Will my retirement from
wrestling prove to be the best move I ever made, or the biggest mistake? Hoping to
prove otherwise comes "Popscene" - a music simulator in the mould of the
Wrestling MPire series. God knows the music business has just as
many vibrant personalities as wrestling does, so let's see what they could
be getting up to...
The Best Of The Best
It wouldn't be
the music industry without the occasional awards ceremony! Every now and then you're treated to a special event that
honours the "Best Single", "Best Album", and "Best Artist". It's all superbly
executed too - with a different star introducing each category, reading out the
nominations, and then declaring the lucky winner. The camera then scans the
crowd, and by the time it returns the victor is at the podium delivering some
words of his own. A cool touch here is that there are several different
comments. Some acknowledge the label and its owner, some thank the support of
friends - and some even take the opportunity to taunt their enemies (trust
Eminem to be the first person to do that in testing!). Speaking of support,
it's the whole band that goes up to the podium - which is another nice touch.
The whole gimmick is great for a bit of comic relief, and also as one of the few
ways to see your peers in the flesh, but it does have real game implications. The
winner enjoys a boost in popularity and happiness - not to mention soaring
records sales if they're promoting a record! It's possible for you to be that
lucky winner, but it's far from guaranteed. When the event is announced in the
press, you might find that you're not even nominated. Chasing that recognition
is another great thing to play for...
In addition to award ceremonies, our popstars are also no stranger
to the inside of a courtroom! This highly entertaining new feature places you
right there whenever there's a legal dispute in your career. You'd be surprised
how often that is. Former employees can sue you for "unfair dismissal", or claim
the rights to songs that were produced during their time. Even complete
strangers are inclined to make wild accusations if they think there's something to
be gained! Whenever these issues arise, a court date is set and that's where
it's settled. It's a frighteningly random process, where the judge listens to
each defendant and then rules one way or the other. You often find yourself
suffering at the hands of bogus claims. However, it's a great twist on the
gameplay that stresses out even the most successful career...
Nip & Tuck
The sub-plots can even extend to
the hospital when you feel it's time for plastic surgery! You can change
costumes at any time, but if you want to change the body underneath then things
aren't quite so simple. You have to come to this spin-off of the editing screen,
which is dedicated to your face and body. In real-time, you change whatever
you'd like and see the results take effect on your hospitalized character. The
surgeon then reminds you how much it'll cost, and once you confirm it the
changes are done. You then return to the standard editor where you can throw
some clothes onto your new body. If you have a sex change then that's essential!
In addition to causing a dent in your bank balance, the process also
hospitalizes the character for a couple of weeks - so it's not to be entered
into lightly. It's basically a comical feature that you can waste your money on
when you've got nothing better to do. However, as in the wrestling games,
characters do change shape over time - and this is your only way of turning back
The Way You Move
As the game draws towards
completion, I've been spending most of my time piling in the content. Dozens of
news events, meetings, and court cases have been implemented - so many that
you'd have to play through the game dozens of times to see them all! More
importantly, I've also been adding performance styles. Until recently there were
different speeds of the same old animations, but now there are completely unique
animations for each style - from rap and rock to sexy ballads. There are also
different animations for each kind of band member. In addition to the
vocalist, others like guitarists and dancers also have their own
interpretation of the style - which keeps everything nice and consistent.
That said, the gimmick is strictly for your own amusement because it has
absolutely nothing to do with your progress! It's just that
choosing the right one makes the performances more convincing - and ensures that
you enjoy them as much as the audience...
The Battle Of The Bands
Another thing that's making the
game feel more complete is that the characters are piling up nicely.
There's already over 100 unique artists scattered across the 6 talent
pools - and there could be almost twice that in the final version. There's
still no shortage of familiar faces either. Everybody from The Beatles
to The Spice Girls have put in an appearance - plus dozens of
fictitious characters that you can mould as you see fit. There's even a
handful of novelty characters that aren't even part of the music business!
Thanks to the many sub-plots, you can also come across a doctor, a judge,
a radio DJ, and a Hollywood agent. Not to mention a certain game developer
who wants to buy your songs for a videogame! The relationships play a
bigger part than ever too, with a tangled web of alliance and rivalries
encompassing the entire musical world. It's easier to sign friendly faces,
yet almost impossible to sign those you've wronged. With so many court
cases flying around, you'd be surprised how many that turns out to be...
