GROOVENET president Greg Kittelson (right) and GrooveNet member, FHM babe and girl gamer Sofie Garrucho posing with (l-r) Brian Mathew Ligsay, Alex Villafania, me, Pocholo Gonzales and Ed Geronia Jr. Photo by Jayvee Fernandez. Greg and Sofie talked about social networking, virtual worlds and alter egos in hackenslash: the podcast, Episode 3: "Groove is in the Heart." Episode hosted by me, Jayvee Fernandez, Claire Chan and Alex Villafania, with T3 associate editor and former GamesMaster Philippines editor in chief Ed Geronia Jr. as guest host. For photos from the podcast recording session, visit the hackenslash: the podcast Flickr page. We convinced Greg to make believe he was a pirate, and Sofie to play with plastic swords, heh. Actually, we all got to play with the toys. Isn't this a fun job? Check out this hackenslash TV clip of Sofie talking about her love for games. Subscribe to the hackenslash: the podcast RSS feed. INQUIRER.net, the online home of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Group of Publications, has partnered with Creativoices Productions to launch the INQUIRER.net Podcasts service, with different podcasts to be rolled out over the next few months. For more information, comments and suggestions, readers may e-mail email@example.com
February 2007 Archives
OK, so our plastic swords didn’t scare IP e-Games president Steve Tsao, but what the heck, we had fun, heh. That's (l-r) me, Steve and hackenslash reporter Alex Villafania. Photo by Jayvee Fernandez. So, was there a sword fight? Not really, but what the hell, we all had fun coming up with hackenslash: the podcast, Episode 2: "Granado Plastic Espada." We tried our best to spring a surprise on the big boss of IP e-Games, but our little plastic swords couldn’t get the job done. Steve, who has been spending many a sleepless night playing the first World of Warcraft expansion Burning Crusade, gamely answered a barrage of questions tossed his way by me, Jayvee and Alex. Steve talked about the features of his company’s latest acquisition, Granado Espada, and their plans for the new IP Interactive brand for premium titles that they launched to bring in games from their partner Infocomm Asia Holdings (IAH). Granado Espada will be the first game under the IP Interactive brand. While declining to confirm that IP e-Games will bring in another much anticipated game distributed by IAH, Hellgate: London, Steve said his company will be the exclusive distributor of all games from IAH, and will be the one to bring them to the Philippines under the IP Interactive brand. Meanwhile, Jayvee and Claire Chan, the events coordinator of INQUIRER.net and image model of hackenslash, chimed in with the latest developments in the Philippine gaming scene. Claire also teamed up with Alex, who weighed in on the Xbox 360 game Lost Planet in the "Yay! or Boo!" review segment. Subscribe to the hackenslash: the podcast RSS feed. INQUIRER.net, the online home of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Group of Publications, has partnered with Creativoices Productions to launch the INQUIRER.net Podcasts service, with different podcasts to be rolled out over the next few months. For more information, comments and suggestions, readers may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
ON JANUARY 16, I got my hands on a copy of The Burning Crusade, the expansion to the worldâ€™s most popular online computer game, World of Warcraft, and I havenâ€™t slept as much as I used to since. The expansion treats subscribers of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game to an increase in the level cap of player characters to 70 from 60; new spells for each class; new races; a new profession; and a new continent with its own unique set of quests, dungeons, monsters, and items. So for the eight million that pay about $15 a month to play WoW, is Burning Crusade going to be worth their while? Well, for the active gamers, racing to level 70 will be a wonderful exercise, while for the more casual gamers there will certainly be lots to do in terms of quests, although instances might be difficult to get to unless you have close friends or "guildies" that will go along with you. The looking for group system that Blizzard introduced in December is still a flop, and if youâ€™re one of those leveling up either an Alliance Draenei or a Horde Blood Elf, then youâ€™ll be more reliant on higher-level players to help you out. For most of the players, theyâ€™ll find that a number of the quests are quite fun, although, as one review has pointed out, the quests are still going to be about killing characters/monsters or about gathering stuff. One of my favorite quest chains is the Ring of Blood, which has you and your party squaring off against elite champions in a mini-arena. Another chain will have you calling down a druid and using warp cannons while protecting them to destroy portals as fast as you can. The gathering type of quest