31 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 27 - Obliterate the Outpost

Trando fun forts. (How much scrap metal did they bring to Kashyyyk?)

30 December, 2009

Keepalive: GTA4, Red Faction: Guerrilla

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm still moving through GTA4. The key to keeping the momentum in the game is taxis. You hail a cab, pick a destination, and press enter. One short loading screen later, you're there. GTA4 is an open world game where the best way to play it is to completely ignore the open world. "There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture."

In some cases, it's your only recourse. Once you've opened up all three islands, any call you get to hang out is likely to be from someone way over on the first island. Unless you've got a helicopter, there is no way to make it to where they are in time. All you can do is hail / call a cab and skip the ride, because if you actually sit through the ride, you'll still be too late.

In all other cases, it's the only way to not fall asleep. When San Andreas gradually opened up new areas, it stuck with them. I got a new base in the new area, then got to explore it through missions. I guess the theme of GTA4 is that you can never escape your past. I suppose Rockstar should be acknowledged for trying to tackle meatier subject matter, but when it hurts the game this much, I'm not sure it's worthwhile.




RFG is already bogging down, too. There are a few pain in the butt missions that have been taking the fun out. I turned the game difficulty down to Casual, but apparently that has no effect on time limits, so the "drive this vehicle really fast from point A to point B" missions still suck.

For one thing, they're trial and error. If you want a Pro time (which I quickly gave up pursuing), you have to memorize both the route and shortcuts. Plus traffic randomly spawns, so sometimes wide marauder vehicles would spawn in narrow places where it was impossible to get around them. Losing hard won progress through no fault of my own is the most frustrating thing in gaming. And RFG has done it to me multiple times.

The problem is these missions are necessary to unlock new weapons and weapon upgrades, so they don't feel optional. I now understand why some players stop focusing on enemy buildings and simply wreck everything they see.

29 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, November 30, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 26 - The Bodyguards

No hats!

28 December, 2009

The PC Ghetto

written by Blain Newport on Monday, December 28, 2009

PC gaming is a ghetto these days. The big money moved to the consoles. So we're the old, run down parts of Gamertown.

We've got the crackheads huddled around their MMOs and social games. The strategy game hustlers are so proud of their Three-card Monte skills, but only other hustlers are still interested in the game. And everyone else (myself included) is trying to pretend that we're suburbanites with our console ports. But we're not. We're second class, at best.

That isn't to say nothing good comes out of this community. Discontent breeds interesting art. And the lack of policing means mods and independent games can exist here that would be shut down instantly in the corporate marketplaces.


Because the platform is more expensive, many PC gamers like to pretend it's high brow. And in a few cases, where people have three monitor set-ups and the graphics hardware to run them and the custom inputs and the two or three games that support all that stuff, that viewpoint can be justified. But for the vast majority of PC gamers, it feels more like we're buying the dollar store versions of games. It's got the same brand name on it. But it's slightly broken, or it's some weird test flavor that didn't make it.

PC gaming ain't what it used to be.




My apologies to anyone who's actually lived in a ghetto. I probably don't have the right to make this analogy, not having lived there.

Keepalive: GTA4, Red Faction: Guerrilla

written by Blain Newport on Monday, December 28, 2009

My trek through GTA4 continues. Over the course of the story, you open up new islands. I was getting bored with the game, but the opening of the second island came with some story progression that showed promise. Now I'm very bored again. Crazier stuff has happened, but the mechanics of the game aren't interesting or fun.

This is in sharp contrast to Red Faction: Guerrilla. The mechanics are lots of fun. I run around and smash through walls with my space sledgehammer. And thanks to a bug, the game runs way too fast, which is actually awesome. I sometimes wish all games had adjustable speed settings. It would be very helpful to learn a fighting game, for example, at a slower speed, then gradually increase it. And RFG is much more fun when I'm a little buzzsaw of hammer destruction.

It's too bad RFG is a horrible port. Sure, GTA runs poorly, but it doesn't crash every ten minutes. I'm jumping through all the hoops with RFG (manually installing patches that Games For Windows Live refuses to install, running RFG in a window instead of fullscreen, and turning off the Steam overlay), but it's still locking up, just less often.

27 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Friday, November 27, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 25 - Hard Contact

a blast from the past (and lots of obnoxious hooting)

Also I say it's the 25th, but it's the 27th. I wrote it down wrong.

26 December, 2009

Keepalive: GTA4, The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, December 26, 2009

GTA4 picked up a little. Some bad things happened that gave me hope the plot would pick up. Unfortunately the game is not getting bogged down in "friend activities", basically boring minigames I have to play if I want to get special benefits from being friends with certain people. I'm staying friends with my cousin (who I brought a lot of trouble down on), a Jamaican gangster (who saved me in a firefight and can sell me lots of guns), and the undercover cop who's pretending to be my girlfriend. Trust me, that's not a spoiler. If you can't tell Michelle's a cop, you should never ever ever consider committing a crime. Things will go badly for you.



I also started up The Witcher. It's based on books and short stories by Polish author Andrjez Sapowski. The game even gave me the option to have Polish voices and English subtitles, which is good. The voice acting is usually better in the native language of the developer.

The world seems to have interesting lore, and the opening cinematic was the best action scene I've seen in years. The best fights tell stories, and that was a very chatty fight (with no words). The fighting in the game is very lackluster after how cool the opening fight was, but I'll persevere to see what the story has in store. It's definitely dark fantasy, but that just inspired me to draw silly hats on everyone in screenshots.







Also the "bounciness" of the one female character I've met communicates pretty clearly that this game is not to be taken seriously.

25 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 26, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 24 - The Rescue of Tarfful

Worst. Covert ops team. Ever.

24 December, 2009

Keepalive: Divinity 2 Demo, GTA4

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not really knowing anything about it, I downloaded the demo for Divinity 2: Ego Draconis.



