TITLE: How could our love be so strong? Or why we're moving AUTHOR: Jim9137 DATE: 1/01/2006 04:36:00 ip. ----- BODY:
Happy new year's folks! I hope it'll be even better than the last one for you all, but I am not going to merely wish you all something happy and shiny. white satin. I am going to say, we're CLOSED! FINISHED! IT'S OVER JOHNNY, NO MORE COOKIES! ( :( ) Well, that was rather exaggarated. We're just moving, towards our own special webhost! I'll archive and post all the posts from here to there eventually, but for now, I'm urging the uh, team to start posting there instead and readers change their bookmarks accordingly. The new address is, http://bannumbers.american-idyll.com for now, until I can get 3 dollars to pay for a domain. But hey, happy new year's!
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Stop by my web site; Basket Air Jordan ----- -------- TITLE: Shards of Dalaya AUTHOR: KyoshoBallard DATE: 12/29/2005 06:19:00 ip. ----- BODY:
A shard is a fan-run server for a MMO. Usually free. The first instances of these came about with Ultima Online. This one is for EverQuest. I knew free EQ servers were being worked on a while back, but I had no idea they'd finished one. They have. It's not bad. And completely free. Here's an indepth look at it. You don't even need to own the cds to play it. This raises legal concerns in my mind. But then again, Sony is indeed making the patcher available for free. Just go to the official EverQuest website and download the game. Then you just follow the instructions on the SoD website. It's all quite simple. They are quite a few changes from EQ Live (that's what SoD players call the normal, original EQ). Your new characters start their existance in a dream sequence. It's kind of neat. I'm not going to tell you what occurs exactly. I don't want to spoil it. But it seems to mainly be a creative way of giving your character their newbie starting equipment. It's much better than the way EQ Live does things now. I tried EverQuest again recently. I got an email saying they'd reactivated my old account for free, for 21 days. When I reactivated my account and made a new character, it started off in a newbie dungeon. Why? I hated it. I played the game for about 10 minutes before quitting. A fair number of the cities are pretty much unoccupied. Well, not exactly unoccupied (with the exception of Felwithe, which seems completely deserted), just lacking NPCs, guild trainers, etc. Freeport has been overun with zombies. Appearently the only way to make it safely through the city now is to use the tunnels underground like thieves and evil characters had to use in EQ Live. The Dwarf starting city, Kaladim, has been overun by goblins, I think. Most of Butcherblock Mountains too. Kelethin, and Greater Faydark are pretty much monster-only zones now as well. Some of them have different names now though. A lot of the zones do. Usually names that reflect what that zone has become. For instance, ButcherBlock Mountains now has the name Goblinskull Mountains, and with good reason. The Dwarves now start in the same city as the gnomes. A city I always hated. I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet high elves start there too. Iksar (the lizards), now start in Grobb (the Troll city). At least my monk did. It's possible some start in Oggok, as I've heard that city is still running fairly normally as well. I don't know about the Dark Elf city. I saw a low level Dark Elf in Grobb, so I'm going to assume they start there now as well. My Erudite necromancer started in Newport (new name for Qeynos). I think that was an option in EQ, so maybe that one isn't so weird. I don't know if all Erudites start in Newport now or not. I'm going to try making a magician or something to find out. Erudin seems to be still functioning to an extent, so it's possible you can still start there. There are reasons for these changes. One of which, for the Iksar, is that their city and most of their continent are not implemented in SoD yet. That disappoints me a little. I loved leveling my newbie lizards in the Boneyard. My favorite newbie area from EQ Live. I have two theories as to why other races, whose zones are implimented, no longer live in their city. One reason, and the most likely, is that the SoD guys probably had to redo all of the NPC dialog in the game. That's a LOT of dialog to write for such a small team. A second reason it could be, which I don't even know if it's true, is that maybe NPCs take up more CPU power than normal monsters or monster-ish NPCs and they combined the races into a few cities so that the server costs wouldn't go through the roof. I don't know if that's true or not. NPCs might take the same amount of processing power as normal monsters for all I know. There's a backstory to explain a lot of the changes and things in SoD. You get two books at the end of your dream sequence. I started reading them and found I didn't care whatsoever what they had to say. A third item you get in your dream is a note from some one asking you to meet them at some point. It seems there is a main quest in SoD. I like that idea. I don't know what sort of reward you get for it. I suppose if I keep playing, I'll try to complete it eventually. In the 10 minutes played EQ Live recently, I noticed how poorly the game ran on this computer. SoD, on the other hand, runs extremely well. It probably is partially due to EQPlayNice, a program you can download on the SoD website, "A program that makes EQ hog up less CPU power." It's a much older version than the current version of EQPlayNice, but I'm not sure if the newer one will work with SoD. I might try playing EQ Live with EQPlayNice and see if it runs better as well. Since EQPlayNice makes SoD take less CPU power, I can use AOL Instant Messenger and IRC, or browse websites while playing the game with little to no slowdown. SoD also comes EQW, a program that allows you to run SoD (or EQ Live) in a window, rather than fullscreen. A lot of people use it to run more than one character at a time, on one computer. I remember trying that a few years ago when it first came out. SoD has a rule that says you can only play 2 characters at any one time. Either two on one PC, or on separate PCs, it doesn't matter. A lot of people make a bot character. Like, say they play both a cleric and a warrior. They'd start the fight with the warrior, then switch to the cleric and heal the warrior. It's also possible there are bot programs that these people are using to run their other character. The fact that they call them bots makes me think this could be the case. I haven't looked into it yet. I doubt this computer could handle two accounts at once anyways. Speaking of rules, SoD has quite a few. They are all perfectly reasonable. They are strictly adhered to, though, so I suggest you not break them. With fewer people on the server (I have yet to see it hit 300 at one time, yet), people have to work for their equipment. What I mean is, you see much less twinking of characters. Twinking is where you give high-end equipment (armor, weapons, etc) and/or money to lower level characters who normally wouldn't have them. I usually disliked twinking back when I played EQ Live, and always tried to have each of my characters earn their own equipment. So this fits me nicely. There are 20-some guilds in the game. Like in EQ Live, you need 10 people to form a guild (10 separate people, not just 10 separate characters/accounts). Perhaps it's only me, but I'd prefer it if they'd change it to 5 people or so. With so few players on the server, I don't see why not. I'd like to be able to get some of my friends to play SoD and form a guild so we have our own guildchat and won't bother other people. But I don't think I could get 10. I guess we could make an IRC channel and just flip back and forth if we had to. Either that, or ask some other random people to help us meet the 10 people requirement, and then they could leave the guild. I recall people doing that in EQ Live. I don't know if they allow it in SoD. Oh well, I'm not going to make a fuss about guilds on their forums or their IRC channel or anything. It's not a big deal, really. Just thought I'd bring it up. When you first make a new character, you're automatically in a newbie guild. It's there for the purpose of asking questions about the game, and answering other people's questions. I like it. It's an awesome idea. With so few people on the server, the Out of Character chat and the auction chat is all server-wide. That way, even if there aren't many people in your zone (or if you're completely alone in it), you still get the feeling of playing a MMO. I remember playing EQ at certain hours and there'd be pretty much no one in my zones to talk to, and it'd feel pretty lonely, boring and pointless. As far as I know, most of the tradeskills are functional in the game, except smithing, I think. There's talk of revamping Fletching on the forum, and I look forward to that. If it turns out to make Fletching much more worthwhile, I may have to start a Ranger. This brings up possibly the best feature of the game. You can communicate directly with the guys working on it. They often ask for suggestions, and many times impliment those suggestions. You can post on the forums, or chat in the IRC chatroom. It's really really great. They do patches all the time (this is a good thing). And they usually don't take very long to patch, unlike Sony. I suppose it's because they only have one server to patch, while Sony has a bunch. If the server is down for a patch, most people hop into IRC while they wait. The IRC channel is updated with the server status whenever it goes down, or comes back up. So you can go there and chat with the other players while also knowing exactly when the server is back up. It's cool. There's a lot of things I'm probably forgetting, and a lot of things I haven't discovered yet. But I think what I've said should give you a good idea of what the Shards of Dalaya is like. I hope I've been helpful. If you want to contact me in the game, look for Cresia. A human wizard. I think she's going to be my main character. Generally I never like playing female characters, but males look a little too homosexual in those EQ caster robes for my liking. Heh. Oh, and here's a little parting tip: If you plan on starting a dwarf, or gnome (or a high elf?), try and get them to Newport (Qeynos). That's the main city that most of the good characters are always at. It can be a bit lonely over on the continent of Faydwer. I sucessfully navigated my level 1 dwarf Cleric to the docks in Goblinskull Mountains. If you've played EQ long enough, you probably know how to avoid enemies and such. By climbing high on the mountains and walls of the zone, mainly. Once you ride the boat to Freeport, I guess go through the tunnels. Then.. make the big trek to Newport. I'm going to guess it's just as dangerous a journey for low level characters as it was in EQ Live. Probably even moreso. But I know it's doable. If not, see if you can get a wizard or druid to transport you. I believe transporting is still in the game, but I haven't seen anyone do it yet (haven't exactly wandered very far from newbie areas). Addendum: There were a few things I was incorrect about, and was informed of these things by Liam, who I believe is a GM in SoD. Here's a list: *"Starting locations are all deep rooted in the lore of the server. Iksars start in Grobb, because Kaezul, the menace of the entire world, drove the entire population to this new land. Kaezul, being an Iksar, created a bit of a bias against the Iksar survivors of the Fall, thus the only place they could find solace was in Grobb with the Blackscale." He had this to add: "My very quick synopsis on starting location lore shouldn't be taken as gospel as I'm super paraphrasing." *"Basically the most important thing to note when you're starting SoD is that we're genuinely very different from EQlive. I know it's often cited and quoted, but there's a reason for it." *"Yes, there is a main quest and it's actually well worth doing. It's a progression quest that teaches you the lore of the world while allowing you to make decisions and influence your alignment. The reward is an augmentation item that progresses in quality" *Kaladim is full undead dwarf ghosts, not goblins. (Thanks Yally) *Smithing is in. It's baking and tinkering that's not. *There's a boat that goes from Freeport to Newport, so that trek across the continent I mentioned is not necessary. *Druids and Wizards do indeed have zone specific self/group teleports, as they did on live, to some of the locations in the world. *There's 5 obtainable transporting items and there are also translocators in the various cities allow you to port to Newport, Greenmist, and Sadri Malath..
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 05:35 I never liked EQ too much. I played a free trial of it awhile ago, but couldn't stand it. As to whether I'll try this or not, I couldn't say; I'll likely get back into World of Warcraft as soon as I'm back at uni (I'd play it here, but I don't really want to sit through an hour's installation) so I may not have the time or impetus. You never know, though. I may give this a look. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger KyoshoBallard EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:27 If you're used to WoW, there is a WoW-style User Interface you can get for it. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger KyoshoBallard EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:38 Whoops. Accidently hit enter before giving you the link! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 05:49 It's not so much that; I was playing UO back when I first tried out Everquest. If I give this a whirl I'll likely try out that interface, though. Cheers. ----- -------- TITLE: Ze games zat you love to 'ate. AUTHOR: Gremmi DATE: 12/27/2005 08:07:00 ip. ----- BODY:
Wherein Master Gremmi plunges the depths of decent gaming to find the hidden gems in the muck. Crap games. Everyone knows of them, sane people avoid them. I somehow end up owning them quite a bit, mainly due to special-offer fillers. Example, recently I found ICO as part of a 2 for £20 offer. Considering ICO is rare as rocking horse shit, I couldn't really say no, but the other games in the selection were dire. I plumped for Batman Begins in the end. Anyway, to be fair, I've found a lot of these so-called crappier titles to be quite enjoyable, and worth a playthrough at least. Going from top-to-bottom of my games collection and picking out the titles that are generally rated as "Average" or "Utter crap". Listed is the Metacritic score, and the score I'd give it, along with a mini-review. Xbox - Armed and Dangerous. Metacritic say 79/100. Gremmi says 75/100. I'd say Metacritic have it about right. The game is decent enough, but nothing more than a time-filler. Except for a couple of stand-out moments (like the Castle Sieges, with you in a giant cannon trying to repel invaders), it's an incredibly repetitive game, enlivened only by the occasional humerous cut scene. PS2 - Batman Begins Metacritic say 64/100. Gremmi says 80/100. Despite the reviews, this is quite a fun game. At its heart, it's a Final Fight style brawler with stealth thrown into the mix. It has a few interesting ideas that aren't fully implemented properly (You earn a fear rating by scaring enemies, which adds to your overall reputation and generally makes bad guys easier to fight), but it's a good solid romp with some fun driving levels based on the Burnout engine. No real replay value however. PS2 - Driv3r Metacritic say 57/100. Gremmi says 75/100. There's no denying it's a horribly broken game which was released far too early with virtually no playtesting. But I'm not judging it as a game, I'm judging it on something that's fun to play. Ignore the missions, ignore the bad on-foot and on-boat bits, just jump in a car and cruise about, ala Driver 1 and 2. I'm really surprised no-one's done any machinima stuff with this yet, as using the director's camera mode, you can get some really fantastic looking chases out of it. Oh well. Great fun, shame about the game. PS2 - The Punisher Metacritic say 68/100. Gremmi says 80/100. At it's heart, it's just a Max Payne clone with no bullet-time and the ability to torture people. But it's well done, for what it is, and it's got an absolute tonne of unlockables for anyone who likes that kind of thing. Despite being voiced by Tom Jane from the Punisher film, it completely ignores it, and instead has seemingly unconnected missions of you hunting down criminals. The big selling point was the interrogation/torture scenes, where you could use various things in the environment to torture people into giving you info (dangling someone off a ledge, or holding their head close to a boiling vat of chrome). The only difference being, once you've got the info you want, you're free to do with them as you like, usually with messy (although black-and-white for censorship) results if you decide to kill them. Despite a few flaws, it's a solid game with some nice touches. Nothing outstanding, but worth a playthrough as well. There's a few more I could have added, but they're so widely divided critically, there isn't much point. Deus Ex 2 being the obvious one that split people massively. It's either complete shit or a decent game, no in-between, seemingly. Anyway. Shit games. At least worth a rental, a fair few of them.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 01:58 Not much to say about most, except that I'm still tempted to buy Punisher for PC, especially as it's cheap on Play right now. I played the demo expecting something unpolished and godawful, and found a fairly entertaining romp. Not a great game - possibly not even a good one - but fun, and worth £4. ----- -------- TITLE: Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! - DS Review AUTHOR: Olaf DATE: 12/27/2005 02:52:00 ap. ----- BODY:
An article due? But wait! There's no time! ...OUENDAAAAAAAN! Right. Before I get the review underway proper, I should point out: This is a rhythm action game. Closest, really, to Parappa the Rapper or Gitaroo Man (the latter was done by the same company as this) but if you don't know what those are, then think Dance Dance Revolution, only less hateful. Now, with that out of the way, I can get into the real meat of the thing. The game's set in a fictional town in Japan. Sort of. When people are in trouble, they shout OUENDAN, and three tall guys in black trenchcoats with impossible hair turn up and, uh, cheer them on. No, I'm serious. You essentially play as three male cheerleaders. With ridiculous hair. This game takes itself very seriously, as I'm sure you can tell. I want hair like that, someday. This is one of those games that it's nearly impossible to talk about. For one thing, people listening will think you're completely insane. Secondly, you keep thinking of awesome bits to mention. It's sort of like an even more ridiculous Psychonauts in the latter sense. For starters, these three tend to be nearby whenever someone screams out OUENDAN. Should a potter need inspiration to create pottery, they'll just happen to be nearby, spinning their own pots. Or perhaps a schoolteacher isn't getting respect from his students - they'll be sitting at desks at one side of the classroom, studying. Hell, even their various missions vary a fair amount. From those aforementioned ones, through assisting a kid impress a girl he likes by beating a rival at dodgeball, to helping a father rescue his daughter from a Godzilla-sized mouse (by growing to the same size as it and punching it in the face, obviously). Hell, there's even a surprisingly touching one where they cheer on a spirit who's come back from the grave because he can't rest easily without telling his girlfriend he loves her. And yet, the game's quite obviously in Japanese. So how do I know this? Because, by and large, the stories are fairly obvious. Before each level you get a little cutscene across both screens summing things up in a manga comic-book style, albeit with some minor animations. No, I can't read Japanese. I don't need to. By and large you can ascertain what's going on from these, and the little cutscenes that crop up on the top screen mid-level. One particular laugh-out-loud moment involves the battle between the giant man and the Godzilla mouse - right when he's about to hit it, the mouse pulls out a piece of paper. I can't read what's on the paper, but it's fairly obvious that in the next frame, the bloke's looking for a pen. And then, brilliantly, he wonders exactly why the hell he's doing this and smacks the mouse in the face. That's only if you're doing well, of course - if you're doing badly the mouse hits him instead. That's another thing, you see. Each level has three checkpoints. If you're doing well, then the person you're cheering on has a minor success at each point. If not, then they fail. There don't appear to be any adverse effects for failing them, mind you, and in some cases it's funnier to do so (though less desirable, as you're closer to losing). So, what exactly constitutes failing and succeeding? I guess I'd better describe the game, then. Considering how much space I've spent describing how fantastic the style of the thing is, it'd be reasonable for you all to assume that the game itself is quite bad. Stunningly, this is not the case. The game itself is fun, and gives that feeling of Just One More Go as much as, say, Tetris. Part of this, at least, is down to the music - ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The top screen is used for cutscenes, the whole way through. Even while playing, the top screen is showing what's going on. Sadly, you'll rarely get a chance to look at this, as you'll be staring intently at the bottom screen. This is where the entirety of play commences. In the background are your three black-clad cheerleaders. They dance away in time to your button presses. You see, coloured buttons, numbered from 1 to 9, pop up on your screen. Circles slowly close in on each of them. When the circle reaches them, you tap them with the stylus. Obviously, the 1-9 helps you ascertain the order in which the circles are going to close in on them. There might be three yellow buttons, 1-3, and then five green buttons, 1-5. But the yellow buttons appeared first, so you tap them first. Making it a bit easier is that the circles close in time to the music - you can take it for granted that if you tap them in time to the beat, or along to certain riffs in the tunes, you'll get full marks for each one. Miss too many and the person you're cheering on will fail spectacularly in their task, and you'll have to try again. And yes, it's fun. To make things a bit more complex, occasionally you have to drag things around, or spin up wheels. By and large, though, it's all about tapping those circles. The top screen shows what you're supporting, while the bottom shows where and when to press. Helping this out, certainly, is the fact that the music is catchy and addictive. It's pretty much all licensed J-Pop and J-Rock, but damn, it's catchy. After a few tries at each level you'll be tapping your feet to the beat. You'll giggle along at the cutscenes. You'll thoroughly enjoy yourself, and every aspect of the game. That's the thing, you see, and it's fairly rare these days. The reward, in a sense, is the game. Whereas in, say, an RTS, where you feel great after smashing an enemy base - you feel great just playing this. It's one of those games where you really get into the spirit of the thing just playing it. Downsides? Well, it's all in Japanese, but you don't really need to know it to get by. Menus are fairly obvious - the button marked with one person is single player, the choices on the menu after that are the difficulty levels, and you'll probably have worked out which button is Retry and which is Quit at least by the second time you've failed a level. That's another thing - you will fail levels. After a piss-easy first few levels, the difficulty ramps up enormously. That, or I'm just rubbish. Once I get into a song though and start working out the rhythm and remembering how it goes, I sail through, though. It may also be that there's an order that's only implied in the Japanese text - you normally have a choice of which level to go for, so perhaps some levels are easier than others, and this is shown. Regardless, do expect to fail every so often. It's even more bizarre and excellent than it looks. Really. This game is bonkers, charming, addictive, bonkers, brilliant, and utterly mental. If it sounds at all like your sort of thing, then import it. Don't be put off by not reading Japanese, because it's almost completely inessential, though if you need to get through the menus there are translation FAQs up at www.gamefaqs.com. A don't worry - DS games don't have region encoding. You won't need to chip your DS to get a foreign game to work in it. Because it's extremely quirky, and it uses Japanese songs, it's unlikely to ever be released in the west, so you'll likely have to import it. So just buy it. If you like rhythm action games, if you like games that make you giggle, if you like any aspect of this - buy it. And the name roughly translates, in my broken Japanese, to something like Support! Fight! Cheerleaders!
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Rhubarb EMAIL: URL: DATE: 14:18 When you said you were playing a game about a Japanese male cheerleading squad, I thought I'd imagined the most fucked-up possible mental image to equate it to.

