just tell gamers to put up or shut up like Capcom did with Dead Rising. We realize that a large portion of the gaming audience hasn't made the jump to high definition, and we also recognize there's a small contingent of Zork fans out there that will play the game in nothing but its old-school, pixelated glory." To that end, Go There Games is offering a "Classic" mode featuring the original font in one of three monochromatic colors: green, orange, or white. "The only difference between this and the original Zork you played on your Amiga is that we've enlarged the text for television," Grueman says. "I think both SDTV owners and Zork enthusiasts will be pleased."

YMPT played builds on both a dinky old Zenith CRT and a 42-inch Samsung flat screen in 1080p. Both versions took us right back to 1980. Zork is back!

Must you play this? Let's answer that with a hypothetical situation:

You are browsing the New Games section of Xbox Live Arcade. You see that Zork HD has just been released.

>buy zork
Zork HD bought. Enjoyment ensues.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

SIXTY-SECOND PREVIEW: Spore Furniture Creator

Hot on the heels of Spore, the Sims team returns with Furniture Creator. Like its popular cousin, the Spore Creature Creator, Furniture Creator allows you to combine thousands of different parts to create the furniture of your dreams. Choose from a wide variety of arms, legs, drawers, and wood grains, and then upload your furnishings to the Builder’s Manual, where everyone can marvel at your handiwork. Plus, for a fee, EA will have your favorite creations fabricated for you.

Must You Play This? Who hasn’t looked at their flimsy Fl├╝rge sofa bed and thought, “I could make this so much more badass”? With Furniture Creator, now you can. And the fabrication option is a welcome feature – something we’d like to see in Spore.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

BROWSER FUN TIME: D.O.T.

You control a Digital Orb Thingy through 15 fast-paced, Flash-based levels. Ram and destroy the other D.O.T.s onscreen before time runs out to advance to the next level.

Must you play this? Yes, but only if you’re looking for a quick diversion between conference calls. Players looking for more challenging fare should try B.I.G. D.O.T. from the same developers, which allows you to move your D.O.T. in eight different directions.

PREVIEW: Sequel 2: Ark's Beginning

Sequel developer is ready to “eat some humble pie.”

Our controversial one-word review of 2006’s Sequel says it all: “What?” How else to describe a game that starts you with two-thirds of your health gone, fighting a gigantic robot crab that takes only one hit to defeat? The ambitious title left confused critics and gamers with a host of burning questions: Who is this dude I’m playing as? Why does he have no head? Where am I supposed to go? And how the hell do I control him? Thankfully, Sequel developer Perplex Games are back with a new game, Sequel 2: Ark’s Beginning, that promises to answer everything.

“I’ll be honest with you,” say Sequel producer Montgomery McFate as soon as we enter his office. “I’m ready to eat some humble pie.”

“The concept behind the first Sequel game was simple,” he continues. “What game hasn’t been bettered by its sequel? So why not just go straight to the next game in the series? And that’s what we tried to do.” McFate smiles sheepishly. “Maybe we went too far.”

Maybe is right. The first Sequel dropped players into the game mid-fight, with no documentation on how to fight or why it was you were fighting. Diligent players swapped discovered combos on message boards, but even the most dedicated fans couldn’t tease out the indecipherable story. So how will Sequel 2 be different?

“It’s a prequel, for starters,” McFate says. And that means backstory. Turns out the protagonist has a name: Ark. As a boy, Ark was decapitated in an industrial accident, which explains why he has no head. But why does he fight?

“I don’t want to give away too much here,” a coy McFate answers. “Let’s just say there’s a wrong that must be righted, and he is humanity’s last hope to save the world.”

Good enough for us. But enough about story – how does the new game play? McFate boots up a level that takes place in a derelict city. We immediately notice the scale of the game has been increased, with a new sense of verticality. And even at this early stage, the textures and lighting effects make us blink twice to be certain we’re seeing the real thing. Ark runs up to a smoldering car (fire in this level pervades), and a button prompt appears that allows him to – surprise! – take cover.

“We realized after the first Sequel shipped that there was considerable room for improvement,” McFate explains. “We now have an extensive cover system. Ark can fire blindly or aim with precision at the expense of exposure. He can also now jump over small objects like curbs and such.”

