Tag Archives: csi

Preview: The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo (PC) ~ The Road To Development

4 (1)[15753]Today I have something quick unique to present to you. Not too long ago, I met somebody on a Facebook group about point-and-click adventure games who was developing a new title. The game is called ”The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo” and it looks extremely interesting to me. I suggested creating an article for the developers and they agreed. So, here we are. I’m writing a preview article for a game that only released some screenshots and a small trailer video. But there is more! I had the chance to talk to one of the developers of this game called Josip Makjanic and we are going to talk about the uncharted road that took him to this development. So, with that said, it’s time to dive into this article and invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

 The pitch

So, what is this game about? The developer provided me with a bit more information about the game. Basically, the game is a point-and-click adventure game like Broken Sword and Monkey Island. You can also compare it to Captain Disaster, Another Code R, Time Hollow, Ace Attorney, Professor Layton or the CSI games.

The game takes the player all over various landmarks in Croatia to solve puzzles and have a grand adventure. The story will be based on historic locations and figures. At this moment, the game is in its pre-alpha stage and has over 60 locations planned together with various characters to populate them. The puzzles will be in the style you would find in the Broken Sword or the Monkey Island series.

Pre-Alpha means that the game is in a sort “draft” phase. It means that everything is being prepared to go into the production of the game. Compare it to baking a cake, the moment you plan to bake a cake and make a list of which ingredients you will need and for whom you are making the cake… Those are things you would do in the pre-alpha stage of development. You can read more information about the development cycle on this Wikipedia article.

Personally, I love games that take place in unusual locations around the world. So, this game takes place in Croatia and is being developed by Svarog Interactive. This 4-man team is also based in Croatia. Now, the guys from there also send us a little teaser video that you can find right here:

I have to say, this teaser is extremely impressive. Right away, I noticed that the art style resembled the art style in the first Broken Sword games. Like the Broken Sword games, the locations are extremely detailed and colorful. Unlike the Broken Sword games, the animation like the leaves and the flies on screen… Well, the location feels more alive than ever. I find it rather enjoyable that everything looks quite realistic and those flies, man, they look so goofy I love it.

If you compare the Pre-Alpha video to the screenshots I shared on top of this article, you notice some big differences right away. First of all, the dialogue system looks a lot cleaner. You get dialogue boxes with character portraits on top. Also, you notice that on the bottom right corner, you have a bag. Most likely, this is where your items are going to be stored. So, you won’t have to go to the top of your screen for that. In addition to that, in the right upper corner, you notice that there is a gear icon. This will most likely be a way to go to the pause menu.

Early EnvironmentsSadly enough, since this game is still in extremely early development, there is nothing more I can show you or talk about. I can’t wait to see more and I’m going to follow the development of this game quite closely.

Yet, if you want more and you speak Croatian, you can read this article with one of the developers by 24Sata. Now, there is also this YouTube video where the developer talks about his road towards development. While the video is in Croatian, there are English subtitles provided. Sadly, the subtitles just stop around the 5:11 mark, so there are 2 minutes without subtitles ☹.

Now, before we continue with the interview with Josip Makjanic, one of the co-founders of Svarog Interactive, I want to share some links where you can follow the project as well. They have a Facebook page and Twitter page.

Oliver, Alice & Evil Seagul

Let’s talk

Jonez: Welcome Josip Makjanic, co-founder of Svarog Interactive. Can you give us a small introduction about yourself?

Josip: Hello Jonez. My name is Josip Makjanic, a co-founder and Game Designer in Svarog Interactive.

Jonez: In our conversation over mail you told me that this isn’t your first game. You worked on impressive games like Serious Sam 4 and Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope. Serious Sam is an amazing series from Croatia, your home country. Was it always your dream to develop games?

Josip: Yes. I was always fascinated by it. I started making video games not so long ago, but I sort of designed games in general since I was a kid, by designing them on paper, writing stories and creating concepts. When I lived in a high school dorm I used to make versions of Warcraft, Diablo and even Counter Strike on paper that we played with dice, and people from the dorm would come and play in our room.

