02 October, 2006
Obviously, I like games. But in the interest of clear communications and fair warning, you should probably also be aware of my prejudices. The activities I enjoy in games feel like very primal ones to me, far below the lofty concerns of narrative cohesion, human intimacy potential, and other things the designer folk talk about.
Come and join my monkey dance!
At the most basic level, I love interaction. Push a button; the little man jumps. What child wouldn't love that. And unlike mommy and daddy he never gets fed up and sends you for a time out. :)
One level up from that, I like excitement. Most games play on mortal fear. Dodge that fireball! Jump that gap! Shoot that bad guy! The immediacy of danger all around, combined with the tools to narrowly escape it is intoxicating stuff.
One level up from that, I like style. Sure, cheating death is cool, but if I can do it with dastardly cunning (Thief) or flourish and grace (Devil May Cry) or ridiculous overkill (Hulk: Ultimate Destruction) or capering sillyness (Joint Ops), that's a huge bonus.
Just to be clear, I'm mostly talking about action, platforming, shooting, and fast puzzle games here. These are my genres of choice. You'd think I'd like fighting games, but the amount of specialized knowledge (combos, throws, special moves, attack speeds, ranges, and priorities) required to play them well leaves me completely cold. Nope, I like games that are quick to pick up and too engrossing to put down. Once in a while, though, a game can be engrossing without being a reflex tester.
One way is through atmosphere. Some games are simply entertaining to experience, regardless of whether there's really much of a "game" there at all. The first examples that spring to mind are always old LucasArts games. I played through Day of the Tentacle again a while back, and Sam and Max Hit the Road a while before that. I'll probably play through Full Throttle or a Monkey Island game next. Some of the jokes go stale, but for the most part, those games are still very funny. On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, I enjoy a good horror game from time to time as well, despite the fact that most of them are just action games with bad controls and shambling opponents. Music games (like Parappa, Amplitude, and Guitar Hero) also fall partly into this category and partly into the next.
Other games touch my creative side. I don't know if it's a needed catharsis after all the destruction of my action games or some other impulse, but once in a while it feels good to build stuff. Sometimes that's a music game or karaoke. Sometimes it's actually making music. Sometimes it's building something fun (Roller Coaster Tycoon) or something enduring (Pharaoh), but it's nice to just tinker once in a great while.
Then it's back to throwing feces and blowing stuff up. :)
1978 - Mmm. Coding basic text games on our Apple II+. Plus I could make a cool string of wine goblets run up the side of the screen.
10 PRINT "Y"
20 PRINT "I"
30 GOTO 10
1980 - The folks bring home an Atari 2600. Love blooms. The games I remember most from this time are Pac Man, Space Invaders, Berzerk, Swordquest: Earthworld, and Combat. Like many people I've talked to, you always had to have one friend with an Intellivision and one with a ColecoVision so that everyone could play every system. :)
1987 - The family moved to Hawaii for a bit. I played the games that came with our Tandy over and over again. The version of nethack we had could evaporate days in what felt like seconds. I think the slowness of the disk drive slowed the game just enough that you didn't notice how much time was passing. I also had a friend with a Commodore 64, and got a little exposure to some of it's games (although Bruce Lee is the only one I really remember). We used to walk down the hill and jump on the trampoline next to the house of the guy who wrote Alternate Reality.
1989 - NES. Rentals for days. Super Mario 2, Ninja Gaiden (the first game I didn't manage to beat before it had to go back. Stupid last boss), and River City Ransom were definite highlights. Ooh, and Megaman 2. And I always thought Strider for the NES was good too. Oh yeah, and Bionic Commando.
1992(?) - Genesis. Sonic and Gunstar Heroes are standouts. I actually didn't really care for a lot of Genesis games. Sometimes my friends and I had fun with the system in spite of itself, with our crazy Bonanza Bros. banter and sitting around in a huge group marking down every missed bad guy in Night Trap (that one time we rented a Sega CD).