Dancing In The Dark
You know the game is on the
home straight when you're already thinking about the publishing! I can
exclusively reveal that the game's artwork features a series of cool
little silhouettes - not unlike the one seen in the original logo all
those years ago. It's the latest in a long line of presentation break-through's
that have assured this is the smoothest looking game yet. Everything's
refreshingly different and leaves no doubt that we're entering a new era
of projects. You should find out for yourselves soon enough, because this
is almost certainly the last preview before the big official one! All that
remains is a lot of testing and polishing to make sure that the game hits
Welcome To The Jungle
One of the biggest developments
in recent weeks is that the world has been finalized. As ever, the selection is
a little clichéd - but not bad for somebody who's got more important things to
be worrying about.
Introducing Epic Talent (the star-studded legends stable), Super
Sounds (the stereotypical pop label), Rock-out Records (indy, rock,
and metal), Urban Records (hip hop), The Underground (unemployed
losers), and Legacy Records (rest in peace). Not only does each label
have its own style of artist, but they also have other specialties - much like
those from Wrestling MPire. Some give you generous pay-off's, whilst
others are generous with each type of royalty - so you really feel the
difference between deals. The rosters are the real deal-breaker though. It's ten
times easier (and cheaper) to work with somebody if they're your label mate, so
you'll often find yourself following your idols...
The Best Of The Best
Speaking of the rosters, they too
are filling out nicely. The range of costumes is 90% complete, so I find myself
able to make almost anybody that springs to mind. There are plenty of familiar
faces, spanning many genres and eras, but also plenty of fictional characters
for you to mould as you see fit. As ever, their stats fluctuate over time - so
it's fun seeing people rise and fall! To help you keep track of it all, the
"Database" screen has been implemented in this game too. Here you can browse the
top 10 in any category, to discover who's the best in the world and at each
The Property Ladder
Everything seems to be coming
together at this point in the game's development. The range of venues is yet
another aspect to have been finalised. The addition of a "Hall" location
finishes it off. This one falls nicely between the stadiums and the bars. It's
not glamorous, but it is a welcome stepping stone for any growing act. The
attendance system has also been implemented, and it's accurately linked to how
popular you are. There are 4 levels of attendance for each location, which has a
noticeable effect on the crowd volume and graphics. As you'd expect, each venue
has a unique capacity. Some might be beneath you, whilst others are beyond your
means. Treading that line is all part of paying your dues...
One other new venue is the office
itself! As in real life, there are occasions when you can take matters into your
own hands and barge into the offices of a label. The bewildered boss gives you
one song to prove yourself - after which he'll either agree to talk about a
deal, or send you home with a soul-destroying putdown! It's basically a
glorified way of entering contract negotiations when you're on the underground
circuit. Now that the range of venues is well and truly done, there's a "CD
Player" option that allows you to select any artist, at any location - and then
perform songs from a favourite CD with no strings attached. It's basically this
game's version of an "exhibition", where you go to simply enjoy the animated
Make Or Break
Another by-product of the venues being completed is that the booking system has
materialized too. It's here that you talk to your label boss about filling up
your schedule. Much like a contract negotiation, you suggest a location and a
number of songs you'd be willing to perform - and he delivers the verdict. He
might argue that you're not popular enough to sell out a stadium, or that your
material is too weak to warrant a headline set. All the bickering to get your
own way is a game in itself! Fortunately, it's not all down to you. Once you're
signed to a label, you often get asked if you'd like to perform here and there -
and your only concern is whether or not to accept. All in all, the feature has
become an integral part of the game. It's yet another responsibility that keeps
you interested in your progress...
With up to a dozen unique
locations filling up your time, it's a good job that the Calendar screen now has
icons for each one! You can clearly see where you're going to be performing and
when. There are even additional icons - such as whether or not it's a tribute or
charity event. Another fine detail in the booking system is that you can't swamp
the schedules with one type of show. Even if you're a superstar, you've got to
book a good variety of venues. Speaking of the calendar system, not only does it
now detect the real-life month and year, but it also finds the exact week too!
It feels like a spooky coincidence when you start the game in real time...
Not all venues are there for
performing though. An amusing new feature, as promised, is that you can shoot
your own album covers! It's basically a glorified screenshot system, where you
start up a mock show (at a location configured by you) and then set up the shot
with the camera controls. It's all very well done and easy to use - and the
results aren't so bad either. It features the label's logo, your act's name, and
the album's name. It even features a "Parental Advisory" sticker if you've got a
bad reputation! The whole thing is then scaled down to the size shown above,
which is convenient for use elsewhere in the game. You might think the effect
leaves a lot to be desired, but that's just the last resort option. These images
are saved to hard drive as JPG's, so you can then go in there and replace them
with a more professional design! If you're recreating a real band or album, you
could even scan in the real artwork...