has become less of a chore than it used to be as it appears that Blizzard has become more generous concerning the drops. I must warn, however, that there are two quest item drops that may have you cursing the developer in frustration: bat spore eyes and aged clefthoof blubber. If you donâ€™t want to have any strands of hair turning prematurely grey from killing a gazillion spore bats or aged clefthoofs (clefthooves?) then you might want to decline the quests for them. If you love running dungeons, youâ€™ll find the instances to be fairly easy for the level for which they have been designed. For example, killing the plagued hatchlings in Scholomance was probably more difficult for a lot of parties than killing the Avian Rippers in Sethekk Halls. Mostly, the bosses are a piece of cake, but in a few cases youâ€™ll come across a few that will really test you, until you figure out the right strategy. For example, after deciding that the rogue should tank, my party easily downed one boss that had wiped us several times when the protection paladin had been the main tank. Perhaps understanding that not everyone has three to four hours a day to devote to complete an instance, the people at Blizzard have cut short the time it takes to about one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours. Most of the instances have only three bosses, a few have two, but there will be a lot of tricky mobs that youâ€™ll have to get through first, and it can get pretty exciting, especially when you have to run and down waves of them, like in Black Morass, probably the dungeon I like running at the moment. If you want to accumulate blues or rare items quickly, choose this dungeon. Of course, once your character or characters have geared up and become more familiar with the dungeon drills, the challenge of doing an instance again and again will soon wane, but then there is always the heroic mode option, which may explain why the instances seemed so easy in the first place. In order to unlock the heroic level, though, players will need to be level 70 and achieve other objectives, such as gaining enough reputation from factions. I have only attempted the heroic difficulty once and my party was wiped out several times on one patrol because the adds could down the party members in just a few hits and they were immune to most crowd control measures. But then, while the risks of wiping are high, so are the rewards from succeeding. Supposedly, there will be purples or, as more formally called, epic items. Iâ€™m not sure if Blizzard has done anything to the loot drops mechanism but it seems that there is a higher probability that loot appropriate to the class will drop, although I still often see enough non-class items. Still there has got to be a reason why since Iâ€™ve been running instances mainly with shadow priests -- Iâ€™ve never seen so much cloth or wands in my WoW playing life. I donâ€™t do much player-versus-player so itâ€™s hard for me to comment on what was introduced, but there are certainly more quests or scenarios that the more PVP-inclined can do. In each zone there are towers or beacons or what-not to capture and you can earn tokens that may be exchanged for very good items. So, to those that may be on a break from WoW, if you donâ€™t want to risk being accused of having no life, donâ€™t buy The Burning Crusade. Otherwise, get prepared for nights not noticing that itâ€™s already 3 a.m. Editor's Note: hackenslash contributor Elena Torrijos is a freelance writer based in Singapore. For Jayvee Fernandezâ€™s take on The Burning Crusade in the "Yay! or Boo! Reviews" segment, check out Episode 1 of hackenslash: the podcast. The Burning Crusade Genre: Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Publisher: Vivendi Universal ESRB Rating: Teen (T)
IT’S alive! hackenslash: the podcast, the first podcast from INQUIRER.net, is now online. That's me and Luna Cruz, producer of Anino Games. Photo taken by Jayvee Fernandez. The first episode is co-hosted by me; INQUIRER.net executive editor and Infotech editor Leo Magno (who also happens to be the "Father of hackenslash") and Jayvee, who is the b5media technology channel editor, the guy behind abuggedlife.com and the interactive media consultant of INQUIRER.net. We’re proud to have Luna as our first guest. Also, listen to the podcast to find out why hackenslash reporter Alex Villafania was missing in action in Episode 1. Visit the hackenslash: the podcast Flickr page to subscribe to our photos. To display our Flickr Badge on your blog or other site, get the code for the Flash version or the HTML badge. Wanna blog about our podcast? You could use the Technorati tag hackenslashpodcast so that it will be easy to find your blog. Subscribe to the hackenslash: the podcast RSS feed. INQUIRER.net, the online home of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Group of Publications, has partnered with Creativoices Productions to launch the INQUIRER.net Podcasts service, with different podcasts to be rolled out over the next few months. For more information, comments and suggestions, readers may e-mail email@example.com