Oh look. It's Gothic 3. Actually, Ego Draconis' world seems to have more interesting lore. There are knights who are infused with the memories of dragons so that they can fight them. This has a strange side effect of allowing the knight to see the spirits of the dead. Apparently there's a city of spirits somewhere, which sounds like a fun trip. But the gameplay consists of pretty much the same mediocre combat and busy work fetch quests of Gothic and its ilk. Ho hum.

I picked up The Witcher from the Steam store's awesome holiday sale. I've heard many good things, but I waited until it was $14 because I fear it will also fall into the same category.

And speaking of the holiday sale, Grand Theft Auto IV was $7.49. Even if it is a mediocre port, at that price I feel somewhat obligated to play it.

I know how games can have their time come and go, but I really don't get the amount of love GTA4 got. It's not a bad game. But the driving is worse and the character animation isn't in the same league as Half-Life 2. I'll keep playing and see if I can figure out what the big deal was.

23 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, November 25, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 23 - Deus Ex Machina

Too many droids!

22 December, 2009

Keepalive: Indie Stuff

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I saw an article about the best indie games of the year and downloaded the ones that sounded appealing. Color me incredibly jaded, because I didn't find any of them really worth reviewing. The few that I even bothered to finish were totally derivative.



The Parade of Pain

Enviro-Bear had deliberately gimped controls that are clever in the abstract and boring in practice.

Meat Boy is an exercise in punishing precision platforming that I outgrew almost two decades ago.

Journey to the Center of the Earth had nice presentation but not much substance. And because I apparently clipped the jeep while jumping over it to get to the final treasure, I instead got the bad ending. Seriously? Your cute little cartoon exploration game where it's impossible to die has a bad ending where your guy dies in a car wreck? And you start over at square one if you want the good one? No thank you.

Run Man is memorization and execution. This type of trial and error is awful game design.

Star Guard was decent. It has super simple graphics like Berzerk and pretty simple gameplay. But the level design, enemy AI, and pacing were mediocre. I never felt taxed, partly because the game gives infinite lives but also because the game was either very easy or hard in ways that weren't possible to anticipate. It never developed a vocabulary.

Canabalt struck me as being pretty much like Run Man, an exercise in memorizing and executing. I'm not interested.

I saw Machinarium at PAX, and not being a big adventure game fan, ignored it. I should have continued ignoring it. Most adventure games are a bunch of padding and a mediocre cartoon. The best ones are a good cartoon and make failing entertaining. Machinarium has nice atmosphere and art style, but is nowhere near the top of the genre.



"When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other." - Despair.com

21 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, November 23, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 22 - Holding the Line

The clanker invasion.

20 December, 2009

Keepalive: Torchlight

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, December 20, 2009

They had a sale, so I decided to pick up Torchlight for further podcast listening fodder. It doesn't improve. I still frequently find my ranged character running up to enemies I meant to shoot and just flat out missing when I use the shift key to hold my ground. It's no Titan Quest. But it's got novelty on its side, so I may keep playing.

I get the impression from the Torchlight achievement page, that most people feel the same way I do. Heck, only fifteen people in a thousand have bothered to play the game as far as I have if the stats are to be believed.

19 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, November 23, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 21 - Wrath of the Republic

Get off our ship!

18 December, 2009

Keepalive: Republic Commando, Jericho, Zombie Driver, Mercenaries 2

written by Blain Newport on Friday, December 18, 2009

The Republic Commando walkthrough is done. The novels have made it a bit less wonderful. And playing in front of people in a walkthrough always makes me painfully aware of every glitch and design flaw, not to mention the large quantity of filler in most games. I would never consider doing a Mass Effect playthrough. :P

I played through Jericho again, mostly as something to keep my hands busy while listening to podcasts. The game has plenty of flaws, but it's still fun to pop monster heads like melons and use various super powers.

As a similar hand busying diversion I picked up Zombie Driver, an overhead game where you run over zombies. Much like Madballs it was a nice, disposable diversion. Actually, Madballs is a little better. But running over zombies is still pretty fun.

For Co-op Thursday, more Mercs 2 was played. It wasn't as much as usual because Comcast fell down for a bit and the game requires an internet connection for local multiplayer. :P

The bit we did play was pretty cool, though. Story time!



We had an assignment to take out another oil rig. Chris calls in a two person chopper to fly us there. As we approach we take a missile hit from nowhere and hit the deck of the rig quickly to avoid getting blown out of the air. It turns out an enemy attack chopper had come in behind us. While Chris decided to go wreak havoc on the rig, I decided to duck into the maze of cargo containers on the deck so that the enemy chopper would come close enough to grapple.

After zipping up to the enemy chopper and chucking the pilot out, I turned back to the oil rig to see it covered in explosions. It's possible some other damage I'm not aware of weakened the rig beforehand, but all we know for sure is that Chris attached one block of C4 to a fuel storage tank and when it detonated the whole rig started to go up.

Trying to play it up like an action movie, I flew in as close as I felt I could to where Chris was and yelled for him to grapple onto my new chopper. He did and we flew away from the sinking, burning platform. Unfortunately an enemy chopper from another faction saw our escape and attacked us. Our chopper was already smoking, so I tried to gain altitude in anticipation of a daring stunt.

As our chopper finally caught fire and went out of control, I jumped out of the cockpit, found the enemy chopper, and grappled to it in mid-air. After ejecting the pilot, I found Chris had hit the water and hijacked a civilian boat. I winched the boat and flew us to an enemy oil tanker. I dropped Chris' boat on the deck (gently) and started using the chopper's minigun to clear enemy soldiers in his way.

Chris planted C4 on a fuel canister. (Can you see where this is going?) I flew in low figuring I'd pull him off, then we'd detonate from a safe distance. Everything, including my chopper, exploded and Chris and I began a long swim to shore.

Do you get why I don't care about action movies any more?

17 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 19, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 20 - Lockdown

I guess we know how long Trandos can hold their breath.

15 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 18 - Tactical Supremacy

The name of this installment is highly misleading.

14 December, 2009

Observations on Music

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, December 13, 2009

Music is vital.

Music is tone.

Music is setting.

Music is pace.

Music is vital.