I was always fascinated by it and loved creating, so today, with some experience behind and with some good friends by my side, I thought it’s time to start working on our own video games.

Jonez: On the road to the developping of “The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo”, you created two other games called “Day in Dementia” and “In Memory”. Both games have a similar concept and art style. As a side note, I have to say that I’m touched by “In Memory”. The story behind it, a game to honor the dead of your mother, I have one word for you: respect. Respect man. Now, I noticed that both games were created in Construct. Are you using the same engine for this game?

Josip: Thank you. 🙂 Both of these games were made in Construct 2, and were created as a personal project. I don’t even know if I could call them games, but rather some sort of experiences that meant a lot to me personally. Marco Polo is being developed in Unity since it gives us more freedom from the technical sides of things.

Jonez: In our conversation, you talk about an open-world RPG. So, this point-and-click game isn’t the only title you are working on? What is this open-world RPG game or is it more a testing ground for possible future titles?

Josip: We are huge fans of Point & Click games and huge fans of RPG’s. We grew up on those games and always wanted to make our own worlds that others can enjoy with us. So, we are working on an open-world RPG system and have stories and concepts, but, we don’t like to rush ourselves, as we know how ambitious and big these projects are, and we would, of course, need a much bigger team. So before it happens, and we hope it will, there are other, smaller projects in mind, but we are going in that direction.

It’s very important for us to first understand how everything works and make many tests so we don’t waste time or get lost in the projects we’re developing, which makes the development much more enjoyable and better organized. So yes, we are making tests and preparations for other projects, but Marco Polo is a priority and is written as a trilogy. We are also huge fans of traditional drawing and animations, so I don’t think we will ever want to part with it. 🙂

Jonez: Now, let’s get back to The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo since that’s the game that I’m previewing with this article. I’m rather curious. Why about Marco Polo? If the game is set in Croatia and Marco Polo is a merchant from Italy. Of course, there is this debate about his birthplace might be Croatian as well… So, why the decision for Marco Polo?

Josip: The game is talking about historic figures and real places, and players will learn so much about Croatia from it, and while the game has many real things people can learn about, it’s story is fictional and we won’t get involved into that debate, but will rather focus on some other, more interesting aspects based on his life, and how to make an enjoyable story and experience in general. 🙂

Jonez: Are you developing this game full-time or are you developing this game on the side like the Corpse Party developers GrisGris? Also, how do you make sure that there is enough budget to create this game?

Josip: We are currently working in our free time, so that means that we also have other jobs, doing freelancing and helping each other out, but we believe that soon we’ll be able to work full time on the game, and when that happens, we will inform everyone about it. If we don’t get a publisher then we will definitely go Kickstarter with playable Demo, Trailer and some other interesting things in mind. So the game’s development is currently going smoothly without too many investments, but we will definitely depend on a publisher or Kickstarter later if we want to finish the game in a reasonable time.

We also don’t want to go on Kickstarter without having some quality content that people can enjoy before considering supporting us. 🙂

Jonez: You told me that there are, including you, 4 people working on this game. Can you tell us a bit more about the team and the talent in it?

Josip: Yes, there are 4 of us and we all have some projects behind us. There is Alen, our technical guy who makes sure all the systems work in general. Devis is our character artist and animator, and Andrija is our manager. I make backgrounds, write a story and making a game design in general, but we are all highly involved in each part of the development so there is a bit of everyone in every aspect of the game. Andrija, for example, came up with the idea of Marco Polo, so we all worked together to make a story that will fit the game’s mechanics.

There will be behind the scenes when it comes out. 🙂

Jonez: And as a final question, I would like to ask what are your favorite parts of being a game developer and what do you dislike in being a game developer.

Josip: I like how rewarding it can be. It sure isn’t easy to make a game and that’s why I started with those small ones. To build strong foundations and to be able to better understand it and move on to bigger projects. 

And the better I understand it and the more I know about the technical side, the more I can enjoy the creative parts of it, so I guess after every day of work you get rewarded with new knowledge and skills, and I find it very enjoyable.

The bad part of the development would definitely be one issue in the industry in general, and that’s the crunch. I’m not talking about a month or two of crunching, but about the developers who crunch for 6 months or more.