FILIPINO mobile game development firm Anino Mobile bagged a major award in the recently held International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA) in Barcelona, Spain on February 15, becoming one of the six top winners in the prestigious competition. The company’s game Anima Wars won IMGA’s Best Use of Connectivity Award, as well as a corresponding $5,000 in cash. The event was featured on the IMGA website. Anima Wars is a turn-based battle strategy game based on the classic board game Risk. The main goal is for players to use their armies to take over the stronghold of their enemies. What gave the victory to Anima Wars in the category is its unique "ghosting system," which is a wireless connection capability that allows four other players to cooperate and fight another four players in a battle. Check out this in-game video clip that Anino Mobile provided. In an e-mailed response, Anino Games co-founder Niel Dagondon said their achievement hopes to spark opportunities not just for their company but also for the entire fledgling game development industry in the Philippines. "Our company’s foundation is based on the belief that the Filipino talent is world-class, and this award is a testament to that belief. We truly are world-class and the rest of the world is taking notice," he said. Apart from the Best Use of Connectivity, the other categories are Best Use of Flash, Excellence in 3D, Best Interactive Experience, Most Innovative Game, a Student Category and the top prize called Grand Prix. Best Use in Flash was won by Iks Mobile for its game Crazy Matches; Excellence in 3D was won by Firemint for Mega Monster; Super Happy Fun-Fun won the Best Interactive Experience for its game 3D Tilt-A-World; while the Most Innovative and Grand Prix categories were won by TNO for its game Triangler. Anima Wars was entered in four of the five main categories. Only a winner in the five categories could win the Grand Prix Award. Likewise, the Student Award is for amateur mobile game developers. Anino Mobile is the mobile applications division of Anino Games, a full-scale game development company co-founded by Dagondon.
WITH most game developers looking at the PlayStation 3 for its next games, it’s bittersweet to know there are still amazing games that come out for aging the PS2. Capcom is among the loyal game developers for the PS2 and it certainly made its presence felt when it released Okami, a Japanese-themed, cel-shaded game. From the minds of Clover Studio (makers of the Viewtiful Joe series) comes an adventure wherein the main character is neither human or a funny-looking creature, but a white wolf, highly regarded as an important image of the Shinto sun deity Amaterasu. The game is set sometime in 4th or 5th century feudal Nippon (the old name of Japan) when Shintoism was just about to spread its influence across the archipelago. The story goes that the evil eight-headed serpent Orochi was stalking a village and required that a maiden be sacrificed to him every year during a festival. During the 100th year, a brave villager found out that his beloved will be the next sacrifice. Intent on stopping her death and totally ending the gruesome annual ritual, the man, Nagi, sets out to hunt down Orochi. He finds the monster and tries to attack but is subdued. Suddenly a white wolf steps in and fights off Orochi but it too was unable to stop Orochi. Badly beaten, the wolf howls in the middle of the night and this had an effect on Nagi, who got up and attacked the creature again, this time killing it. Nagi took the white wolf back to his village where it was deemed a hero. Fast forward another 100 years. Orochi is revived by mistake and so the wolf has to be reincarnated -- this time as Amaterasu herself. This is where the adventure actually starts and the storyline further unfolds. Amaterasu will encounter numerous friends and enemies and each one has something to tell, which enhances the game’s overall feel by way of a sequence of interconnected stories. One does not have to be familiar with Japanese to understand the gameplay as there are sequences that explain the entire plot and historical-mythical background of the game. In fact, anime fanatics would be at home with Okami, especially with its old town Japanese theme. While Amaterasu’s mission is to stop Orochi and his horde of demons, she will have a chance to help people in some side quests. This will also allow the player to explore the entire 3D world, which is in itself an adventure. This is very much unlike in Viewtiful Joe (GameCube and PS2) in side-scrolling action but is in full 3D axis. But if ever a player would find it boring to wander endlessly (though I doubt if anyone would ever be bored), there are faster methods of traveling