August 2003

May the force be with me

A few things are synonymous with Star Wars: Geeks, light sabers, and crappy games. This is the unfortunate truth because Lucas Arts seems to love to put out games that use the Star Wars title just to sell a few copies. Unfortunate as it is, the low standard has become accepted, as it was set by all the previous Star Wars games. Sure, some good ones have come out, but nothing that lived up to the standard that the movies set or filled the potential that the movies provided. In steps, Bioware, (a personal favorite of mine) who is most known for the Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate series, improved in large strides the genre of the Star Wars game. Bioware is the originator of the Aurora Engine that lets turn based actions proceed in real time by doing all the calculations unseen and extremely rapidly. They have focused their biggest efforts on the world of Dungeons and Dragons, with the engine made specifically to bring the tried and true method of dice rolling into a game. With this engine being so brilliantly done, Bioware was contracted to develop the newest Star Wars game. Much acclaim was given to the decision of Bioware being the developer, seeing how Bioware itself has many fans. This combined with the multitude of Star Wars fanatics, this game was sure to please.

Dungeons and Dragons Meets Star Wars

Sounds like the biggest mark fest for geeks across the world, however Bioware was able to meld the two together to bring a truly fascinating RPG. The base rules are the same, your character upon creation gets a certain number of points to add to his or her attributes. They are all present and accounted for: Dexterity, Strength, Charisma, Constitution, Wisdom, and Intelligence. Same base rules of DnD apply including saving throws to avoid side effects as well as item and character powerups you can equip. Those familiar with the system will feel right at home. Those not familiar with the DnD system will find it to be extremely well thought out and customizable. Of course your character gets more points with leveling up as well as Feats they can use to learn more skills such as two weapon fighting and sniper shots. While the Feats are a bit different then those in DnD they have been modified to fit the Star Wars universe. This makes for extremely customizable characters. I found myself already planning my support characters and from the get go I wanted my main character to wield two short lightsabers. For character creation junkies this will be appreciated.

Tasks at hand

This game is an RPG though and though. You will be required to partake in certain tasks to advance the main storyline as well as your characters. The side quests are quick and challenging and allow many opportunities to gain experience. Often times you will run into one of the fun puzzles that end quests. For those familiar with Neverwinter Nights, you will find them very entertaining and challenging puzzles. Some puzzles extremely creative such as solving murders, computer hacking, and memory games. There are very few dull moments in questing. The main storyline itself is done brilliantly. As your character develops over time you will be giving decisions to make regarding the storyline. Your decisions affect your character greatly. You can either have your character go light or darkside of the force. Your decisions will constantly shift moving your more light or darkside and as such the look of your character will even cha

Two swords or one?

Star Wars is well represented in the look and feel of the game. Character modeling, item modeling, and over all design is well done. The game’s lighting and animations are top notch, as well as every item that is equipable is represented on your character. Personally I am an item junkie. I will find myself running around in my favorite looking armor regardless of defense rating, I am all about the look of my character. I would say the only flaw in the game would be that the crisp graphics in no way shape or form stay crisp when close ups are involved. Unfortunately there are plenty of close ups where textures get significantly ugly.

Grab it where you can

This is one of the best games I have played in quite some time. Like I said before, this is an RPG through and through. Quest junkies, Hack and Slashers, and of course Star Wars fans will all find it appealing. I love many aspects of this game and hate none, and that is impressive if you know me. I can find very few faults in this game and I recommend everyone getting it. It is fun, replayable, and hell… its Star Wars! Being a Jedi kicks ass no matter what it is. In this game you can be multiple Jedi, enough reason to spend your money. A Pickle favorite easy.

Good week in the industry as well as for Snackbar. As some of you know we went to the Austin Gaming Expo last week and we were able to see first hand the results of the show for our site. We have had about 25 new registered members to our forums, and were mentioned on both Slash dot as well as Gone Gold. The Snackbar name is getting out to the masses and the response is very positive. Funny thing is that Soda, Cone and I just wanted to do something with our free time so we started Snackbar up. It’s kind of exploded now with us reaching 7500 unique visits last month. Also we started a new section in our forums for forum articles. Every person on our forums can now write for the site at any time. We will pick some of the best to feature on our actual site. We are waiting for this to pick up so I posted two forum articles in there. I would encourage everyone to try it out.