I am often surprised at just how wrong I can be. ----- -------- TITLE: Knyght's Holiday Roundup AUTHOR: Tom Carrick DATE: 12/25/2005 03:02:00 ap. ----- BODY:
This would be Knyght's Christmas Roundup, or at least Knyght's xmas roundup, but I'm not exactly a devout Christian. Or any sort of Christian, really. Anyway, here are the games that I feel are worth mentioning from 2005, for whatever reasons I see fit (even in some sort of alphabetical order, too). Well, we have Advance Wars: Dual Strike, of course. The new Advance Wars for DS, obviously. It's not a lot different from earlier Advance Wars games, but what makes it worth mentioning is that the stylus is nice. It's now actually easy to control. The Bard's Tale. Not a remake, or anything. This dissapointed me enough to not bother buying it, but apparently it's not actually that bad. Apparently. We have Batman Begins, a crap Batman game based on a crap Batman film. Excellent. Then there's Black & White 2 from lionhead, a dissapointing sequel to a dissapointing game. Hopefully, it'll persuade Pete to stop hyping his games up so much, but we know he'll do it anyway. Civilization IV thankfully puts Civ 3 behind us, and leaves us with a nice, fairly balanced game, with even a good AI. Darwinia. Released early in the year, it's one of the few indie games that the mainstream are even thinking about accepting. It's even in proper stores. Not my cup of tea, but it is a lovely game. Fable: The Lost Chapters! At least it's on PC, and not just xbox. Another of Pete's overhyped games, but this one is at least good. I hear FEAR is good. I haven't had chance to play it though. Nintendo have finally decided to release Fire Emblem games here. Which is nice. Half-Life 2. Well. I think it sucks nuts, but a lot of people love it. So what more can I say? Just to appease the wargamers, HoI2 was released just on the turn of the year, yay woo. It's boring, though. Fahrenheit or Indigo Prophecy. heh. I prophecised that people would love it for a few hours, then would think it sucks. I was right, thankyou. Meteos, a surprisingly original puzzle game. Can't say more than that. Metroid Prime 2. Qualitay. The Movies. Yet another of Pete's overhyped games. This one's not too shabby I hear. I'm gonna put Nintendogs here, just 'cause I want to. Massively hyped, annoyingly available in three different versions, and not a bad timewaster. Serious Sam II, just as inane and dull as the first. Silent Hunter III. Best. Subsim. Ever. UFO: Aftershock appalled us less than Aftermath, giving us a fairly playably, but ultimately laughable and forgettable. X3 nearly solves the problems of X2, but doesn't quite manage it. Infinately more fun and usable, though. I've missed out a lot of stuff I'd like to mention, and left in some things that might not matter to a lot of people. But that's what you get when you let me write things.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Jim9137 EMAIL: URL: DATE: 16:08 I deem this article coffee stain worthy.

You should be proud.

- John9137 ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Faldrath EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:01 You forgot the Pirates remake, damnit. It'd fit perfectly in that empty "P" spot in your alphabetical list. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Gremmi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 22:12 Pirates remake was 2004 though.

As was HL2 and MP2, so it wouldn't make much difference, I suppose.

Good list though, nothing else I can think to add off the top of my head. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 02:43 Oops, yes they were. Real close to the end, though.

Anyway, I think it's been a pretty good year for games. Not quite up to the standard of '90, '91, '94, or even '01, but, I think it went okay. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 16:42 Concur. It's been really quite a good year, although it's not liable to go down in gaming history as particularly Zomg Awesome.

As for myself, I'd add Space Rangers 2, although I've thus far spent all of about half a day playing it. That and the thingy I'm planning on writing about today have pretty much stolen the past 24 hours from me. ----- -------- TITLE: Merry Christmas AUTHOR: Jim9137 DATE: 12/24/2005 10:03:00 ip. ----- BODY:
Merry Christmas from the whole Bastard Numbered Team! (we're a team now?) (yes, shush now.) (but, but!) In a year this blog has existed, a number of things has happened and a number of things will continue on happening. To shine a little history of this small blog which has evolved into not-so-small one, this was mainly a small project of mine. Something to post my thoughts into. Then one day, John9137 walked up to me, saw the potential, quickly hired Knives and few days later, a whole bunch of people and then we slowly have come here. Now I'm not writing my thoughts in here as much anymore, I'm merely guiding and making sure this blog is going uh, at least somewhere. Instead, a numerous of people are doing that for me. A bunch of great people with great varied thoughts, discussing and talking about things, and even sometimes arguing, for your pure amusement and will hopefully carry on doing that for the year to come. This is Bastard Numbered's first Christmas together, and I can only be happy about the fact that it's not a lonely one. Thank you dear readers, thank you Bastard Numbered Team, thank you John9137, for a great year. I'll do my best to make sure this thing moves on somewhere. Somewhere where the shinies dwell and shout. P.S: Joq, that article?
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 22:13 Merry Christmas! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 02:55 What Fuzzy said. Also, since it's my update tomorrow, and it actually *is* christmas tomorrow, I'll make sure I try to write about something remotely interesting. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Rhubarb EMAIL: URL: DATE: 04:36 SHINIES ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger KyoshoBallard EMAIL: URL: DATE: 06:13 Merry things. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Joq EMAIL: URL: DATE: 18:51 Jim, I still have something like six days left, no? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Troy Goodfellow EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:58 Pfft. A "team". You are all Jim's lackeys.

And Merry Christmas. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Faldrath EMAIL: URL: DATE: 02:17 A good team of lackeys, though. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Gargantuan Dissident EMAIL: URL: DATE: 12:14 I think this is pretty decent blogging idea, even if Jim started it. ----- -------- TITLE: Fireballs to the civilizations AUTHOR: bjarke DATE: 12/23/2005 07:47:00 ip. ----- BODY:
Wherein I pick up another good old thing. After the disappointment of Civ4, I was left without a good long empirebuilder, as I coulden't be arsed to go back to Civ2. As if Civ3 is even an option. So I remembered the good old game Master of Magic and promptly leeched it from HOTU. It took a bit of fiddling to get it to run, but I succeeded eventually. Just no sound, but no matter, I'll try VDMsound in a bit. Anyways, this game's really good. It's like Civ lite + magic. One of the things that turned me off about Civ4 is the hordes of new gameplay options and whatnot. MoM gives me what I want: A simple, but large, empirebuilder and cool units to destroy my enemies with. On top of this, there's the whole facet of spells. Another good point for MoM is look and feel. While Civs are serious and "realistic," MoM put you in some generic fantasy world. You play a powerful wizard, and you're apparantly the leader of a state. How cool's that? So, depending on what types of books you got at character generation (oh yes!) you get different types of spells. Life spells can heal and buff your units, nature spells can summon a wide variety of critters, chaos spells blows stuff up and so forth. You can mix and match between the different spheres as you wish. On top of that, you have to pick a starting race, and there's quite the difference between halflings and gnolls. This makes for an immense replay value, as a naturewizard will have to use a drastically different approach than a lifemage. The Civs lacked this, each game pretty much starting the same place. Among weak points in MoM as a rather odd AI, lack of multiplayer (that's in the original, there's some remakes on the way) weak diplomacy and the sheer unbalanced-ness of the Heroism spell. Not that I mind - the AI rarely use it.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 22:10 Fully agree on MoM, but I'd recommend retrying Civ4. It's great, and your complaint that all the sides play pretty much the same is largely unfounded, particularly on higher difficulty levels. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Troy Goodfellow EMAIL: URL: DATE: 23:42 Whoa, whoa. Disappointment in Civ 4? Are you mad? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger bjarke EMAIL: URL: DATE: 01:59 It wasn't fun.