from point A to point B, which will be unlocked later in the game. Graphically, the game borrows heavily from the paintbrush artistry of Japanese culture, further improved by the use of matte colors of the cel-shading game engine. This makes for a beautifully rendered storybook-style animation not seen in any video game using cel-shading. The action is also intense. Being a wolf, Amaterasu would only be limited by biting or slashing attacks. Instead, she is imbued with several types of Japanese royal weapons, such as a reflector (shield and melee weapon), Shinto rosaries (long-range whip) and a glaive. Each weapon has unique attack patterns, similar to the battle style in Prince of Persia (PS2, GameCube and PC). Another thing that you’ll notice is Amaterasu’s passive effects on whatever she steps on: flowers and grass sprout instantaneously from her footsteps. This is a unique visual enhancement in the game that indicates Amaterasu’s ability to revive life. But the most unique feature of Okami is the Celestial Brush, which can be activated in pause mode. There are actually 13 constellations that Amaterasu must complete. These are summoned paintbrushes, each with unique purposes. These can draw various effects on a screen "canvass" such as strong winds, invisible blades and bridges. The Celestial Brush is very useful in big boss battles. Okami may easily be the best cel-shaded game ever and is also the best one to feature Japanese culture. It has a unique look and feel to it that it deserves high points in any review. Even the background music gives the right ambiance to complement the visual effects in the game. Because of the game’s huge worlds, players may also want to go back and seek out side quests that have not been visited the first time, which gives the game a high replayability factor. I would personally wish that there would be another installment in the game for the PS2, to give PS2 owners another reason to rejoice. Who says the PS2 is dead? Okami Genre: Action Adventure Developer: Clover Studio Publisher: Capcom ESRB Rating: Teen (T)
AS the third force between the titanic clash of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3, the Wii’s ace in its sleeve is its unique control system. Hi-def visuals be damned, Nintendo is pinning the Wii’s fortunes on a library of innovative titles. Although there’s also a GameCube version out, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a Wii launch title as well as the torchbearer for the much-beloved series. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess’ beginning is quite familiar to most RPG aficionados. In the sleepy village of Ordon, a good-natured elfin farmhand by the name of Link tries his best to cope with menial tasks assigned to him by the villagers. As the eldest boy in the village, the other children look up to Link as a big brother of sorts. On a lighthearted note, you begin your adventure as Link. Zelda fans will be quick to notice that much has changed from Link’s last GameCube adventure. The toon-shaded visuals that gave WindWaker its defining look have been changed into a more "realistic" CG rendering style that doesn’t look out of place among Japanese RPGs. If WindWaker was more impressionistic with its colorful brushwork graphics, Twilight Princess bears an uncanny resemblance to the muted earth tones of Shadow of the Colossus on the PS2. Link, in fact, does look very much like his guest appearance on the GameCube version of Soul Calibur II. Another game that comes to mind when you first lay our eyes on Twilight Princess is Fable. Most of the NPCs look like they’ve stepped straight out of popular sword and sorcery literature. This medieval charm carries over to the game’s thatched-roofed hamlets, brick and mortar tenements, ancient ruins and magnificent castles. Those new to playing Zelda may encounter this oddity despite the convincing fantasy atmosphere: the lack of voice-acted character dialogue. If Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion had kilometric spoken lines, Twilight Princess relies heavily on onscreen dialogue both for exposition and character interaction. You’ll only "hear" the characters speak in short bursts when they’re laughing, yelling, sighing, etc. To make up for the lack of speech, the characters have expressive faces and well-animated body movements. Complementing the visuals is the game’s music. Some of the music echoes the classic themes in the Zelda canon. The orchestral music enhances the epic feel of the game without being overblown. Although most of the music is performed by an orchestra, incidental music is done in computer-generated MIDI more often than not which sounds like a throwback to the N64 era. Overall, the game’s production values are top-notch. The occasional blurry texture or jagged edges do surface, but since you’re playing this on essentially the same graphics engine as the GameCube, there are no surprises here. On a