1994 - DooM. Yeah. DooM. My computer was a crappy 25 megaherts hand me down. I got to the point where I could flick and take down an enemy by sound alone. Luckily my friends usually had a better computer for me to play on. With Ben Morris' DCK and DooM 2, a love affair began that will never truly end. My friend Chris and I (eventually) composed enough DM levels for our own megawad, inspired by greats like Bob Boyer, Brian Vannatta, Brian Weldon, and Marin Gazzari. They're the Godless series and should be available at finer mirrors everywhere. :)
1998 - PC's heyday (for me). While DooM is omnipresent, lots of other games keep my mousing hand busy. Blood (greatest of the Build Engine games), System Shock (once I finally had a PC that could play it), Warcraft 2, and Starcraft were certainly standouts.
2000 - The collecting begins. Finally having a real job, I start picking up some things I missed out on. PS1, SNES, N64, and the Dreamcast. Mostly I just pick up the old Nintendo games so that I can play them on an emulator and not be a criminal (in my own eyes, at least). Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is an obvious favorite, almost as obvious as Mario 64. :) Final Fantasy IX (the only one I ever finished) was this generation as well. Soul Reaver for the Dreamcast helped me discover a deep love of melodrama. To this day just the sound of Simon Templeman's voice makes me happy. We miss you Tony Jay!
The PC certainly didn't go unused at this point. Half-Life (and eventually the magnificent Heart of Evil mod) were great. Say what you will about Paul Steed, but Quake 3 finally got 3D to the point where I didn't miss sprites.
2002 - PS2 and Gamecube. Devil May Cry. That was THE game of the generation for me. I picked it up for $15 used. I picked up DMC 3 for full price just as a way of paying back Capcom for this game. I've beaten DMC 1 on normal using only the starting weapons (Force Edge and Pistols). Then I went back with all the weapons and cakewalked it. I spent months with this game. It had style. Stopping after a fight and watching Dante spin his pistols back into their holsters was always cool. Taunting enemies was great fun. And discovering how to dominate the shadow cats was a epiphany in elegance. I enjoyed a lot of other games this generation: Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Ratchet & Clank (hands down my favorite series of the generation), Grand Theft Auto, DDR.
2004 - Community begins. At some point I'm forced to admit that my friends just aren't gamers like I am. My PS1 multi-tap got used maybe half a dozen times. But through Kingdom of Loathing and the Penny Arcade Expo, I get the feeling that there's a (largely violent and purile) culture that I belong to. I learn the lyrics to many MC Frontalot songs. :)
2005 - My year off. After getting laid off, I minimize expenses and play like there's no tomorrow, even signing up for a subscription service or two, playing them dry in a month and moving on. It's like the NES rental days writ large. I finally burn out on games. Not that I don't play them anymore, I just don't care for anything but the finest. Thief: Deadly Shadows was the only game I played by subscription and subsequently bought. Life is too short to play games that compromise on the fun. This coincides with the complete disappointments that are the Star Wars prequels and Matrix sequels. Lego Star Wars is the only redeeming feature of these disappointments.
2006 - At the ripe old age of 32, I am now officially a bitter old man. Nothing will surpass DooM. Nothing will surpass the old 2D mario games. Nothing will surpass MegaMan 2. Nothing will surpass Warcraft 2. Nothing will surpass Out of this World or Heart of Darkness. That kind of pure joy is almost impossible to find any more. (Yay, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Lego Star Wars!) The intense assclownery of Joint Operations with my friend Mike is one of the few things I still enjoy consistently, finding new ways to exploit the ridiculous bugs in the game to do the dumbest things and laughing hysterically into the night. (See http://blainsgaminglife.blogspot.com/ to see some of our illustrated exploits. (Ha! Punny!) )
And there you have it. Even as I type these words, I realize that there are many games (and even whole genres) omitted here. But if you read this far, you deserve a break... and maybe some candy. Enjoy! :P
25 September, 2006
Anyway, I'm mentioning it here because they took a post I wrote to my Armchair Arcade blog and put it on the front page. I had some articles I was working on for this blog. But I like Armchair Arcade, and, unlike this blog. Someone will actually read what I write there. I may end up posting both here and there. I'll think about it. In the meantime, I've got content to produce.