It’s not healthy and I believe that the health of those developers should be in the first place and by organizing yourself better before getting into developing a certain project would save many from that.

It’s a huge problem and something we want to avoid and not be a part of, so that’s one of the reasons for our long preparations and organization before the project even starts. I maybe went a bit off-topic with it, but I believe it’s very important to talk about it

Jonez: And with that, thank you Josip for the interview and the answers! Thank you for answering my silly questions and talking about games and development. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Josip: Here’s a few words for the gamers out there. It is a huge compliment for us to be compared to a classic such as Broken Sword, as we saw many of you talk about it, and we are happy that you love what you see at this stage of development. It will maybe remind you of it, as we see it already do but I just want to say that we don’t want to be another Broken Sword in the end, as Broken Sword is a timeless classic and we don’t want to compete with it, nor I believe we can.

But what I believe is that we can make an enjoyable experience that will make your time worth playing it, a game on its own that we would like to play too, and that’s what we hope to achieve.

We want to make games like they used to be, or at least, make them feel like they used to be, and even though we are not the most experienced studio in the industry, we will give our best to make them worth your time, and try to be better with each one.

Thank you. 🙂

Jonez: And as a closing note, you can follow Josip’s personal projects over at his CrobbitArts Facebook page!

Ending of the article

And with that, I have to call this article a wrap. I want to thank Josip Makjanic for the interview and the material he provided for me to write this article. I’m quite hyped for this game and I can’t wait to play a demo or see more. Yes, I have quite the weak spot when it comes to well-crafted point-and-click adventure games. I love them more when there is a certain charm to it, like with this game.

This game looks to have quite some potential. Currently, we got only some screenshots and a teaser video and it’s already looking quite amazing. So, here is to Svarog Interactive, keep up the good work you guys! You can do it!

So, I’m curious. Do you think that this game is as interesting as I think? Have you noticed something I overlooked? Tell me in the comment section down below. And with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – Fatal Conspiracy (PC) ~ Ah, CSI.

csi-crime-scene-investigation-fatal-conspiracy-megjelenes-dobozkep-5f1e286a56874898ba77-largeWikipedia entry

Lately, I’m getting quite a lot into the series of CSI. I’m currently watching the original series to the end. Then the spin-offs. But the games, oh man, the games are something special. Published by Ubisoft and developed by TellTale Games. This game has mixed reviews all over the board. I have seen reviews ripping this game a new one and I have seen reviews praising this game. This is the latest PC game that came from the series. I have beaten the first two cases and I just started the 3rd case. Is this a good game in my opinion? Is this a game made for fans of the series or can it be played by everyone? Well, I took a look from both angles. So, I won’t get the criticism that I gave this game a positive review because I’m a fan of the series. So, let’s dive right into this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and or the game. 

TellTale made this

maxresdefaultIt’s quite clear that TellTale games made this game. The formatting is just like their other series. The game is 5 cases long. During the game, you get another partner every time. What seriously amazed me is that the characters from the show actually did the voice acting for this game.  This give me goosebumps. One of the goals of these games is trying to give you the feeling that you are part of the team. The voice acting helps a lot with this.

The writing is done on a very clever way. Some lines are left out. Information your brain can easily fill in. Questions you would ask if the game was voice controlled. This helps draw you in a bit more too.

Storywise, this game starts off quite interesting. The idea of having a storyline over the whole game instead of having five separate stories makes it very interesting. The only minor complaint I have here is that the pacing is a bit off. It distracts a bit from the case in my opinion. Truth to be told, you can’t avoid it.

 The individual cases are quite interesting. But they aren’t my favorite cases from the series. They are good but my favorite cases are from the second game in the series.

Why is it bad?

CSI Fatal Conspiracy Screenshot 4Visually, this game doesn’t look that well. This game has been released 5 years ago. I know for a fact that visually, games can look way better then this. Tomb Raider Legend, which released 4 years prior, looked way more cleaner then this game.

So, I played a little bit more of the game and found some blurring issues. It would surprise me if my computer is at fault here. I’m extremely sure it can run this game three times without slowing down my computer.