One of the biggest developments
has been the arrival of this game's news system. As promised, it's an extension
of the magazine gimmick - where daily events are reported on
an authentic front page! Thanks to the extra details that you get on a
newspaper, it's much more effective than the magazine version. It's
infinitely more effective than anything we saw in the wrestling games too -
thanks to dedicated headlines as well as the usual text. Although it seems like
a trivial feature, it's actually a very important part of the game. It's here
that you learn where artists are working, who they're collaborating (or breaking
up) with, how their skills are developing - and as ever, whether or not they're
still breathing! You also get plenty of vital information about your own status
- such as being notified that a new song has emerged. Going back to fatalities,
the "Tribute" and "Charity" shows have also been implemented. It's pretty much a
re-run of what we saw in the wrestling games, where your boss asks you whether
or not you want to take part. If you do, you end up playing at a heart-warming
show - where the deceased artist haunts you from the video screen. All, of
course, for no reward except the respect of your peers...
The End Of An Era
The newspaper gimmick was so
successful that I've even incorporated it into the retirement process too! When
your career comes to an end, your achievements are nicely summarized by the
journalist. He states how long you were in the business for, how many records
you sold, and how much money you made. All the above will probably feature in a
"Hall Of Fame" ranking - but, after the charts AND the database, I'm fairly sick
of doing those things! We'll have to wait and see on that. In the meantime, your
most important concern is how your retirement happens. As in the wrestling
games, you can retire whenever you want - but it's also possible to have your
career ended by the powers that be. I haven't implemented it yet, but the
"mission" system is promised to return - where you have to jump through hoops to
keep your job. Even underground artists won't be safe from them, as the weary
boss might give you a limited time to land a deal before he gives up on you...
Slave To Fashion
I'll leave you with news of the
latest fashions. The editor now has a couple of useful new hat options. You can
have cool twists on the headwear, such as dipped and to the side - and they're
available for both caps and hats. They suit guys like Jay-Z and Usher much
better than the standard versions. Elsewhere, there are literally too many new
outfits to mention. The women have plenty of skimpy costumes to enjoy -
including a new crop top design, which is more feminine than a standard vest.
There's also Michael Jackson's red "Beat It" jacket, which has actually come in
handy for plenty of other artists (in fact, he doesn't even wear it himself!).
Forget the costumes though, because these guys should be more worried about
their faces. It's now possible to wrinkle over time. It starts to kick in by the
age of 40, but by the time they're 60 they look like zombies! I had to implement
the feature, because there were dozens of old-timers that were just as
fresh-faced as their young counterparts. Speaking of losing your looks, there's
talk of a plastic surgery feature soon! Once again, the Face texture is one of
the few you can't change - but, with a little money, this feature will give you
the opportunity. You'll even be able to use it to change body shapes (even
extending to sex changes!)...
The recent developments have
involved a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff - which, although important, isn't
particularly interesting. The product of that work is the new "Publishing"
system. It allows you to choose which album to work on, configure it to your
liking, and then release material from it. You can't release the album itself
until you've laid down at least 8 tracks. However, you can release up to 4
singles along the way - which is a great way of funding the project (and
Top Of The
Speaking of singles, the chart
system has just been implemented too. It's very similar to the TV ratings from
the wrestling games - except much more interesting. For a start, it extends to
the Top 20 rather than the Top 10. You'll be glad of the extra slots, because
the competition is fierce in the world of music! Instead of the same preset
entries, the charts can be flooded by any of the hundreds of artists in the
game. There's method to the madness though. Each entry has genuine sales figures
that fluctuate as they would in real life, so it's easy to get a feel for what's
happening out there. It pans out quite realistically too - with some singles
lingering around for months, whilst others are lucky to spend a single week on
the chart. Quite how well your singles do is down to the content. Entertaining
records sell quickly, whereas artistic records are more of a slow burn. It's
interesting to see which approach makes the most money...
In addition to the charts, the
game has another great touch: magazine reviews! Everything, from your albums and
singles through to the performances, can now be scrutinized by the music press.
It's all frighteningly authentic - featuring a whole page of information written
onto a realistic magazine graphic. It all makes sense too - complete with
comments that are based on what your qualities really are! Unfortunately, it
can't go into too much detail. The reviews have to be brief and vague enough to
remain appropriate. They're better than you'd expect though, and succeed in
making the concept even more interesting. To top it all off, the reviews are
accompanied by photos of the actual performance or album cover...
process is actually a glorified version of the aftermath screen from the
wrestling games. It's here that your statistics improve or deteriorate (based on
the verdict). The only difference is that, instead of that awkward office
graphic, you've got this magazine mock-up to look at. The system is so
successful that I'm planning to incorporate it into the news section. Each event
will be reported on a realistic looking front page - complete with relevant
headlines, photos, and text...