Who the fuck needs civics, and Famous Persons or whatever they were?

None of that nonsense in MoM. It's simple and has the spells. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Zer0s EMAIL: URL: DATE: 05:25 Did you try the Age of Wonders games? I played AoW 2, and as far as I recall, it's similar in style to MoM. Lots of races, spells, and turn based madness, and some pretty nice 2d graphics to boot. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 15:08 Civ4 is awesome. Barring Civ1, which I love for simplicity's sake, it's probably my favourite of the series. It just tends to chug a bit when I've uncovered most of the map and it has a nasty tendency to overheat my computer, causing restarts and then turn-offs so I can let it cool down. And my computer's underclocked at the moment. Bleh.

I concur with Zer0s, though. I've heard AoW was better, but I fell in love with AoW2. It's bitch hard, but great fun. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger bjarke EMAIL: URL: DATE: 03:02 Buncha fanboys. ----- -------- TITLE: Bye-bye Gaming Skill AUTHOR: KyoshoBallard DATE: 12/22/2005 06:40:00 ip. ----- BODY:
To do well in First Person Shooters, online, you generally have to be skilled. A lot of people can say they're particularly skilled at Counter-Strike, or Battlefield 1942, or whatever. I can get good at those types of games to an extent. Maybe not quite as good as most "skilled players" that play, but good enough to hold my own and be an asset to my team. If I stop playing for a few weeks, that skill goes away. Not completely away, but for the most part I will suck again when I try to play after a long stint of not playing. I suppose that's normal. After all, Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel reportedly practices 14 hours a day to keep his skill. A lot of gamers, though, can tell you of at least one game that they're excellent at, no matter how long it's been since they've played last. For me, that game was Team Fortress Classic. You know, the official Half-Life mod that almost zero people play anymore. It's not a realistic game by any means, and doesn't try to be. There's people rocket jumping, grenade jumping, etc. It's refreshing to play TFC after playing so many other games that try to focus on realism. TFC focuses on fun. Anyways, I was always extremely good at it. I could stop playing for months, but on my first game back, my team would most times be assured a victory. I could choose the Scout class (weakest class) and go around killing people with the crowbar (weakest weapon), and do well. The game just came naturally to me. There was even a time when I stopped playing for close to an entire year for one reason or another. Playing other games, not having internet access, or just plain losing interest. I came back, and kicked ass. I thought TFC was the game for me. I just GOT it. Some people can play the piano expertly, or draw professionally, or design buildings, whatever. For me, I could kick ass at TFC. It seems an assured fact. I didn't think it would ever change. And then it did. For almost 3 years now, I haven't had a chance to play many First Person Shooters. Let alone online. I recently tried playing TFC again, and guess what? I suck. Okay, maybe I don't completely suck, but I'm nowhere near as good as I used to be. I'm getting my ass handed to me by bots. BOTS, for christsake! That's just WRONG! Perhaps if I keep playing I will get better. In fact I'm almost certain I will. But it sucks. Appearently you can never forgot how to ride a bike, but you can forget how to kick ass at TFC. Or at least I can. Argh.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 02:30 Heh. TFC. My online FPS of choice, too, and likewise I kicked an extraordinary amount of ass. An HWG using a speedhack fell to my Scout crowbar at one point, much to the amusement of my team. Haven't played in a loooong time, though. ----- -------- TITLE: zomg teh time AUTHOR: Gremmi DATE: 12/20/2005 02:10:00 ip. ----- BODY:
Wherein Master Gremmi writes his entire post in bullet-time. TIME CONTROL. It's great. Adding in a new tactical edge and looking damn stylish all at the same time. I think Max Payne was the first game that specifically allowed you to alter the flow of time as a core gameplay element to gain an advantage. Ignoring the speed settings in strategy games and "freeze" powerups in various platformers/puzzlers, anyway. Ahh, that crazy Max Payne. Kill enemies to fill bullet-time gauge, right click to enable bullet-time, making it easier to kill enemies to fill the bullet-time gauge. Add some inspired level design (well, except for the nightmare/hallucination levels, anyway) and you've got yourself a winner. The Matrix has a lot to answer for, then. Ironically, the bullet-time in the Matrix games wasn't as well done as Max Payne. In fact, it was downright shoddy. Unlike Max Payne, where the entire game could be completed without bullet-time in technicality, there are a number of sections in EtM that you have to use it. Mainly for the longer jumps (apparently, slowing down time = further jumping, although it does kinda make sense in the context of the game). Path of Neo was slightly better done, although it had a tendancy to kick in automatically in certain combat moments, and the sound glitched a hell of a lot, sometimes cutting out altogether. But this isn't exactly time manipulation per-se, just slowing down perception. You still move and shoot at the same speed as everyone else, although your reactions (ie aiming) are faster. Step forward the new Prince of Persia series. Recently got into Warrior Within, which is apparently the weakest of the three games, but I'm enjoying it nonetheless. Anyway, it's a fairly standard platformer/third person action game, leap around like a freak, slash things and hurl them about. Some fairly good level design although a few problematic "What the christ do I do now?" moments. Also a few quick-death moments that you weren't expecting. But therein lies the genius of the game design. Due to some contrived plot device that I've missed completely due to not playing the first game (Sands of Time), sand can control time. A quick tap on the time button sends everything into the familiar bullet-time mode (although unlike the others, you do not slow down yourself), but holding down the time button causes time to rewind up to 8 seconds. Suddenly that bottomless pit just around the corner isn't the end of your game. The Prince leaps backwards in a blurry haze and ends up exactly where he was just before tumbling in, allowing you to happily wall-run past it instead. It's strictly limited (by way of a sand gauge, replenished by some enemies, so you can't avoid certain death every time. Genius, and something that is starting to crop up in other games (from what I can remember, one of the Burnout-style racing/demolition games allows you to do it too). Also step up Viewtiful Joe, which uses time to an intriguing concept. A helicopter causing problems? Just slow down time and watch it fall to the ground as the rotor cannot maintain enough speed to keep it aloft. Or fast-forward time, and watch it vanish into the sky as the rotor goes into overdrive. These time-gimmicks, whilst incredibly handy, do highlight one thing, that without intelligent level design, restrictions on use and better visual/audio cues, they become more of a hindrance. Off the top of my head, games that use bullet-time/time control and end up being shit include Dead to Rights, True Crime, Blinx The Time Sweeper and the Matrix games. Rambled enough now.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:00 Quite right. Just want to add that as far as I know the time mechanic in Warrior Within is utterly unexplainable - the first one, he had the Dagger of Time that let him do all this trickery, but he doesn't have that in WW as far as I'm aware. Of course he's on some sort of Island of Time or something, so God knows; there's probably some loophole they thought of there.

Apparantly he gets the dagger back in the third game, though, letting him control time plausibly again. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Zer0s EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:47 I haven't played it (and I didn't finish Sands of Time) but I read that it might be due to the medallion he wears in the chest now, which is another artifact that can control time. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 08:16 Hmm, I've been thinking. Does anyone have a guess as to which was the first game that let you slow down time to gain an advantage over your enemies? Earliest I can think of is Perfect Dark back in 2000, but that was only a year before Max Payne, so there must be something older that does it, right?

...right? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Gremmi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 10:25 I dunno what the first was at all. As I said, Max Payne was the first to use it as a core gameplay mechanic, but it certainly wasn't the first to use it as a powerup or non-core function before. A huge number of platform games had slow-down/freeze powerups, although whether these count or not, I dunno. Pang is probably the earliest I can think of. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 14:18 I was thinking purely in an FPS context. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Gremmi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 16:24 In which case, Requiem: Avenging Angel had a bullet-time power. Nice game for its time..1999 according to Mobygames. I think it's probably the first FPS to feature it, anyway. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 16:58 Ooooh. I remember that game. Wasn't exactly brilliant but it was surprisingly fun for awhile. Never bought it, sadly, just played the demo. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Anonyymi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 13:45 Sometimes i think i'm the only person on the planet that actually enjoyed Blinx (never played the sequel though)

Roger. ----- -------- TITLE: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow AUTHOR: Olaf DATE: 12/19/2005 10:57:00 ip. ----- BODY:
A DS game that's actually compellingly playable even when you have better things to do? Good grief. Don't get me wrong: I adore the DS. It's just that, thus far, the games I've played haven't exactly been the type of excellence I've come to expect from Nintendo. While fun, even Kirby's Canvas Curse was somewhat... lacking. With the purchase of Castlevania DS, my faith in the DS was restored. Players take over the white mullet of Soma Cruz, all-round nice guy and, unfortunately for him, rebirth of Dracula. This makes him the centre of all kinds of ooky nastiness, and in this - his second adventure - he's been targeted by a church dealing with the belief that for God (the ultimate good) to exist, there must be an opposite being of ultimate darkness. So, seeing as how Soma doesn't exactly want to become the force of ultimate evil in the world, they've decided to kill him so that a new vessel can be chosen. Or something like that. Fortunately, Soma is apparantly some sort of weapons master, and is equally adept with all of the many kinds of weapons you can come across, be they brass knuckles, maces, broadswords, katanas, pistols, or - well, just about anything. Besides this, he also has a rather unusual power. When he defeats an enemy, Soma has a chance to absorb their soul into himself and use their power. Every single enemy in the game can be absorbed in this way, although the chances for some do seem to be ridiculously low. The powers are fairly variable, too - the Succubus soul grants you a highly damaging attack that gives you life back, while the Bat Company soul lets you transform into a bat for a short time, allowing you to get to previously unreachable areas, or cross massively dangerous spike pits without harm. Some souls (most of the boss souls, in fact) are necessary for continuing play, as the abilities granted let you progress further through the castle. So, with this setting, Soma ventures off into a castle believed to be the headquarters of this cult. He's followed by a variety of characters, from ex-militant shopkeeper Hammer who's more than happy to sell maps, potions, and weapons, through to the highly mysterious Akardo, a member of a Japanese governmental group responsible for dealing with supernatural threats. While they're all doing their respective thing, you're wandering the castle, dishing out death to the monstrous inhabitants and trying to put a stop to these rotters (no pun intended) who want you dead. All the while acquiring their souls, upgrading your weapons, and jumping about like a rabbit on amphetamines. This Castlevania takes on an RPG approach that became popular with the more recent breed. Rather than the typical platforming adventure of, say, Super Castlevania on the SNES, you can pretty much choose where to go, although at first many routes will be blocked off until you've obtained whatever soul is needed to let you by. This doesn't actually hinder the feeling of non-linearity, though - it's not like you keep coming across dead ends everywhere. Rather, you'll spot places you can't reach, and remember them for later. When you've got a few more ability souls you'll head back, and... hm. You still can't reach that exit in the roof. Ah, but wait, there's a platform over by the wall; if we jump onto that and then use the slow-falling soul... In this way, it doesn't feel so much like you keep running into brick walls - rather, just puzzles that you'll have to come back and solve later on. Besides this, there's also a degree of non-linearity in that you level up, find new equipment, can upgrade or buy new weapons as you choose, and a variety of other choices. Not to mention that at any given time, other players will likely have a different assortment of souls to you, so their play experience may very well be fundamentally different. My own personal favourite combinations are the Persephone soul (hold down the R-trigger to generate a vacuum that hurts enemies and heals you), and the Killer Clown soul (lets you lob truly devastating playing cards), but it was frankly luck I got both of those. Who knows what I'd be using, or what tactics I'd employ against bosses, if I'd had something else?
I wasn't kidding about that mullet.
Graphically, the game's pretty damn good looking. Character portraits are done in an anime-style, and that's servicable enough, but it's the animation that's the real star of the presentation here. All of Soma's animations are gorgeous and reasonably well-carried through, even to the extent of his little sprite cloak trailing after him when he falls and settling on the floor slowly when he lands. Even the monsters are well animated; a few carry a genuine air of menace, while others are very much the cannon fodder you'd expect. The graphics do their job for certain, though. Combat and platforming mechanics are fairly well done. The only times I've been particularly frustrated are due to some incredibly hard bosses (who I promptly defeated through changing my tactics), and the Clock Tower area of the game, where you're trying to jump from moving platform to moving platform to avoid spikes, while dodging Medusa Heads coming at you from all angles. Nightmarish. Fortunately, there hasn't been a single other area nearly as irritating as that. As ever, I have issues, though. The touch-screen stuff is nice in part, and is utterly useless in part. The good? When you summon a Familiar, using a soul, you can tap on whatever target you want it to focus on. The bad? "Magic seals" have been crowbarred into the game. Basically, you find these patterns throughout the castle, that open various doors - usually leading to bosses. Upon defeating a boss, you have to draw the seal on the touch-screen. You have a variety of points to work with, and basically connect them up, but you do still have to recall the order and shape. At first they're extremely simple, but the later ones can be a bit difficult. Muck them up and the boss gets some health back and continues the fight. Get it right, and the boss dies. Beyond that, I'm a little irritated at the crap level design that's occasionally shown. I wish it was based a bit more on a "real" castle. I'm not advocating that the developers suddenly remove all the massive spike pits, or remove the jumping from precariously-hanging chandeliers. What I'd like to see is less stereotypical levels. It does feel like the level design was decided in the laziest way possible - "Hey, we need a garden level. That can be level 2." "Yeah, good idea. What about the church? This game needs a church. No, wait - an evil church." "Woo! That's level 3!" Not that the game is actually divided up into levels - there's that wacky non-linearity, again - but it is divided into distinct areas, and it's a bit disconcerting to find a massive overgrown garden in the middle of a castle's interior. The thing is, these faults are just nitpicking, and that should be abundantly clear. This game is a fantastic amount of fun. Various endings (although the worst does seem rather arbitrary), a huge number of souls (at least 100, by my reckoning), a vast castle to explore, and various extra game modes unlocked after finishing. There's even a multiplayer where you drop enemies into a set of rooms and race through them, though this can also be played in single player. So, my thoughts? It's superb. If you've got a DS and this sounds even remotely like your sort of thing, you'd be doing yourself a disservice to ignore this.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Anonyymi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 01:04 Dude, it's not a mullet, it's a mop. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 13:30 True enough. If only it weren't for that little peak at the front...