Just keep repeating that mantra until the words lose their meaning, and you'll have a vague impression of how I feel about music in games. It's so inextricably linked to the feel of a game, it's sometimes more important to the experience than the mechanics.

Blaster Master contains some good examples. The game forces you to abandon your tank and swim until you can find an underwater propulsion system. The process of exploring and fighting underwater can get pretty tedious once the novelty wears off. But the tone set by the bubbly music is how I remember that part of the game. By the same token, the sewer area that played okay but had music that sounds like the before music from an ad for intestinal gas medication I do not remember so fondly.

The ending credits of Mass Effect are another example. For me, there was as much drama in the song that plays over them as in the rest of the game put together. Part of the reason I played through that game a second time was to see if that feeling was hidden somewhere inside it, which indicates another aspect of music.

Music creates subtext. Doing the exact same actions but for different reasons is one of the best ways to get more mileage out of the same mechanics. One stealth section may feel like a desperate escape while another feels like a cunning plan swinging into action just because of different music. It's best if the story, animation, level design, and mechanics reinforce those feelings. But music can carry a lot of weight by itself, when necessary.

A lot of times I overlook the music for a game. If a game's broken, music can't save it. And if a game's great, the music just reinforces the experience. It's generally only in mediocre games with good music that it really stands out.



Oh dip! Did I just call Blaster Master (the game who's protagonist I use for my forum avatar) mediocre? Twenty years later, it really is. But the music's still good. :) (Well, from some stages.)

13 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, November 17, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 17 - Jailbreak

Delta secures Sev and goes after Scorch.

12 December, 2009

Keepalive: Co-op Thursday

written by Blain Newport on Friday, December 11, 2009

Co-op Tuesday has moved. There is now co-op Thursday. Therefore there is Mercs 2.

This is me being air dropped into an enemy base. We were trying to drop me on the guy with the green arrow over his head. We missed, but we almost creamed him with the truck I landed on.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

And this is me dropping a boat onto an oil derrick.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

What? That's a thing that people do.


on Crazy Earth

11 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 15, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 16 - Troika

We're getting the band back together.

10 December, 2009

Keepalive: Back to No Gaming

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm so bored with so many things. Call of Cthulhu stinks once the action gets going. Mass Effect was a nice mild boring, but I tried to play it on hardcore where it's boring and painful. Bleh. I lost interest in KotOR, again. And the patches for Borderlands seem to reduce its performance. I paid Gearbox $10 for the DLC, which made the game unplayable. It's just sad. I played some Jericho just to assure myself that I still like shooting stuff, then I uninstalled Borderlands. I uninstalled a lot of stuff. It's finally time to back up a bunch of files and reformat this thing.

It'll take hours, and I'll probably do it over a couple weeks while I'm finishing the Republic Commando walkthrough. (I've already recorded all of the rest of the Batman walkthrough, but it's a lot of video to edit, render, and upload.) Then I'll have a nice clean hard drive for the end of the year LAN party.

I just feel grumpy lately. Part of it's that I know I should play less and I take it out on the games. But part of it's that I'm just too old for all the little disappointments that come with most games. Their shortcomings are so obvious there's no way QA missed them. They fail to learn from previous titles. Some overreach. Some play it safe. So many developers aren't competent to develop for PC anymore (or farm the PC versions of their games out to incompetents). Nothing's worth playing until the patch comes out.

"The good Lord lets us grow old for a reason: to gain the wisdom to find fault with everything He's made." - Abe 'Grandpa' Simpson

"Dad, I love you...but you're a weird, sore-headed old crank, and nobody likes you." - Homer Simpson

A little from column A and a little from column B.

09 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 12, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 15 - Alone

Trandoshan ambushes get more elaborate.

08 December, 2009

I Am the Master of Unlocking

written by Blain Newport on Monday, December 7, 2009

Repetition is comforting. Getting frequent rewards is comforting. I've been sinking into the oblivion of unlocking stuff in Madballs and Mass Effect lately.

In Madballs you have to give up your unlocks and start over. I went through the entire progression three times on unpopulated multiplayer servers so I got credit towards unlocking a player skin at the same time. It was mostly an exercise in efficiency accompanied by blowing stuff up.

In Mass Effect, if you accomplish certain things in game, you get certain abilities for subsequent playthroughs. I hadn't even looked at these awards until a couple days ago. It turns out that because I rocked the house with Jayne Shepherd, any new character I create can select either Assault Rifle or Shotgun proficiencies, even if their character class wouldn't normally allow it.

Neither game is good enough that I'm playing them to enjoy them. I do get to see some content in Mass Effect that I skipped the first time around, but outside of snippets of backstory, it's pretty worthless. Nope, I'm using the pretense of unlocking stuff in games I don't really care about to avoid doing useful, less interesting stuff.


Fry: I'm gonna be a science fiction hero, just like Uhura or Janeway or Xena!

Leela: Fry, this isn't TV. It's real life. Can't you tell the difference?

Fry: Sure. I just like TV better.

07 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 12, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 14 - Unwelcome Visitors

Trandoshans for days. Plus a few NPCs that don't die. :O

06 December, 2009

Game Journal: Knights of the Old Republic

written by Blain Newport on Friday, December 4, 2009

Star Wars

Ambivalence

There's a little free association for you. KotOR both gains and loses by being linked to Star Wars.

Lightsabers are cool. The rules of the universe are common knowledge. There are a lot of races and cultures and planets to draw on for the setting.



But Jedi are so lame now. All they ever do is form stuffy councils and die en masse to the villain of the week. And there's almost a fatalism in the Jedi outlook that seems to guarantee they'll never be effective protectors of the galaxy.

Caring enough to fight for something means you're breaking the code.

When I was a kid, learning the ways of the force was about becoming a hero. Now it's a path to enlightened nihilism.



It's changed enough that I often find myself having no gut reaction to some of the dialog options in the game. I want to do it like Luke would. Learn to plan. Save my friends. Kick ass. But maybe they want me to do it like Obi-Wan would. Stay objective. Protect order. Fight like nothing's at stake. Lie to people and call it "a certain point of view".

