29 January, 2008

About Last Night

I didn't spend any time on DooM last night. There's a guy on the PA boards playing through Deus Ex and posting it, with amusing commentary, online. I spent last night watching someone else play a game. I used to watch people in the arcades too. It's always interesting.

Tonight is social night.

Tomorrow I'll do what I feel like. Isn't freedom great? Well, it's not great for the blog, but it's great for actually enjoying my life. :)

27 January, 2008

Speed Mapping

As I mentioned previously, I'm interested in getting my mapping speed up. I tried to give myself an hour to put down the architecture for a co-op map. I failed miserably, of course. Here's about as far as I got.


I built a hill (on the right side). A cave with some pools (in the middile). And a big empty area with a nice looking lava pool (on the left side).


Spiffy, eh? Still, this wouldn't make a remotely playable level, the pillars on the hill are ugly as sin, and there are no monsters, weapons, or anything else that constitutes gameplay anywhere. Nevertheless, I did learn some important speed mapping tricks.


  • Map At Right Angles
    Doom Builder (my editor of choice) doesn't have a "split linedef" function, so adding vertices only works if lines are vertical or horizontal. I can make everything all "organic" later.

  • Cut and Paste
    Building common structures that can be cut and paste (and then fiddled with to keep them from actually being the same) can save a lot of time.

  • Stop Thinking
    Easier said than done, of course. But the ideal mapping session involves only executing, not planning.


A more realistic goal might have been to plan out the general visual themes and flow of a co-op level in an hour. But the one time I tried to plan a single player map ahead of time, it was a complete disaster. I just had no idea how to get the concepts I had in my head into the game and it ended up being crap. Regardless, I should try again. Planning can save a lot of rework. I can turn off my brain and just map. Yeah. There are definite upsides to segmenting the process. Brainstorming. Planning. Implementation. Keep the order straight. :)

Energy Shield For DooM

I've got a basic version of the energy shield up and running. It took me way too long to draw the crappy graphics. But I did like my desktop looking like actual work was getting done.



After some tweaking and field tests I still have a few things to do. A pickup icon would be good, and I basically just gave up when I started drawing the device itself, so I could go back and do that. The truth is, once graphics got past Sam & Max Hit the Road, they got completely outside my drawing ability.

26 January, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

I didn't really want to go back to Freedom Fighters, so I decided to check out Vietcong on GameTap, instead. The basic training levels were straightforward enough. The cover mechanics are actually pretty nice. The game uses iron sights, and if you're crouched and using iron sights, you'll stick your head up to fire over whatever you're next to. Simple, functional; I like it.

Then I go on my first mission. We drive up to the local village. We've been training some of them to help us fight. The VC have killed some of them in retaliation. But I'm just there to be introduced to the head of the village as the new guy. I'm supposed to drink some awful rice wine, but a sniper shoots the jug. The shot goes right through the jug and kills my CO, ending the mission. Game over.

Huh? Really? Short game. The gripping story of some crappy rice wine. Great. Okay, let's reload.

This time my CO lives (although I'm shot pretty badly). We take cover. I'm told to look for bullet puffs. I look the wrong way, suck a bullet, and die. Great. Okay, let's reload.

This time I ignore my CO and keep my $*^@ing head down. I have the medic heal me from the original bullet I took. The CO says start running and follow the medic. Because of the timing of my heal request, my CO is giving no covering fire. I say *$@^ that. I'm staying right here. I stay down and watch my CO until he starts shooting again, making sure to take note of where he's shooting at, then make a run for the village. (I didn't see where the medic went and forgot to check my radar.) I'm crouched in the village, keeping buildings between me and the sniper. They're grass buildings, so I'm not sure they'll be much help. Then I apparently expose my shin and get one shotted by the sniper.

This type crap goes on for two more deaths before I decide I'm done with the game for the day. Oh, and it should be noted that this is on normal difficulty. There are two difficulty levels higher than that. How can you have a higher difficulty than that unless the level starts with a gun in your mouth? I don't know. I'll probably try again on easy, just because the game reminds me a bit of Heart of Evil, my favorite Half-Life mod of all time. Then I'll probably just get sick of it and play through Heart of Evil a third time.

Rubric of the Hardcore

Okay, so I lied. I'm not making my own taxonomy. I'm more interested in finding the existing lists of gamer types out there and seeing how they divide up the space.

The biggest debate these days is casual vs. hardcore. I remember taking a poll in Next Generation magazine (RIP) measuring "hardcoreness". Of course, it was assumed that by simply reading the magazine, you were a gamer. Today, the terms casual gamer and non-gamer are often used with derision and mean multiple things. Below are some of the qualities people seem to use to determine if other people are hardcore or casual.

