Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The forgotten sense

Music is something that's usually just playing in the background of the game or movie. You don't pay any attention to it, it's there and puts you in the right mood. From time to time however, a game comes around with such great music that it's coming to foreground and becomes a reason to enjoy playing the game. Tropico 3 is one of those games and its music is a more then worthy successor to the great music of the original Tropico.

A large part of the atmosphere in Tropico 3 is coming from the great Caribbean music. It really helps to set the mood as Tropico is a one of those games where you spend quite a bit of time just thinking what to do next. Having some great music on while playing makes the waiting process a lot more fun. It would be great if the Tropico 3 game came with its audiotrack on a CD as the music is so great that I'd like to add it to my music collection.

Of course, the track is limited so I might get tired of the music if I play too long. It took quite a bit of time until I put of the music in WoW. But eventually I turned it off and just started playing my own music. Being able to play your own music certainly makes sure that a game does not get repetitive fast. It's something that games like GTA have figured out. Just add your own music if you're tired of the built in games.

The recent Batman: Arkham Asylum also surprised me in the audio department. But in the case of Batman it wasn't in the music but in the voice acting. Last years Batman: the Dark Knight showed the great Heath Ledger in the role of the Joker. I didn't expect that the voice actors in this game would be any good. Yet Mark Hammill manages to convince me as the Joker. Evil, a genius and also completely mad. His voice adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game and manages to convince me that he is the Joker.

But it's not only Mark Hamill who manages to put up a great performance. The actors who did the voices of Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy also did a great job. Sadly the voice of batman himself does not sound very exiting. Combined however, the quality of all the voice actors in this game does raise the entire game to a higher level.

It's rare to see a game where voice acting is essential to the game. It's often just something that has to be done a few weeks before you meet your deadline by cheap, third rate actors. Or the quality of the voice acting drops dramatically after the dialogues are dubbed. Voice acting is too often an afterthought while it's one of those factors which can raise your game from being an average game to a great game. As such I hope to see more games where just hearing someone talk gives me the shivers and more new games where I want to play the soundtrack all day long.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Biowares missed opportunities

Biowares newest RPG Dragon Age is coming out soon and the reviews are slowly coming in. It's an RPG in the spirit of the old school RGPs and as such it's getting compared to Biowares older games Baldur's Gate 1 & 2. Yet how many of the Dragon Age target audience have played those games? I haven't played them but I've been wanting to play them for a while now. Sadly they are on none of the major online distribution channels.

In comparison, Majesty 2 came out a while ago and the publishers used the old game to create more sales of the sequel. Pre-order Majesty 2 and you get to play the original Majesty for free immediately. I replayed the original game in anticipation of the sequel and it made me want the sequel even more.

Seeing how Baldur's Gate is in the top 5 most wanted games on gog.com I wonder why they do not have a big re-release of Biowares catalogue. There's a niche for classic PC games and the release of a triple A game is the perfect time to put them in the spotlight. More and more publishers seem to realize this. Months prior to the launch of Tropico 3 the two original games were bundled and put on steam. And a few months ago Lucasarts put their old back catalogue on steam.

Players who enjoy playing Dragon Age might also want to try out its spiritual predecessor. If I read a book by a good author I want to read more of him. If I see a good movie I'll be interested in more movies of the same director. And if I play a great game I want to play the developers older games. Biowares older games Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic will surely see a raise in sales the months following Dragon Ages review.

So please Bioware: put those old classics online. I'll be the first to pay you to play them. As it is now you're just loosing money. People who want to play these classics are forced to buy them second handed. Give us the option to give our money to the developers!