06 July, 2006
JC Denton was black. In the original Deus Ex, you had the option to choose from a number of skin colors. Don't ask me why I chose black. I'm not black. I just liked the look of it. But as I started getting into the story, realizing what a pawns I and my brother Paul were, it began to make sense. I was always running around tenements and sewers, always pursued by the authorities. I knew I was above all this, that I was being persecuted for the wrongdoing of others. Do you understand why JC being black began to feel right, began to feel resonant?
Can you imagine how much of a betrayal it was when Deus Ex: Invisible War only let you play as white? Sure, you could play as a woman (which I did), but it wasn't the same. And when I reached the endgame, finally meeting JC, it was a horrible experience. Who is this white man, this poseur? This man hadn't suffered like JC had. This man hadn't overcome. This man was Neo, given gifts upon gifts, passing down his infallible wisdom with absolute certainty. I saw all the endings of Invisible War, and I will tell you this. I didn't mind killing JC.
23 May, 2006
Examples: Jedi Knight, Pirates!, playing Zorro with a yardstick
Why Wii: Umm. If you need this explained to you, you are dumb. IGN editor dumb. Please kill yourself and any poor genetic horrors of children you may have perpetrated upon the earth as you are a giant floating turd in the gene pool. Either that or you've never played Zorro with a yardstick, in which case, I pity you.
Type of Game: Swinging Soldier
Examples: Bionic Commando
Why Wii: In Metroid 3, you can flick the nunchuck to fire Samus' grapple beam. You can use the grapple to pull doors off their hinges, rip shields away from enemies, and I assume, swing through the air and pull yourself up to high places. If Capcom doesn't take advantage of this kind of control scheme to do a Bionic Commando sequel, they should (in a fair world) be forced to hand over the license to someone who will.
Type of Game: Magic Soldier
Examples: Psi-Ops; Star Wars; Fable; Oblivion
Why Wii: Doing silly gestures to cast spells, telekinetically throw stuff (and people) around, and just generally feeling like a god among men has an undeniable appeal.
Type of Game: God Games
Examples: Black and White; Populous
Why Wii: See above, but scratch the "among men" part. Just imagine raising and lowering terrain by making gestures like Mickey Mouse in The Sorceror's Apprentice. Part the Red Sea with your hands mutha#&*$a! :O
Type of Game: Rythm Games
Examples: Samba de Amigo
Why Wii: It's got two motion sensitive controllers built in. Admittedly, they're connected by a pretty short cord, but they'll do. And if you enable the option of simply using two Wiimotes at a time, it's perfect. There was a drum kit demo at E3 that could easily be made into a game. Heck, with the nunchuck in your right hand and the wiimote in your left, you might even be able to pull off something like Guitar Hero.
Type of Game: Boxing
Examples: Fight Night, Punchout
Why Wii: Two motion sensors. Two fists. Let's get it on.
Type of Game: Robot Monster Rampage
Examples: Rampage, King Kong
Why Wii: The second I heard Super Monkey Ball for the Wii had whack-a-mole as a mini game, I had fantasies of smushing little screaming people with my giant ape feet and swinging at biplanes with my giant ape fists. I don't really know what this game would look like, but I still want to squish people, dammit! And Eye Lasers! I must use the wiimote to control my eye lasers!
Heheh. Okay, enough rambling and ranting. If you have any brilliant use of the Wii controller that you want to see, please post it.