I should stop second guessing and just do it my way.

05 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 13 - Delta Down

It's not a good day for Delta Squad.

04 December, 2009

Game Journal: Knights of the Old Republic

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, December 3, 2009



This is my favorite environment so far in KotOR (Knights of the Old Republic). Futuristic architecture all feels pretty generic. Concrete. Shiny bits. Maybe some flashing lights. And that stuff's still present here, but the land itself is kind of like coastal grassland with the occasional plump tree, pretty clouds, flocks of birds, and flying manta rays.

Part of me wishes they'd "futured up" the manta rays a little. Come on, gills? But I was enjoying the tranquility too much to let that get to me. Of course a lot of that tranquility is thanks to turning the combat down to easy.

The first time I played KotOR, I quit very early. The first serious opposition in the game are poisonous monsters and my entire group got poisoned immediately. We ran out of antidote in frightently short order.

The rules for KotOR are based on Dungeons & Dragons, but unlike a game with a flesh and blood dungeon master, KotOR has no idea when the dice rolls are going so badly that they need to be fudged to keep the game viable. My first experience with KotOR was so brutal that I thought I'd never touch it again. But turning it down to easy has made it much more bearable, and I'm glad I came back.



KotOR feels so much better than Mass Effect. Well, the combat's equivalently mediocre, and KotOR's got more fiddly bits than I care about. But in terms of characterization and storytelling, there's not really a comparison. I think it largely comes down to how conversations are handled.

Mass Effect gives me a little wheel with a few choices that often don't resemble what comes out of my characters mouth at all. KotOR still does that sometimes, but not nearly so much.

Mass Effect basically has a handful of core missions. After a core mission, you can go down in your ship and talk to your group, but it never feels like they have much to say. In KotOR, if you have a character in your party, you'll periodically stop to chat (or not, if you don't feel like it). It breaks up the travel in a way Mass Effect could have used.

Additionally, every character in your party gives you a quest to find out about their past. This encourages the player to see where these conversations lead and to swap out party members to hear everybody's story. This in turn forces experimentation with different combat strategies. Clever, eh?



Perhaps it's just a cyclical thing. When the tech makes a leap, the other elements suffer for a bit. Once the tech and tools have stabilized a bit, it's easier to produce richer content and more effort can go into design again.

We'll see. Mass Effect 2 is due around the end of January.

Well, I won't see. I'm super cheap. But I'll hear about it. :)

03 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, November 9, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 12 - Ghost Ship Recon

Delta squad's old home isn't what it used to be.

02 December, 2009

Review: Mirror's Edge

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Developer: DICE
Platform: PC
US Release: January 2009
Genre: First Person Running
Price Paid: $5
My Score: 4 of 5


Not enough pictures lately? You'll like this update. Are you using a 56k modem? You'll like it less. :)

Mirror's Edge is the other big EA "new IP" from 2008. Dead Space didn't do it for me. This game does, to the extent my cynical old man heart can still be reached. I think I felt it beat once, faintly. It was more of a wheeze than a beat.



This is how far you have to go to get my heart to beat at this point.

I'm leaping towards a building in first person. I might not make it. I'm reaching out for it. There's speed lines everywhere. There's scary wind noise. It's a really long way down.

The problem is that if I fail, I just want to start running again. The game is about momentum, both in gameplay and pacing, and you if you fall you fall all the way down. I frequently got bored and impatient before I hit the ground. I know I failed already. Let's go.


The first person perspective can also be confusing sometimes. This is me landing in a roll from a long fall. That's a helicopter shooting at me. Disorienting, eh?

Strangely, I found breaking through doors / windows was the most discombobulating bit.


Awwww. First person hugs! Also, click on this one. The gal's face is a good example of how the game looks like an illustration. The city looks pretty spiffy too.


Enough warmth. Where's my violence? You can pass the game without shooting anybody, but it's generally safer and easier to do so. The shooting feels bad. It takes three shots just to make the deputy sit down. You also run slower and can't do cool stuff, so it's obvious the player isn't supposed to use guns much, which is fine.

It kind of made me feel like I was getting away with something I shouldn't when I picked up a SAW and killed lots of dudes.

This is another good picture to look at full size as an example of the style of the game. I never quite came to terms with the white foliage. I suppose it might be the future. But I can't shake the feeling that at the point where science has found enough free time to go back and solve the "make chlorophyll white" problem, there should be flying cars, space ships, and laser guns.


This is what it looks like when the game fails to load a section in front of you and you fall into a void outside of the level. There were a lot of issues with the port. For one thing, all of the prompts still show Xbox controller buttons. Plus the frame rate drops to unplayable if your PhysX drivers aren't up to date. Plus it crashes even if they are, so you have to turn off PhysX, which was the one advantage the PC version had. Oh well. For $5, I can live with it. Plus it's a DICE game. Being able to turn off the thing that makes the game crash is a huge step up for them.

Also, I've heard the Steam version doesn't have access to the DLC (which are special running courses that extend the life of the game beyond the five hours or so the story takes). Honestly, I haven't looked into it yet as I expect it would be normal PC platform neglect and make me sad.


The flash animation cut scenes were less great. The real game looked so nice that these were powerfully bland. When they were doing fast action, they were okay, even good. But for slow walking animations and talky scenes, they looked creepy and bad.



Story
Sorry Rhianna Pratchett. I do not care about your story. The first person hug was good, and the voice acting was okay, but the dialog was generic and throwaway. "Because you're my sister" was a terrible payoff line that highlighted how flat the characters felt. And in a game that sparse, the amount of time you spent establishing a certain relationship made it obvious it was just there to set up a later betrayal. When it finally happened it didn't upset me in the slightest. It was more of a relief that the pretense was lifted.



Mechanics
(Some people hate the word gameplay. So I'm calling it mechanics. I'll probably use them interchangeably, just to maximize the people I annoy.)