Informed

  • Reads many news and review sites. Has strong opinions backed up with keen observations and statistics. May have a blog and / or be active on forums.

  • Professional Game Reviewer (I don't know why. They're just considered less hardcore.)

  • Has one or two genres (or one or two systems) they care about.

  • Knows about one game (or one franchise or one company).

  • Goes to the store and buys the wrong game.

  • For the wrong system.

  • Constantly reading and writing articles on all aspects of gaming (business, news, reviews, history, technical details, academic research, trends). Probably doesn't play any more. :)


Time Commitment

  • No Job. No School. Only Game.

  • Every free moment outside of work / school. Social life avoided.

  • Many free moments outside of work / school. Social life present.

  • Weekend Warrior

  • Once in a while

  • Used to play games


Competetiveness

  • Needs all the win. Hates team games.

  • Needs to win. Will sacrifice for the team.

  • Wants to win (or is trying to accomplish some kind of goal)

  • Winning and losing irrelevant. (probable griefer / assclown)

  • Prefers games without "winners" and "losers". (wuss)


Skill

  • World Class (If you run, you'll only die tired.)

  • Best in Region

  • Best among friends

  • Good Player

  • Okay Player

  • Easy Points

  • Comically Inept


Tactical Ability

  • Uses sound tactics and map strats and adapts quickly.

  • Two out of three.

  • One out of three.

  • Sticks together.

  • WAAAAAUUUGGGHH!


1337ness

  • Doesn't use cheats (and wins)

  • Writes cheat utils

  • Uses cheats (and wins)

  • Doesn't use cheats (and does not win)

  • Presses ALT-F4 for god mode

  • Uses cheats (and does not win)


Platform Preference (US only; different in other countries)

  • 360

  • PS3

  • PS2

  • PC

  • Retro Console

  • Portable (DS, PSP)

  • Wii

  • Browser

  • Phone


Genre Preference

  • First Person Shooter

  • MMO

  • Real Time Strategy

  • Third Person Action

  • Retro

  • Sports

  • Role-playing

  • Puzzle

  • Anything Free

  • Anything Marketed to Children

  • eXtreme Sports

  • Educational

  • Adult / Hentai

  • Pet Simulator

  • Non-combat MMO (aka Chat Room, aka Second Life)

Gamer Taxonomies

The subject of classifying gamers came up (again) on the PA boards. It's always an interesting, if ultimately futile exercise.

So why does it keep coming up?
Well, for the marketers, there's money in it. 'Nuff said. For the gamers, there are lots of reasons. Some are curious. Some like organization. Some want to find others who are like them.

So why is it futile?
Because the experience of a game is highly subjective. Much like movies you can find people from all walks of life who like (or hate) the same games for completely different reasons.

So why are you going to do it?
Because I can't think of a better way to spend my Saturday (i.e. I'm stupid).

24 January, 2008

Taming the Audience

I started playing Freedom Fighters, a game that consistently gets love on the PA boards, and I hate it. It's got some interesting ideas. First, you can pop in and out of sewers to move around. Second, finishing a mission puts more weapons and freedom fighters in your base. But death comes all too easy. In one mission, a kid painting graffiti tells me I started in the wrong place and need to go get some explosives. I go through the sewers and come up behind where some cops are getting shot at. I talk to the cop I'm supposed to talk to who tells me to get some explosives. I do. Then I turn to run back to the sewer and get one shotted by one of the snipers. I never saw where they were. I didn't think they could see where I was. This was the first thing that happened to me in the game. It was not a good sign.

And it became a recurring pattern very quickly. I kill a bunch of guys, then get blindsided by a sniper or guy on a 50 cal that I couldn't see. And the checkpoints in the game aren't always that close together, so I have to do way too many sections of the game over. I'll try turning the game down to easy, but so far I'm thinking I've never seen a game start out this badly that turned out to be any good.

23 January, 2008

Chillin'

Ya ever have one of those days when you go to work, and you can't wait to leave, but when you get home, you don't want to do anything but go to sleep. But you know that if you go to sleep, you're going to have to get up and go to work. It's a trap. That was today for me. When I got home I played some more Unreal Tournament. Popping heads is fun. And I'm still thinking about making a Matrix Moves optimized level. There are actually more decent maps for Matrix Moves (and Lazy Matrix) than I thought, but there still aren't enough.

