Could Homefront 2 be good? A tale of hype, parties, and disappointment

When I first heard about Homefront, I thought the premise sounded interesting. You’re part of the resistance, fighting against the Greater Korean Republic’s occupation of most of what was formerly the United States. According to the game, Kim Jong-un rules North Korea after Kim Jong-il dies. After a war breaks out in the middle east affecting oil supply, most first-world countries are thrown into disarray. Kim Jong-un reunites the divided Koreas into the Greater Korean Republic, takes over Japan, and eventually takes annexes most of Southeast Asia. As the economy of the United States deteriorates, the GKR hits the United States with a huge EMP, launches an amphibious attack on the US’s west coast, and drops soldiers over much of the US.

If the story wasn’t enough to hype me, the party was. I went to E3 the year THQ was pushing Homefront. In fact, THQ was huge. They had the largest presence of any third-party video game software company. I was invited to attended THQ’s Homefront party which was on the roof of a large hotel. I was greeted by the sight of Korean flags and Korean soldiers guarding the hotel. After getting in line, I was given my rights booklet, Subject’s Guide from Your Glorious Occupiers of the New Korean Federation. This booklet outlined my rights under the New Korean Federation and gave an idea of what the world in the game would be like. We were then escorted to the rooftop where there were a few soldiers but mostly a lively party. There was a bar, lots of food (including Pink’s Hot Dogs), and a rooftop pool. A Japanese man who spoke little English walked right into the pool thinking it was glass-covered. Not only did he manage to keep his drinks from spilling, but he also drank them as soon as he stopped laughing. He was a good sport! At one point in the evening, Korean guards marched US prisoners of war through the party. Of course, they were booth babes scantily clad female soldiers.

This had the effect THQ and developer Kaos Studios indended; I was hyped about the game. No, I wasn’t about to lie and give it a gleaming review without playing it, but I was sure excited and willing to try it. When it was finally released, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

I played the PC version, developed my Digital Extremes. It was full of many bugs, which largely consisted of terrible AI. I remember two parts in particular. Once, I was told to climb a ladder. Try as I might, I couldn’t get my character to start climbing. When I turned around, I was trapped my a friendly NPC and couldn’t get past him. After much maneuvering, I managed to get past him, and he began to climb the ladder. Only then was I allowed to climb the ladder. Apparently I was supposed to follow that NPC. Never mind the fact that I reached the ladder first. At another point, I was in a closed area, a stadium perhaps, fighting enemy soldiers. After I killed the soldiers, the game played the sound effect that indicated I had killed the last enemy and reached a checkpoint. However, nothing else happened. Usually there was some dialogue as the game progressed. I wandered around a little and came across an enemy performing the same half second animation over and over, clearly stuck. I killed him, and the game played that same little sound again. This time the game let me continue.

No bug was absolutely game-breaking, but it was disappointing to see terrible AI and glitches. In addition, parts of the story were a little dumb such as vehicle-related segments that seemed out of place. Worse yet, I never did understand how the Greater Korean Republic managed to take such a massive country as the United States.

Still, the plot was interesting, and the game was moderately fun. The single-player consisted of a six-hour campaign that ended on a high note without actually ending the war. It was the perfect setup for a continuing series.

Looking back on it now, it sounds decent enough. However, I know I felt pretty angry at it at the time. I’m sure I’m forgetting specifics about how annoying the bugs were, but I think the fact that the game was hyped so much made it feel even worse when the game didn’t turn out to be fantastic. In June of 2011 I wrote that Homefront was on sale on Steam for 50% off at $24.99 and was definitely not worth the price. I claimed that you should borrow it from someone or wait until it’s on sale for $2. (The game is currently $19.99, and I have mixed feelings. That still seems a bit high!)

The reviews were mixed, but mine was lower than average. However, most people realized that the game didn’t live up to THQ’s claims. There were also problems for Kaos Studios. Rob Zacny of Polygon wrote a fascinating piece on Polygon back in November of 2012 about the development of Homefront titled Death March: The Long, Tortured Journey of Homefront. It’s an excellent read for anyone interested in how management of a game development team can go sour.

Most people probably know that THQ has fallen from its mighty heights. Earlier this month THQ sold the rights to its intellectual properties to the highest bidders. Alexander Sliwinski of Joystiq reports that the Homefront IP was purchased by Crytek for half a million dollars. Why are they interested? Crytek has been developing Homefront 2.

I’m curious about what this means. Samit Sarkar wrote a piece on Polygon about Nick Button-Brown, general manager of games at Crytek, speaking to VG247 about the sale and Homefront 2. Butter-Brown claims that “progress is great” and that Crytek purchased the Homefront IP “because the game is coming along so well.” The game must be looking good for Crytek to invest half a million dollars in purchasing the IP, right? This gives me hope. Or at least, it did when I first thought about it.