Physics defying free running is the main activity in the game. The sounds and camera wiggle and tunnel vision and all that stuff are well done. But the activity itself never feels that great. Maybe that's just because I'm bad at it, but it felt like I never had the feedback to feel good about it. Did I time that slide right? Am I going the right way? (The inclusion of an "instantly look where we meant you to go" button is something of an admission that they didn't get the visual cues right.)

But I was never thinking hard enough to make the puzzly bits interesting. And It never felt like I was building enough momentum to make the action exciting. If I have to know the level already to find the entertaining running lines, your game isn't fun. I'm not going back to make it fun for you.

Well, I might go back. It is a pretty game. But I still won't spend my time looking for the perfect line. That's dull (and nonsensical when dodging gunfire).

A lot of the game architecture feels like it's just sort of around: a slide here, a vault there. It's boring. I never feel like I'm chaining crazy moves together and cutting a sweet line.

Basically, I don't get the rush the camera and sounds indicate the game was going for. Here's hoping the sequel does it better.

01 December, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 8, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 11 - Belly of the Beast

Everything blows up.

Now with captions so you can read what people say even when I'm talking over it.

30 November, 2009

Game Journal: Dead Space

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 29, 2009

So... Dead Space is terrible. I didn't want it to be terrible. I wanted it to be a nice new franchise, like the enthusiast press was saying. They were wrong, at least about the PC version. First off the controls suck. If you turn off vsync, they suck less, but there's no reason vsync should effect them so dramatically, and fine aiming is still broken.

The camera is terrible, possibly because the game was never intended to be played on a 5:4 screen. Most attacks that hit me come from off screen. And there is one enemy that performs a one hit kill if I don't see it soon enough. It sucks. It especially sucks when it happens at the end of a long encounter. There's really nothing but cheap feeling deaths in this game.

The story is derivative and boring. It's like System Shock 2 without Shodan, only Xerxes. Also I think the key element the story is missing is choice. Sure, the guy I'm working with knows more than he's letting on. But even if the clues I was getting gave me the jump on him, it's not like there's anything I could do about it. There's a prequel on the Wii that's a shooter on rails. I'm getting that the impression that the prequel is more honest as the original is basically on rails with occasional detours into item closets.

On the plus side, the game gave J. G. Hertzler (General Martok from DS9) and Keith Szarabajka (Daniel Holtz from Angel) some work. And it's bad enough you won't have to suffer through a review. That's a plus.

29 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Friday, November 6, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commano 10 - Infiltration of the Core Ship

We did bad things to the droids.

28 November, 2009

Keepalive: Call of Cthulhu, Mass Effect, Black Friday

written by Blain Newport on Friday, November 27, 2009

THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR CALL OF CTHULHU: DARK CORNERS OF THE EARTH. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.



While you were eating turkey, I was investigating a cult that carved arcane symbols into its members' flesh. While you bought Christmas presents, I unwittingly unleashed a monster that killed a little girl. That monster used to be her mother.

So far Dark Corners of the Earth is a decent horror game, if a bit plodding. If the sound design was a bit better and the fog the villagers keep talking about had actually existed in the game, I would think it was building tension and atmosphere, but as it is, it's just slow paced. But I'm finally to the part where the entire town will be trying to kill me, so things should be picking up. I've heard the game isn't as good once you're able to defend yourself, so we'll see how much time there is between now and then. The very beginning of the game shows the protagonist taking his own life in an insane asylum, so at least I can expect an appropriately Lovecraftian ending.



The Jayne Cobb playthrough of Mass Effect is going well. It's still mostly just a Renegade playthrough, but occasionally I get a dialog choice that makes me laugh because it's near enough to what Jayne would say that I can almost hear Adam Baldwin's voice. "I like trouble, 'cause trouble means a fight, and fightin' means loot."





I finally splurged on a few Black Friday games. At $2.50, I figured I owed it to myself to give Knights of the Old Republic one more try. At $2.00, I figured the people who made Madballs had done a good enough job that they deserved a little money. And at $15, I figured supporting new IP Dead Space was finally worth doing. I don't expect I'll end up a fan, honestly. But we'll see (sometime next week when it finished downloading).

27 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 5, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commano 09 - Infiltration of the Core Ship

Delta squad splits up. (And I swear a bit. Sorry.)

26 November, 2009

Keepalive: Mercenaries 2, Nations @ War, Mass Effect

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gaming's happening. We had to cut Mercs 2 short on co-op Tuesday because my router went kerflooie. It's okay now. What fixed it? Turning it on its side.

Yeah. Technology.



So I spent the late part of Tuesday night playing Nations @ War online with the LAN group. I prefer messing around in that game to playing it straight. Well, occasionally it's fun to "have Canada make its presence felt". Instead of character classes, N@W has countries. And Canadian soldiers carry the Javelin, a crazy effective anti-vehicle weapon. One shot will end a tank. The problem is it doesn't work if the vehicle is parked under something or if the vehicle is within 200 meters. Since the draw distance of the game is only 250 meters, this makes it so that I often am firing at enemies I can't see. I just fire the missile, swap weapons to force a fast reload, then wait for the obituary to come up. It feels like cheating.

So most of last night I flew jets and choppers. Poorly. It's a funny PC game that includes vehicles that were obviously never meant to be controlled with mouse and keyboard. Whatever.



The Jayne Shepard playthrough of Mass Effect is underway. The game has a lot of mediocre content, so much that I can do almost entirely different side quests the second time through, which is mildly interesting. Unfortunately the game doesn't allow me to do a very good approximation of Adam Baldwin's mug, and I frequently don't have a dialog option that effectively answers the question, "What would Jayne do?" I must admit, though, it's nice forego all the delicate negotiations and just shoot everyone who disagrees with me.



And of course I'm still playing Batman and Republic Commando for the walkthroughs. So there's plenty of gaming going on.

And with the big sales, there may be more coming up. Direct 2 Drive is selling GTA 4 for $20. It's tempting.

25 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, November 4, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 08 - Territory

Delta heads through the canyons to the foot of the Core Ship (or Coreship or however it's supposed to be spelled).