I also played the original demo of De Blob, a student project that's becoming a Wii game. I enjoyed the Wii demo at PAX, but it didn't seem to have anywhere to go. You avoid cops and water and color the town. The original is actually a little more forgiving, if you can believe that.



I hope they figure out how to make the Wii game stay fun longer.

21 January, 2008

More DooMin'

My gas gun works. I can now make puddles of gas (which is silent, so it doesn't alert any monsters) and shoot them to set them on fire. Yay! There are a couple more items on the checklist to make it just like the gas can in Shotgun Sunrise. You should be able to chuck the whole thing, then shoot it to make it explode. Also, it should slow you down to have it in your inventory. I should be able to pull that off by making the player press a switch to pick it up which runs a script that lowers their speed. But then if you chuck the whole thing, your speed should return to normal, right? Also, you should get incrementally faster as you empty the can, right? We'll see.

While looking at how some if the weapons in the weapon resource wad were created, I noticed there were a bunch of them I'd never seen in my playtest. They were bound to different keys, which apparently also means they don't come up when you scroll wheel through the weapons. I went back in to try them out and found this.



Yep. That's me with a light saber, reflecting missiles back at a cyberdemon. If you reflect a tracking missile back at a revenant, it even tracks. I love that weapon with a high intensity and am already considering how I could alter it to make some type of energy shield. It'd be perfect for my close combat class in the co-op project I never get around to. :) Of course it's almost so cool that I don't care. I want a Jedi player super jumping around while the heavy weapons player pumps out the plasma and the third player is using the ZDoom Portal Gun (a nice hack of the Portal gun... FOR DOOM!) to zap through tiny spaces to open new passages and telefrag boss monsters.

I gotta learn how to map faster.

And of course, I'm completely forgetting how I reinstalled Unreal Tournament today and wish I also had time to make levels that would let players take full advantage of the supreme awesomeness that is Lazy Matrix and Matrix Moves combined. Runnin' along the wall, headshottin' bots.

20 January, 2008

We Don't Need No Water



This is a test image from my latest project. The floor starts covered with cheesy looking pools of gasoline and a demon facing away from me. I fire, igniting the nearest pool and waking up the demon. He tries to run at me through the burning gasoline. He dies. Beautiful, really.

I learned some important lessons today. For some reason, giving my new DECORATE object (the pools of gasoline) an ID of 6000 meant it would never appear. Giving it an ID of 10000 (like the examples on the ZDoom Wiki use) worked fine. Nothing else is using the 6000 ID, as far as I know. And I made a spreadsheet of every ID on the wiki, so I should know. I found out about spawn numbers. (They only go to 255, with over 150 already in use, so stick with names.) I also learned that SkullTag is using a fairly old version of ZDoom, as one of the functions I used didn't work until I tried the deprecated (in other words, obsolete) version.

But enough shop talk. I have gas. Now I need to put it in a "gun".

I think I've got old school fever. I've also been thinking we need to play some Unreal Tournament (the original) at the next LAN party. The joy of assault and domination modes combined with the glory of the Lazy Matrix and Matrix Moves mods still satisfies like nothing else.

19 January, 2008

Done Enough

I'm declaring my co-op level done. I'm never satisfied, so there's always half a dozen more things I'd like to add or tweak or redesign, but it's time to let go. The map plays decently and I learned a lot about ZDoom.



Some of it was disappointing. Did you know that monsters on patrol don't respond to gunfire? I would think that investigating gunfire would be exactly the kind of thing one would institute patrols for. I'm tempted to look up the etymology of the word, just to make more pithy comments.

I was hoping to be able to very cleverly use patrol points to give DooM monsters custom AI. My intent was to make it so that if the monster lost sight of a player, I would make them forget they ever saw her, place a path node at the player's last known location, and have the monsters make a bee line for it. If the player made any attacks, the monsters would hear and come running. There are so many problems with that idea, I don't even know where to begin, and it's not of general interest. So customized monster AI is out.

So what's next on the agenda? A nap. But after that, it's time to work on a weapon.

Toodles!

17 January, 2008

DooM Weapon Resource Wad

While I was working in the lab, late one night, my eyes beheld an eerie sight. That's a problem of working out of the ZDoom Wiki. Occasionally you find something awesome and have to waste an otherwise productive evening playing and blogging about it. :)

The Weapon Resource Wad represents the work of many modders in the community, with a healthy dose of editorial oversight to keep them from being completely overpowered. There's some darn clever code in there. There's a pistol which has a special ammo type all it's own, to represent it's clip. When you run out, it does a reload animation, grabbing a new clip's worth of ammo from your bullet inventory. There are mines. There are grenades that allow you to charge your throw so you can choose how far you lob them. There are throw then detonate pipe bombs (from Duke Nukem). There are freeze rays (from Hexen). There are molotov cocktails. There's an icon thrower weapon that spawns friendly monsters. Oh yeah, and half these weapons have secondary fire modes. It's pretty insane.

