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Archive for the ‘thief’ tag

What the hell is videogame AI anyway?

Posted on 16th Jul 2014 at 09:05 by Rick Lane with 10 comments

Rick Lane
Dearest readers of bit-tech! Come hither and listen to my whispered words, as I am a troubled soul. For a long time now I have lamented the lack of progress made in the AI sphere of game development. In the years surrounding the millennium AI was bold and bright and exciting. Games like Unreal Tournament, Thief, Black and White and Halo were doing clever and innovative things with artificial intelligence, providing enemies that could use teamwork to outmanoeuvre us, guards that would hunt us, and a big daft monkey that could learn from us.

This continued until around 2005, with FEAR being the last game I can recall with truly memorable AI. Then something changed, and after that nothing changed. Stealth AI has patrolled the same pathways for years, shooter AI crouched behind a wall circa 2006 and decided to make a home there, and when was the last time you played a game that involved the AI learning anything?

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The incompetent thief

Posted on 4th Sep 2012 at 07:22 by David Hing with 26 comments

David Hing
When Adam Jensen's first act as a freshly augmented trans-human super-spy was to nonchalantly squat-walk into the storage area of a building site and knock over a pile of construction supplies, alerting the nearby patrolling guards to his location, I realised I'd been here before.

As he hopped around with one foot lodged in a bucket proclaiming "I never asked for this" at the bemused mercenary who had come to investigate, the pattern unravelled itself before my eyes. In every game that gives me the chance, I always end up playing the stealthy option. Badly.

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Listen: Season Two of Unlimited Hyperbole

Posted on 11th Jul 2012 at 08:06 by Joe Martin with 77 comments

Joe Martin
A short while ago Simon was kind enough to let me tell you all about a new podcast series I launched called Unlimited Hyperbole. Now, I'm invading this space once more to tell you that the show is now running into it's second season - and that means new guests, new music and a new topic.

Rather than 'My Favourite Game', the topic this time around is a little more open; 'Fear Itself'.

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My Gaming Twitch

Posted on 25th Sep 2010 at 09:47 by Joe Martin with 60 comments

Joe Martin
Once upon a time, when I was a littler boy, I used to spend my evenings watching my Dad play computer games. It started back with Amiga classics, like the Cryo’s adventure/strategy hybrid based on Frank Herbert’s Dune, but later moved to more modern games on the PC, especially the Thief games.

Despite the games my Dad played though, you couldn’t really ever consider him to be a gamer. He chose a few games and played them religiously, but he didn’t have the breadth of gaming knowledge that I have and when he played, you could see that. He manifested it physically, especially in 3D games which he sometimes found difficult to navigate.

Playing Thief: The Dark Age, for example, he would move his head to match the movements of the mouse. If he moved the mouse to tell Garret to look up then my Dad would also move his head to look up, though keeping his eyes glued to the screen. When he needed to shoot a rope arrow into some rafters overhead then he’d slowly start to point his nose at the ceiling, gazing down past his chin. Peering over an in-game cliff he’d be burying his jaw in his chest, having to open his eyes wide so he could see past his eyebrows. The constant side-to-side movements made him look like he was nursing a stiff neck, but I don’t think he was ever aware he was doing it, even when he did it really fast.

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Thoughts on Cutscenes

Posted on 12th May 2010 at 12:40 by Joe Martin with 48 comments

Joe Martin
I’m playing No One Lives Forever at the moment and, while it’s an undeniably great game and one that I’ve played many times, I’ve found myself getting increasingly infuriated with it for one simple reason. The cutscenes are far too long. They break up the flow of the game far too much and the mission briefings are often so padded out with needless dialog that it’s impossible not to get distracted.

What makes it all so much worse is the fact that much of the information you’re being bombarded with is repetitive, as well as flabby. You spend ten minutes listening to Cate Archer being berated for being an incompetent woman in the male dominated spy industry of the 1960s before the supposed mission briefing even tells you what you’ll be doing in the next mission. Then, when the cutscene is all over, it’s all summed up for you in a objectives and story screen anyway. It’s a massive flaw in an otherwise striking and superb title.

Length isn’t the only issue with NOLF’s cutscenes though – they are also rendered dull by how static they are with just three characters standing and talking, unmoving. Monolith obviously tried to liven things up by throwing in some interactive bits where you can choose how Cate responds to her superiors, but it’s too little and too late.

What really bothers me though is that No One Lives Forever isn’t by any means an exception. Almost every game imaginable has problems with cutscenes – it’s a well documented theory that Valve shot itself in the foot by deciding to always have Half-Life told from a silent first person perspective. In the short term it definitely increases the immersion, but with the story that Valve is telling it’s unbelievable that Gordon should be so stoic and static.

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Thoughts on Cheats and Walkthroughs

Posted on 5th May 2010 at 10:33 by Joe Martin with 78 comments

Joe Martin
I don’t often cheat in games, but nor is it something that’s completely unknown. It’s usually just a last resort, because I’ve hit a brick wall or I can’t find a way out of a level and need to look at a walkthrough to get a bit of direction. I should point out that I never cheat in online games because, well, what’s the point? I’ve also only ever cheated in one game that I was reviewing – an adventure game where I got stuck for three hours on an early puzzle and which sent me back to the developer asking for help.

Outside of the review process, I honestly don’t usually see a big problem with cheating in games as a whole as long as it exists within certain parameters. In my opinion for example, you should never just sit down and cheat straight away – you should try and play the game properly first because you need a proper sense of risk to feel the reward. At the same time though, if you reach a point in a game where the fun is being bled out of it then why wouldn’t you use an exploit to get around it?