The MDickie MPorium
The chart and review gimmicks worked out so well that I've taken things one
final step further - with in-store promotions! As in real life, you can mark the
release of a new CD with a live performance from the actual store. It's a
fantastic little location - complete with racks full of boxes, posters all over
the walls, a check-out nearby, and even a TV set hanging from the ceiling. To
keep it in the family, it's actually a virtual recreation of my own online
store: The MDickie MPorium! If you look closely, boxes of the games
appear all over the place...
The Streets Are Watching
Speaking of "keeping it in the family", Big BumpZ is practically getting
a second life in this game! Yet another stage from that game, the city location,
has resurfaced in Popscene. As you'd expect, it's a re-mastered version
that looks a notch better. Another noticeable difference is that this version has
a crowd stretching out onto the field across the road. At the beginning of your
career, these passers by are practically the only audience you can get - so
you've got to suck it up. It's actually an important location in establishing
the difference between success and failure. When you finally get indoors you
feel like you're getting somewhere...
Hard Day's Night
The streets seem even tougher when you've got to face them at night! Atmosphere
is more prominent in this game than any other, and features heavily in all of
the outdoor locations. There are up to a dozen different ambiences, so it
prevents even the same locations from feeling repetitive. Not that that should
be a problem anyway. I've already got over 10 unique locations - which is twice
as many as I had anticipated...
My work with locations is going so well that I've even returned to the older
ones to recreate them! In light of the awesome festival location, the regular
stadium wasn't cutting it - so I recreated it in the mould of its superior. The
result is a more spectacular stage area and a more formidable crowd. All of
these venues are about to culminate in a fantastic new feature where you have to
book your own concerts! Much like a contract negotiation, you will regularly
have to talk to your label boss about where you want to perform. You suggest the
location and how many songs you'd be willing to perform, and the boss then
delivers his verdict. He might argue that you're not popular enough to sell out
a stadium, or that your material is too weak to warrant a headline set...
I Want You Back
In amongst all of these developments, I've even found time to add yet more
costumes. A modified version of the Jackson Five costume is the latest
addition - complete with an infinitely more realistic face for little Michael.
It's much better than the rushed effort from Wrestling With The Truth.
Other creations include a dubious Prince (sporting a vibrant purple
suit), and plenty of re-mastered costumes - such as a skimpier bikini top for
the women. The characters still aren't the game's strong point, but I'm feeling
much better about them now. They should be fine by the time the game is done.
Exactly when that will be remains to be seen. The July completion date that I
quoted is looking extremely ambitious! I've still got a handful of massive jobs
left to do. A mid-August finish is more likely; followed by an official release
by the end of the month...
The Show Must Go On
The MDickie Show set
has followed in the footsteps of the wrestling arena as a novelty venue! Again,
it's a surprisingly good location (after all, various TV appearances are a must
for promoting a new album). Speaking of venues, chunky amplifiers have been
added to them all to make things look a little more authentic. A nice touch on
the chat show set is that the speakers are slumped over the armchairs in the
The Great Outdoors
TV appearances are insignificant
compared to the latest venue though. Inspired by the recent Glastonbury
festival, the game now has a breathtaking outdoor location! The stage is
beautifully modelled, there's a convincing sky atmosphere, and there are fans as
far as the eye can see. It can be enjoyed at various times of day too. The
location is, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest in the game so far - and
should be the ultimate goal for any artist....
Bash At The Beach
The outdoor gimmick is so good
that I milked it further with a seaside variation! It replaces the grass with
sand - complete with water on the horizon. Unfortunately, it's not as effective
as I had hoped because there's very
little reason to zoom out and admire the sea (I couldn't even get a decent shot
of it for this preview!). It's still a welcome addition
to the game though, and should prove useful for video shoots...
All Eyes On You
Back indoors, the studio has been
furnished even further - with humans this time! As promised, there's now a
producer sitting at the desk. It's your label's boss by default, but for radio
appearances you'll find the station's DJ keeping you company. As if that wasn't
enough, your backstage characters can also be found looming behind the window!
It's a nice touch that reminds you how much work is going into your act...