But for a licensed game, visually this game looks quite fine. Some things could have been animated to look a bit better. So, after closer inspection (see what I did there) the issue with the visuals is that some things like hair aren’t animated which giving the visuals a bad impression to a PC gamer. Thankfully, in an adventure game the graphics aren’t the priority. The actual adventure is a bit more important.

One thing I find a negative in this game is that you can’t walk around. In a previous installment, you were allowed to walk around on the crime scene. I was hoping they implemented this again. But now, it’s back to the old point-and-click interface. Which is quite fine by me, expect for one flaw. In the game you are scored on how thorough you are. A visual indication for this would be nice, there have been various times that I was searching on a spot that was actually clean. They did this in the previous installments.

Another thing I don’t understand is that they cut the lab into two area’s. It’s rather annoying when you need to switch between the two places. Also, it’s annoying to see a number showing with the evidence. I can understand that it’s to help you remember that are is something that needs your processing, but you have no visual indication which item you still need to take a closer look at. That number also doesn’t decrease when you investigate it with the proper machine.

Oh, I talked a bit earlier about the lab. Some instruction videos actually didn’t work and it played part of the intro for this game. This is the weirdest bug I have seen for quite a while.

The GUI (graphical user interface, the menus and such) in the lab is a bit lacking. In the past it was easier to switch between evidence. Now, you need to restart before you can continue.

Yet, the worst two issues is that you can barely alt+tab out of the game. Your screen will show some weird bars like a smashed LCD screen. And related to that, sometimes the sound cuts out on a scary way… as your headphones just popped.

What is good…?

screen1_large

Apart from the visuals, I find barely any major flaws, apart from some nitpicks here and there, in the game. The soundtrack in this game feels a lot like the series. Music that won’t go to your music library but is perfect to set the mood.

The design of the crime scenes and the locations you visit are well thought out. The “hiding spots” for the evidence are sometimes so well hidden, it’s easy to look over them. This is very lovely, since this gives the game a more challenging nature.

Also, there are achievements in this game. For the people who want to 100% this game, this is some replay value. You can try to avoid making the mistakes you made in the first playthrough.

The tips system is more streamlined. Sometimes you get mails from the night shift supervisor telling you what you should do or might overlook.

Is this game perfect? Hell no, it has some flaws that might hinder the experience. Is it good? Yes. Is it for everyone? Not really. I would recommend it to fans of the series and adventure gamers. I would also recommend it to people who like to solve crimes, virtually or in the real world.

If you are able to look past a few minor issues, this game is quite well crafted. When the developers had a bit more time, this game could be a bit better polished. That’s all I have to say about this game in my first impression. If I finish it, I might write a review about it and go a bit more in depth about certain area’s of the game.

In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this for you guys (or girls). I hope to welcome you at another article. But until then, have a nice day and game on~

Review #040: CSI – Hard Evidence (PC ~ Steam) ~ Strange Case

256px-Csi4boxcoverSteam store link

So, today I want to take another look at this very old case. Wait, scrap that. If I try to be too original in my introduction, I might ruin the beauty of my previous CSI article. Yeah, remember that first impression article I wrote about that CSI PS2 game? I tried to set the mood in the introduction and if I repeat that in this one, it might get boring. Yup, I’m rambling on instead of writing a decent introduction for this game. I just finished it and I want to review it. Before I actually start to review it, I’ll come clean. I enjoyed the other CSI games I played. In total, I know there are 3-4 games like this about CSI. I think that this game is the latest in terms of trying to go for realism instead of a more cartoon-y approch they did in the DS games. In any case, I enjoy the tv-show a lot myself. Too bad that my local channel broadcasts the series out of order. As usual, feel free to leave a comment on this article with your opinion on the game and or the content of this article. 

Mediocre game? 

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I know that this game was also released on the XBOX360 and the Wii. But for this review, we take a look at the PC version of the game. It’s developed by TellTale Games, who you might know from the Walking Dead series. One might think that this game must be good. I mean, they make all sorts of amazing adventure point-and-click games.