While we mentioned it earlier in our news Knights of the Old Republic is the best selling title of the year. This game is everything it was hyped to be and more. It just goes to show how awesome Bioware is. During the first two weeks the game sold more then 270,000 units. Needless to say Xbox reps are marking out as we speak.

For you sports fans the incomparable Madden series was honored this week. The latest version of A

I realize Mark of Kri is not a new game but if you read the news on our site then you would know that I just got around to picking this one up. I was pretty jazzed about it when I first saw it and then I made the massive mistake of actually listening to someone’s opinion on the game. “It sucks man, you don’t want that game”. This was obviously before I had decided that my game taste is unique enough that I have to try out almost every game for myself and not take anyone’s word for it. So I decided to try the game for myself; I traded in Enter the Matrix and got a killer deal on Mark of Kri.

Such Wonderful Environments.

If you don’t know the story behind Mark of Kri, join the club because it has a story line that unfolds as you play. All you know upon starting the game is that Rau, the main character, has grown up at an Inn with his adoptive father. They also reveal something about a dark spell that was broken up and hidden to prevent its abuse. So basically, you have 2 small pieces of the story and the rest is revealed thru the game. Dan Mueller, one of the associate producers, described it like this:

All we can really tell you at this time is that, well, it’s no cutesy fairy tale: I don’t think people are skinned alive in cutesy fairy tales.*

Alright, so we just got a guarantee for some wonderful carnage.

One of the first things you will notice is that the 3d world is absolutely gorgeous. It is not without its flaws though. One of my biggest annoyances with the game was the way that the environment didn’t look seamless. As you are running thru the forest, you can see where each plane of the environment meets as there is a tiny white line that appears enough to bug me. Strike one. I have played plenty of 3d platform and slasher games on the PS2 to know that they probably could have put a little more effort into it and fixed that. Then again, I could just be anal.

Sword meets throat.

The next key thing to the game is the incredibly unique combat system. Let’s suffice to say that it is one of the most flexible and simple combat systems in any 3d game I have played to date. I hate quoting people in reviews, but I really hate doing it twice, but Dan Mueller described it perfectly:

It works like this. While our combat system contains a lot of depth, it is quite easy to pick up and use. Simply sweep the right analog stick toward the enemies, then press the X circle or square button. It’s that simple. You see, by sweeping the right analog stick, a heat beam extends from Rau, the hero, and assigns attack buttons to the enemies it contacts. So if X was assigned to an enemy, simply press the X button, and no matter what enemy you are facing, and no matter where the X enemy is standing, Rau will know just the strike to take him on.*

Running would be a good idea here.

At the start of the game you are forced to endure a tutorial tha
lets you get familiar with the combat system. As you progress you learn just how flexible it is. Your first multi-enemy battles will seem chaotic and you will feel like a button masher, it gets better. While I was a skeptic at first, after using the combat system, I have to give them 2 thumbs up. Awesome job on thinking outside the box.

Gotta look around and make sure nobody saw me pin this guy to the wall w/ my sword.

As for the rest of the controls, they are pretty simplistic and my only complaint arises with the speed in which Rau turns around (180 degree turn).

Somebody lost his head.

One important aspect of the game that I have yet to mention is Rau’s spirit guide, Kuzo. Kuzo is a bird that Rau can use to see what enemies lay in store for him. There are certain perches that Kuzo can land on that are marked. From these perches you can look around and plan your course of action for disposing of said enemies. This is such an important part because you have to determine which weapon and technique will best dispose of the enemies. The importance of Kuzo becomes more clear as you progress in the game. In addition to this role, Kuzo can also retrieve save scrolls, pull levers, and lower ladders that will help Rau in his journey.

I would totally be lying to you if I said that this game was a breeze. The save scrolls do help in quite a tremendous way be allowing you to pick up in the middle of a level. The levels in this game can be incredibly long and require a combination of stealth and all out slashing to complete. You are also given a list of goals to accomplish in each level. Completing these goals unlocks secrets in the game. There will be parts in the game that you will have to play more than one time and it can get frustrating, so use your save scrolls, after all that is what they are there for. As a side note, I don’t have the patience for most stealth games (Splinter Cell, MGS, etc.) and the stealth aspects of Mark of Kri did not bother me one bit. Probably because the stealth kills are incredibly violent and more of a treat than a chore.