- The tech: Some folks at E3 said the Wii controller lost its cursor or seemed to stop responding intermittently. Whether this is because there were dozens of them all competing for the same bandwidth or not is unknown, but if the tech isn't spot on, the controller will never feel right to demanding gamers such as myself.
- Gesture based control: Thus far, most Wii games are gesture based. This sucks. Flick this way to shoot a grapple beam. Flick this way to cock your shotgun. These all sound good on paper, but if I don't get that "analog feel", the feeling that I can touch what my avatar is touching, the controller will be nothing but a gimmick.
- Driving games: I gotta give it up to the Dreamcast team, they were the first to put triggers on a controller that could act as proper throttles for driving games. The Wii controller looks fine for fairly simplistic driving games, but I just don't see how you'd do a proper throttle for something like Project Gotham.
- Gun games: The light gun is built in. Everyone and their mother will do a crappy light gun game, largely squandering the Wii's potential. Please, let Duck Hunt and Resident Evil 5 handle that. They'll do it better than you could anyway. Sega's House of the Dead compilation is probably clawing through the lid of its coffin even as I write this. :P
All that said, the second I can feel like I'm cocking a shotgun and kicking in doors, the second I feel like I'm really blocking blaster fire with my light saber while force pushing a guy through a window with my free hand, the days of the dual analog are over. Come on game devs. Make us proud. :)
You want to talk about PS3? Why? It's the same games with prettier graphics.
You want to talk about the 360? Ditto.
The Wii is just the same games with different controls?
You've got a point, but you're missing the bigger one.
No matter what the hardware is you'll end up with the same games. There'll still be shooters, fighting games, sports games, driving games, etc. Going fast, kicking ass, and blowing stuff up are far more American than mom and apple pie. :)
I hate to say it because the word is so completely overused in the gaming press, but what motion sensitive control gives you is immersion. The feeling you are actually touching the game world, even if it can't really touch you back, is huge.
The example I always give for this is a really terrible game, so humor me here. I occasionally like to play games that have been universally panned to see if they could possibly be as bad as everyone said. One of those games was Jurassic Park: Trespasser. It was $2, so how bad could it be? It lived up to the hype. The pop-in on the terrain was attrocious. The AI was a joke. And the amazing sound engine meant that if you smacked a board with another board, you got to hear three different samples instead of one. w00t.
What Trespasser did have was physics, and a hand. The physics were pretty unstable, but a good enough aproximation. And the you had the hand. It was a pain to control, with separate keys needing to be pressed to wave the arm and rotate and bend the wrist. But the feeling that you could pick up, throw about, and drop objects in the game world was primal. Just being able to pick something up and turn it over in your hand using the mouse added a whole other level of reality to the game.
It was a pain in the ass, of course. Aiming a gun was a huge chore, and the 2D plane of mouse control made throwing stuff with any precision an exercise in frustration. But the hand stuck with me. Every shooter I picked up for months afterward felt terrible. "That isn't my hand! That's just an icon representing a gun! I can't touch anything!" I got over it. They were much better games, after all. But Trespasser taught me the power of touch, and if developers do right by the Wii controller, everyone will know, and they won't want to go back.
So am I a Nintendo fanboy?
"Fanboy or fanboi is a term used to describe an individual (usually male, though the feminine version fangirl may be used for females) who is utterly devoted to a single subject or hobby, often to the point where it is considered an obsession."
"The stereotypical image of the fanboy is as an unkempt, socially awkward, young man who may be perceived as a loud mouthed pseudo-intellectual."
I guess I should start by pleading no contest (admitting) that I am a video game fanboy. I went to the first Penny Arcade Expo (and will go again when I have a better job). I have played games for months on end (and will again when I have no job). While I don't consider myself an unkempt, socially awkward, loud mouthed pseudo-intellectual, all you'd have to do is put the word "somewhat" in front of them, and I wouldn't be able to fight you. I am fanboy, hear me "rawr".