In my defence, it does appear rather more mullet-ish in various cutscenes during the game. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Anonyymi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 08:38 You do know what a mullet is, right? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:11 A particular type of haircut that's short at the front but long at the back. It's not the hugest, most exaggerated example of a mullet in the world, but I'd still call it one.

Unless you mean a fish. In which case, no, his hair is not a fish. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Anonyymi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:49 No no, it's short at the TOP, long at the back. Bowie had one in Labyrinth. This is a classic mullet:

http://org-www.lincolnfinancialfield.com/uploads/photos/perm/main/LJFLBGDENKPB/051205-ritchie.jpg ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Anonyymi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:54 Fucking cropping.

LJFLBGDENKPB/051205-ritchie.jpg ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Jim9137 EMAIL: URL: DATE: 20:45 Bowie's mullet > * ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Ashiq EMAIL: URL: DATE: 22:45 Can you explain the seal-drawing touch screen thing? I'm quite unfamiliar with DS technology. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 23:10 Good grief, nine comments.

Anonymous, thanks for the clarification. I'm way too lazy to actually edit the article though, but your points stand.

Ashiq, the Nintendo DS has two screens. Both display, but the bottom screen also functions as a touch screen. The DS has a stylus that you can use to draw on this, or you can just use your fingers. You find seals as you go through the game, and it demonstrates how to draw them - generally you have a circle with 8 points. The simplest seal is essentially a V, from the top-left point to the bottom middle, and then up to the top-right. You just draw those lines along the touch screen. The most complicated one involves all of the outer points being touched in a circle (well, octagon, really, if my guess of 8 points is correct), and then a sort of Z-shape being drawn, and a slash down the middle. All of the seals "flow"; that is, you never have to actually take the stylus off the screen to draw them.

The touch-screen does have other, slightly less arbitrary, uses as well. Once you receive a certain soul you can break through ice blocks on screen by tapping them. It's used in all of three instances I can think of throughout the entire game - generally smashing ice that blocks your way into stair shapes or whatever so you can climb up onto higher platforms. ----- -------- TITLE: Gaming Slump AUTHOR: KyoshoBallard DATE: 12/15/2005 06:13:00 ip. ----- BODY:
I appologize in advance for this. I'm mostly going to be rambling in a whiny sort of way. Blame Jim if you don't like it. Heh. As stated at the beginning of my previous article, I am in a gaming slump. These happen a lot, and many times I don't know what causes them. But this time I do. It's a few things. I'm going through an annoying time in my life, and that's one factor. The main problem, though, is a lack of money. I don't have the money to buy any of the games I want to play. Even if I did, I don't have a computer up-to-date enough to run them. Nor a console. The newest console I have is a N64. Even then, I don't have a TV of my own on which to play them anyways. There's emulation, sure. I've done some N64 emulating, but that's not the point. The games I want to play are not on the N64 or PSX. They're on the PC. And a few on the current generation consoles. I'm not a console gamer in general, but right now I'd kill for a Gamecube or Xbox or PS2. Perhaps if I get enough money for Christmas (fat chance), I could buy a used Gamecube and perhaps a VGA adaptor. Even if I could, I wouldn't have enough for games. Bleh. I have quite a few completely unplayed games sitting around. I have no interest in playing them, though. They're games I got in trades, or ones I bought on impulse. It seems if I go to a store with an intention of buying a game, and there's nothing that looks interesting in my price range (which usually means $10 jewel case games), I cannot leave the store without buying a game. So I'll buy one that I have just a tiny bit of interest in. But when I get home, I know I won't play it. Take Stronghold for instance. When it first came out, I had a small interest in it and wanted to try it, but never did at the time. When I made one of those trips to the store for a game (which I do perhaps once every 3 months), I bought it simply because there was nothing else. I don't even like RTSes. At all. Why did I buy it? Even with games I'm interested in playing, I sometimes end up not playing them because by the time I get them, I've lost interest. I have a limited attention span when it comes to new games. What I mean is... Well, let me give you an example. At one point, I really really wanted to play MechCommander Gold. This was when I was involved in the MechCommander 2 preview beta. Everyone was talking about how great the first one was, so I badly wanted to play it. Well, it was no longer sold in stores, so I had to buy it on ebay. The transaction and shipment took about two weeks. By the time it arrived at my house, I was no longer interested in playing it. I believe I've installed it once since then, but it stayed on my harddrive for less than 24 hours because I just didn't want to play that sort of game. And maybe never will. I guess part of the reason I lost interest in MechCommander Gold was that those people in the MC2 private newsgroup had stopped talking about it so much. For some reason, when I know a lot of other people are playing the same game as me, it makes me want to play it more. I suppose it's because I know there are people who are willing to discuss the game. Want to discuss the game. And I want to take part in those discussions. That's kind of stupid, but it's true. I think that's the reason why most people buy new releases. If they were smart, they'd wait for some reviews, and for the hype-factor to wear off, and if it did, then they'd buy it. But by then people might not be talking about it. Discussing a game I've recently played, or am playing at the moment, always seems to make it more fun. It's not the trend-factor. I wouldn't play a game only because other people are playing it. It has to sound like something I'd enjoy, too. I guess that describes my slump. I don't have the money to play those games that other people are discussing, or that I just really want to play in general. Like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. People aren't talking about it so much anymore, but that's one I'd want to play regardless. But I don't have a PS2. Bleh. Thus concludes my ramblings.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Gremmi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 18:59 Get a job, you slacker. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:08 I don't have a job, and I can afford games :D ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Premier EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:12 I think your problem is overabundance, which often manifests in unplayed computer games, but points at a larger sociological phenomenon. As Attila the Stockbroker puts it in one of his songs:

"A hundred thousand garden gnomes
Outside a hundred thousand home
Are standing on their own two feet today."

Think about the wisdom of those words. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Zer0s EMAIL: URL: DATE: 10:24 Herd-thought + hedonism ('overabundance' as said in the last comment) ?

It's part of today's culture, I guess. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Gargantuan Dissident EMAIL: URL: DATE: 12:08 Game discussion is alright, if it serves some end. But if the game is good, I'd rather play it. I'd rather have sex than talk about it, etc. Although I'll read reviews from time to time, I like to try a game without proconceptions. Nevertheless, I will not play anything that is universally considered bad or poor.

I use to download and then buy anything when it came to games. But I find striking a reasonable balance is really important (as it is, with anything). Keep in mind what you intend to play and avoid "loading up" on stuff you probably aren't going to touch. In this way, you won't waste your time or money.

Nevermind what other people like, play what you like. It's good to try new things, but if every RTS game falls flat on you, it may be wise to stay away from them all. ----- -------- TITLE: The Filminator: Rise of the Machinima AUTHOR: roboczar DATE: 12/14/2005 04:16:00 ip. ----- BODY:
So, I'm sure most of you have heard of The Movies. If you haven't, well, what it is my friend, is quite literally the only Lionhead Studios game worth putting money down for. Yes, Lionhead appears to be making progress in distancing itself from the Black & White VPTS (Virtual Poo-Throwing Simulator). Read on if you care to hear more; at the end you'll get a present, I promise. Anyway, The Movies is great. Not only do you get to mess around with your garden variety Tycoon business simulation, but you get a full-fledged 'script writing' feature that lets you create movies out of a few hundred separate scenes. A few hundred may not seem like much on the face of things, but most scenes have anywhere from 1 to a dozen different variations (props, expression, direction of motion). With just a little creativity and careful planning, there are very few classic movie scenes you can't put together. Other people complain about the variety, but just a quick hop over to the official Movies site will show you just how versatile those scenes can be. Another huge plus to this game is the post-production options you have. You can record voice tracks that your characters will lip synch to, add your own custom music scores, sound effects and introductory screens, making your Movie even more...well...movie-like (none of the post-production stuff has an effect on how much in-game people like your film, though). In any case, this is a game that definitely rewards those who put the most effort into making use of all the custom features. Those who just play the management/tycoon game by using the 'automatic scripts' are just asking to be bored in a day or so. All of the fun comes out of making a movie that flows and tells a story, while at the same time making you enough money to build that big-budget dream movie you've always wanted to make. Before I go back to forging the greatest film to ever grace the land of machinima, I did promise at the beginning that there would be a present for you at the end. Being the honest and charitable person I am, I would like to announce that my DSL service has been activated, and that I will be preparing the rest of this week and into the weekend to host Bastard Numbered on my uber leet connection of awesomeness. Is this a present? Maybe. If it's not, it's sure as hell all you're going to get out of me at this point, so piss off. I mean it. Shoo.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Gremmi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 22:55 Old ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger roboczar EMAIL: URL: DATE: 02:52 Just highlights the pressing need for the blog to be divided into categories, by game or topic. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Premier EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:16 Games of this complexity are a rather new things, and IMO they truly reflect the concept expressed by Attila the Stockbroker:

"Hold the front page, light the lamp,
There's a new face in the Labour camp
Talking of a slightly better day." ----- -------- TITLE: DESSIGIN FLOORS AUTHOR: Gremmi DATE: 12/13/2005 09:52:00 ip. ----- BODY:
Wherein Master Gremmi discovers new ways that games annoy Design flaws in games. At best, a slight irritation. At worst, an unbelievable game breaker. I'm not talking about bugs or glitches, I'm talking about massive flaws in the game design. HENCE THE TERM DESIGN FLAWS. Logic, y'see? Anyway, playing Enter the Matrix got me thinking about it. It's an averagely average game, in fact it's pretty crap all round. But it has some of the most horrendously thought out designing ever seen. I'm not going to provide a list, I'll just provide one simple example. The button for "Lock on Enemy" and "Put away weapon" are one and the same. One of the reasons why the gunplay in this game sucked was that the targetting was next to useless, you end up targetting an unarmed guy walking slowly towards you, and not the guy with the semi-automatic filling your body with lead. So you hit the Lock on button, and your hapless avatar PUTS AWAY THEIR WEAPON AND STANDS THERE LIKE A MONKEY. Stupid. Another good example, although not in-game, would be the Prince of Persia series by Ubisoft. To pause, you press start, go to the save menu, choose save. "Would you like to save?" Er, yes. That's why I went to Save. "Choose save slot." I'll just choose the one I've been going with all the while. "Would you like to overwrite your save?" Er, yes. That's why I chose it. That happens a lot in EA games too, although it's probably worse in those, as it's an auto-save anyway, so after every level you get "Would you like to overwrite?". In fact, one broken example that I forget the name of quit to the main menu if you chose "No" at this point. YOU WILL SAVE, MOTHERFUCKER. Loading's not much better. Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb. An average game. At the main menu, you have to go through about 4 different screens to load your game, then once you've loaded it, it doesn't automatically start it. No, you have to back out to the main menu again and choose "Game/Resume". No time for load, Dr. Jones! Most of the design flaws I know of seem to revolve around controls and saving..but in some games, it's the lack of controls and saving. Unskippable cutscenes with a save point right before them, especially if they're a stupidly lengthy and rambling cutscene. Yet the same game features no save points right before immensely large boss fights. STEP UP AND CLAIM YOUR AWARD, FINAL FANTASY. Less noticeable, but just as important are the logical story flaws, as if game designer and writer never met. Back to Final Fantasy again, and the unanswered question of why Phoenix Down's don't work on Aeris. Or why Yuna ends FFX as an uber-hard warrior and starts FFX2 as a level 1 girlie-girl with no skills. DESIGN FLAWS. THEY SUCK.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 15:40 Those last FF examples aren't really flawys, they're just design mechanisms that they use to do what they want with the game. They aren't supposed to be questioned.