There’s always going to be a fraction of gamers that disagree with that last point and who think that games should be incredibly challenging, but I’ve had the enjoyment sucked out of far too many titles that way to possibly agree with them. Some of my absolute favourite games have been almost totally ruined by moments of excessive difficulty. I’ll confess that the last boss in Beyond Good and Evil sent me scrabbling for a cheat list after the eighth try and, when it turned out there wasn’t one, I was very put off. The game was saved from my hatred purely by the fact that I knew it was the last boss and that I wouldn’t have to repeat the experience. If the game had threatened to go on beyond that point or if the experience up to that point hadn’t been so brilliant then I’m pretty sure I would have just thrown it away. I’ve done it with other games.

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Thoughts on Difficulty Settings

Posted on 22nd Apr 2010 at 10:42 by Joe Martin with 72 comments

Joe Martin
I may as well start off by saying that I don’t usually like my games to be too difficult and that, if I’m sitting down to play a game for my own enjoyment, I’ll almost never, ever put it on Hard difficulty. In fact, I’m more likely to play it on Easy.

There’s a lot of people who’ll baulk at that; the type of people who label themselves as ‘hardcore’ gamers with an inflated sense of pride and dismiss the majority of titles as ‘baby-games’, most likely. Despite what they think though, I think my reasons for opting for a lesser difficulty are pretty good ones.

It comes down to a matter of taste and what you’re looking for – and what I usually look for in the games I play at home is a good story and the chance to have some fun. Sticking the game on maximum difficulty is something that’s more likely to get in the way of that than facilitate it and the worst fear I have with any new game is that I’ll play it on Hard, love the story, reach an impassable boss and then get stuck. In that situation I’d be more likely to put the game down and move on than to replay on a lower skill setting – and I’d hate to miss out on a tale I’d otherwise enjoy.

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Like Father, Like Son

Posted on 26th Feb 2010 at 10:59 by Joe Martin with 39 comments

Joe Martin
I had an interesting experience the other day. It was late and I, staggering home from a party through the streets of Reading, overheard something unusual. My ears caught a familiar word in the lull between the music I was listening to and I looked around. It was a dreary, drizzly night and the streets were almost empty, so it didn’t take me long to locate the source.

The word I had heard was ‘Tegra’ and what I saw was a father walking behind me, explaining something to his young son. The kid must have been no older than 11, in fact.

Now, I should clarify that I don’t really know very much about Tegra. I know the basics, but my knowledge pales in comparison to the rest of the bit-tech.net and Custom PC staff. It’s why you don’t see me writing graphic card reviews. Still, I knew enough to follow a bit of this eavesdropped conversation in which the Dad explained what Tegra was to his boy.

I was intrigued. It wasn’t the type of conversation you’d expect to hear on a city street at 11AM and the fact that the boy was earnestly interested fascinated me. Discreetly and slyly, I stopped my music and let the pair overtake me. We were heading in the same direction and I wanted to hear more about the conversation, so I listened in for a bit as I made my way home.

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I'm Only Stupid Because I Know Too Much

Posted on 8th Oct 2009 at 12:09 by Joe Martin with 17 comments

Joe Martin
I was playing Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box yesterday (in the course of writing the review) when I had a moment of utter brain failure. It’s embarrassing to even admit it, that’s how stupid it was of me.

The question was; if you have a rectangular piece of paper and fold it so that there’s an extra centimetre on one side and then you fold it the other way with a centimetre extra on the other end, then how far in millimetres would it be between the two creases when the paper is unfolded?

It’s a simple, easy question and the game gave me three spaces to write a number into. I quickly scribbled my answer down; 100mm and was told that was incorrect. Baffled, I got a piece of paper out and tried it out – measuring the gap as one centimetre. Again I put my answer in. Again; incorrect. It was only on the third go that I slapped my face and realised that there were only 10 millimetres in a centimetre – not 100. I was being a moron and had been led astray by the fact that the game gave you three spaces to put an answer in, not two. I’m an idiot.

That then got me thinking (as best as I was able anyway) about how my brain is stuffed with useless information that I use everyday and all the actual useful stuff that I never need to know has trickled away over the years. It’s ironic and twisted, but I can get more use out of game memory than I’d ever get from remembering how to do trigonometry properly.

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Games to play with your children

Posted on 3rd Sep 2009 at 15:16 by Joe Martin with 36 comments

Joe Martin
I don’t have children, but I do have a lot of younger siblings and nephews and nieces, and we've played a lot of computer games together. A lot of the experiences we’ve shared have been through the medium of joysticks and mouse clicks.

Looking back on that recently I’ve come to think that parents should definitely play computer games with their kids, even though a lot of parents are of the opinion that "games are bad for you" and "all games are violent". Absolute rubbish, every word of it.

Of course, some games are violent and there’s a huge amount of games out there which aren’t at all suitable for children – but violence, if handled responsibly, isn’t always bad and there are a lot of games that are good for kids. My parents had an inkling of this and I spent a lot of time playing either with my Dad or talking about it with him. It’s something I plan to do with my children too, heaven forbid, and something I reflect on every time I go into a shop and see a parent blindly buying Grand Theft Auto for their seven year old. Grrr.

This isn’t new thinking obviously – any number of child-rearing programs or handbooks will tell you it’s important to get involved and find experiences you can share with your children. The problem though is that if you’re not someone who’s ‘into PCs’ and your kid is then it can be hard going. Thus, here are some recommendations for games that are suitable for most children and which open themselves up to this kind of activity.

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