I have addressed most of the game, but I will leave you with this, the game is fun. The mix of brutality and stealth are a welcome addition to this 3d action game. The combat system is unique and implemented perfectly. While the game is not without its flaws, I was able to cope with them and enjoy the game. No matter what I have been trying to play lately, I always ended up playing Ratchet and Clank. Mark of Kri actually held my attention and my thirst in a way that allowed me to break free of the chains of 3d platformers for the time being. It is definitely one of the most overlooked games out for the PS2 right now and a definite purchase for all PS2 owners.

*excerpts w/ Dan Mueller taken from this interview

The first annual Austin Gaming Expo (AGE) was this past Saturday, July 26, 2003, and we here at Snackbar Games made our first public appearance. Since this was the first AGE, nobody was really sure what kind of turn out to expect. In the end, I believe we had over 2,000 people in attendance over the 10 hours of the show. All in all I think it was a huge success for everyone involved and especially for one lucky winner of the Snackbar Games Xbox Raffle.

My Saturday started long before anyone else’s. You see, we were still wrapping things up for the Expo the Friday night before. I made the wonderful mistake of putting the base of the sign off until the last minute and so I was relegated to finishing it on Friday, at midnight. Things went from bad to worse when I broke it and had to improvise. Needless to say I got to bed about 4:30am and got up about 6am to head up to Austin. So it felt as though my Saturday started about 7am on Friday when I got up for work that day. Needless to say it was a long but excellent day.

So after arriving in Austin, we setup the booth and proceeded to wait for the masses. Dots and I just kinda hung out at the table while everyone took a look around before the doors opened. Apparently right before 10am, the lines in the lobby stretched all the way outside. I would say that is a pretty impressive feat for a first year show. At any rate, the doors opened and the flood of people came in. Thus began the beginning of the end.

I don’t think that any of us had anticipated the amount of work it was to sit at a table for 10 hours and tell people about the site. We even made up a sweet looking sign for the table, but in the end we all ended up just shy of hoarse and tired of talking. Of course, there was much confusion about who we were and what we really did. We had several people think we were a development group and thus we were asked what games we were working on. We kindly let them know what the SB was all about. We all took turns walking around, manning the booth, and passing out things to people still waiting in line to get in. We all had our interesting conversations and got to meet some ultra cool people. I apologize to anyone that I forget, I was not all there at the expo and thus, I may have forgotten your name. A few of the people we met at the expo:

I know I already mentioned Black Chopper in a news post this week but they are nearing completion on their Classic Console Adapter (CCA). The CCA will convert your classic console controllers into USB for use on your computer with an emulator. I don’t think I need to reiterate our stance on piracy and Black Chopper is very clear in their faq about how this relates to the legality of emulation and copyrights. This is definately a cool product and I eagerly await its completion.

There was quite a bit to see at the AGE in terms of old school hardware and one of the highlights was the AGE Museum. The AGE museum had on display every console from the Magnavox Odyssey thru the current generation consoles. I tried my best to get clear pictures of all the consoles on display so be sure to check out those pics. Serious props to the guys who managed to round up all those consoles

Another show highlight was our very own Wraith making it to the fi
nals of the Lan’s Edge Halo FFA Tourney. Wraith didn’t win but he did a superb job of representing the SB.

I know many of you are reading this just to see the AGE pictures and without further adu, here are links to galleries on our site,,, and AGE:

I can guarantee you that there is probably a lot more that I would have addressed had I gotten a full night’s sleep and I apologize for that. Next year I will make sure I am fully rested so I can do a better job of documenting the expo. The official AGE site should have a more comprehensive wrapup online in the next few days or so.

I also want to say thanks to everyone for stopping by the booth and especially to those of you who made the raffle such a succes. Congratulations to Asher Friedman for winning the raffle, and entering more times than anyone else with a whopping 16 tickets. For more info on the Austin Gaming Expo head on over to See you guys at AGE 2004!

P.S. I remember talking to several people that were supposed to email me for reasons varying from hosting a game in our downloads section to helping spread the word about your tournament. So mix in dropping me an email people.