But they should be, at every available oppurtunity. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Gremmi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 20:05 Well, to me they're design flaws, as there's no real exposition or explanation behind it. Why can you not use a Phoenix Down on Aeris? Sure, it would ruin the plot quite a bit if you could, but still. You could argue they're just McGuffins, but they're pretty poor ones, really, and badly thought out. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Premier EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:21 Yes, design flaws suck, but with today's complexity of game production, there's not much to do about it. Attila the Stockbroker puts it very rightly:

"Tyler smiles, Tyler smiles
Through a hail of bricks and stones and tiles,
Now history rolls back, the wheel has turned:
Retribution." ----- -------- TITLE: Independent Games Festival 2006 AUTHOR: Olaf DATE: 12/13/2005 09:22:00 ap. ----- BODY:
As I imagine most visitors here should know, not all games have to be costly to be fun. Some of the most fun I've had with games was with freeware and shareware products. Being that the Independent Games Festival finalists were announced recently, I figured I'd give some of the interesting looking ones a shot, and report back. Thomas and the Magical Words Oh, don't look at me like that. Yeah, it looks like a kid's game. Yeah, it sounds like one. And yeah, the title is desperately childish. But damn, this game's fun. "Sort of like a one-player Scrabble" is probably the best way to describe it. Trapped inside a magical book, your character (the eponymous Thomas) has to get to the portal on each level. Sadly, there are huge gaps in the way, so what can he do? Plonk words down, obviously. Much as in Scrabble, the idea is to place down as big a word as you can think of, connected to the previous words, and traverse your way across the board. The full version costs something like $20 and the free demo only allows an hour of play, but it's more than enough for a bit of fun, and it'll certainly let you decide if it's worth paying for. http://www.viquagames.com/game/thomas_and_the_magical_words Rumble Box Ahaha. This is an interesting little idea, and the game itself is free. Essentially, this is a 3D fighting game. You're a character made up of cubes and spheres, and you have an attack button, a throw button, and your usual move buttons. You're dumped in a pit, with enemies (also made up of cubes and spheres) constantly appearing. When you defeat them, the pieces remain behind. Your goal? Escape from the pit within the time limit by building up the corpses (using that word makes this game seem gory, somehow, when in reality it's far from it) into a slope to the top of the pit. Quite fun, and well worth a look if you've got a computer that can run it. It's not exactly high-spec these days, but it does seem to require a half-decent video card, and a 1ghz processor. http://www.phackett.com/rumblebox Strange Attractors This is what I love about the Independent Games Festival. You get some totally awesome ideas that would never, ever crop up anywhere else. The thing about this game is you control the entire thing with just one button - the space bar. It's a little hard to describe, so bear with me. You're in space, with lots of objects floating around. You're completely unaffected by gravity, just bouncing and ricocheting off things - unless you press and hold down the space bar, in which case you're attracted to nearby objects. The bigger they are, the bigger the attraction. So, using the space bar and timing, you have to bounce and slingshot yourself around the open arena to the exit. Bizarrely enough there are also spacemen floating around who you can murder for points - either by knocking them into the force field walls the surround the arena (which don't hurt you; you can't be hurt in this game - you can just run out of time) or by splattering them between your craft and another object. Good for a giggle. http://www.ominousdev.com/ The Witch's Yarn Another little bizarre game. It's a little hard to give a review on this, as I've not yet finished a game of it, but the premise itself is rather interesting. Essentially, it's a story, but you affect how it turns out by cueing different actors and props at different times. The plot itself revolves around a witch who's opened up a yarn shop in the mortal world, and is trying to make it a success without using magic. Depending on the order you cue actors in each scene, the plot apparantly unfolds in different ways. I can say that there are certainly different endings, in the respect that you can "lose" the game (on my first go, the familiar pissed off the witch's mother so much that the mother got rid of it, and the witch gave up on the whole endeavour), but I'm not sure if there are actually REAL multiple paths through the game, and different endings. It's quite amusing, and it's a great idea, though I'd love to see different stories done with it, with real choice and real different endings. That would be quite an endeavour, mind you, and this in itself is certainly quite well done. The first two chapters are available free, while the rest have to be purchased. The game states that you can change the story even in the first two chapters by cueing things in a different order, so I might just try it again... http://www.thewitchsyarn.com/ These are the ones I've tried thus far. You can check out the finalists yourself here at the IGF site. Oh, and Darwinia's there too, and we all know that's fantastic.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Ashiq EMAIL: URL: DATE: 01:08 Witch's Yarn sounded better in the review--I pictured something akin to FF7's mini-skit in the golden saucer with Cloud and (typically) Aerith.

Strange Attractors strangely frustrating. No control. Most levels solved by luck--I spent several minutes on level four or five, then skipped through six in about ten seconds. Bonuses were awesome though--intertia and all that. ----- -------- TITLE: Allied Force: Why it sucks and why it's awesome AUTHOR: Tom Carrick DATE: 12/11/2005 07:29:00 ip. ----- BODY:
Falcon 4.0: Allied Force. For those of you who don't know it, it's basically a sequel to Falcon 4.0. So, why does it suck, and why is it awesome? Read on, cockmuffins. First, why it sucks. Well, it's very much the same. At first it feels very much how X-COM: Terror From the Deep felt after playing UFO:EU/X-COM:UD. Samey. New graphics, and a different campaign that's virtually identical. Nothing huge has been added. New campaign. That's all. Balkans. It's entirely different from playing the Korean campaign, but it still manages to feel the same. Which is a little boring. You can still only fly the F-16, although you get new (virtually indistinguishable) variants to play with, depending on the campaign and your squadron. The tutorials still suck ass. At least they're fixed now, you don't start with full fuel in the flameout landing training mission, which is nice (it was fixed in a patch of F4, but but still, it was a silly thing to not notice), but you have to read the manual to do the training missions. Okay, this isn't too bad, but when you consider that the manual comes on the CD, so you'd have to print it out, it's a massive pain in the ass. That graphics, while serviacble, are... monotonous. If you fly below cloud level but at a reasonable altitude, and look down, or otherwise face the dirt, you'll notice about 15-20 farms. The *same* farm, that is. It really takes away the element of immersion. This can be somewhat remedied by installing HiTilesAF, but it's not free. Twelve US dollars it costs, which isn't much, but I could get a decent oldish game for that - and the devs should really have done better. The tactical reference is both missing things, and is a little inaccurate in places. Actually, while I'm at it, some planes don't actually have skins yet. It's not too annoying, though, since there's just so many damn planes in the game. So, onto the awesome. The campaigns are still very much dynamic. Your flights can make a difference on the war on the short term, and your general tactics on the long term. Since there's always a big land war going on, this means your flights are usually tank-busting runs, which can get real boring, but you can always leave these up the computer and just pick what you think are the most interesting. You can set the priority targets yourself at any time, and can even choose that the computer makes no flights of any kind, so that you are forced to create every single flight manually. Not for the faint hearted. They've gone hugely overboard with the realism. Yum. The cockpit is now as realistic as it could possibly be, as far as I'm concerned. As well as choosing to start on the runway (or taxiway) and just hit the throttle, you can also choose to start on the ramp, and go through the routine of getting your jet up and running, turning the electrics on, and the engines, avionics, etc., which can easily take 10 minutes. The radar works as it should, and well, most everything does, actually. They've also made it easy enough for idiots to play. If you want, you can have lovely red boxes to show enemy planes and such, without taking much challenge out of the actual combat. Which is nice enough, really. The biggest thing I like about it though, is that the devs aren't just addressing issues with the game, they're adding features, too. For example, in the upcoming patch, you'll be able to do FAC (Forward Air Controller) missions, where you receive radio calls from flights, and designate ground targets from them with smoke rockets and such. Nice. So go out and buy it if you like flying planes and shooting stuff, yeah.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger roboczar EMAIL: URL: DATE: 00:00 Pretty much in agreement with everything you said, Knyght.

And um...that's all I really wanted to say. Good article. ----- -------- TITLE: TAke my TAlking sTAin, TAttler! AUTHOR: bjarke DATE: 12/09/2005 06:30:00 ip. ----- BODY:
They don't make RTS' the way they used to. So, lately, I've rediscovered good old Total Annihalation. Mostly pegging it for a rather simple RTS, I've found it to be much cooler than suspected. As opposed to most modern RTS', there's an awful lot you can do it. Instead of your old tired tank rush, TA has coastal bombardements, airstrikes, proper artillery fire, and stationary guns worth your time. The other bit where TA shines is the diversity of the units. It has everything from small combat bots over bomber planes to gigantic battlecruisers with two triple-barelled guns and a gatling laser and amphibious tanks. The resource model was very nice as well. Two resources, energy and metal. For energy you build one of the approximately fifty different power plants, and for metal you build mines on metal deposits. Metal deposits are often rare and most be fought for. It allows different stategies to succeed. You can hole up in your base 'till you're powerful enough to build a large gun and shoot the crap out of your enemy from afar, or you can just churn out a lot of cheap units and rush your enemy as early as possible. In conclusion, with its varied units, tactical opportunites, and resource collection that isn't annoying, (and the way it runs problem-free in XP) I declare TA to be the best RTS ever.
----- -------- TITLE: Ghosts of Christmases Past AUTHOR: KyoshoBallard DATE: 12/08/2005 05:54:00 ip. ----- BODY:
I am in a gaming slump. This happens at least once every year, though usually more. It can last for weeks. Even as long as a few months. It really depends on what's going on in my life. I think every gamer goes through this. At least, once they reach a certain age. My cousin, for instance, is still at an age where he plays games daily, and losing interest in gaming is something that he doesn't think could ever happen. It will. Oh it surely will. Maybe not right away. And maybe not for more than 24 hours at a time at first, but it will happen. Because of this, I shall spin a tale from my past. Yeah. My very own Christmas miracle. ______________________ It's coming on Christmas, they're cutting down trees, putting up reindeer, and singing songs of joy peace. Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But therein lies a problem. I cannot skate. So there goes that idea. Anyways, Christmas shall soon be here. How nice. In my mind, Christmas has always been connected to gaming. We got our first game system, an Atari 2600, for Christmas. And then later an NES for Christmas. Even later a Genesis, SNES, and N64, all for Christmas. Not at the same time, but you get the idea. Plus many games in between. The week between Christmas Day and New Years was usually spent gaming. I remember the Christmas I got my N64. It wasn't the year it was released, but a couple years later. Like 1999, or 1998, I think. Ah yes, it was 1998, because New Years was 1999. Anyways, I had trouble hooking it up to our VCR. I couldn't see very well where the VCR was positioned, so I kept putting the yellow wire in the white port, and the white wire in the yellow port. From my perspective, they looked to be in the right ones, but appearently not. So that Christmas day was the first Christmas Day in which I got a new system but wasn't able to play it. The little manual fold-out thing that came with the 64 said they recommended getting a Y-connector, so that the white and the [extremely lonely with no port to go into] red wire could plug into the same spot. I thought that's what the problem was, and what I needed. The day after Christmas (Boxing Day for those of you that say "oot and aboot"), we made a trip to Radio Shack for it. Brought it home, and this time I used a flashlight so I could see better and realized I had the wires in the wrong ports all along. How annoying. Well, since we already had it, I used the Y-connector anyways. My system was bundled with red second controller, and a game. What game, you may ask? Well, what game was it that made me want the system in the first place? What game was it that I played at my friend Jon's and HAD TO HAVE? Take a guess. Sure, there's a few games it could be, but really, come on now. Oh fine, I'll just tell you. Goldeneye. Yes, Goldeneye. I finally got to play it in my own home. That was nice. But I only got to play it for a couple hours before I had to go and visit my dad. My sister came with me, but she only stayed at my dad's for a few hours and then came home. Me, I was going to be staying until New Years. That's a week, for you slow folks. A week without my N64! Without Goldeneye! The idea was preposterous! But my mother would not let me take it with me. To add insult to injury, my father must've talked to my mother, because he knew I had gotten a N64 and he got me a game for it. It was a game which couldn't have cost him more than $10. It was used, and it was a game that didn't sell well, and was relatively unknown. Because it sucked. Well, no, it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great either. The game was Aero Gauge. A futuristic racing game. But that didn't matter, all that mattered was that I had yet another game I couldn't play! Argh! Whenever I was at my dad's, I usually hung out with my older step brother. And when I was with him, we were usually over at the neighbor's house. Brandon's. And what do I see as soon as I get into their living room? Brandon playing a N64! Yet another taunt! Ye cruel world! But...what was this game he was playing? He was doing something in a menu that looked very complicated. Then he exited the menu, and was chasing a chicken. A chicken? Why? "Why are you going after a chicken?" He paused it (bringing up that menu again), looked at me, grinned and told me he'd just figured out something cool. He went back to chasing the chicken, and kept hitting it with his sword. Then something happened which I shall never forget. The chicken got pissed off. Really pissed off. Suddenly the chicken multiplied into what looked like a dozen more chickens, and they all began attacking Brandon's character. He ran and got the hell out of there. "That was awesome," I said. "I know," he said. But what was this game? Oh, I'm sure anyone reading this already knows. But I had no idea. I asked him what it was. He pointed to the box it came in. The name registered in my mind. Zelda. I'd heard it before. I remembered seeing Zelda games for rent for the NES and SNES at my local video store. But I'd never played them. I watched him play for a while longer, doing all kinds of other things, and then we went back to my dad's house. I knew two things: I really really wanted to play my N64. And that I HAD to have that game! That was the New Years Eve that I got drunk for the first time. It was the year of the infamous putter incident. But I won't go into that. When I finally got home on New Year's Day, what did I find my sister doing? She was playing my N64! How dare she! And my mother was watching her play, something she usually had no interest in. For a moment, I was so consumed with jealousy and annoyance that I didn't notice what game she was playing. When I did, all negative emotions were gone in an instant. She was playing Zelda! "Where the heck did that game come from?!" They told me they'd rented it, and had already decided they were going to be buying it. "What? But... That's the game..I.. When are you buying it?" Tomorrow, they told me. Tomorrow, when the stores open back up. It's a Christmas miracle! Hooray! And so they did. And all three of us played it. We each had our own save slot. My sister lost interest after a little while, but my mother and I were almost competing to see who could beat the game first. This was the first time she'd really played any games in years. It was the gateway drug. It led to EverQuest later, which led to..well, that's not important. That's enough for today kiddies. Have a Merry Christmas. And remember kids, don't get drunk and sing into a putter. Good day.
----- -------- TITLE: YOU GOTTA FIGHT AUTHOR: Gremmi DATE: 12/07/2005 11:57:00 ip. ----- BODY:
FOR YOUR RIGHT TO PAAAAAAARTAAAY Yes. Party games. The saviour of gaming? Seems to me gaming is thoroughly split at the moment, and not just via genre favourites. Some people refuse to touch multiplayer aspects of a game, and likewise other people will buy a perfectly decent single-player game and ignore the main meat, instead tucking into the sidecourse of Vs Other People. BUT Everyone likes party games. EVERYONE. Simply put because they're pure undiluted fun, and they're immense fun when drunk. Even the rubbish (in my opinion) DDR becomes fun with a group of uncoordinated mates and a few beers. You can't really say the same of, say, Counterstrike, or even split-screen multiplayer games. Sure, drunken Burnout was a right laugh, but I didn't have a freakin' clue what was going on. It's more the social aspects, I suppose, watching someone make a tit out of themselves prancing about in front of an Eyetoy attempting to swat invisible zombies has more humour factor than watching them hammer at a joypad whilst the car crashes. Anyway. Obvious point I'm coming to here, Nintendo Revolution. It's a very physical console, and will probably have a hell of a lot of party games released for it. Then again, Nintendo's track record of party games aren't that good. With the exception of Smash Bros, Ninty games aren't really multiplayer larkathons. Mario Party is utter crap, for instance, and the curreny avalanche of Mario Sports titles are only slightly above average. The less said about Mario DDR the better, really. Donkey Konga doesn't count, for nitpickers, 'cause it's by Namco, and it's just their previous drum game with a Nintendo skin. So. Party gaming. The new karaoke? Well, we've already got Singstar.
----- -------- TITLE: Hey, look who decided to show the hell up and post for once AUTHOR: roboczar DATE: 12/07/2005 11:26:00 ip. ----- BODY:
So now that I've got that unpleasantness out of the way...I'd like to talk to you a little about Half-Life 2. Specifically, the Lost Coast tech demo. As you probably know, the Lost Coast is the showoff piece for Valve's simulation of High-Dynamic Range lighting. It's basically the effect you notice when you've been inside all day, in a basement, and suddenly step out into a bright and glorious summer day. You reel and cringe for minutes while your eyes adjust to the horrible beams of photons that seem to be going directly into your brain. It's quite fun, and I recommend you try it right now... After you read the rest of this. This is all well and good, and I'm as much for realism as the next guy, but I have a gripe or two. The main issue being the lack of subtelty. It may be that because Lost Coast is just an HDR showpiece, the HDR reflections are exceedingly bright. I mean really bright. Even when your eyes adjust, it's just so bright you can't even look at it. There's no reasonable gradient, like in real life, it's just dark, then huge blobs of HDR lighting. At no point in the game does it really get any better, you can stare at the HDR spot for hours, and it's still a fuzzy blob of pain. That brings me to my next issue...the light is all fuzzy and blobby. Never in my life do I recall seeing the bright sun reflecting off a building in such a way that it blurs my vision. I understand this is an effect of the ever popular 'bloom' rendering style that was originally concieved to be a cheaper (than anti-aliasing processor-wise) way to hide jagged edges of ploygons. Light bloom is not pretty or awe-inspiring when it's *everywhere*. The whole time I was thinking that Gordon's glasses may just not be enough to repair his clearly deteriorating eyesight. Look, I don't mean to get down on Valve about HDR. It's really a great thing that they're trying. I would just prefer that they spent more time mimicing reality instead of trying to provide an 'oh hey look at the light' experience. It would be much more impressive to have shocking realism than shocking for shock's sake.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Anonyymi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 11:19 "for Valve's simulation of High-Dynamic Range lighting."
Erm, it's not a simulation of HDR, it's a HDR implementation. HDR is a simulation of natural light behaviour.

