New Year = New Gear

The staff at Tech-Out would like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2010.

Don’t forget Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is just around the corner and Tech Out will be on the show floor giving you a sneak peak of what’s to come in 2010.

Blowing stuff up in outer space

By Andrew Edwards
Staff Writer

SAN BERNARDINO – The art and science of video game design is part of the curriculum at Cal State San Bernardino.

“Vector Force,” for sale as an indie game to XBox Live users, is the first video game to be designed at the campus.

Computer science professors and the student who led Vector Force’s design said the process is a way to learn the principals of “computational thinking.”

“It’s learning how to program and what to program,” student and lead “Vector Force” designer Mark Chapman said. “It’s taking those concepts and applying them to any field.”

“Vector Force” is a shooter in the mold of games like “Raiden,” “Ikaruga” or just about any of the pizza-parlor classics that have involved spacecraft and explosions since the days of “Space Invaders.”

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Players take control of a star fighter and view the action from an overhead perspective while they try to survive attacks from wave after wave of enemy craft.

Vector Force’s graphics are comparable to those of games offered for the Nintendo 64 or original PlayStation. The game contains the traditional elements of its genre: an insane amount of enemy fire, power-up after power-up and massive boss enemies.

Computer science and engineering professors Arturo Concepcion and David Turner observed that the kind of thinking that goes into “Vector Force” can be applied to game design – Chapman’s career objective – or other applications in the universe of computer programming.

But whichever fields future graduates enter, the campus’ computer science and engineering is not done with gaming.

The more ambitious follow-up to “Vector Force” is currently titled “Mythic.” The plan is to craft a massive online world similar to games like “World of Warcraft.”

The new project’s premise is a world where three rival nations must confront something called “The Mythic” in the aftermath of what Chapman called an “atomic bomb of magic.”

There’s also the part about using games, which have evolved from childhood diversions into a mass entertainment force on the level of movies and television – to train a new generation of programmers.

“What we want is to use the ‘Mythic’ game to attract young kids to computing,” Concepcion said.

Review: Rogue Warrior

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I remember reading about Rogue Warrior in 2006. Its fictional premise of a crack team of special forces operators dropped into North Korea and then forced to fight their way back to friendly lines when all hell breaks loose sounded like a great idea at the time. It would boast four-player co-op, a map maker for online action, and up to 24 players online. It’s the kind of stuff co-op gamers and online warriors have dreams about.

The game is also based in spirit on the autobiographical book of the same name by Richard “Dick” Marcinko whose name appears on the title of the game; a real-life former SEAL who founded special operations units SEAL Team Six and Red Cell. This is a guy whose military history is filled with the kind of covert stuff that had made our Cold War enemies cry frozen tears while asleep in Siberia. So I had to wonder that with such a rich history to draw from and a larger-than-life figure to work with, how the game could turn out to be worse than some of the fiction already out there.
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Learn to Let Go: How Success Killed Duke Nukem

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Wired’s Clive Thompson has put together a great piece that looks into the demise of Duke Nukem Forever. In it, he examines how success had ultimately become the worst thing that could happen for it at 3D realms and the reason why the long delayed game may appear under the Take 2 label instead. It’s kind of hard to think of how such a good thing could be so bad for the Duke, but I was surprised to see just how far the combination of unbridled enthusiasm and perfectionism had ultimately wrecked his chances for a long awaited return. It’s a gripping read.

3D Realms isn’t dead as a company, that much was made clear, but as far as development goes…Thompson’s piece pretty much lays it out at the end. Ever since I had seen the working footage briefly demonstrated by Jason Hall in ’08 in his first show, it seemed as if it were close to finally gettting out. And then screenshots, rumors, more months passing without a demo, until finally the bombshell dropped in May this year.

It’s also a story that made me angry to think of how many missed opportunities there were for it to finally see the light of day, of how many lives were invested over so many years in seeing it through, and the pressure to live up to the unbelievable hype that DNF had created around itself. When you look at something such as the Duke Nukem List memorializing its fate with everything that the world had accomplished while it waited for development to finish, you have to wonder why no one had the sense to stop and see just where the endless feature creep in raising the bar would ultimately leave it.

And the thing is, from the screens and the leaked design docs scattered across the ‘net that I’d seen, I’d still play it. Even if it were in pieces.

The Freakiest Commercials of 2009

As the year draws to a close, ad watching blog, AdFreak, pick 30 of the freakiest commercials to come out in 2009. Sony isn’t running the creepy baby ads anymore, but it’s in good company with this crop of creative ads that run from the chillingly eerie to those that bring their life lesson across with as much subtlety as a horror movie.

My favorite? I like the one for Parkinson’s myself, but the “don’t drink and drive” ad from New Mexico was hard hitting stuff.

Check them out after the link, but remember that quite a few other places outside of the US (like Europe) aren’t as shy about certain things so keep that in mind if you’re at work and want to watch a day in the life of a bodiless head.

AdFreak: The 30 Freakiest Commercials of 2009

Surprise! Even more games on their way…next year.

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The VGA show on Spike has come and gone, dishing out trophies and face time with a number of stars. With a big gaming show, you can also expect it to stage a few surprises of its own and it didn’t disappoint by revealing several trailers promoting new titles slated to appear next year.

One interesting thing about each of these announcements is how they’re all sequels, or spin-offs to already existing series. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. After all, I’m definitely looking forward to another Batman game. And it’s not like there aren’t any new ideas out there, either, but it would have been nice to see a few of them featured during the VGAs as well (such as id’s Rage, Funcom’s upcoming MMO, The Secret World, or Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain)

So sit back, relax, and take a look at what else is coming out next year right after the jump.
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Trading questions with Tom French, lead developer for The Saboteur

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I’ve been pouring hours into The Saboteur, a sandbox game designed under the creative umbrella of World War II historical fantasy. Pandemic Studios put it together, and I managed to e-mail some questions to Tom French of Pandemic before getting my hands on the game itself. I’m coming off playing Assassin’s Creed 2, another history-heavy game, and wanted to see what a World War II game had to offer from the folks who made it. You can see the e-mail Q&A after the jump. Enjoy.
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Review: Assassin’s Creed 2

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History and the fantastic tales surrounding it have always been a playground for entertainment.

But no game gives you as many historical seesaws and jungle gyms quite like Assassin’s Creed 2, a sci-fi period piece that amazingly manages to mix the brilliance of Renaissance Italy with scientific fantasy and Templar legend. Despite its flaws, it’s one of the most enthralling tales you’ll find on any system.
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