standard-def TV, Twilight Princess manages to look its best, often employing graphical tricks such as shadows, light flares, and shimmering effects. They’re nothing as fancy as what you’d see on the PS3 or 360, but it’s enough to draw you into the world. What is amazing though is when the Wii is connected to an HD-ready TV using a separately-purchased component cable, the graphics significantly improve with the jump from 480i to 480p resolution. For lack of a better word, everything looks extra crisp. Details such as an embossed shield emblem stand out. With support for 16:9 widescreen ratio aspect included, Twilight Princess is a visual treat even in hi-def. Next to the graphics, a lot of you are certainly curious about the game’s Wii-based control scheme. Twilight Princess uses both the Wii-remote and the Nunchuck controller. The thumbstick on the Nunchuck controls Link’s movements. The Z-button is used for locking on enemies and the C-button changes the view to first person. Swinging the Wii-remote from side to side makes Link slash his sword. The D-pad allows you to assign directional hotkeys for specific items such as health potions, fishing rods, steel boots, bombs, bow and arrow, etc. Aside from controlling your movements, the Nunchuck can also be used to initiate Link’s trademark spinning sword attack. All you need to do is flick it from side to side. Flicking the Nunchuk forward will activate Link’s shield attack which is useful for armored foes. When using ranged and projectile weapons such as the slingshot, boomerang and bow and arrow, you aim the Wii-remote like a light gun at target. A targeting reticle appears onscreen and for weapons such as the boomerang, you can use the Z-button to lock on the targets. Pressing the B-trigger releases the projectile. Depending on the weapon or item used, the Wii-remote rumbles to give you feedback. When using the sword, you can hear the slashing sound on the Wii-remote’s built-in speaker. The arrow gives a "thwock" sound when released from the bow. In non-combat situations, the Wii-remote can be used as Link’s fishing rod. You lower the controller as if holding a real rod to make the fish bite. Once you’ve got something on the line, you raise it to reel the fish in. On paper, the game’s use of the Wii controllers are nothing short of innovative and amazing. In practice, it’s sheer magic and never gets old. Zelda games have always been about exploration and self-discovery and Twilight Princess is no exception. The game delivers its promise of a grand adventure in spades. Without giving away much of the story which is a spoiler in itself, you will be taken on a grand adventure that’s worthy of the Zelda name. There are vast fields and temples to explore, royalties to rescue, and fearsome bosses to battle. You can go either on foot, or thankfully, you can use a horse to take you from place to place. Your horse isn’t only useful for transportation, but it’s also very capable in combat. You can run over your foes or hack and slash at them while on your mount. Bows and the boomerang can also be used while on the horse. While we’re on the subject of animals, a strange twist in the story will have Link transform in to a wolf creature on several occasions. As the story goes, a twilight realm is slowly encroaching upon the land, Link can only traverse these lands as a wolf. In you wolf form, all your weapons and items are unavailable to you. Instead you have different melee attacks which are similar to your sword attacks. As a wolf, you will encounter a strange creature from the twilight realm who acts as your self-appointed adviser. This creature rides on top of you and gives you various hints. You can hear it laughing on the controller’s speaker to nudge you in the right direction. Later on, when you’re back again to your human form, you can summon the creature any time if you are in need of clues. There are several items to collect such as weapons, bugs, fish, etc. Some of the items can be obtained after finishing a quest and some can be bought from the various NPC merchants. To get to the final boss, you probably need to clock in a hefty 40 hours of game time. That’s excluding doing the side quests and the spending time on the addictive pastimes such as fishing and bug hunting. After playing Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you can’t help but feel that the game is a bonafide classic and justifiably the main reason for buying a Wii. It certainly ranks as one of the best games Nintendo has ever made. Editor's Note: hackenslash contributor Ed Geronia Jr. is the associate editor of T3 and former editor in chief of GamesMaster Philippines. And, as you can tell, he’s one cool dude. For Ed's "Yay! or Boo!" review of Twilight Princess, listen to hackenslash: the podcast, Episode 3. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Genre: Action Adventure Developer: Nintendo EAD Publisher: Nintendo ESRB Rating: Teen (T)