"I understand this is an effect of the ever popular 'bloom' rendering style that was originally concieved to be a cheaper (than anti-aliasing processor-wise) way to hide jagged edges of ploygons."
Erm, it's actually a property of natural light, that it 'bleeds' across boundaries. Bloom filters are just a bodgey hack that looks sorta like the natural effect. HDR is another way of trying to mimic this behaviour of light. The problem with HL2 is that fantastically mimics the percieved light as a human would see it if their irises were dialated, ie like when they emerge from a dark room. But as you have observed, ppl's irises don't stay like that, they contract to stem the overdose of light coming into them, well in excess of what they actually need to see the scene in front of them. Which incidentally will remove a significant portion the light bleed, and thus a significant portion of what HDR gives you.
If one were to model this iris behaviour properly, HDR would be a very subtle effect, ergo prolly the reason why they did it like this. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Troy Goodfellow EMAIL: URL: DATE: 23:55 This month's CGM has a column by Brett Todd complaining about the lighting in Lost Coast. He makes some similar complaints:

"HDR is way overdone right now, leaving too many objects blooming with an ethereal glow more apropos to Lothlorien than City 17." ----- -------- TITLE: Fighting Games: The Flatmate Test AUTHOR: Olaf DATE: 12/06/2005 02:12:00 ap. ----- BODY:
Fighting games, these days, are pretty much a console-only endeavour. Back in the early-ish days of PC gaming (I'm talking early 90s here; yes, okay, it's far from the real early days, but it was when PC gaming was really becoming more mainstream), a lot of fighting games were ported from consoles. Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat, anyone? Hell, there were some games which were desktop computer only - Body Blows, for instance, was only released on PC and Amiga. The problem is, with a few notable exceptions, most of these were crap, largely due to the difficulty of trying to pull off, say, a fireball manoeuver with a keyboard. The exceptions, when made, are definitely amongst the cream of the genre, though. One Must Fall 2097 holds a very special place in my heart and is one of my favourite fighting games ever. If you've not played it - well, why the hell not? But I'm not here to talk about the PC's fall in this genre. I want to talk about more recent ones, and the differences between them. So, we have three major console contenders right now - XBox, PS2, and Gamecube. I'm not counting the 360 because at present there are practically no games out for it. Each of these have a wide variety of fighting games, both spread across the platforms and exclusive to one. They've also all got different controllers, though all are perfectly suited for fighting games due to the use of both analogue sticks and d-pads. Of them all, the PS2 probably has the widest amount of fighters. The Dead or Alive series was on this before jumping ship to the XBox, so it's got Dead or Alive 2 - the best of the lot, before Ultimate was released on XBox a bit later. It's also got most of the Capcom ones, like Marvel vs Capcom, and it also has the phenomenal Guilty Gear X2 - and that's without mentioning the Tekken series, which is practically a flagship title for this console. The XBox has DoA3 and Ultimate, and those are the main ones I'm going to be looking at here. The Gamecube, on the other hand, caters for a more party-ish taste, with things like Super Smash Brothers Melee and my beloved Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen series. And they've all got their own variants of Soul Calibur 2, which is ace. XBox first, then. Dead or Alive is one of the most simplistic series you can find when it comes to fighting games - one button for throw, one button for counter, one for punch, one for kick. Hitting a direction and a different combination of punch and kick results in a different combo of attacks. Definitely one for the button mashers, because it's frankly piss easy to get into, though at high level play it can very much become a guessing game of what your opponent is going to do and countering it. Giving it the Flatmate Test - chucking my flatmates at it and seeing how they do and how well they like it - DoA Ultimate (a redone version of DoA2 with updated graphics, characters, and more costumes), it received a resounding "Woo". Pretty graphics, stunning-looking moves that are easy to pull off, and button-masher friendly. I'm not good enough to defend against button-mashing tactics, either, so it was fairly even all round. Much loved by the masses, this one, then. Kung Fu Chaos is the other XBox fighter I want to take a very brief look at. The main fighting portion of the game is a bit naff, sadly, but the minigames make this one well worth picking up for cheap. The joy of four people running around a slippery iceberg trying to knock each other off without falling off is unexplainable until you've tried it. Or my personal favourite, the game with a huge spinning pole where everyone has to either jump over it or knock it backwards. As time goes on it gets faster and faster. Last one to lose all their lives (by getting knocked off) wins. Simple and hilarious, this also scored highly on the Flatmate Test, though the actual fighting part is crap so maybe it doesn't count anyway. The PS2, then. This is home to a huge number of fighting games - Serious Fighting Games, too. Not simplistic little things like Dead or Alive where you can button mash. No, this has things like Guilty Gear X2, possibly the most ridiculous "serious fighter" I've ever seen. GGX2 takes inspiration from rock 'n' roll, both with the music, characters, and moves. Hell, one character - Axl Low - is based on Axl Rose. Another is based on Frank Zappa. The game is balanced out by everyone having access to a huge variety of moves and countermoves, and then having their own special moves as well. The problem is that this is an awful lot to remember, and as the moves are performed Street Fighter-style (quarter circle forward + punch, etc), it requires a fair degree of memorisation. Once you're into it, you'll love it. The problem is that it takes awhile to get into it. Despite being one of the best fighting games I've ever played, this one fails the Flatmate Test. Too complicated for pick-up-and-play, sadly, and one where button mashing will fail against anyone experienced. Sadly, barring Dead or Alive, most of the fighters on the PS2 fall into this category. One exception is Soul Calibur 2 (on all systems) which strikes a wonderful balance between being simplistic and deep. Easy to control and play, but hard to master. As for the Gamecube, I want to take a quick look at the aforementioned two games - Super Smash Brothers Melee, and the Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen series. SSBM is well known to anyone who's played an N64 or Gamecube, really, and deservingly so. A huge number of well-known characters from all sorts of Nintendo games, ranging from Link and Zelda, through Pikachu, Kirby, Mario, Donkey Kong, all the way to less-well-known characters like the Ice Climbers, and Ness from Earthbound. Even some of the Fire Emblem characters make an appearance. The game has a huge wealth of unlockables, most of which can easily be done through multiplayer, and the game is simple - and yet exceptionally devious and varied. Some stages rotate, others explode, some have lava rising up from the ground. The idea is to hit your foes off the screen, causing them to lose a life. The more damage someone takes, the further they're knocked back by each hit. This means that at the start of a match, or after respawning, you're fairly safe, but you'll quickly start reaching higher damage percentages and have to tread a bit more carefully. Last man standing usually wins, though there are alternate game modes. The real winner here, though, is the control system. By and large, there are only two buttons needed except for movement - one for normal attacks, and one for special attacks. More can be used, for things like shields and rolling, but they're not as essential as one might think. As such, this gets a big thumbs up from my flatmates. The final game is Naruto: Gekitou Ninja Taisen 4, now that I've finally imported it. My previous article details the game system enough, but I'll recap quickly - gorgeous graphics and animation, extremely simple controls (think SSBM, only with the addition of sidestepping and supers), entirely in Japanese. It has an extremely chaotic four-player mode, though the real meat of the game is the one-on-one battling. This, despite being simple, can be extremely harsh. Attacking can leave you wide open to a counter attack, and so higher-level play revolves around working out what to do and when to do it. It's stunningly cerebral, and though many fighting games reach this at higher levels of play, it doesn't take long before you hit this with NGNT4. And thoughts from the Flatmates? Very pretty, very simple, very fun. Button mashers beware, you'll suffer badly at the hands of anyone who's played before, but it doesn't take long at all to get past the button mashing phase. So, basically, if you want a serious, hardcore fighting game, go with the PS2. If you're after something more party-ish, go for the Gamecube, though if you're up for importing then the NGNT games can provide you with a decent fighting game too (and there's always Soul Calibur). If you've got an XBox, then you've got a reasonable mix with SC2, Kung Fu Chaos, and Dead or Alive.
----- -------- TITLE: Fire Force! AUTHOR: Joq DATE: 12/05/2005 12:04:00 ap. ----- BODY:
Fire Force (ICE 1992, Amiga) is a rad game. Yeah, a rad game. One of the greatest stabbing games ever, period. The main character, a random commando-ish fellow on a mission, is one tough mofo. While stabbing his arm moves way faster than a sewing machine. Oh yeah. Within a split-second you've already stabbed that evil terrorist-ish person thrice in the chest area (results in a satisfying scream), or just quickly slit his throat. Slice! The guns aren't bad, either. Good ol' AK and CAR-15 are the basic tools of the trade, but the M-60 really packs a punch (eliminates any enemy with one round). The M-16 (with M203) is pretty much useless, but the MP5 is silenced and really useful. The main character also has remote bombs, grenades, medkits and LAWs available. Choosing your own equipment within certain weight limits is swell. Swell, I tells you. So, armed with your trusty STABBETY knife and one automatic rifle you're being sent on a mission. One out of twelve. Some missions consist of simple assassinations, where you have to search bunkers, tents and multi-story buildings for the evil enemy commander. On some missions you have to mark strategic enemy buildings with GPS transmitters. There's even a few hostage rescue missions, the last one being really EVIL (every bloody time that I enter the first building I shoot the hostage (itchy trigger finger)). The time limits in these missions are usually pretty darn tight, and you have to reach the evac zone before the limit expires. Failure to do so means your commando will be tagged MIA and you have to start a new career. During said career your commando will earn promotions and medals. Which is neat!
Where was I? Oh yeah. Stab!
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Joq EMAIL: URL: DATE: 00:54 Wow, that looks ass. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Anonyymi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 09:11 Fireforce? Bah, nothing compared to Fire power!
http://hol.abime.net/558 ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 15:31 Fire Force is awesome.