If I look around the internet to what other people think about this game, I read mostly negative reviews. But is this game a cheap cash-in of a very popular series? Let me play devil’s advocate and say no. Sure, there are some problems and you might rest assured I’ll address them in this review but overall, this game is a nice one.

The evidence for that is in the story. Each and every case feels like a CSI episode. The characters are quite memorable and the voice acting is decent. I have to disagree that the voice acting is the best the game has too offer since I sometimes don’t feel the emotion in the voice. I also had moments where I felt that the emotion was acted or forced. But that might be because I act on stage myself.

Addressing the criticism

CSI4_screen_0

The negative you see popping up in each and every review is that the graphics look outdated. This is quite vague in my opinion. The area’s you visit and objects look quite clean and decent. They aren’t the best the genre or the system can offer but that’s not the issue here.

The issue here is in the animation of the models. That’s quite flawed. If this game had a rushed development schedule you can see it in the animations. I didn’t had many visual flaws on my gaming laptop but on my desktop with a much stronger graphics card/CPU/RAM… the mistakes are coming quite clear. Mostly around the mouth area, that’s the worst. In the 4th case, I even saw gaps in the mouth were the model wasn’t finished.

 It’s a shame since the visuals of the cutscene video’s give another impression of this game. This game might have looked so much better if they polished up the animations. They could have looked a whole lot better, since you know that TellTale is able to create amazing stuff.

Why did I play this game?

I can be rather short about the music. In this game, the music isn’t meant to be memorable or catchy. It needs to set a certain mood. The music does this job perfectly. It gets me in the right mood to try and solve a murder case and to catch bugs. If you watch the series, you might know that one of the characters is very interested in bugs. In each case, there are several bugs hidden and if you find them all, you get a bonus.

Talking about the bonus content, while it’s a nice addition, it’s quite lackluster. When the title of the bonus material says: “storyboards of case 3” for example, you just get three storyboards of a fragment that took 5-6 seconds in game. They are quite underwhelming and they wouldn’t add to the experience if you want to 100% the game.

CSI4_screen_4

You might start to wonder why I even beat this game. I point out mistakes in almost every category. Well, this game is a good game but it mainly lacks polish. The sound effects create a great feeling of actually being a CSI but not all the time thankfully. It also gives you the feeling that it is fake, created for a TV-show.

All elements of this game blend together quite well and if you put the time into this game instead of focusing on the negatives of this game, you get a nice experience. Before I forget, I have a few things to mention before I go to my conclusion.

First of all, the saving system is just wonderful. Thanks to the automatic save system, I didn’t need to worry that my progress would be lost.

The difficulty of this game is right in the middle. While this is one of the easiest games I played in the series, it can be challenging and puts everything you learned in the tutorial case to the test.

Anyways, I think I talked about most of the things I wanted to talk about, about this game. So, let’s get on with the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

– Animations can be quite bad.

– The interface isn’t always good to work with.

– No cloud saves.

The good;

+ Acceptable visuals.

+ Nice experience for a CSI fan.

+ Easy but sometimes challenging game.

+ Decent length.

+ Nice and responsive controls.

+ Great voice acting.

Final thoughts:

I said it in my last paragraph, this game lacks polish. If TellTale put a bit more time into the animations, the interface and the game as a whole… I think this game wouldn’t get such a bad rating.

This game can be quite a fun game in the right hands, but if I need to look at it objectively: this game is a mediocre one. But as a fan of CSI and point-and-click games… it isn’t half that bad.

If you start to play this game, don’t set your expectations too high. It isn’t a masterpiece and it’s flaws show quite clearly. If you look passed them, you get 5 interesting cases to play through that each CSI and crime story fan will enjoy.

Score: 70/100.

First Impression: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – 3 Dimensions of Murder (PS2) ~ Part of the wrong era.