A Word In Your Ear
Elsewhere in the offices of your
label, you can now be pulled aside to talk to your band members. Veterans of
Booking MPire will know the deal. It's the same old "Yes" or "No" response
to a suggestion of theirs. The selection of topics hasn't been finalized yet,
but you'd be surprised how many possibilities there are. Not least because there
are also "formal" meetings with people from outside of the band. These can range
from suggestions by the label boss to endorsement offers from famous brands.
It's even possible to be approached by an artist looking to collaborate! That's
a great way of hooking up with people that you hadn't even considered. All in
all, it means you face a mountain of possibilities with each passing week - so
it should be an eventful life before you even go out on stage!
One of the biggest developments
in recent days has been the financial breakdown. It's a screen that appears at
the end of each week to help you make sense of the royalties being thrown at
you. It was a programming nightmare for me, but as far as you're concerned
everything will seem blissfully simple! The money you've brought in to the label
is calculated first, and it then filters down to your character before being
divided further to each of your band mates. By the end you're left in no doubt
as to how much money you're earning - both as a band and an individual...
Facing The Public
In amongst all of these programming developments, the characters continue to be
drawn up. Unlike wrestlers, these guys don't have particularly famous costumes -
so it's quite a struggle to portray them! It has forced me to focus on the faces
though, which means they're looking better than ever. The most recent additions
have been for rappers like Tupac Shakur, but there's also the best range of black female
faces yet - ranging from Lil Kim to Janet Jackson. I've started on the white
females too, which range from the glamorous make-up of Christina Aguilera to the
sombre looks of Avril Lavigne...
Not having a distinctive costume
is one thing that 50 Cent
isn't guilty of! He's shown here with his trademark bullet-proof vest and gold
chain. You can't tell from the shot, but he's also got a suitably menacing face
to match. Hopefully, I'll stumble across similarly effective costumes for the
many other characters that are in the pipeline...
As promised, the wrestling arena has joined the range of venues.
Since it already exists from the previous games, there's no reason to leave it
out. It's actually a great location, with the ring making a perfect stage.
Speaking of wrestling, the promo system has been resurrected for this game too!
Your songs are now interspersed by brief comments from the lead singer. At the
moment it's all very pleasant, but that should change by the time the
game's done. There's something not quite right about people like Eminem and
Marilyn Manson saying, "You've been a wonderful audience"! I'm sure the
comments will reflect their true demeanour soon enough. Speaking of
characters, that part of the game is slowly beginning to take shape. Some
great new costumes are being added every day - ranging from Gothic-looking
chains and leathers to Hip Hop style basketball tops...
The costume editor is now
accompanied by an option to select the guitar design. There are at least
half a dozen variations - ranging from generic colours to fancy patterns.
Either way, they make sure that each guitarist looks a little different -
and they're good for keeping the style of your band consistent too. I
should say that the option is strictly cosmetic, and doesn't extend to
different guitar shapes. As realistic as that would be, it's a little
impractical. The option is exclusive to the guitar instrument too. There's
very little call for different drum kits and keyboards...
Whatever your band members look
like, you can now develop your style further by selecting a formation. In
fact, there's a whole screen dedicated to it! Here you can re-arrange your
artists as you see fit - deciding not only who goes where, but also what
overall shape they portray. In addition to the traditional band layout
that we've seen in previous shots, there are now several alternatives such
as a straight line-up. It's ideal for boy bands and rap groups that share
equal billing. You may also notice that the number of possible members has
risen to 5! I was going to leave it at 4, but it's handy to have an extra
spot to work with. Even if you have got 5 members, you don't have to throw
them all into the spotlight. It's possible to assign a "Backstage" role to
any character, which means that they're strictly responsible for producing
the songs. As in real life, this means a guy like Justin Timberlake can
appear to be a "solo artist" when he's actually got a whole crew of people
working behind the scenes...
Speaking of roles, that of
a "Dancer" is now available to round off the selection. It can either be
used for an energetic solo artist like Usher, or simply for backing
dancers like the one above. I was expecting it to be the easiest of all
the animations, but it's actually by far the hardest! Unlike the taunts
from Wrestling With The Truth, these guys have to keep on the move
all the time - which is difficult to pull off without looking repetitive.
There's a fairly decent basic animation though, so there is at least
something to build on. It's definitely a worthy addition to the game
anyway, because it brings some much needed life to the pop acts...
Whatever your guys are up to, the
camera now follows them with a whole new range of angles. It's a similar
story to the wrestling games, where you have 10 preset cameras on the
number keys. However, the game's default angle is a brand new one that
flies around the stage at random! It can be a little disorientating, but
it keeps the screen looking lively - much like a real music video. As
ever, you can also change which band member the camera is focusing on. You
can even seize control of the camera itself if you're feeling up to it!