Couple of corrections:
The M60 doesn't kill everything with one round, if you just tap it, sometimes they won't die. It just sounds like one round 'cause their sound effects aren't much good.

Also, you don't become MIA forever if you don't leave in time. You can start a new guy (not over your old guy), and as I remember, if you do some hostage rescuing missions, you can sometimes find your guy and he won't be MIA anymore. and since it's pretty hard to actually get killed with the M60, it's a nice touch, since you can just go through the whole game with that guy. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Joq EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:21 It (M60) pretty much always kills them nasties with one tap, or maybe I'm just loco, Knyght. ----- -------- TITLE: Hammer and Sickle, thoughts on the demo AUTHOR: bjarke DATE: 12/02/2005 06:12:00 ip. ----- BODY:
Does what it says on the box. So yeah, I leeched the demo of Hammer and Sickle and played it. H&S is a squad-based tactics game based in some funky cold war scenario. You're a spy and you have to do spystuff. The combat's turnbased which I haven't seen in a recent game since Temple of Elemental Evil, the lovely little D&D game. H&S was rather okayish, but I'm not declaring it to be the next saviour of mankind or anything. I didn't get to experience a lot of the gameplay mechanics in the demo, but it does have the essentials. Weapon fire modes, the abillity to crouch and prone, turn interrupts and so on. The baddies seem to die pretty quickly, and the 'nades and machine guns are pleasantly powerful. (Not that you get any, though. The bad guys have them.) It's pretty difficult too. Took a few tries on easy. Which brings me to my final point. It's rather refreshing to see somebody go back to the old turnbased tactical roots. In this age of RTS's and insta-bang realtime games, it's nice to play something that has to pressure on it. You can take your sweet time to plan out your moves, and that's nice. I don't think this game's going to be a commercial success. It's not very easy to get into, and is, is mentioned, rather difficult. It's not soulless clone from EA, and that earns points. Even though if you deviate from standards of mainstream gaming, you still have to write a decent game, and the demo didn't impress me much. Don't worry, folks. Jagged Alliance and UFO still reigns supreme.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:06 It helps if you've played Silent Storm, as this is it's successor.

I like:
plot seems interesting.
No silly panzerkliens or whatever they're called.
I much prefer cold war setting over the usual WW2 bollocks.
Guns seem to do more realistic damage.
They kept the nice level-up system.

I dislike:
Not as much action as SS.
The dialogue is shit.
It's generally... not very well done. Let's hope it's a fairly early demo, though.
Runs really slow on anything but minimal settings and my box is far from oldz0rz.
RPG talky stuff looks half-done. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger roboczar EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:46 Don't know why turnbased tactical is still around. It's time to start using the UFO series model (and XCOM Apocalypse), and let people pause the action at will and execute commands as needed. Turn based was fine when computers needed to dedicate clock time to calculate results...now it's moot.

Give us the action we deserve, kthx. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger bjarke EMAIL: URL: DATE: 20:20 As mentioned in the article, I like turn-based merely for the sake of turns themselves.

I'm also a roguelike whore. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Joq EMAIL: URL: DATE: 00:34 Knyght, as far as I know the game's been out in Russia for a long-ish while and since it's out in Europe real soon, don't expect anything revolutionary in the full game compared to the demo.

And since the dev team seems to consist of people who were making Hammer & Sickle as a mod for the ol' SS... the quality might not be top-notch. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Android EMAIL: URL: DATE: 21:40 I disagree with Robo. Turn-based gameplay mechanics have little to do with computing power. Otherwise, computer chess would be obsolete ;-) And XCOM: Apocalypse sucked, so it's a bad example anyway!

Maybe in the past a game that should have been real-time from a design point was made into a turn-based game because of hardware limitations, but there are genuine reasons to have turns.

Turn-based has everything to do with pace. It's more like a tabletop game mechanics, which are welcome. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 22:38 X-COM Apocalypse does not suck. Even so, it's a completely stupid point. HAY X-COM3 SUCKS IT HAS REALTIME. Yes... It also has turn based that's pretty much identical to X-COM1/2. So, yeah.

I like X-COM in realtime and turn based. Turn based is better, but I get real bored of fighting people all the time, so if there's no chance of me losing anyone (like in raids, etc.) I'm gonna switch to realtime so I don't get bored out of my skull. It also allowed nify things like ducking in and out from around a corner thing to work, which the AI does quite well. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Android EMAIL: URL: DATE: 02:15 I don't agree. X-COM 3 was designed for Real Time; Turns are an afterthought, and it shows. On the other hand, the original X-COM was designed for Turn-based, so they are certainly NOT identical.

Besides, X-COM 3 also sucks because of the art style! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 02:30 Whereas I just don't like X-Com 3. Adore the first two, dislike Apocalypse. That's for many reasons, mostly other than the realtime/turn-based thing.

On that note, though, in games like this I do tend to prefer turn-based. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Joq EMAIL: URL: DATE: 16:49 I really liked X-Com Apoc and the real-time mode was great (turn-based being quite cumbersome (in this particular game), IMHO). The only issues that I had with it were the unfinished city bits, unbalanced money thingies and silly-lookin' enemies. ----- -------- TITLE: Fable: A Retrospective AUTHOR: Olaf DATE: 12/01/2005 11:46:00 ip. ----- BODY:
So, there I am, relaxing. It's a Thursday. No work's due. That which has to be done for Bastard Numbered is complete, and my various other commitments have been fulfilled. I can zone out. I light up a cigarette, pour myself a vodka, and am about to head into the kitchen when all of a sudden, the phone rings. Caller ID? Jim, or John (they use the same phone). A transcript of the recorded phone conversation follows: "Hello?" "WHERE'S MY FUCKING ARTICLE?" "Fuck you. It's not due until Monday and you know it." "Hah. Normally that'd be the case, but we've missed two articles this week already and it doesn't look like we're going to get one today. So it's up to you. WHERE'S MY FUCKING ARTICLE?" *click* Sigh. Fable is one of the more well-known games amongst gamer circles. As with just about everything associated with Peter Molyneux, it was hugely anticipated, and had a feature list as long as my arm. RPG? Living, breathing world? Your Actions Make A Difference? Holy shit, said the gaming community, sign me up for some of that. And then, after many (completely expected) delays, it was finally released. Critics, by and large, adored it. The gaming community was a bit less enthused. It's been awhile after the release, so the hype's died down, and Fable: The Lost Chapters - an extended version - has just been released. Perfect time to take a look at it. The main issue with Fable is that it's a game of two halves, not unlike football. Completely unlike football, though, is that the two halves are radically different. On the one hand, you have a third-person action adventure - the main plot arc of the game. On the other hand, you really do have this living, breathing world they talked about. It's like a gigantic RPG sandbox. Faults with the main plot arc are many. It's your typical uninspired fantasy story, it's short, and it's piss easy. It doesn't have much to do with the rest of the game, which is by far the better half. Do quests, get experience by killing stuff, and level up various spells and attributes. The levelling system is actually done rather well - you divide up your hard-earned experience yourself back at the Hero's Guild, however you like. Levelling your strength (letting you carry bigger weapons and do more damage) to Level 5 might cost you, say, 2000 experience. On the other hand, for that same 2000 experience, you could get yourself a couple of new spells. Level 1 only, mind you, but they might come in handy. Or perhaps you need to upgrade your ranged accuracy... It's a nice little system, and it works surprisingly well. Rather than choosing a class, you upgrade yourself as you see fit. Jack of all trades, or master of one. It's up to you. But no. The real thing about Fable is that you get out of it however much you put into the rest of it. If you stick to the main quest and don't ever faff about in towns, you're going to be sorely disappointed by this game. If, on the other hand, you bother to spend some time in the towns, you can really grow to like it. Your character ages as the game goes on. He gets scars from his battles, you can change his hair and give him tattoos. Different armour gives different attributes of attractiveness and scariness, adjusting how villagers act towards you. Performing good or evil acts also changes your appearance; be a goody-two-shoes and you'll be all shiny and bright, with a halo. Go around indiscriminately murdering villagers, sacrificing people to dark gods, and stealing from shops, and you'll get a healthy red glow and a nice pair of horns. Villagers will run screaming when they see you, or cower in terror and beg you not to kill them. Quite a rush. Hell, even overusing magic makes your eyes start to glow. Your avatar is unlikely to be quite like one belonging to a friend. If you opt to just play through the main game, you see, you're missing out on a lot. You'll never get drunk in a pub. You'll never flirt with every woman in town. You'll never get accidentally married to a man just to see if it's possible in the game (yes, it is). You'll never make your spouse cry by letting them see you flirting with someone else. It's just such a goddamn shame that with all this going on around you, the actual game itself isn't all that great. The controls, for starters, are a bit poo. A lot of it relies on context-sensitive stuff... except that it's crap at telling what you need at any given time. Casting most spells requires you to hold down the right trigger and then remember what button you've assigned them to. In the middle of combat against a group rabid werewolf-equivalents, this isn't the nicest thing in the world. Worse still is the fact that you'll be constantly going into the extremely long menus to change stuff around, and although this isn't quite as crap and boring as in, say, X2, it really takes you out of the rest of it. Considering the freedom exhibited in most of the game, this is more than a little disappointing. It's not all bad, though. Quite often you'll have good/evil choices of the same quest. Defend a farm from bandit attack, or help the bandits kill off the guards so you can all raid the farm. There's not much difference, though; it's just a change as to who you're maiming, and the combat itself is a wee bit peasy. There is a bit of replayability in going back and trying things out as a different character type - pumping your skills into magic (which, incidentally, is extremely well done; I'll get onto that in a sec), or archery, or brute face-smashing strength. It's still just not enough, though, especially considering the general crapness of the main quest. Not only that, but loading times tend to be fairly long - and common - and traipsing around gets a bit dull after awhile. Magic, though. There aren't that many spells in the game - around about 12, from memory - but they're not just different variations of each other. Each of the spells are just a bit different, and fairly well thought out. One teleports you behind your targeted enemy, letting you get in a backstab. Lightning lets you do your best Emperor Palpatine impression and fry everything in front of you. Lobbing out a bastard great fireball will cause a massive explosion. Another spell lets you slow down (or stop) time for everyone around you, and yet another summons a bunch of magic swords to help you take out multiple foes. They're not really customisable at all - pumping experience into them sometimes changes the effects (time stops for longer, lightning electrocutes more people) but frequently just increases damage. Weapons, though, are customisable, in a Diablo 2-style jewel slot system. It's another nice little touch in a game that is very much about nice little touches. You really do get a sense of individuality when your battle-scarred, black-plate-armoured veteran strolls down a village high street, brandishing a gigantic sword that's frankly more like a slab of iron which has been imbued with fire magic, and so has flames licking the edges. Or perhaps you're more into being a good guy, and you have a gigantic warhammer (some of these weapons truly are gigantic, too) that contains a couple of stones increasing the damage against the undead. The fact that the game is intrinsically very pretty doesn't hurt, either. There's a lot more to talk about, really, but I think you've got the idea. Nice touches, shame about the game. It's not a bad little giggle if you can find it reasonably cheap, and The Lost Chapters may very well add some more cool content, but the main quest is a bit rubbishy. If you're not the type who enjoys customising your character and messing around in towns, then you're not really going to enjoy this. If you do, though, you might just find some value in it.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Rhubarb EMAIL: URL: DATE: 05:24 Speaking as someone who generally plays RPGs purely for the sake of sidequests, I'm currently twitching with the urge to play this game. You've described it before but never in so much detail (well, obviously). So... you've now given me two reasons to want an Xbox. Asshole.