Here's one of my personal favorites, the Necronomicon. First you summon a ghost.


Then it raises a monster which now fights for you.


The first time I used it, I had a huge pile of corpses from testing out other weapons. So what do I do? I spawn a cyberdemon and selectively respawn barons (or try to; the ghosts randomly pick a nearby corpse) and watch the fun. Of course the fact that the icon gun can spawn friendly archviles is pretty mind blowing as well.

Ordinarily, I might not sidetrack onto something like this. I like the default DooM weapons and probably wouldn't add anything else to my co-op wads. But I've been following a Penny Arcade impromptu modding team who are working on a mod for the Source engine, tentatively titled Shotgun Sunrise. It's a co-op only mod, so that got my interest immediately. The first player spawns as a survivor of some sort of zombie outbreak, weakened and with few supplies. The survivor tries to stay alive. Subsequent players spawn as better armed rescuers, trying to save the survivor and collect whatever supplies they need to keep their convoy on the road and well stocked. The idea of a co-op rescuers map was one I had many moons ago, but they've added some mechanics and twists that make it interesting again. With the examples in the weapon resource mod, I think I might be able to give them some prototypes to playtest some of their concepts with.

16 January, 2008

ACS, Decay, and Dumb Companies

Finally the social part of my week is over, and I can get back to gaming. (Just kidding. Happy birthday bro. :)

Tonight was spent on DooM editing. Outside of some mild annoyances (mainly ACS_Suspend not working as one might expect, forcing me to spaghetti code some timed events), it's mostly just about figuring out exactly what I want to happen. It's difficult trying to design for co-op and single player at the same time. Actually, it's just hard to design for co-op as I have no control over where players will be at any time, and I haven't roped anyone in to help me test. If you want to help test a co-op DooM map, I'm free this weekend.

In other co-op news, I'm playing through Half-Life Decay (the co-op levels for PS2) again with Matthew. I played through it back in the day with Glenn, and thought it was time to pass the goodness onward as Matthew had played every other Half-Life add-on, but had never gotten to see Decay. Decay has the main drawback of being on PS2, though, and it'll be nice when the PC port gets done.

In the outside world, the gaming press controversies continue. Two long standing Gamespot folks have left, lending credence to the rumors that Gerstmann's firing was symptomatic of problems with the new management. That makes four long time employees in just under a year. Over at EGM / 1UP, big cheese Dan Hsu wrote an editorial about publishers punishing EGM for unfavorable coverage.

Ubisoft in particular come off as morons. First, they take issue with preview of Assassin's Creed that mentions some concerns that the game might become painfully repetitive. (It does.) Then they were pissed because EGM called them on their embargo BS.

All major review sites get early copies of games so that they can have time to play and review them before they're released. As a part of that process, every site that gets a pre-release copy signs a contract (called an embargo) saying they won't publish the review before a certain date. The EGM folks saw a lot of reviews coming out before the embargo, all with high scores, and discovered that Ubisoft was letting high scoring reviews come out early, making the early MetaCritic score for Assassin's Creed look like it was a phenomenon as opposed to some fun ideas that eventually collapse under their own weight.

And the final straw for Ubisoft was a negative blog post by a user, not a staff member, on the 1UP site. As I said, morons.

Also, as I look at getting my next PC, I'm torn between XP and Vista. I appreciate that Vista is trying to be more security conscious, but the one gamer I know (Matthew) who tried it a few weeks ago immediately uninstalled it because it didn't run a lot of his games. So I'll get XP, and I'll sign the petition to keep Microsoft selling (and, by extension, supporting) it.

13 January, 2008

Takin' It Easy

I decided to take it easy and just screw around today. It's amazing how trying to keep this blog going full speed has turned gaming into work. I get way more accomplished at home than I do from nine to five.

I tried a bunch of the Indie Games' list of best freeware games. I didn't care for most of them, so I'm not going to write them up.

Frozzd


The Pitch: Collect the little fire guys to fight the ice guys, while running upside down on giant snowballs.

My Opinion: Simple fun. Good for kids.

Gore

Just kidding. This one isn't free, though it should be. I played it on GameTap in god mode, just to run around and shoot stuff for no reason. It was released three years after Quake 3 and looks like a Quake 2 mod. But just look at that picture. That's blood and chunks coming off of me as I have a chainsaw fight with a bunch of skeletons. Is that not the very definition of awesome? :)


Review: Scrapland

Scrapland (2004, Mercury Steam Entertainment) is a story of a bunch of robots in trouble.