But you're a fanboy (or fangirl) too, or you wouldn't even be reading this, so the big question remains, can I be trusted? Or am I just another nerd with an agenda?
I didn't buy a Super Nintendo until after the Xbox was released because I was still pissed about Nintendo's business practices. (If you don't know, they basically tried to tell retailers they wouldn't let them sell the NES unless they stopped selling SEGA stuff.) That lame ass $5 off a new game coupon we all got when Nintendo finally admitted wrongdoing was crap.
See, and you thought I was going to make some sort of long winded argument, didn't you? Ha!
I'm not saying I'm completely objective, but I'm also not a slave to any particular company.
id Software will be my final word on the subject of my lack of "X company always makes good games" bias.
id made DOOM. I loved DOOM. I loved DOOM2 DeathMatch. My friend Chris and I made a whole episode of DeathMatch levels for DOOM2. We played every weekend for years. We still play it once in a great while.
On the heels of that, you'd think I'd give id Software the benefit of the doubt. But no, I had no use for Quake. It played okay, but only okay. It looked okay, but only okay. (Quake! With Super Brown Action!) And DeathMatch made no sense (rocket jumping!? WTF!?).
So there. My greatest love in video gaming still didn't make me overlook the flaws of subsequent games. You can trust me. Now let's talk about the Wii.
According to Valve's own "statistics" almost every player playing CounterStrike (97,800 of them) played every single minute for the month. Let's review the stats.
30 x 24 x 60 = 43200 minutes per month
4.217 billion player minutes per month / 43200 minutes per month = 97600 player minutes per minute. Completely impossible? Yes.
And don't even get me started on the dedication of the Ricochet players!
581000 player minutes per month / 7 players = 83000 minutes per month!
It's cute that Steam has a "stats" page, but don't make the mistake of taking any of those numbers seriously.
13 May, 2006
Here's a bold picture of Mike, "yelling for peace" in the midst of our smokescreen. I, less bold, am hiding in the grass (but still yelling).
It's also an apt description of the feeling you get when you fly by a giant enemy transport chopper and turn it into dozens of beautiful pieces of debris.
The way that it instantly turns from giant engine of menace into twirly bits of flittering confetti can only be described as magical.
I think this was a custom user created map where NPCs had been added. It was slightly bizarre to see normal people just standing around in this environment.
Or rather lying around. I didn't kill these people. Mike and I were so taken with the novelty of the novelty of the situation that we just wanted to see what we could do with them.
Here's Mike driving one around on a six wheeler.
She eventually fell off. The fact that the NPCs actually have a slow dog paddling animation was disturbing.
Here's Mike, posing with our new friend. :P
And though I'll never do the experience justice with mere words, there was one occasion where a group of lads joined us on the wings of the eagles.
There is no way of describing the joy of riding on the back of a gun chopper, minigun and missles blasing away, with four mental defectives screaming their war cries and throwing all the flashbangs, grenades, bullets they can muster at the scattering ants of the opposing team. If you read that sentence over three times, pausing to soak in every detail, it still wouldn't be half as cool as the actual experience.
When tidying up enemy encampments...
Be willing to go the distance in removing stubborn bridge stains.
Similarly, if some human stain refuses to get out of your copilot seat...
Do what must be done.
It should be noted that it was very polite of the copilot to catch 30 feet of air off the explosion. :D (Click the picture to see his politeness in all its gangly glory.)
Here's a brilliant fellow named Boehsar Orkel. He is standing on the gun pod of an attack helicopter. Since there's only one passenger seat in an attack chopper, being able to ride the gun pods effectively doubles the capacity of the vehicle.
Of course, it's always more fun if you're properly equipped with a grenade launcher.
Here's Mike, back clearly broken, waving his knife skyward and cursing the cruel fate that made him. Screaming at the sky while waving your knife or shooting your gun is very liberating. Just don't try throwing grenades at the sky.
