Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gladiator AD brings "300" style graphics and Beal soundtrack to the Wii

Last Christmas when I bought Wii game systems for both of my children's families, I was sorely tempted to buy one for myself. I really like the idea of using your own body's motion as an intuitive game interface. I was surprised, though, when I visited a Gamespot shop with my grandson that when I asked about which Wii titles actually used the motion control feature of the game console, I was told relatively few titles actually did, with the exception of Wii Sports and Wii Fit. But now, game developer High-Voltage looks like its going to step up to the plate and introduce an action title, Gladiator A.D. , that will take full advantage of the new Wii MotionPlus firmware. The game title will also feature an original soundtrack by composer Jeff Beal, the musical talent behind the unique soundtrack for HBO's miniseries, "Rome".

"Our goal is to make the controls intuitive while providing depth to the game mechanics. Customizable weapons, armor and moves give the player a lot of choices of the arsenal to bring into battle. There are quicker, lighter moves that are difficult to block or dodge and slower, heavier moves that will do more damage. A well-timed parry will briefly stun your opponent. There are brutality moves that the player can earn by increasing crowd favor, which plays a big role in a player's victory or defeat, " explained High-Voltage CEO Kerry Ganofsky.

"Gladiator takes an over-the-should approach to bring the player right into the action. With the Wii-remotes representing the right and left hand, the player can accurately control his attacks, blocks, and dodges. The player has three directional attack; left slice, right slash, and overhead chop. As well as a slower, but devastating power attack for each direction. On the defense, the player can choose to dodge, parry, or block attacks. Holding block will soak a percentage of the incoming damage, but moving your shield or secondary weapon using the analog stick (while blocking) will allow the player to make perfect blocks, which soaks all damage, and causes his opponent to react, allowing for a retaliatory strike. We incorporate slow down of the larger power attacks, similar to the movie 300, to allow players a cinematic attempt to perfect block these attacks, " adds High-Voltage Chief Creative Officer Eric Nofsinger.

"The controls use Wii motions with the Wii remote and nunchuck to initiate an attack. There are six basic attacks: Left, right or overhead, both light and heavy. The player can also block or dodge in any direction, " says Ganofsky.

"The Wii MotionPlus will be used to add variance to the attacks to break up what could possibly be seen as mechanical attacks. For example, depending on the orientation of the player's wrist when a left slice is initiated, the gladiator will attack his opponents right side from one of three angles, making it slightly more difficult to perfect block player's using the Wii MotionPlus. We are also looking into other applications for optional game-play with this peripheral. " - More:

You can listen to a couple of music clips from the game soundtrack here. They certainly bear the stamp of Jeff Beal. I could imagine listening to "The Pit" as an alternative soundtrack to the scene where Pullo fights for his life in that squalid Republican-era arena, shouting "Thirteenth! The Thirteenth!".

High-Voltage executives estimate the title will be released in the 1st quarter of 2010.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Agora sounds like antithesis of Ben Hur

The new film "Agora" starring Rachel Weisz as 4th century CE female scholar, Hypatia, sounds almost like the antithesis of Ben Hur.

"The heart of the film is Hypatia (Rachel Weisz in an unfaltering performance), the fourth century AD philosopher and teacher who lived in Alexandria during the Roman Empire. Married only to her unquenchable intellect and passion for mathematics and astronomy, she is loved by two men: her slave, Davus (Max Minghella), and her student, Orestes (Oscar Isaac).

Politics in the film are weakest during the overtly political speeches and monologues, and best captured in the details. Like many, Davus seeks not spiritual salvation in the Christian uprising but freedom from slavery, despite the bloodshed. His first attempt at prayer is brilliant: Unable to remember the Lord's Prayer, he quickly falls into a mantra to God to keep Hypatia away from Orestes. For his part, Orestes will renounce paganism and convert to Christianity during his rise in Roman politics." - More: Reuter

Hypatia was the daughter of Theon, who was her teacher and the last known mathematician associated with the museum of Alexandria. She traveled to both Athens and Italy to study, before becoming head of the Platonist school at Alexandria in approximately 400 AD . According to the 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia the Suda, she worked as teacher of philosophy, teaching the works of Plato and Aristotle. - More: Wikipedia

"Hypatia corresponded with and hosted scholars from others cities. Synesius, Bishop of Ptolemais, was one of her correspondents and he visited her frequently. Hypatia was a popular lecturer, drawing students from many parts of the empire.

From the little historical information about Hypatia that survives, it appears that she invented the plane astrolabe, the graduated brass hydrometer and the hydroscope, with Synesius of Greece, who was her student and later colleague.

Hypatia dressed in the clothing of a scholar or teacher, rather than in women's clothing. She moved about freely, driving her own chariot, contrary to the norm for women's public behavior. She exerted considerable political influence in the city."