All in all, it helps to make sure you enjoy the performances as much as
The biggest development in recent
days has been the
contract negotiation system - and it's a significant improvement on what we saw
in Booking MPire! For a start, the meetings take place around a large
polished table in a beautifully furnished office. I've been able to put more
effort into the scenery in this game, because I don't have to worry about making
everything interactive. I can throw whatever I want onto the scene - including
an unprecedented number of characters. Although you're the one that does
all the talking, each of your band-mates are on hand to present a united
What you're discussing has
changed as much as the location! Instead of negotiating salaries, you now
negotiate "royalties". The proceeds from CD sales, ticket sales, and
endorsements, are all up for grabs - but it's down to you to negotiate a
good percentage in each category. It hasn't been finalized yet, but you
should be able to make tactical requests - such as sacrificing all of your
endorsements to get more of the CD sales, etc.. Being a shrewd businessman
will be as important as talent in this game! You then have to switch roles
when it comes to your band-mates, because they want a percentage of your
percentage. It sounds more complicated than it is. The mathematically
challenged needn't fear anyway, because the game will clearly calculate
the finances in a special screen at the end of each week...
The DJ equipment that I've been promising
has finally joined the range of instruments. It looks as
good as any other instrument, and boasts some nice little animations for
handling the decks. It's perfect for solo DJ performers - or better yet, as
back-up for the hip hop artists...
A nice looking recording studio
has been built and furnished with equipment - complete with a window
that separates the producers and the band! There isn't actually a crew on the
scene yet, but that'll come soon enough. The location has already been put to
use though. It's here that you come to record new tracks or rehearse your
existing ones. The set will probably be used for radio appearances as well,
since the layout is practically the same...
The recording studio is accompanied by an interface to
edit your playlist. You insert
a CD (or specify a folder full of MP3's) to work from, and then spend the
following weeks "unlocking" each available track - much like producing arena
Booking MPire! Each track can then be given a name of your choice, a style in
which it should be performed (I.e. rap, ballad, heavy, etc.), and a tone in
which it should be delivered (angry, happy, etc.). Those are just cosmetic
choices that ensure the song reflects its real-life counterpart though. The
important values, which govern its potential, are beyond your control. Upon
being discovered, each track is christened with an "entertainment" rating and an
"artistic" rating. Entertaining songs are crowd-pleasers that are easier to
sell, whereas artistic ones are more thoughtful tracks that warrant critical
acclaim. Some excel in either area, some excel in both, and some are just plain
useless! What you are blessed with is somewhat random, but it is largely
influenced by how strong your production team is. You need a good producer in
the team to ensure pop success, and you need a good writer for artistry...
The latest development is that
you can now take your records into the outside world. I've been busy
re-designing the locations for this new game - which basically means piling in
some customers! The bar from Big BumpZ is now packed to the rafters with
onlookers that shuffle around to your tunes. Unfortunately, we're talking about
the same cardboard cut-out crowd from previous games. Short of filling the
arenas with thousands of actual people, there's very little you can do about
these things! The professionals only achieve it by removing your ability to
control the camera - and I'm not one for doing that. That said, the crowd does
look effective from most angles. It's just the occasional stray angle that shows
them up for the cardboard cut-outs that they are...
Bright Lights, Big City
In addition to the bar, I've also
been working on brand new locations. Introducing the stadium; which should be
the ultimate venue for any artist! It looks as good as I could have hoped -
boasting a nice dome shape that feels very atmospheric. It bears more than a
passing resemblance to the wrestling arena (thanks to the same background
image). Speaking of which, the wrestling arena will actually be a venue in
itself! You should be able to step into the ring and perform a couple of tracks
to celebrate big events like Wrestlemania. In addition to gimmicky venues
like that, there'll be plenty of other places to perform. Afterall, building up
a fanbase is a slow process. You'll start on the streets and in bars, before
progressing to concert halls and stadiums. Beyond that, there'll even be huge
outdoor festivals too...
Anybody Out There?
The attendances will vary as much
as the actual venues. Much like in the wrestling games, your drawing power will
affect how many people show up on the scene. The packed bar mentioned earlier
could all too easily become an empty embarrassment! Even the halls and stadiums
are designed to portray different levels of attendance...
You'll feel the difference in the
sound of the crowd as much as anything else. The crowd effects from the
wrestling games have returned to voice their opinion on music too! It's actually
a more sophisticated system this time though. The "entertainment" and "artistry"
values of each song will directly affect what kind of reaction you hear.