Gameplay
Scrapland has on foot and vehicle sections, separated by loading screens. The on foot sections basically consist of dodging cops. The vehicle sections are generally racing or combat. There are tons of other mechanics layered on top of these basic activities, and when I was first getting into the game, it was fun to explore all over and see what there was to do. Unfortunately, upgrading my weapons meant doing many of these activities until I was completely sick of them. Yay. Also, there's a pretty steep difficulty spike at the end. I turned the game down to easy and still ended up cheating to beat the last boss.

Theatrics
A lot of work obviously went into the setting and inhabitants of Scrapland. The intro walks through introducing you to lots of characters and places. You'll meet all the movers and shakers by the time the game ends. There's a murder mystery to be solved and a mysterious informant. The characters are pretty broad, but with the primary color style of the game, that is probably intentional. The voice acting is actually pretty good, but the wrong words are often emphasized, and context is usually missing from the performances. Also, the dialog often doesn't match the subtitles. I wonder if this is how playing games originally in English is for the rest of the world? (Scrapland was developed in Spain.)

Aesthetics

This is probably the game's strong point. For a game over three years old, Scrapland still looks very good. It has great metal effects, some nice shadows, scads of animation for the various robots, and even some neat moving bits on your ships. The cityscapes with vehicles flying by can be very impressive, as well.


Final Score
3 of 5

10 January, 2008

More Keepalive: Sony's Year?

I'm thinking about picking up an Xbox (not a 360). I have a couple old games that seemed unique enough that I needed to see them (Stranger's Wrath and Breakdown), and Microsoft apparently believes they can rest on their compatibility laurels, now that Sony has completely abandoned backwards compatibility for the most popular home console of all time. :P

Also, I was interested to hear the 1UP podcast crew predicting that 2008 will be Sony's year. They think Metal Gear Solid 4 will get the hardcore to buy it, and the Home service and Little Big Planet will appeal to broader audiences.

I'm curious about MGS4. I played the original on PS1. I enjoyed it. I played MGS2 on PS2. I was bored and frustrated. Then some cut scenes came up that were so far fetched that if John Woo saw them in a dream he'd throw up his hands and say "Never in a million years!" That was the end of the Metal Gear series for me. I've heard good things about the fourth game, but people liked the second one too, so I generally don't believe them. They are saying that the arcane controls are getting a revamp, so that may be good. But I still don't see how MGS4 is going to move lots of PS3s. Some, sure, but considering MGS2 eventually made its way to the 360, I don't know if you'll have that many fanatics willing to shell out $460 for the game.

As for Home and Little Big Planet, yeah, those games along with Ratchet and Clank will give the PS3 more casual appeal. But without a casual price, how will they move units? It's a year in and the PS3 is still $100 away from the launch price of the PS2. I are confused.

Keepalive: Banana Nababa & Farnsworth Blog

First off, I finished one more game on the TIGS best freeware games of 2007 list.

Banana Nababa


The Pitch: Fight six difficult NES style bosses.

My Opinion: It does what it says. I played it. I cursed at it. I enjoyed it. I think the length was appropriate too, as I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it much longer. :)

Other than that, I've mostly just been playing Rise of Nations for my Farnsworth blog. The problem is that it requires so much attention that I don't take many screenshots. It also requires a lot of time to write and revise because I'm doing so much more than I'm writing that I have to do a lot of condensing. It also (as I suspected going in) gets harder and harder to sustain the humor / premise. Meh. I'm already to the point where I can trounce the computer on Very Easy and Easy, and Moderate is my personal goal to be up to snuff for the LAN parties. I'm guessing three more entries, then out, much like the short and sweet Dwarf Fortress blog.

07 January, 2008

TIGS freeware awards (cont.)

My impressions of the games on The Independant Gaming Sources best freeware games of 2007 continue.

Ninjah


The Pitch: Traverse levels with your jump, grapple line, and hover gun, touching only whatever color terrain you've attuned yourself to.

My Opinion: It's a mostly fun action puzzler similar to N. Those types of games are always a difficult balancing act as if they're too puzzly, they bog down and lose the action. If they're too actiony, people without twitch reflexes won't be able to play them. Ninjah lets you choose your own level of difficulty by letting you shift the action into slomo for especially tricky parts. You won't have a great completion time for the level, but you will be able to complete it and move on. The last real level (49) is a notable exception slowing the pace of the game unacceptably, and I didn't bother to finish it.

