The Squad is your Life – Longo joins 343

Some exciting news I found over at Sal’s site (HaloFanForLife) – 343 Industries has a new Creative Director, and his name is Tim Longo (Jr.).

That’s right – the Tim Longo.

What? Never heard of him you say? Well, neither had I. But it turns out I have enjoyed some of his work…

Delta Squad

Previously he was Creative Director of a little game called Star Wars: Republic Commando which was (in my opinion) one of the best Star Wars games ever made – not only because its story was so well done but it was a good FPS in its own right.

The game had fantastic squad mechanic, where you could order the other members of your team to make a coordinated effort to … well, the Wikipedia entry does a better job of explaining:

The game features some gameplay elements that resemble features in other first-person shooters, including Metroid Prime, and Halo. The heads-up display (HUD) in the game resembles the Metroid Prime helmet display and the player sees the world through visor. The usage of health and recharging shields, as well as the general combat gameplay, resemble styles seen in Halo.

An unusual feature is that blood from enemies (or lubricant fluid in the case of mechanical opponents) dispatched at close quarters that will splash onto the helmet visor, can slightly obstruct vision until an energy-based “windshield wiper” cleans it off at intervals of a few seconds.

The squadmate order system allows the player general tactical control over the three NPC squadmates that round out the four-man commando team. The order system resembles a simplified version of the context-based command menus seen in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear.

Many objects in the game environment will highlight when the crosshair is placed over them. The player can then press the use key to issue an order automatically associated with the object; for example, a sealed door may highlight with a synchronized team breach-and-clear command, or a computer console might give have a “slice” (computer hacking) command, while a pile of cargo boxes suitable for a cover position with good vantage may provide a “take up Sniper/Anti-Armor position” command. Where possible, the squadmates will usually take their preferred roles (sniper, demolitions and technical). The player can also order the squad to move to secure any position (wherever the crosshair is pointed), or perform search-and-destroy. Also, there are orders to command the squadmates to group up or spread out according to the player’s discretion for the situation.

Now read that again, but read it thinking about how all this goodness could be brought to the next Halo.

See what I mean?

The potential is exciting – not that the exact mechanics of Republic Commando have to make there way to Halo, but that perhaps part of the great experience that Commando offered would come to the land of Forerunners and Firefights.

(I thought it worth mentioning that Tim Longo was also Creative Director/Franchise Director on the recent Tomb Raider reboot, and while I haven’t personally played the game I’ve heard good things.)

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Cerebrations of the past tense

Originally posted at GameSpot on November 19, 2007

(Or, recent thoughts I’ve been meaning to get in here but haven’t had the time.)

These are not in order of importance, just simply how they’ve come into my brain:

Able to see World in Conflict over at my brother-in-law’s house a few weeks ago – the game was just as amazing as the GameSpot review made it out to be. The first thing that struck me was the graphics – stunning. The detail of the terrain, weather effects, lighting, and the smoothness at which the game ran was fantastic. True, he has a state-of-the-art PC that can handle the heavy load – but even at a lower resolution things would have looked great. The level he showed me also had some fun game play, which kept things moving with good voice acting and high drama. All that being said, it was a treat to see what’s currently out there as far as high-quality RTS.

On that same PC, he booted up Medieval II: Total War for me as well. Shogun Total War is one of my all-time favorite games, and I eventually hope to own the entire Total War series. Until then, however, this small taste will have to tide me over. Simply put, I can’t wait. It’s worth noting, however, that this game (from what I could tell) was more of what I was used to playing Shogun, just beefed up and expanded. That’s not to take away from the game at all – in fact, I see it as a compliment. I hope to spend many future hours with Medieval II and the whole series.

A few memories of old Tom Clancy games. My brother-in-law had the gold edition of the first Rainbow Six – a title I used to own – with all his other games. I never could really get into that game. If I had to nail it down, it probably was because I wasn’t that good at it. All the planning, all the map points, all the trial and error – it just didn’t add up to a fun experience. It came down to me executing a well-laid plan – and then doing just as well without said plan and shooting anything that moved.

I had to take back Band of Brothers. I appreciate the need to be realistic, but having the characters swear at least once every sentence made me pop and game out and take it right back to the store. To be fair, the first sequence in the game drops you right in the middle of a battle, and there’s no doubt a heavy amount of loud swearing would be taking place in that situation. Also, to be fair, I’m a father now – and I can’t have that crap on in the background. It’s too bad – I was really looking forward to getting into that game for awhile.

Currently playing Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, and I’m stuck at the second battle against Gothmog. I know I’ll re-visit this thought when I finish the game, but it’s not really “fun” to play. I love the source material, but that’s what carries me through. On its own, I would have stopped playing a while ago. There are some perks that stick out, and I’m glad I’ve been able to see them: 1.) Fighting (or playing as) the Balrog was sweet. His animation is done extremely well; I really feel like he’s a powerful enemy when he steps up to the plate. 2.) A sense of “being there.” Oh, it doesn’t happen a lot in the game – but when the sunset hits the wall of Helm’s Deep just right, I feel like I’m in the movie. 3.) Since the characters are the same models used in The Two Towers and Return of the King, I feel like I’m playing with weather-worn friends when they show up. I played as those characters for hours on the other games, so there’s a “welcome back” feeling when they join my party for a battle in The Third Age.

Unfortunately, a strong feeling of being boxed in by the game, big differences in difficulty from one second to the next, and a weak story (with Tolkien’s literature as a backdrop? How could they have a weak story?!) crush any of these small joys from making it a fun game. Will I ever finish it? Yes. Will I ever play it again? No.

We had a couple over this past Friday and they brought the Wii. I’ve been able to play the Wii at several friends’ houses’ and I really enjoy the console. I mean, you’ve got to love a gaming system that makes bowling that fun. My wife and I were also able to introduce them to Halo, and that was a lot of fun as well. I love that moment when someone says, “Well, we better get going…what time is it…12:40!? Just one of the many reasons why I enjoy this form of entertainment.

Warmed up Fable: The Lost Chapters and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty: Substance this past weekend. Not really playing, just looking around. I wandered around a little in Fable, and watched the cut scenes from MGS2. I don’t have the time to play these games through again at this point, but a little remembrance tour always makes me feel good.

Post tenebras lux