Entertaining songs are met with varying cheers (or jeers), whilst artistic songs
are met with respectful applause (or laughter!). The system hasn't been fully
implemented yet, but it already looks set to be an effective part of the game.
If nothing else, it stops the game from feeling like a glorified CD player! The
background noise of a crowd really makes the music feel like an integral part of
Has Entered The Building!
While I've been concentrating on
the arenas, I'm afraid the characters have had to take a backseat. One or two
developments continue to be made though. I was struggling to make achieve the
Elvis look with my existing models, so I made a whole new one dedicated to him!
It features a longer jaw and a more elaborate version of the quiff. He's even
got his own sparkling white suit and a dedicated face texture (although it's not
too clear from the screenshot). Although he's dead, characters such as Presley
will actually be alive for the sake of the game. By default, the "Deceased" pool
will only be populated by artists that die in your world. As in reality, there
is life after death though - as they'll release posthumous records! There'll
even be memorial shows too, so expect this game to be just as sentimental as the
Instruments Of God
The most noticeable change since
last time is that we've got a full set of instruments. A nice looking drum kit
has been added to provide an anchor for the more traditional bands. As you can
see below, a superbly detailed keyboard has also joined the ranks - which should
be great for a little variety. It was integrated so successfully that I may do a
similar setup for DJ's and their decks. That would make the game's range even
wider, and could also bring some much-needed instrumentation to the hip hop
This shot demonstrates another
interesting new feature too - the fantastic new hairstyles! The whole range is
done now, and every single one of them looks a notch better than ever before.
The "Fringe" now comes right down to the eyes, complete with a slight parting -
and there's a particularly beautiful shoulder-length style, which is great for
women. However, the most useful new style is the "Shaved" one - which, for the
first time, is an actual hairstyle that can be applied to any face. It looks
very convincing too, as it wraps around the head perfectly (unlike the dubious
attempts in previous games)...
Another key development is that
the editor that offers all these hairstyles is done too! It's practically
identical to the one from Wrestling MPire and co, but the new setting did
demand some major re-arranging. Not least to the colour scheme, which now
mirrors the blue and white of the logo! It comes as quite a shock after the
repeatedly dark styles of my previous games, but it certainly is a welcome
change of scenery. It confirms that a new era is upon us, and it's actually a
lot easier on the eyes too. Equally refreshing is the fact that this new game
requires far fewer details. Although it's every bit as sophisticated, things
like move sets and alternative costumes no longer apply - which leaves us with
just 2 pages instead of 5! As the guy that has to create hundreds of such
characters, I can assure you that is fantastic news...
From Rags To Riches
Now that it's done, the editor is
slowly beginning to churn out some creations. I've spent a lot of time giving it
some new models to play with. The range is mostly similar to that from the
wrestling games, but there are one or two new shapes - and even the familiar
ones are tidier than ever. The most noticeable change is that a lot of the
models now have baggy tops (as well as pants). The clothing in this game will be
much more casual than the figure-hugging tights from the wrestling games, so I
had to cater for things like t-shirts (as seen in the shot above). Even the
faces vary in this game. I'm not sure how clear it is from the shot above, but
Jay-Z actually has his own model that boasts a chubby face! It helps to make
characters such as him much more recognizable...
Of The Species
The female bodies have also been
added. Despite my best modelling yet, they're still not particularly
"attractive" - which is a shame because this game is set to have more female
characters than ever before! That said, they are significantly better that in
previous games. Not least because they've been honoured with more variations. In
addition to the default model and the skirt, there's now a version with baggy
pants - which is ideal for more conservative females such as Avril Lavigne. Even
plumper artists like Missy Elliott have been given consideration, thanks to the
first ever "Chubby" female build...
All In The Eyes
The appearances are just the tip
of the iceberg though. We might have lost the wrestling content, but the notion
of "Faces" and "Heels" remains intact! In fact, there's a third option (or a
variation on the good guy, depending on how you look at it). Further to the
relaxed eyebrows, you can now have a "Docile" demeanour - whereby the eyebrows
are raised and affectionate. Such an option had no place in the wrestling games,
but here it's perfect for do-gooders like Michael Jackson! It certainly helps to
establish the difference between his style and that of bad boys like Eminem...