24 November, 2009

Game Journal: Mass Effect

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This post was an hour and a half late. (I was recording more Batman.)


I wanted to say few more things about Mass Effect. Since this post is already a half hour late, we'll see how many I can remember in sixty minutes.



I felt weird reviewing it as an action game since most people consider it (and everything BioWare does) to be in the RPG category. But that's how it felt. The worst part was that I kept thinking, "this was done better in Ratchet & Clank". I don't think Ratchet & Clank was what BioWare was shooting for.

Honestly, though, I'm not sure what they were shooting for. Diablo (or in my case Titan Quest) is generally the touchstone for all action RPGs. But the game doesn't fit that mold. But there are so many games Mass Effect is "kinda" like.

It's kinda like Ratchet & Clank. You do many of the same tasks. Fight some guys. Do a hacking mini-game. Travel to the next planet. Upgrade guns. But it's all done better in R&C. Plus R&C does a much better job of making sci-fi settings that feel alive and interesting using the PS2. Plus there isn't a loading screen / protracted elevator ride every four minutes.

It's kinda like Brute Force. The generic setting, the way the player gave orders to companions, and the quality of AI of said companions are very similar. Brute Force had far less variety, and basically no story, but it simplified the action aspects in ways that were actually better.

It's kinda like Titan Quest (Diablo). But in TQ you've got tons more skill and loot choices that actually seem interesting / valuable.

I've been playing Republic Commando for the walkthrough lately, so the crappiness of Mass Effect's squad AI stood out even more than it might have. But I know Republic Commando had a more narrow focus, so I felt the comparison was unfair for the review.

It's kinda like Star Control II or Starflight in that you can explore alien worlds in a buggy. But the cool part of the buggy was upgrading it so you could take on more dangerous creatures and hostile environments and scan resources from further away. Plus the resources you mined were actually useful. Mass Effect has no upgrades and random collectibles, whether they're called minerals or dog tags or Prothean artifacts. They're just junk.

There were so many places Mass Effect was worse than games that came before it hurts my brain. And the interface designer should probably have just been fired (out of a cannon, into the sun). Of course, that's providing they even had a dedicated interface designer and didn't just dump the interface coding on some other programmer's already overflowing plate.



It's also worth mentioning that I was largely to blame for the crappy textures. I navigated the graphics options using the keyboard, which means I didn't see all the options available. In the normal world, things with settings generally have Low, Medium, and High. But it was foolish of me not to remember that in the videogame world, there's always an Ultra High. After I realized that, things looked fine.



Finally, (and this is a bit spoilery) Armin Shimerman died. Twice. Once wasn't on my watch as some additional character he played died in a cut scene. But it turned out that the decision I had to make regarding saving the council was completely jacked. I would have had to risk galactic annihilation to do it. The only reason to take that option would be morbid curiosity. And I'm pondering indulging mine.

I'm considering doing a second playthrough to see the Renegade path through the game... as Jayne Cobb from Firefly. For those unfamiliar, this would mean ignoring any sidequest that doesn't pay big money, and generally being a jerk.

Or maybe I should just buy a console so I have new games to play. :P

23 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, November 3, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 07 - To Own the Skies

Delta squad takes out the ammo feeding mechanism for a giant anti-aircraft gun on the way to the Core Ship.

22 November, 2009

Review: Mass Effect

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 22, 2009

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Developer: BioWare
US Release: November 2007
Genre: Third Person Action
Price Paid: $10
My Score: 4 of 5


WARNING: THIS REVIEW IS INCREDIBLY LONG WITH NO PICTURES AND UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD BE READ BY ANYONE.


Mass Effect is a confused game. It straddles the line between action and role-playing uncomfortably. It wastes the player's time a lot. And the only reason it got a 4 out of 5 is because it saves the best for last, leaving me feeling better about the game overall than maybe I should.



Confused

I classified Mass Effect as a third person action game, since that's how I approached it. Others might say it's more of an RPG because it lets you pause the action at any time to give orders and has a lot of leveling and inventory and other fiddly bits.

But why pause and give orders when your squad doesn't follow their orders very well? They move with no regard for who's shooting them and from where. They get stuck. You can't switch their weapons sometimes for no apparent reason. And they frequently shoot at targets behind walls. At first I wondered why only the bad guys got rocket launchers, then I realized how many friendly fire incidents they would cause and was almost grateful they weren't allowed. As it is, your squad will frequently shoot you in the back, to the point that if their shots actually did damage to you, they would be more dangerous than the enemy.

Tactically, there's not much there. You can only send your squad where you can see, which makes flanking problematic. The AIs mostly just charge or hide. I never felt like they had a plan of any kind. I mainly used the squad commands to keep my idiotic squad mates from standing in the open under enemy fire, which they did frequently.

Leveling isn't very interesting. There are few choices to make and most levels you'll be doing small incremental improvements that mean nothing to how you play.

The inventory system is just a mess. It discourages pack ratting with inventory limits. But then it doesn't give you the same add-ons at every level so sometimes you need to keep older stuff around.

Managing the inventory is tedious at best, and I often felt I didn't have enough information to make good decisions quickly. Is this new assault rifle good for Garrus? I don't know since I can only check his inventory when he's in the squad.

What mods do I have equipped? I have to memorize mod icons to know, and even after I memorize them, I might be using an older, less effective version, so I still have to click on it to check. Are mouseovers really so hard to code?

Plus why does everyone have to carry one of each weapon type when most classes can't use more than two types proficiently? If my engineer had been able to carry multiple pistols, I could have used mods to make them useful for different situations. Maybe I'd have an accurate sniping pistol with an ice mod to reduce enemy accuracy, a powerful but inaccurate pistol with an anti-organic attachment for charging Krogans, anything that actually gave me some choices would have been good.

BioWare is known as an RPG developer, but the RPG aspects of Mass Effect mostly suck.