Polychromatic Funkmonkey


The Pitch: Build bridges in the air.

My Opinion: Don't bother. It's tedious.

The Jeluvian Project
is hosted on a download site so slow, my children will have to write the review.

Mr. Blocko
It must be great in multiplayer because single was a big fat sack of "who cares".

Trilby: The Art of Theft


The Pitch: Conduct daring robberies.

My Opinion: I generally hate stealth games, and this is not an exception. I don't have the patience for them, unless being stealthy feels cool, which, for all the fedoras and suits, it doesn't in this game. Also the difficulty ramp near what I assume to be the end of the game was no fun at all. And this is from the guy who completed Hitman 2 on the highest possible difficulty on a machine that couldn't maintain a consistent frame rate. Of course, I had more time on my hands back then. :)

Cottage of Doom


The Pitch: Barricade yourself in a cabin while fending off a never ending stream of zombies.

My Opinion: Meh. The barricading holds off the zombies, but since points are only scored for comboing kills, it feels pretty pointless, especially since it's sometimes difficult to hit a zombie, even at point blank range.

Portal: The Flash Version


The Pitch: It's Portal, only 2D.

My Opinion: It's better than Portal, up until the point where the maps get overly complicated.

Powder Game


The Pitch: Play with various materials. Watch the dots dance.

My Opinion: While more of a toy than a game, I spent about an hour just playing around with powder, seed, water, and magma.

MinishoterRS


The Pitch: Super low res shooting action.

My Opinion: Super awesome! Hahaha. You get to lay waste to hordes of bad guys as a flying ghost cat! Plus, on easy, the last boss was the perfect speed of bullet hell that I had to dodge like crazy, but didn't take hits. That was so fun.

Plasma Warrior


The Premise: Download the wiped out colony's computer records.

My Opinion: It's like super lightweight Metroid. Some of the sound effects were a little grating, but overall I really enjoyed this one. Old school looks without the old school punishment.

Whew! That was a lot of games. It's amazing what I'll do to avoid Rise of Nations. :P

Review: Rogue Trooper

Rogue Trooper (2006, Rebellion) is a third person action game based on the comic book of the same name. You play a genetically engineered soldier whose buddies' personality chips are placed into his gear.

Gameplay
To me, the key to the gameplay in Rogue Trooper is its pacing. Everything moves really quickly. If you're in a stealth area, you'll usually kill three guys then move on. If you're in a combat scenario, you'll kill a dozen guys then move on. Admittedly, I was playing in tourist mode (easy difficulty), but you can too. :)

Rogue Trooper also has a number of additional mechanics, so many it can sometimes be overwhelming. It's got kill.switch style cover mechanics. It's got mines. It's got enemy distracting holograms. It's got a sentry gun that can guard a hallway or keep enemies pinned down for easy flanking. It's got on rails shooting segments. And it's got way more guns than I ever needed.


Eat grenade, monkey!

With this many elements coming together, some of them were bound to fall flat. The on rails segments weren't terribly exciting. The grenade toss mechanism saw way too many grenades bouncing back when the trajectory line showed them going through a window. Sometimes enemies would see me behind cover when they shouldn't have. And the helmet's ability to lure bad guys to me didn't seem to work at all. But the core sneaking and shooting were still fun. And those few times when it would all come together, when I'd be on a turret while my helmet was hacking a door and my sentry gun and mines where covering other approaches, were pretty awesome.

Theatrics
The cut scenes in the game are well done. The voice acting and directing are generally good. The plot is okay. At the end of the day, I didn't find any of the characters or plot points compelling. Perhaps lovers of the comics who already knew who to love and hate got more out of it than I did.

Aesthetics

If I can just get into position without anyone seeing me, I may be able to snipe DiCaprio.

While Rogue Trooper isn't at the top of the technical heap, it does occasionally pull off scenes of impressive scope.

Also, the talking equipment, which I thought would drive me crazy, didn't, which is a minor miracle in and of itself.

Final Score
4 of 5

04 January, 2008

TIGS Freeware Game Award Winners

The Independant Gaming Source (TIGS) released their list of best freeware games of 2007. Unfortunately, TIGS's forums are down, so I can't see the rest of the games. Oh well. Here are the four I downloaded before it died.

Fraxy



The Pitch: Fight giant enemy ships.

My Opinion: Fraxy is a cool engine and level editor. When someone makes a game with it, it could be awesome. Currently, all you can do currently is fight random enemies forever, using only two of the six or so weapons the game offers. The fact that this is fun for a half hour shows a lot of promise. And yes, the second picture is me being attacked by a Christmas tree. The star detaches and attacks separately.