It's also very liberating to drive up to big strong tank on a pissant little motorbike...
and watch it go poof. Mmmmm. Poof.
Here's Mike driving a six wheel out the back of a transport chopper. You can see by the altimeter in the bottom left that we are half a kilometer up. You can see by the radar in the bottom right hand corner that we are over an enemy base. Mike lands on the ground, blows his satchels, killing anyone nearby, then runs into the base and starts knifing people. It's a beautiful combination of all the things that make no sense about Joint Ops.
Here's what it looks like if you're in the car.
And here's what it looks like if your car gets caught upside down on some telephone lines. I fell to my death on exiting the car. Good times. :D
In this case, giving a forty mile an hour chiropractic adjustment.
In this case, administering rough satchel justice. I hope I remembered to honk my jeep horn before I blew him up. The contrast between the anemic horn and thundering satchel explosion is my kind of comedy. :)
Here we have Mike, posing with a trohpy kill. I don't think the kill itself was anything special, but the absurdity of taking trophy photos like this gave us a good laugh.
Respect the hat! You will never have a hat this cool.
Hahaha. This was great. I was trying to plant a satchel on this bridge to kill passing APCs when this guy in an amphibious jeep comes roaring up to run me over. I try to run backwards and kill him with the satchel. The satchel sends him and his six wheel sky high. The only problem turned out to be...
where he landed. Doh!
Okay, I don't want to have too many photos per blog, so I'll continue this on the next entry.
01 May, 2006
At least my Joint Ops buddy is keeping things hopping. He mostly pilots while I satchel and grenade launcher the poor shmucks below. The frightening thing is we do really well that way most games. Once in a while you'll have competent opposition that prioritize you as a target and can actually do something about it, but mostly we just mop up. We had some fun the other night because the other team full of assclowns put a dozen people on a chopper and flew it into our base. I guess they thought if one guy with a grenade launcher was cool, twelve guys with grenade launchers and rockets would be spectactular. They weren't entirely wrong. They did some good stuff. But that was until we prioritized them as targets. My friend was piloting and refused to get close enough for me to use my satchels. So instead we had a whirling firefight, heli against heli, until we shot enough losers off of their skids and roof to make them head for the hills. It was like a knife fight from west side story. Classic. Still, the most kills I've ever gotten with one satchel was ten. I would love to beat the record.
After that map (Bumbu Channel) comes Karo Highlands. It was there that the legend was born: The Legend Of Daniel B. Hahaha. Daniel B was some guy who thought he could snipe our main base just by parking a heli behind a hill and crawling over. We repeatedly lobbed grenades on his head. We got so fond of killing him that we started typing messages into the general chat about the legend of Daniel B. It was sort of a Davy Crockett thing. I was even working on a song. Needless to say we were disappointed when he gave up the strategy. As such, we started base raiding the other team. There is nothing quite as satisfying as dropping one satchel on the middle of the joint ops roof full of helis, detonating it while your back is turned, and coming about to see a completely clean building, as though no helis were ever there. It's cleansing.
We've developed a small following online as well. There are some players that will switch teams to join our "Nade Bird" of destruction. We are a loyal group, going out to pick up other members. We've actually gotten pretty good at jumping into the helicopter as it flies by us at full speed while we are in the water. Hilarious. And a few times we've even managed to switch choppers in midair. That shuts up the people who think we're just assclowns real quick. Of course, we are just assclowns, but we're badass assclowns. :)
Speaking of which, let me describe a technique my partner in crime has perfected which still amazes me. The helicopters in joint ops can actually fly partly underwater, sometimes largely underwater. Who cares, right? Well, imagine this scenario. We're chasing an enemy boat when the driver (maybe coming under fire from one of our APCs or just panicked because we're yelling and shooting at him from our chopper) dives overboard. He thinks he'll swim safely to shore (or into a friendly APC or whatever). I immediately jump off the skid, knife in hand, to go and carve up his giblets. My friend flies around like crazy to get the guy in the water to take a shot at him so I can catch up and slice him. But my friend realized that since the chopper can dip it's beak in the water, maybe there was more he could do.