Time Wasting

I took 22.4 hours (according to Steam) to finish Mass Effect. Steam records the time when I have the game open but am not actively playing, so let's round that down to 20. That probably makes the game too long by half. And that's with me skipping large quantities of side quests and vehicle exploration. I don't even want to think about how long the game would be if you tried to be a completist. *shudder*

This is especially true since the time consuming activities in Mass Effect suck. The most time consuming activities in the game are busy work. Trotting around Citadel station, driving the Mako buggy around on various planets, waiting through load times in elevators, and managing your inventory all suck. Well, driving the Mako isn't terrible. But it's never really exciting and driving over rough terrain makes the going arduously slow.

Of course none of them is as bad as flat out losing hours of game time because Mass Effect's autosave system is garbage. It only saves between transitions on the galactic map and a few points in the main storyline. You can explore an entire planet in the Mako, get one shotted by a giant worm, and have to do the whole thing over again.

"Back to film school ***hole!" - Maeby Fünke



So Why Did You Like It?

I liked it because once I got to the endgame and the plot actually moved, it was pretty great. My squad was rocking the bad guys with a wide assortment of super powers and guns. We were learning the secrets of the ancients. The world was coming apart. My investment in the paragon path gave a major enemy a tiny bit of redemption. And the music, which had been halfheartedly languishing in the background, finally kicked in. By the time I hit the end credits, I was really excited.

And supposedly my choices will have an impact on how the sequel plays out, so I'm looking forward to that.

I just hope they streamline the heck out of it because way too many of the time consuming activities in this game are just filler.

21 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, November 2, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 06 - Advance to the Core Ship

Canyons and Bugs

20 November, 2009

Game Journal: Mass Effect

written by Blain Newport on Friday, November 20, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.



This is Sweet Shepard.

I thought it sounded like a good name for a black woman, like a strong character from some 70s movie I've never seen.

Sweet grew up on Earth (which sucks), but escaped by joining the military and eventually becoming a war hero.

War hero seemed a bit much, but the only alternatives were sole survivor of alien attack and ruthless career officer. I wasn't going to make her a victim, and I didn't imagine her as ruthless. Determined, perhaps.



I'm not really gonna tell you the whole story of the game. I don't really care about it. It's a boring mishmash of sci-fi clichés. But according to Steam it's held my attention for 4.6 hours, which is a record for a BioWare RPG.

Because the game came out so long ago, I know things that will happen.

I know people call one of my party members "Space Hitler" because she's xenophobic. I don't see it myself. Maybe it comes up later.

I know one of my last decisions in the game will be to save the galactic council or not. Armin Shimerman plays a council member, so unless I have to sacrifice a planet or do something similarly horrific to do it, the council's getting saved.

No one kills Armin Shimerman on my watch.

And now that I've left the city, I'm kind of worried about the game. People said the part in the city was really long and fabulous. It took me less than four hours and was mediocre.

Oh, and the graphics are impressively bad. There's a grainy filter that's supposed to make it look like an old sci-fi movie. But nothing else in the game feels like an old sci-fi movie, so the effect is out of place. I honestly think the effect is just there to try to hide the hideously low resolution textures on people's clothes. Seriously, Quake 3 (1999) had higher resolution textures than this game (2007). And I've got all the settings maxed out. It breaks my brain that this was overlooked by the developers and all coverage of the game I've seen. Maybe it's a PC only problem.

19 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Friday, October 30, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 05 - Destroy the Factory

Delta turns out the lights.

18 November, 2009

Keepalive: Walkthroughs

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I know. I should do more Fallout 3 pictorials. But I have no enthusiasm for them, and that makes for yucky blog posts.

The secret Batman walkthrough is my main gaming activity. I recorded one fight seventeen times to get it to come out as I wanted. I could have beaten it on the first try, but I'm trying to hold the walkthrough to a higher standard since it's being watched by a Batman fan.

Batman doesn't struggle through hand to hand fights. He dominates them. So I play them over until I do the same. It forces me to improve my game. I also try to use whatever upgrade Paul asks for, so he can see how his input is affecting Batman's abilities, which diversifies my tactics. It's a good experience.

I still contend that the camera is Batman's greatest opponent in the game and that the PC controls have some problems. But once I'm committed to making it work, there's nothing to do but try, try again.

17 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, October 29, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 04 - Destroy the Factory

Delta squad continues to make its way through the Geonosian hive towards the droid manufacturing facility.

(Also, I say October 28, but it's really 29. I gotta start writing it down. :P )

16 November, 2009

Keepalive: Walkthroughs

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gaming-wise, I've been recording Batman Arkham Asylum and Republic Commando for the walkthroughs. I spend a lot of time with them. I recorded the last Republic Commando three times. I didn't die or anything, it simply wasn't interesting enough the first two times. I try to hold myself to a standard. If it feels boring, do it again. Find more things to talk about and hope something weird happens.

It's kind of the opposite with Batman. Playing on hard, sometimes segments are boring or combats go poorly. But Batman segments are getting into the twenty to thirty minute range, so starting over isn't practical. Instead I'm starting to splice everything together in post, which is a learning experience. I'm learning Windows Movie Maker crashes if you try to do anything beyond the most simplistic cuts, for example. :P

Outside of that I played a bit of Borderlands to keep my hands busy while listening to a podcast. And that's been it for gaming since the mini-LAN. I check in with the Distinguished Gentlemen of Dubious Circumstance, but everyone seems to do their own thing on the weekends, which makes sense. Oh well. Back to eating burritos and watching Stargate. :)

15 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 03 - Infiltrate the Droid Foundry

Delta squad finishes their first assignment and begins heading towards the droid manufacturing facility, probably to deliver a singing telegram.

14 November, 2009

Keepalive: Mini-LAN, Titan Quest

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tonight was the mini-LAN. We played some Nations @ War and Left 4 Dead. Nations @ War was fun, as always. I mostly played sniper and machine gunner. Also I found out you can name your own squads. So I was Tickle_Me_Ammo, leader of Sesame Squad. Ozone led The Brute Squad, which was also good.

