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Thursday, September 27, 2007

So much stuff..

What's up?
Once again I've had a post drought, and of course the reason is.. wait for it.. WORK! The difference is, it's  the new job and I'm loving every minute of it. I haven't felt I've needed some kind of break (be it blogging or whatever). After a discussion on the matter,  I confirmed that I can say  I'm working for Mi Digital, we're doing Xbox 360 development, and I'm the  tech lead on the project. Any more than that and the MiB's might take me away ;) The mix of work so far is great, even though the team so far is just the design and project lead (my old boss Dan from I-Imagine) the art lead (Dave, also of I-I fame) and I, so there's no team management in it for now. The other project management responsibilities are all there-selecting technology, setting standards and of course setting up a development framework and other key technical aspects of the project. In short, it's awesome. I am so chuffed to be back in game dev, out of wall-to-wall coding and on the Xbox dev platform. Obviously NDA limits what we can say, but I have always been vocal about how I feel the platform has the perfect blend of console and PC advantages, and the same holds for the 360.

Home at last
The one downside of the job (there had to be one) is the commute from Pretoria into Joburg, which takes about an hour. Thankfully that is a hole that will soon be plugged, because we really lucked out and found a great house reasonably close to work. I should say Natz found it, she did an awesome job of house-hunting, and her mom was a great help too (she actually saw the ad). We'll be moving in at the end of October, so I only have a few more weeks of nasty commuting left :) I'll post photos when I have them but for now I'll just say it's a great 3 bed 2 bath house with a big garden in a nice area. It's even really close to a lake so I'll be able to take up windsurfing again!

Game on!
Finally, on the game (playing) side, I got through Tomb Raider which turned out to be a pretty good game. It's nothing earth shattering, and lends heavily from many franchises but does so in a way that the title as a whole seems really polished and plays really well and at a good pace. It's like a really well produced action flick that you'll love for it's short duration but won't steal a second thought once it's over. The use of Lara's history in the story was really enjoyable and revisiting some of the core events that shaped her life really helped shape the character.
Last week I started on Bioshock, and while I was generally suspicious of all the hype surrounding the game I am thoroughly enjoying it. The visuals are really amazing in every technical regard, and the interesting choice of period (late 1950's with art and architectural influences reaching back a decade or so) along with strong and focused art direction have resulted in one of the best looking titles ever. The gameplay doesn't feel quite as revolutionary as the game's spiritual predecessor System Shock, but it is solid and feeds well off a level of atmosphere which far surpasses anything I have played to date. The incredible use of sound and dramatic timing lead to a brilliantly nerve wrecking experience that is more thriller than horror. So far the story is compelling as well, and the progressive introduction to the horrific deterioration of idyllic Rapture is completely engrossing, and helped along by top notch voice acting.
Yesterday was the local launch of Halo as well, and of course I had to give that a go. I had planned to dive into the campaign cooperatively online with a group of 5DT players, but when I got online I discovered they had been at it for a couple of hours already having taken time off work. Yes I was more than a bit peeved. Anyway Natz and I got started on it playing splitscreen, and she wasn't really bowled over. She jumped out about halfway into the first level and I found I had to restart the level in the solo campaign. Not cool. Graphically Halo is pretty, but certainly not up to the standards set by Gears of War or Bioshock. The difference of course is that Halo is handling huge open areas rather than the tight environments of those two titles, and has far more characters in battle at any given time. The character models I have seen so far are a bit disappointing, even taking the numbers into account. I have not progressed far enough into the campaign to comment on the story, but it seems to be typical Halo fare. The gameplay too is pure Halo, which is to be expected but perhaps disappointingly simple compared to the rich experiences offered in recent games. I can't comment on Live multiplayer yet, but we did play a LAN deathmatch session at work and that was great fun. Microsoft's hype machine has obviously outdone itself, even in the local market, because of the 30 or so of my friends list that were online last night, there were seldom more than 5 doing something other than Halo 3. The game also shattered all launch day records. With a stateside launch revenue of $170 million, it has stolen the top entertainment launch spot from the likes of Spider-Man 3 and Harry Potter.

And finally..
Jack Thompson is at it again. This time the fool has submitted gay porn as evidence to the judge who will ultimately decide whether he should be allowed to continue practicing law in the state of Florida. Not smart. Read it and laugh.


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