I'm swimming up behind a guy who's trying to sneak onto a friendly nade boat and kill our guys bombarding the enemy base. I'm right behind him, but can't close the distance. We're ten feet away from the friendly boat. He's gonna make it.
What the hell was that!? There is no way in @#*& I just saw what I just saw. That did not happen. Oh crap. It totally did!
Flying right next to the boat, my friend had dipped the heli's nose into the water right in front of where I was swimming while flying at full speed. HE RAN THE GUY OVER WITH THE HELI UNDERWATER!!!
I mean, it was ridiculous and hilarious enough that he had gotten to the point where he could smush unmoving enemy snipers and stupid enemy troops under his skids, but underwater hit and run!? He does it all the time now and still I can't believe it. It's like watching a quick wipe in a movie where one second a guy's alive, the next second he's doing the dead man's float, but an underwater helicopter is doing the wipe. Inconievable!
Some days, Joint Ops is all I live for.
10 April, 2006
I have played a lot of games. But for pictures, I haven't had much to post except Joint Ops, and I figured you'd be tired of that. Then I realized that there's no more than two people who even read this thing, and you'd love some more Joint Ops. :) I'm not posting this from a place where I've got access to my Joint Ops photos, but you can expect further updates in the not too distant future. In the meantime, I'll blather about WoW.
World of Warcraft is a decent game. But like most MMOs, it's largely about fighting monsters to get bigger weapons to fight bigger monsters to get even bigger weapons to fight even bigger monsters. Size is the 3D game equivalent of palette shifting. I'd explain, but the gamers know what I mean. And it's not that everything in WoW is size adjusted. There's palette shifting too. :P Seriously, though, it's the same treadmill. But I don't care anymore.
I'm all played out.
I spent six months playing games and played everything there is to play.
That's not strictly true of course. There's always more to play, but I've played the best in every genre I care about. I even got to the point where I could be playing a well made game and be bored with it. Sly 3: Band of Thieves is the game I'm thinking of. I enjoyed Sly and Sly 2. Sly 3 was still good, but didn't feel much different from Sly 2. I'd had enough gaming goodness. And don't think I hadn't done a good deal of looking around.
I played every game I cared about on Yahoo's subscription service. Out of all of them, I only bought Thief: Deadly Shadows to keep after my account expired. I think that game made the best use of bump mapping of any game I've seen. Medieval environs are just perfect for the type of rough stone and brick textures bump mapping brings out. Sure, DOOM 3 had it, but Thief 3 really used it.
And that asylum level was fantastically creepy and way more fun than Silent Hill 3 in its entirety. The problem I have with most horror games is that they aren't really horror games, but rather action games with really bad controls. Even Resident Evil 4, the best of the lot, fits that description. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed RE4, but lost interest on my second playthrough. The thing I like about games is that they give you the tools to perform amazing feats. Most horror games just don't do that. If you want to make me play a clutzy writer who's fallen into a horrible conspiracy, that's fine, but do what a novelist would do and give me the kinds of puzzles and situations that would make it somewhat feasible for my character to perservere, not just a nerf version of an action game protagonist fighting cumbersome nerf monsters. That's incredibly lazy design.
Meh. I have no room to talk. It's not like I'm writing a game. I was at one point, but I'm just too damn lazy. Spending time with family and friends is as much as I want out of life. So that's what my gaming life has become. I play WoW because my friends do, even avoiding advancing too quickly so no one gets level envy and we all get the same XP. I play Joint Ops because Baby Einstein does. I could still play with 69 Rocket GC, yoshahorror and some of the others, but without the voice chat and accompanying silliness (the ballad of DanielB), it wouldn't be worth it.
Hanging out with friends and family. That's my gaming life.