On screen, Ark fires at a red barrel, which explodes spectacularly. “Exploding barrels are another innovation,” he says. “We think gamers are going to have a lot of fun with these. Get a few barrels close together and you’ll start a chain reaction!”

Ark has now reached a cul-de-sac. The pounding orchestral score fades away, and all one can hear is a dull rumbling in the distance. As the rumbling gets louder, the screen starts to shake. Suddenly a gigantic robot crab appears!

And the screen goes black.

“Got to leave something for the sequel,” McFate says with a sly smile.

Sequel 2: Ark’s Beginning is scheduled to release in Spring 2009.

SIXTY-SECOND PREVIEW: What's This Email?

In this unique adventure title from the creators of Desktop Folder Shuffle, you play a private detective who receives a mysterious message in his inbox: “Tom, help. Theres a man with a gun!!1! o no! ROFS.” Who sent it? Who – or what – is ROFS? And what does it have to do with your ex-wife and the former client she ran off with? Click through weeks of email in order to solve the case. But beware of spam! The prince of Nigeria says he has a clue, but he may just want your credit card number. It’s up to you to find out. Available on PC and Mac.

Must you play this? Yes. Desktop Folder Shuffle kept us rearranging our desktops for weeks, and we’re confident that the more story-driven What’s This Email? will not disappoint.

FIRST LOOK: Fox News: America's Game

YMPT recently visited the Red State Interactive offices in Mobile, Alabama, to get an exclusive first look at the studio’s mini-game collection, Fox News: America’s Game, coming out this November for the Nintendo Wii. While there, we chatted with Associate Producer Joe Plummer about fair and balanced media coverage, why America is the best place on Earth to develop games, and what separates his title from the recently released CNN: BREAKING NEWS!

YMPT: First off, the obvious: why another mini-game collection for the Wii? Isn’t the market completely saturated at this point?

JP: Look, the Wii’s selling like my Aunt Bessie’s famous apple pie right now. It’s doing, what, 600,000 plus units a month? And it’s selling to people who have never owned a video game system before: the soccer moms and hockey moms and everyday Joe Sixpacks that make this country great. We feel we have a mini-game collection that speaks to them, the sort of regular folk that live in our America and whose voices aren’t being heard by other companies.

YMPT: Why do you think other companies aren’t listening?

JP: Everyone knows who really runs the video game industry. And as long as video game companies are in the pockets of fanboys, we will never have a truly independent industry. And don’t even get me started on the liberal media elite! No offense, but you know it’s true. At Red State Interactive, we want to remove the filter and speak directly to the consumer. Fox News: America’s Game is the first step in that direction.

YMPT: How did you get Fox News on board?

JP: They signed on right away. They understand what we’re trying to do here: make the fairest, most balanced video game ever. And it’s been so wonderful working with them. We all love Fox News around here. We grew up watching it. I’d say it’s more American than the flag, except nothing’s more American than the red, white, and blue.

YMPT: Can you tell us about some of the games that will be included?

JP: Once we obtained the Fox News license, we thought about the types of games that consumers in small towns all across America would want to play. We thought about what’s fun, what’s American, and what would take advantage of the Wii’s motion technology. And we’ve come up with some really great stuff. There’s In the Hot Seat, where players step into the role of an expert being interviewed on the latest hot topic. The game will prompt you with a subject and a one-sentence description on how you should feel about it. Then you can go mano-a-mano with a friend, seeing who can aim and click fastest on dialog bubbles that float up on the screen. Get enough in a row and you can pull off the Silencer, which cuts off your friend’s mic. This is a great game to start out with, because you don’t have to worry about making a mistake: you’re always right. The game judges you on how right you are.

Then there’s That’s Indecent, where you play an editor tasked with putting together a story on how sexy, morally corrupt young women kissing each other are eroding traditional values. The game presents you with a video clip, and you have to use the Wiimote to censor any offensive bits within the time limit. We provide a bunch of different filters: black bar, pixilation, blur, and some really great unlockables like Bill Clinton’s head.

YMPT: Are you worried about how the ESRB will react?

JP: No way! Players are censoring, not engaging in some sick mash-up of Luke Skywalker and Debbie Does Dallas. We’re confident we’ll receive an E rating.

YMPT: Joe, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Do you have any closing thoughts?

JP:

YMPT: Any closing thoughts at all?

JP: I’ll try to find some and get back to you.

Fox News: America’s Game ships on 11/4.