The Cleaner


The Pitch: Fight stuff with magic.

My Opinion: I liked the art. The Out of This World style cut scenes were good. Some of the sound effects were pretty annoying. I didn't want to use certain weapons because their sound effects got on my nerves. The gameplay was decent, if somewhat randomly unforgiving. The puzzles were generally good. The last level I played (after killing the invisible super soldier) didn't seem to have a way out, though.

Return to Sector 9


The Pitch: Fight waves of aliens in space.

My Opinion: I've probably been playing first person shooters for too long, but when the left hand turns and the right hand moves, I die a lot. It's obviously a really polished game, with nice graphics, sound, and rewards, but the controls killed it for me.

Hurrican



The Pitch: Shoot stuff.

My Opinion: It's a remake of the Amiga classic Turrican. I only take it on faith that it's a classic. I tried the Genesis version, and it sucked. This version is decidedly better, especially graphically, with raytraced sprites and piles of particle, glow, and smoke effects. The gameplay is simplistic, but serviceable. Just don't use the default controls. Gamepad only. Oh yeah, and keep it on easy. This remake is faithful to the punishing difficulty of the original.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe

I finally decided to catch up on all the gaming news over the holiday break. Nothing I cared about happened. Although with Next Gen's RSS feed breaking, I might have missed some interesting stats. Meh.

In the meantime, one site's list of top freeware games of 2007 means another series of quick takes is coming soon. Watch this space!

Oh, and I also started one of the strangest projects imaginable. I'm learning to play Rise of Nations and writing it up in the words of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama. If you're one of the three dozen ubernerds on earth who might enjoy that, go visit.

02 January, 2008

Even More IGF Finalists

Whew! Still plowin' through 'em.

poesysteme


The Premise: Populate an ecosystem with words and watch them interact.

My Opinion: It's more of an experiment than a game. I got bored after a minute or two and moved on.

Polarity

The Premise: Use magnetism to get your little avatar through a maze.

My Opinion: It doesn't run, and there's no forum or FAQ or other help on the web site.

R├╝ckblende (Flashback)

The Premise: Wander around a house, viewing memories.

My Opinion: It's not really a game, per se. But I enjoyed watching the animation.

Synaesthete


The Premise: Avoid enemies while playing Frequency (hit the correct buttons in time with the music) to shoot.

My Opinion: It's like rubbing your stomach and patting your head. Usually I just found an easy part of the rhythm to play along with and ran away from stuff. The novelty of it saw me through to the end, but I worry that, like Serious Sam, running backwards while shooting might become tiresome after much more.

Foamzilla

The Premise: Terrorize people as a giant foam monster.

My Opinion: I looked at the videos on YouTube and decided it wasn't worth installing UT2k4 just to look at. I thought about downloading the walkthrough movie, but at the speed it was downloading, it was going to take just as long. :P

Flipside


The Premise: Flip the world from happy to evil to solve puzzles and progress.

My Opinion: Nice art, but bad controls and scads of cheap one hit kills make it only for the masochistic. I didn't bother to finish it.

More IGF Finalists

Since my boss said not to come back until the 3rd, I decided to spend my last day of vacation appreciating the fine works of the Independent Game Festival finalists.

Battleships Forever


The Pitch: Control glowy line art battleships in real time battles.

My Opinion: Too clicky. It's like trying to control 8 Star Control craft at once, with subsystem targeting for added confusion. Might have worked with a better interface and more intelligent formations. My protector ships would often end up in the back of formations, and if they somehow did end up in front, my glass cannons would rush ahead of them every time the formation moved.

Clean Asia


The Pitch: Fly through non-glowy line art and shoot stuff. Use the parts that break off the stuff you shoot against it.

My Opinion: Not my style. I don't really like shoot 'em ups (shmups for short), and Clean Asia is no exception. It's part of a subgenre called bullet hell where some enemies fire so much crap at you your main task is to weave in between the bullets. Maybe it was just my old fingers using the keyboard, but I had trouble with even the first enemy in the game. Additionally, the clouds of enemy parts you accumulate make it even harder to see enemy bullets near your ship, making the game's core innovation more burdensome than fun. Plus it kicks back to the main menu instead of giving you the option to try the stage again. "Back to film school @#%(^&#!"

Empyreal Nocturne
The game doesn't let you take screen shots, which is a pity as one screenshot pretty much sums up the game play.