Crytek has spent time and money developing Homefront 2. The Joystiq piece I linked earlier specifically shows that there was no runner-up for the bid of the Homefront property. If no one purchased Homefront (or if someone else put in a very low bid), it would be likely that Homefront 2 would be canceled, and Crytek’s time and money would have been wasted. If Homefront 2 makes at least half a million dollars, they’ll be breaking even. The game could be flop, and it might still be worth the half a million dollars that Crytek invested.

Why didn’t other companies bid? Was it because the game is looking bad or because sales are expected to be low regardless? I don’t know for sure, but the fact there was no runner-up looks bad to me. On the other hand, critics have received Crytek’s games much better than they received Homefront.

While it’s too soon to know for sure, I think there’s hope for Homefront. I’m far from convinced, but I’ll keep an eye on it.


Looking back at the PSP

I bought my metallic blue PSP-1000 on a whim at Anime Expo a number of years ago. I went straight to the NIS booth. They knew me a little because my girlfriend was a tester at the time, and I told them that I just bought it and wanted any game just because I was anxious to play it. I asked which of their games they recommended. The woman helping me told me to buy a game from a different company.

I bought Aedis Eclipse, and it was okay. During the intro there was a typo. My girlfriend told me she had actually reported that one, but I guess it didn’t get fixed.

My favorite PSP game, and one of my favorite games ever, is also by NIS, although my girlfriend had nothing to do with this one. Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero has all the NIS humor and animation charm but in a challenging platformer rather than a SRPG. You start the game with 1000 lives, and that’s that. If you run out on the last level, too bad. Luckily I finished without running out of lives. I wish I wrote down how many lives I had at the end. I love the humor, and I’m a huge fan of big, gorgeous sprites. Platformers are also one of my favorite genres, so that helps.

Another fantastic game is LocoRoco. You tilt the world left and right by using the L and R buttons to roll the LocoRoco characters towards the goal. It’s very cute and charming, and I love the art style. The best aspect though is the demos. Besides a regular demo, there’s a Christmas themed demo and a Halloween demo as well. I played each of those on their respective holidays for years. Sadly, I haven’t played them the last couple years because I never have my PSP charged or even anywhere easy to find, but I still find them great holiday games.

I hope these two recommendations help someone to discover these games!

Originally posted at Select Button.

Reset explores submissive relationships in a cyborg future

Lydia Neon’s Twine game, Reset, explores submissive relationships in a future where people have cyborg implants. I don’t have any firsthand experience with that type of relationship, but I found the game very interesting for both the relationship roles and the science fiction. The story is told through a simple webpage using Twine, which creates interactive stories. Check it out!

Reset by Lydia Neon

Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game sprites

Kinuko, one of the artists behind Scott Pilgrim vs the World: The Game, created all the NPCs in the game. She shared some of the sprites on her Tumblr, so I thought I’d share the link. Note that this entry is fine, but her Tumblr in general is NOT safe for work.

Kinuko, Scott Pilgrim: The Game NPC Sprites, Kinuko’s Tumblr, 9/2012.

Kinuko also draws as part of Mecha Fetus (note that the Mecha Fetus Visublog is very, incredibly not safe for work). They created the Nice Girls Nice Hats art book that I purchased at Anime Expo a few years ago – 2009 maybe. Anyways, they’re all very talented artists!

Minesweeper and Windows 8 gaming


I finally added a Microsoft account on my computer and downloaded software from the Microsoft Store. It was Minesweeper. I know it looks a bit different in that screenshot, but that’s actually because I put a theme on it. It’s annoying not being able to play it on top of other things thanks to the way the new interface works in Windows 8, and it’s also the first time I’ve consistently used software not in Desktop mode. But I did have a reason.

Minesweeper achievements

It’s an Xbox game. It’s part of Xbox Games for Windows, which means it has achievements and leaderboards. This one also has additional medals and daily challenges. As far as I can tell, medals are basically achievements but don’t grant any gamerscore. Regardless, this was enough to entice me.

Adventure mode

There’s even a strange adventure mode. It’s basically the same but is skinned to look like an adventure game. Plus you earn extra points for picking up gold. Yeah, I really don’t know. It’s mildly amusing though.

I don’t intend to oversell Minesweeper. It’s effectively the same Minesweeper as always with some achievements. What’s more interesting is the idea of Xbox Games for Windows. I look forward to seeing more games come to Windows featuring leaderboards and achievements!