Thanks Sprong to upload the best PS2 box-art

Thanks Sprong to upload the best PS2 box-art

Wikipedia entry

But officer! I didn’t commit such a terrible crime! I didn’t make a fun to play game with old graphics. UbiSoft did. So, why am I being questioned? Oh, it’s because I have to answer questions what my first impression was of this game? Okay, I’ll work along. And this doesn’t come on my rap sheet. Sweet! Thanks. So, why did I start playing this game you ask? Well, I played 2 CSI games before on my PC. When I saw this game sitting on the 2nd-hand shelf of my local gaming store I couldn’t hold myself to pick it up and try it. Back in that store I didn’t know that I was in for such a unique experience. This game is truly a mixed bag. …. Oh no, no, no. Not a body bag. … Jeez, you have a strange sense of humor officer. At first I thought this was actually a port of one of the PC games I played but I’m glad to see that it isn’t. I hadn’t played this PC title actually and I didn’t knew about it. So, new cases to play. Man, I was really glad to be able to play them. At least this game didn’t make some major flaws. The tutorial for example is really good. Yes, at the start menu you have a selection to go through a training and experienced gamers can go directly to solve their first case. Instead of the first PC game where you go through a tutorial in your first case. And thanks to a design flaw you were unable to get 100% completion on the first case! Oh, you have a question? Did I talk too long? I hope my answer wasn’t too long. Now I’m not trying to linger my answer to make sure it stops around the end of the box-art for the report of this interrogation. Nah, I wouldn’t do such a thing. I’m all open for questions. To inform the readers of this okay game and to invite them to write a comment about this article in the comment section or their feels with this game. But enough of that, what’s the question officer? 

What makes you keep playing this game?

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So, this game has actually pretty decent controls. Yes, image a game being ported that uses a lot of the mouse movement gets to a console where the is no mouse at all. You move around with one joystick and you move around the camera with the other one. While it’s uneasy at first, after a while you actually get used to it. You really got to hand it to the developers. They did their best with what they had. While it’s a bit clumsy to work with, it does work and after a while it goes from a nuisance to an acceptable flaw.

Also, the stories are pretty fun. But I’ll have to talk more about them later. Various great jokes are present in the writing and made me laugh several times. I always think credit is due where credit is due. And making jokes in serious situations as this is actually pretty awesome since most of them usually fall flat on their face in other games like this.

Also, the gameplay is what draws me into this game. It’s the biggest plus! I extremely enjoy exploring the crime scenes for clues and asking the suspects questions. The fact that you are able to walk around in the game is such a great addition. In the other versions of the game I couldn’t walk around at all and I could just turn my view around 180 degrees. Messing around in the lab, comparing the evidence is such a great thing. Also, the replay value is there. You can try to finish a case with less helping options or find all evidence.

What also is a great addition is that you get a notification when everything is searched in a certain location. You also gear it from your colleague when you can’t do anything more with the evidence. That is a great thing.

Why did you want to kill this game?

Sorry for the blurry screen. PS2 screens are hard to get of this game.

Sorry for the blurry screen. PS2 screens are hard to get of this game.

Oh, that. Well, I actually think that this game made some serious flaws. Like the story. It’s a bit of a letdown too. I finished my first case and it was a tad bit too predictable. You can smell the killer from around the middle of the story.

Also, there is a flaw with the questioning. I got a new location from a suspect but when I decided to ask the remaining questions after looking into this location, I found out that the option to ask him questions wasn’t there anymore.

But the thing that mostly got on my nerves is the fact that the presentation is one of the worst I have playing in my opinion. First of all, graphically this game looks dated. For a PS2 game, it could have used a lot of work on the visuals. The ears of some characters look pointy, the guns look blurry, and the cut scenes look fuzzy.

But the animation also has some serious flaws. Some characters shake their arms for no reason and that really annoys me while I’m asking questions to certain suspects.

Also, what’s up with the visuals? I really had to put up my brightness of my TV to see in certain places. The game is too dark. While it’s a nice touch since it’s dark in the cut scenes, it doesn’t help the game one bit. It makes it just more difficult to play.

What disappoints me also is the fact that I can’t find all pieces of evidence. While I turn each and everything upside down, I still had places that had evidence left.

Also, the game had some flaws with the examining of the evidence. To make sure I have checked a piece 100% I sometimes had to place it in the wrong machine. Otherwise it would just give me a bell sound.

So you ask what my final opinion of this game is? Well, I’m going to finish it one day and I might write a full review. But that’s everything I can say to you people. Thanks for reading and hopefully that clears up my name.