The Pitch: You control a swarm of triangles which you use to destroy all the orbs on something that vaguely resembles a Chinese dragon. (Have you noticed that geometry is the way most small teams get around having to create time consuming art resources?)

My Opinion: Yawn. Seriously. The gameplay consisted of outranging the bad guy. Minor course corrections for the win? Who cares?

Galaxy Scraper


The Pitch: It's an amazing new concept where you run around on planets! (It's like the Rachet and Clank 2 planet levels from 2003 except you can only run around and kick.)

My Opinion: It's like Mario Galaxy, only not nearly as good. You only have the directly overhead perspective, severely limiting the gameplay. You only have single jump and kick, so there's not much to do. And the collision detection is bad. All that said, the first level's concept, where you kick annoying little blobs into a giant mouth so that you can shoot yourself out of the ass to the next world, was hilarious.

Gesundheit!


The Pitch: Lure pig eating monsters to their doom using your delicious snot. No, really!

My Opinion: Gesundheit was fun for the 12 demo levels. The crayon visuals and mellow music somehow make a game about mucous and animals eating each other adorable.

Mayhem Intergalactic


The Pitch: An easy to learn but hard to master strategy game.

My Opinion: A nice simple multiplayer strategy game. Among friends, this could be a lot of fun. Against the AI (once you've won enough rounds that it actually starts playing), it's largely a matter of luck as the initial planet layout can cause them to to fight amongst themselves, leaving you to clean up the weakened victor or to immediately gang up and crush you before you have any chance to build defenses. Also, the geometric unit progression makes it so that one early defeat (against a neutral planet or an opponent) can effectively end the game.

01 January, 2008

Mmm. Delicious LAN.

I never did finish the last room of my DooM map, but the LAN party was wonderful, just the same. Unreal Tournament 3 was actually quite fun. The addition of the hoverboard that lets you move faster (at the expense of falling off if you take damage) was a really good addition. Also, you can grapple onto the back of another vehicle when you're on the board. It's hard not to kill the guy boarding if you're piloting the vehicle, but when it works, it's crazy fun. I had one run where I was hooked to a fast moving hovercraft, swerving and jumping for dear life as we zipped through boulders and along cliff side trails. It was awesome.

We also played a fair amount of the favorite from the last LAN party, Quake Enemy Territory. Unfortunately, the learning curve was in full effect and we lost more than a couple rounds to new players learning how their gear worked or learning the map. Of course it was still better than the Wolfenstein Enemy Territory we played. Trying new user created maps is always a mixed bag. The good part about the game is that the combination of laughing (everyone else) and complaining (me) seems to balance out somehow.

There was also some Flatout 2 and Trackmania United. I'm not a really big fan of either as defeat comes swiftly and arbitrarily in both. The tracks we played on Trackmania weren't as bad as some of the ones we used to play (where no one could finish the course without falling out in the five minutes allotted), so that was nice. But even these "easier" tracks require you to know how to race, which most of us don't. I know you want to go into straightaways going fast, and that's about it.

Rise of Nations was our only excursion into RTS. (Ooops. I forgot World In Conflict. But WIC isn't really much fun.) I got some much needed sleep through the first RoN game (2AM to 4AM this morning). But I played in the game this afternoon as Professor Hubert Farnsworth. I even built a super collider. No rancid meatballs for me. :) I need to practice that game so I can pull my weight better. I'd probably prefer Company of Heroes to be the LAN party RTS of choice for our group, but it's got a pretty nasty learning curve as well, especially for people who've been playing Age of Empires for years. Rise of Nations is similar enough that they don't have to work too hard.

You always have to work hard if you're fighting humans, but we prefer not to do that. For one thing, we always have folks coming and going, so we can never reliably field full teams. Plus some people (me) do not have the best brought out in them by competition. Heck, I even resent UT3's bots who taunt me every single time they kill me. Look. I'm owning you. Our team is owning your team. You killed me once and suddenly you're "the daddy"? The developer's coded you to be petty and retarded? Add more game modes next time instead. Domination was great. It rewarded sticking together and teamwork.

But wait, you say, Team Fortress 2 has teamwork in the name. Yes it does, but there are no bots and we usually don't have enough folks to even field one complete team, which means no TF2. The same goes for Call of Duty 4. So we don't play two of the best FPS games going simply for lack of bot support. Meanwhile, Serious Sam 2, which feels more like a grind than a game in single player, has been completely played through and thoroughly enjoyed multiple times specifically because it supports a pile of people in co-op. If only Republic Commando had supported co-op. If only!

Long story short, I need a new computer and need to learn the build order in Rise of Nations. The end.