Tale Of The Tape
As the game finally begins to
take shape, so too have the all-important statistics. Due to being a recent
addition, the lay-out is currently identical to what was used in the wrestling
games - but it may change. It can certainly expect to be tidied up a little over
the coming weeks. In any case, the statistics are all that matters at the
moment. The ones on the left should be familiar and self-explanatory, but the
ones on the right are new to this game. Each character has "Production" skills
(their ability to produce popular music), "Writing" (their ability to produce
artistic music), "Performance" (their ability to deliver popular music), and
"Talent" (their ability to deliver artistic music). They might have you
scratching your head now, but rest assured that all of those attributes will
become clear as the game progresses...
Roll Hall Of Fame
Students of the History
section will know that this concept is nothing new. In fact, it was arguably the
first decent game I ever made - way back in the Summer of 2000! It was too
ambitious back then and, like many projects of that time, got left behind in a
unfinished state (which is just as well because it was a staggering 20mb!). Now
though, nothing is out of the question - so it's back for a second shot at the
big-time! There couldn't be a more deserving case to be exhumed. Even in it's
half-finished state, Popscene was a charming little game. You constructed
a group of performers and then set off on the road to fame and fortune. In
between concerts, you had to build up an arsenal of songs in the recording
studio - which you would then unleash on your audience with varying success. In
and around that, you also had to deal with the tantrums that have since found
fame in games like Booking MPire and co! Rock stars are no stranger to
controversy, so the possibilities were endless. Now those "possibilities"
are about to be fulfilled in spectacular fashion, courtesy of this all-new 3D
Face Of The Future
All of the stops have been pulled
out to ensure Popscene hits the top spot! In preparation for the game, a
whole new human model has been made. The square heads of previous games are
history, as we now enjoy a more detailed face. That goes for pretty much
everything else too, as the torso and feet have received similar enhancements.
It's a good job, because characterization is set to be more important than ever
in this game. All of the major names are expected to be represented - from the
fashion-conscious rappers and divas, right down to the grimy rockers - and they
all need to look the part. The facial features are expected to change as much as
the whole body did in previous games! The gaunt features of Michael Jackson will
stand in stark contrast to the chubby cheeks of Jay-Z. So too will the range of
costumes - which will cater heavily towards the casual look, rather than the
tight-fitting fashions of the wrestling games. I hope that allays any fears that
this was going to be yet another homage to Michael Jackson! Every conceivable
taste of music will be catered for - from hip hop to rock and pop. Trust me;
I've been a fan of them all...
It's difficult to know where to
start with a game as large as this one, so I've settled for bringing the new
models to life. Without a stadium to perform in, they're reduced to standing
around in the offices of Wrestling MPire! But hey, you've got to start
somewhere. The good news is that making them sing has been a breeze. It's
basically a more energetic version of the promo system from Wrestling MPire,
whereby a random barrage of facial expressions adorn the character's face. With
microphone in hand, it's a promising effect and seems to work well with most
To Pay The Bills
Unless you're a rapper, there's
more to it than vocals though! A fantastic guitarist animation is also on hand
to bring your recordings to life. You'll no doubt be able to assign such
instruments to your band members at any time, much like a weapon in the
wrestling games. At the moment there's only an electric guitar, but there should
be a whole ranges of designs. A drum-kit is also expected to arrive soon, which
should complete the set...
Even at this early stage, I felt
the musicians had to get out into the world - so I loaded up the bar from Big
BumpZ for a test run! The old place will need tidying up a bit, but it looks
as though it could play a major role in the finished game. Much like you
progressed from the school gym to the arenas in Wrestling MPire, this
game will require you to pay your dues at all kinds of undesirable locations.
You'll experiment in your bedroom before busking on the streets, playing to
rowdy bars, and then ultimately making it to stadiums and festivals! Along the
way, you'll even have to perform in recording sessions and at radio shows. And
then, of course, there's a music video to shoot...
Knock The Hustle
So that's the story so far.
There's a mountain of other developments on the horizon, but I can't speak about
them with any authority until they emerge in the game. One thing that's
guaranteed is the statistical gameplay, which will be somewhat reminiscent of
Booking MPire. Each character will have the usual selection of personality
stats, such as Popularity, Reputation, Attitude, and Happiness. However, on top
of that, there should be several completely new ones to look out for - such as
their production and performance skills. Putting together a band with a good
mixture of talent is the only way to ensure recording success. You'll have to
pay them too - and that feature will once again look back to the world of
Wrestling MPire. The same contract negotiation system is expected to return,
but this time it's a recording contract that's on the table! Even the concept of
"federations" will seem familiar, as each artist belongs to one of 6 major
labels. Signing with the right company could be just as important as it was in
the wrestling games. The more things change, the more they stay the same...