"...[The local Christian bishop Cyril incited] a mob led by fanatical Christian monks in 415 to attack Hypatia as she drove her chariot through Alexandria. They dragged her from her chariot and, according to accounts from that time, stripped her, killed her, stripped her flesh from her bones, scattered her body parts through the streets, and burned some remaining parts of her body in the library of Caesareum." - More:

So much for compassion and tolerance!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Horrible Histories: Ruthless Romans Game premieres

I see Slitherine, the company that brought us "Legions", is releasing a new game based on the popular children's history series "Horrible Histories: Ruthless Romans". It's described as a party/puzzle game (whatever that means). I sometimes find playing less intense children's games more relaxing if I'm tired and stressed out. This particular title is promoted as fun for the whole family so it must be set at a level even adults would at least find interesting. It's available for the Wii, PC and NDS in five languages. It will be available June 12.

Horrible Histories™ Ruthless Romans is a fun packed party game where the plot that follows the struggle of young Rassimus to achieve glory as a gladiator and obtain his freedom. Rassimus, a slave and an ambitious gladiator-in-training, has been raised as a foundling by the great gladiator trainer Lucius Gladius, and spent nearly 12 years in his service. Lucius has now given him a chance to begin his training, and Rassimus hopes that he will be successful and one day become a citizen of Rome.

• Over 30 mad mini-games
• Fight deadly duels against your friends in the arena
• Discover how ruthless Romans lived
• 4 player multiplayer

Horrible Histories™ Ruthless Romans is a great game for all the family.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

XIII Century: Death or Glory debut game for new developer

Game companies must be like Hollywood studios. They seem to latch onto the same topics at the same time. When I was researching JoWood's "The Golden Horde", I came across a title by new developer Unicorn Games named "XIII Century: Death or Glory". It, too, deals with warfare across Asia and Europe in the 13th century although, in addition to the Russians and the Mongols you get the English and the French as well.

"XIII Century swaps the stereotypical grand campaign where you rule an empire for "campaign light" mission packs where you fight alongside the medieval armies of England, France, Germany, Russia, and the Mongolian hordes of Genghis Khan. Each of these collections features five separate historical battles that you unlock one by one. So the English start with Evesham then move on to Falkirk, Conwy, Lincoln, and Lewes. The Russians fight at Yaroslav, Torchev, Lake Peipus, Rakovor, and Lipitsa. The French take to the bloody fields of Taillebourg, Muret, Tagliarozzo, Benevento, and Bouvines. And so on. You get a pretty comprehensive tour of all the 13th-century hot spots by the time you work your way through all five nations and a set of bonus battles that open up as your rank grows through winning battles.

All this might seem a bit on the skimpy side to anyone coming off of an overwhelming epic like Medieval II: Total War. But since the battles here are so thoroughly depicted, it's hard to quibble with the warfare-centric focus. For starters, XIII Century is tough. Battles are founded on a rigorous rock-paper-scissors formula, so you can't just lumber about and rush foes with no consideration as to their relative strengths and weaknesses. This isn't a simple formula, either. Although many basics are in play here (keep cavalry away from pikemen, keep archers on high ground, that sort of thing), unit statistics are heavily detailed. This gives you a lot to keep track of during battles, which tend to fly by even at regular speed, but at least the interface provides ready access to everything you need to know. Moving the mouse cursor over unit formations provides banks of numbers detailing morale, number of wounded, whether or not the flanks and rear are covered, and so forth. So you can get instant snapshots of how your troops are faring when things are going hot and heavy, which lets you keep pace and give the right commands at the right times." - More: Gamespot

The Golden Horde offers strategy and beautiful imagery

I enjoyed reading Conn Iggulden's "Genghis" novels so much that I couldn't pass this one up when GoGamer offered it for only $9.90 in one of their 48-hour Madness sales!

Lead armored crusaders, flexible Mongolians or impregnable Russians into historic battles!

The Scenario is based on a on the events which took place in Europe, central Asia and Russia at the beginning of the XIII century.

The game will offer recreated versions of famous battles and political crises as well as an epic campaign which outcome is yours to determine.

Thanks to sophisticated RPG elements, individual Heroes, fancy graphics and easy controls The Golden Horde offers a perfect access to the real-time strategy genre in the exotic setting of the early middle ages in Europe and Asia.

Historic Basis
The game is based on true historic facts, conflicts and battles.

Three different Factions
Crusaders, Mongolians und Russians. They differ in types of military forces, buildings and combat as well as unique heroes with individual abilities.

Takeover of Enemy Units and Weapons
Take control over neutral horses or their slain riders’ weapon.

Equipment "on the fly"
Provide your warriors with new weapons or switch them directly on the battlefield.

Weather is a Central Element
Wind affects the flight qualities of arrows. Rain greatly affects the visibility Snow slows down units, which may even break through the Ice of frozen lakes. - GoGamer