Who's John? Is he Jim's evil twin? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Jim9137 EMAIL: URL: DATE: 21:27 http://bannumbers.blogspot.com/2005/10/i-have-cunning-plan.html

Also, Fable is fun for a while but it just doesn't seem to have much of the fun factor in my opinion. Too boring hack and slash and whatnot, althought it was hilarious that my worldsaver was feared all over, WITHOTU A REASON. :D

excuse typos, sickness. ----- -------- TITLE: Games and Education AUTHOR: Olaf DATE: 11/29/2005 01:47:00 ap. ----- BODY:
Games have lately been widely linked (largely by, in this writer's opinion, people who've overreacted) to violence, killing, and other such evils. But can they be beneficial to people instead? We investigate. Or rather, lazily hypothesise. So, that question again: can games be beneficial? Short answer: Yes. Long answer: Well, that's going to take an article. The most obvious type of "beneficial" game is edutainment. A much-maligned genre, edutainment is frequently scorned and looked down upon, and rarely compared to "real" games. The main purpose of edutainment is, as can be gleaned from the name, to educate. Entertainment is a secondary function of it, and one that's not really very well done. Within a certain age group - say, 4-7 - edutainment is reasonable. The simplistic games within this category tend to attempt to teach basic math and literacy skills in bright and colourful environments, with a modicum of gaming built in. Obviously, not much there for older users. Minor digression: my first real encounter with edutainment was with Granny's Garden on the BBC Micro at school. This game taught, as can be expected, basic maths, literacy, and logic. I was 4 when I first saw this game. It scared the living fuck out me. Any game which contains semi-random encounters with a gigantic blue witch head that laughs at you was more than sufficent to traumatise me at 4, although the blow is slightly lessened by the threats of "Ha! Ha! Ha! I've caught you! Now I'm going to send you home," from this avatar of pure evil. It's also one of my most memorable games ever and something I occasionally dig up to emulate. Check it out sometime, if you can. Anyway! No, my real bugbear with edutainment is that which tries to attract slightly older groups to it; say, 8-11. Most 8-11 year olds I know are hardened gamers who aren't going to be particularly impressed by this approach. It becomes significantly harder to entice gamers within this age group to become excited at the prospect of helping a frog cross a stream by choosing which lilypad has on it the number of an arbitrary sum off to one side. That's an example taken from my own youth, once again. Edutainment, then, is largely crap once a gamer hits a certain age or intelligence level. But do games teach us? Or is it as Jack Thompson and varies other reactionaries claim, that they only teach us to KILL? (Excuse the emphasis, I'm rather ill.) Of course they bloody teach us, if we're willing to open up to them. It depends on the type of game itself, of course. There've supposedly been studies that show that people who play FPS games have faster reactions and better attention to peripheral vision, making them safer drivers. I can't find any actual evidence of this, mind you, but it sounds reasonable to me. Any stimulus which forces you to pay attention to what's happening all over the screen and react to it as quickly as possible is certainly going to teach you to those things after a few in-game deaths. But that's not quite what I'm talking about. Can games teach us more academic things? Again, I'd say yes. Take Gabriel Knight, for example - another game from my childhood. What could I possibly learn from a game focused largely on the ritual slaughter of innocents, with a womanising, foul-mouthed main character? Well, basic German, for starters. I played this before I started secondary school (where I started to learn German) and by the time I was there I had a few words of basic German. While being able to say "Three snakes crawl in my sleep" isn't exactly a commonly used phrase in Germany, things like "Guten Tag. Sie haben Schloss Ritter erreicht" was certainly a start on the useful basics of the language and the syntax. More to the point, I was intrigued by the game and the language, and wanted to learn more. I'm sure that the lectures on Voudoun in the game aren't quite as helpful in real life, but they were sure as hell interesting and are certainly added to the trivia I know. Perhaps the most telling thing is an article in a recent PC Gamer UK, though. There's a story in this particular issue about a Creative Writing class in a school near Bristol that uses the Myst games rather... well, creatively. The kids play through the game as a class, and the teacher asks them to describe what they've seen. They recently had a visit from Rand Miller - the creator of, and one of the stars in, the Myst games - where he went through the same thing with them. And they love it. Whether they're creating a For Sale sign for a house in the game, or describing the area and adding it to a soundtrack with Powerpoint, it's hard to fault this approach. Hell, I wish my school did stuff like this. And is it working? Oh yes. The class of primary school students, 10 and 11 years old, are some of the best in the country. Here's an excerpt from one of the works of a ten-year old in this class. "To my left, a pillar of light looms above me. It is strangely satisfying to watch the dust particles pass through the tower of illumination. I wave my hand through the dancing brightness and feel a sensation like no other, as every muscle in my body relaxes. "I pull my hand out. Immediately, my body feels tense and stiff so I move forward, puppet-like. "Moving forward cautiously to the angel wing doors I step through and..." The boy who wrote that is ten years old. Ten. Years. Old. I honestly wish I could have written like that at ten. That work, incidentally, is unedited, and the other examples given are just as impressive. So will we see computers and gaming entering the classroom more in future? Probably not. Not any time soon, anyway. But to me, at least, it seems that they can educate just as much. Obviously, it depends on the approach taken, and the games in question - I doubt very much that Myst would be quite so educational if just played through outside of a classroom environment. But this, combined with my own experiences, shows me that yes, games can indeed educate. What do you think?
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Rhubarb EMAIL: URL: DATE: 04:50 You left out one my most commonly utilised benefits from games, which is stress relief. I have never, ever gotten a kill-crazed bloodlust from an FPS. On the contrary... when I'm particularly frustrated or angry at the world in general, switching on System Shock 2 and smashing ten kinds of snot out of mutant hybrids with a giant wrench chills me the fuck out. I mean, I'd much prefer to go to the top of a tall cliff and scream my lungs out for ten minutes, but that's not really feasible in this day and age of dense populations, so mutant smashing it is. If you play, say, Hitman, and then get the urge to go garrotte a few people, you've got problems much more severe than whatever games you choose.

Incidentally, I was having a conversation with a guy a couple of weeks back about whether games can be intellectual, as books have the reputation of being, and I described a few he hadn't heard of before... Photopia, Gabriel Knight 1, I Have No Mouth (based on a book but no less impressive), and he was genuinely impressed... the 'smartest' game he'd heard of at that point was Myst. He expressed surprise that there weren't more of these types, and I said it was probably because they weren't really perceived as marketable... this is the same with all forms of visual entertainment, but it's pretty rare that someone will take a chance and produce something new and innovative... prefering instead to go with tried-and-tested formulaic crap. If games are cliched, it's because of general preconceptions keeping them that way. So I think, anyway. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Rhubarb EMAIL: URL: DATE: 04:52 Okay, well my points really don't have a lot to do with your article now that I look over it again, but still. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 15:31 Quite right, though.

To be honest, if games - or any form of media - provoke the sort of response that you'd want to go out and hurt other people, then yeah, you do have problems. It may be that games allow you to actually act these out, so perhaps they're worse than films or whatever when it comes to things like this, but I remain unconvinced about that point. In any case, that point is largely moot; any form of media would likely provoke that sort of reaction if you're the type of person who's going to get one. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Rhubarb EMAIL: URL: DATE: 15:40 To focus more on your actual article and draw from my own point, it really irritates me that games aren't being utilised more as a possible medium for 'intellectual' expression. Few games are really what you'd call arty, and if they are seen as more 'clever' than usual, it's generally just because of a new gimmick or two that no one's really explored much before. I understand that they need to focus on player entertainment, but comics have managed to make the leap just fine. It bugs me senseless that 99% of games have to appeal to the lowest common denominator. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger roboczar EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:44 Great article, man. I'd just add that the strategy genre is more blatantly education these days, what with the Paradox games like Victora, Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron. That entire series of games is a fantastic teaching tool, for obvious reasons. Also, titles like Sim City can build problem solving skills very quickly, but at a pace that's manageable by younger folks; that was part of the original design.

But yeah, on another note, I wish people would stop fucking talking about Jack Thompson. You're just giving the guy extra publicity and feeding his already inflated ego. Angry gamers are the best credibility the guy can get. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Olaf EMAIL: URL: DATE: 02:05 Rhubarb: Funny you should say that - Roger Ebert (the film critic) recently mentioned that he thinks games are a total waste of time. This was brought up by his review of the Doom film, and someone questioning whether he actually knew anything about the source material. His response, to another question posed by someone defending games, included: "I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art. To my knowledge, no one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers. That a game can aspire to artistic importance as a visual experience, I accept. But for most gamers, video games represent a loss of those precious hours we have available to make ourselves more cultured, civilized and empathetic." Full response is here, about the third question down.

roboczar: Thanks. Yeah, you're quite right, the Paradox games in particular are decent when it comes to that. I do wish that games and so on were used more in the classroom - I know some schools used to use Oregon Trail and similar games in classes, though that's fallen off a lot lately, as far as I know. And I couldn't really help but mention Jack Thompson because he's the most prominent of the reactionaries and it would have seemed somewhat amiss if I hadn't at least mentioned his name, though I probably could have worked around it. ----- -------- TITLE: Wherein I agree with Jack Thompson AUTHOR: Tom Carrick DATE: 11/26/2005 10:29:00 ip. ----- BODY:
Bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this. As we all know, Jack Thompson can't do none of that law practicing doo-das in Alabama no more. Good. I don't live even within a few thousand miles of there, but it's still good. However, I'd like to say, there is a point that I agree with him on, albeit for very different reasons. ESRB is shit. To be less specific, all rating systems I've seen are shit. Jack cites different reasons, but seriously, it sucks. There's a *one year* difference between "mature" at 17+ and "adults only" at 18+. WHY? But even that doesn't really matter. There are two things that *do* matter. People have value systems I guess is an important thing. An active Christian of any age is going to be more offended by GTA (or even Black & White) than any non-heavily-religious person of any age. Hey, I'm religious - although not in a theistic way - and I've not been offended by any game, really. Except by games I hope will be good and end up being disasteriously bad (I'm looking at *you*, Birthright). The other thing that matters, that was half-almost-touched upon was maturity. Age is not maturity. Maturity is maturity. If this Christian is 25, he will still be offended more than most 12 year olds would be. I'm not saying that Christians are immature, here, just that kids (especially gamers - not the charvers (regional variant of chavs)) have rather high maturity levels these days, for better or worse, and any rating system that doesn't cater for this is stuck in the dark ages. My proposal: Keep in content descriptors such as "violence", "strong langauge", etc. Add descriptors for theists, like (a better way of saying) "goes against mono/polytheism", or "has scenes against the values of relgion x", and whatnot. Remove all the useless age-related ratings. Add a simple rating system. a game is either: "kiddie-safe", not "kiddie-safe", or "seriously, not kiddie safe" (with possibly better names). What I would like to see happening is parents actively involved in the gaming that their kids do. Go shopping with your kid(s), choose games with them, play the games beforehand, decide for yourself if *you as a parent* think it's okay for your kid(s) to be playing them. Get closer to your kids, enjoy them a bit, and censor things at your own discretion, not just by what the box says - which would completely kill any sort of suing of games companies using tactics such as "OH BUT I DIDANT KNOW IT WAS A BAD GAME OHGNOES" and such. Thankyou.
----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 02:45 A quick note that I completely forgot to add, but should've:

There's also the point of context.

Kingpin and SWAT 3/4 are both FPSes, and you get to shoot people and whatnot. There's a big difference though, since SWAT 3/4 encourages you to use non-lethal force where possible. There's also Deus Ex to a (much) lesser extent. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Casey EMAIL: URL: DATE: 07:08 The only direction marked on a compass is North, but that doesn't mean a compass is only useful for people who are travelling north.

Likewise, not every parent is going to agree with the ESRB ratings but, whatever their position is, they can use the relatively stable ESRB ratings to orient themselves. If a parent knows that he/she is more conservative that the ESRB, then that parent can choose to prevent their teenage child from buying T rated games in spite of the child's age. If the parent thinks his/her teenage child is more mature than most, the parent can allow the teen to buy mature rated games. Parents don't have to follow the ESRB exactly in order for it to be useful.

And as far as the 1 year difference goes, what about film? The X rating has the same age recommendation as the R rating: 18. But whereas the R rating means "for adults only", the X-rating means "DEFINITELY for adults only". That's an even finer distinction, but has always been a useful one nontheless. As you said, age isn't everything. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Gremmi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 13:27 Problem is mainly with the US system. The UK system is generally fine, as games get censored twice, once by PEGI, once by BBFC or whatever they're called. Games such as GTA, Kingpin et al end up with an 18 certificate slapped on them, which is enforced by law as opposed to being a guideline.

I do agree it's utterly stupid to have a 17 and an 18 age rating though, the US system is rubbish. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger roboczar EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:40 I totally agree that parents need to be active in shopping for software with their kids. You would think that this is a no-brainer.

I think a lot of the problem this side of the big lake is that parents choose not to be responsible for their children's exposure to various mature materials simply because it's easier to give them what they want. A lot of lower to middle class parents over here don't spend enough time with their children in the first place (not through any fault of their own, mind you), and have less time to be involved in purchasing decisions, let alone basic things like family meals and spending time helping with homework.

While I think the ESRB system is flawed, it does serve a purpose for the over-worked and under-parenting (new word!) parent; it gives them a fast and easy indicator of what level of violence you can expect in a title, and whether it's appropriate for them.

The major problem lies with the ESRB organization itself. The guidelines it creates are not subject to any kind of popular oversight committee, government body, or any bureaucratic organ that will allow the actual consumers to have input into what kind of content actually constitutes a particular rating. The ESRB also has technical problems, with the people actually instecting the software for rating compliance miss things (Hot Coffee) that people knew about before the game's release that might affect the rating.

Anyway, point is that the ESRB needs to stop being a non-profit 'self-regulating' corporation and move into a body where it can be flexible and allow citizens to voice concerns and expect some kind of action, just like every other democratic process. Consumers need to be able to regulate what they consume, and what we currently have is a single entity arbitrarily assigning ratings based on a set of rules in which the consumers of the products had no say in forming. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger roboczar EMAIL: URL: DATE: 19:50 Oh, and I think putting in descriptors for theists is unnecessary and likely to appear hostile to some religious denominations.

I could theoretically get behind a *single* descriptor...something like 'R', in the way that you find out whether foods are kosher or not. Catering to specific denominations and religious is a problem not only logistically, but because it has the unwanted effect of cultural alienation and can be seen as a breach of privacy, especially in evangelical protestant circles. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Blogger Knyght EMAIL: URL: DATE: 17:52 My point is that it'd get around all the Christian nutheads who go "OH GNOES I CAN'T PLAY BLACK & WHITE 'CAUSE THEN I'D BE GOD AND I'M NOT GOD OKAY>>!! WAHHH" ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Anonymous Anonyymi EMAIL: URL: DATE: 01:18 The ESRB rating system does its job. You can't create a rating system for every possible group since some groups are just idiots. Your new rating system would have to include categories like "This company most likely worships Satan" or "Satan will try to possess your children through this game." The ESRB system is by far the most rational categorization procedure available compared to more liberal methods which you have previously mentioned.

I suggest you read this review of Doom3 written by a fundamentalist Christian to understand what I mean: http://www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/games/2004/doom3.html ----- --------