After that we played the Left 4 Dead 2 demo and the new campaign of Left 4 Dead. As I've said before, I'm not really a fan. It's the same attack over and over again. Plus I'm often frustrated with my cohorts. I suppose it's telling that I was the only one who survived the new campaign.

The new additions in Left 4 Dead 2 were mostly novelties I didn't care about. Sure it's fun to whack a zombie with a guitar or frying pan and hear a funny noise. But it certainly wasn't enough for me to want to buy the game.



The DGDC (Distinguished Gentlemen of Dubious Circumstance) started a new Titan Quest playthrough. I rolled the die that randomly selected what classes we would play.

I got Earth / Defense, which is probably bad as trying to keep my Intelligence and Strength high enough to use good magic items and good armor will likely prove untenable. But as long as I keep putting points into my aura that makes all of my nearby companions do extra fire damage, things should go alright. Plus my lava elemental does a pretty good job of soaking up damage.

13 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, October 27, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 02 - Extreme Prejudice

Delta lead rejoins 62 (Scorch) and 40 (Fixer) as they infiltrate a Geonosian hive.

12 November, 2009

Keepalive: Mercenaries 2, DnD

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'd write D&D in the heading, but Blogger can't handle it. Meh.

Co-op Tuesday was good. There was much blowing up of stuff. And we're at the point where they introduce more powerful weapons, so that can be fun to mess with. Chris made it his mission to grapple more enemy choppers.



Look at him go.

The horrible little button press sequences actually made for strange conversation as I'd be yelling what they were when I was trying to hijack something so Chris could succeed if I failed. It's weird to think that co-op made this annoyance feel worthwhile.

It's also weird to think that EA is making money off of us. The game still has advertising being served. To grapple to the helicopter you see, Chris had to climb up on a billboard for some History Channel World War II special. I found it pretty amusing, personally. Plus you can blow up the billboards.



We had a decent D&D session. I'm not really keen on the mechanics of the game anymore. It's a miniatures wargame and I can't help but feel it's an anachronism, regardless of how many mechanics it's pulled from World of Warcraft.

Also, there are strange omissions in the rule books. How many once per encounter powers does a wizard start with? The books say one, kind of. It has to be inferred from a chart. But the character creator software said two. And if a wizard has to choose what spell to prepare, it seems like wizards are less versatile than regular adventurers, who can choose whichever encounter power they want to use while the encounter is in progress. I'm just to old for this stuff. I don't care about the details.

It's still fun for now. We gloss over the rules we get wrong and get on with it. But I don't feel like the system is moving us towards fun. It's moving us towards keeping track of piles of little details that would be better handled by a computer program. Our game master has maybe 30 sessions under his belt. So D&D is still new to him. And there are a lot of WoW players in the group. So that mentality makes sense to them. But I'm going to have to try running something else when this campaign is winding down or needs a break.

I own so many RPGs I've never even played. But that's a subject for another time.

11 November, 2009

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, October 26, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Republic Commando 01 - Prologue and Extreme Prejudice

The saga of Delta Squad begins.

10 November, 2009

Keepalive: The Changing Face of This Blog

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This post was two hours late.

It's the holiday season. It's supposed to be a flurry of gaming releases. Why don't I care enough to even keep up with the blog?

Well, I'm spending hours daily recording, compressing, and uploading video. By the time that's done I feel like I've done my bit. And I'm not really thinking that much about games and gaming. I still log on to Steam in the evening to hang out with some PA forum folks (the Distinguished Gentlemen of Dubious Circumstance I think I wrote about earlier). But it's more social than gamey. And it's not really super good at being either.

I just don't see any new frontiers I want to explore right now. I picked up Mass Effect when it was $10 on Steam, but I haven't finished a BioWare game since Shattered Steel (a game so old most people don't even know it exists). I picked up World of Goo when it was whatever price you felt like paying for it. But I really just wanted to support the experiment, and a developer ballsy enough to release a PC game with no copy protection.

I don't really want to play any of those games.

Maybe I'm just being extra lazy. I'm watching a lot of Stargate on Hulu. I get my escape that way. But that's not really it. It's more the "been there, done that" feeling. I know Call of Cthulhu (which I bought months ago on a Steam sale then didn't bother to play in October) will surprise and frighten. But I don't want that.

It's a weird thing about being a gamer. I get to choose the world I live in, at least while gaming. And none of them seem very interesting right now. Zeno Clash is really pretty grim for all it's color. Saints Row 2 is pretty inert. I could maybe take a trip back to San Andreas. I'm actually having a pretty good time playing through Batman again for the secret walkthrough, but that experience is being rationed. And it's a repeat anyway.

Nah. I was right to take a break. And it's nice to leave gaming as a social thing for the time being. I'm sure I'll buy the new consoles and enjoy catching up when the time comes. And I'm sure my social groups will drag me into other games as they come around. But I think it's time to be lazy now.

I suppose I should finish my Fallout 3 journal at some point too. :P Between that and D&D, I should find enough to write about.

It's not the same, though. I would have liked to have gone a full year with daily updates about video games. I'll still accomplish that goal. But it feels like I've lost my passion for it. There's nothing I need to play, no game's progress I need to follow, and no podcast I need to listen to. Gaming has done it's part. Whatever it was I wanted, I feel like I got it.

What's next?

09 November, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, October 20, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Blood 4-7b 4-8 Hall of the Epiphany

Caleb and Tchernobog have their reckoning.

(Also, I call it installment 44, but it's really 45.)

08 November, 2009

Keepalive: Borderlands, Titan Quest, DnD

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 8, 2009

This post was 14 hours late. I got my days confused.

Our friendly fire playthrough of Borderlands continues. We shoot guys. We get loot. I was pretty frustrated near the end of our last playthrough, though. I was fighting some guys and some of my companions drove over them in a car. That means no XP and my fun was over. They didn't care. So I didn't care about them dying. There's really nothing they can do about that, either. Since they usually go down when they've overextended themselves and put themselves in a situation that would be very difficult to rescue them from even if I wanted to. But using my special power I could usually get to them. I just don't because I'm a petty child. :P



I'm kind of the same in Titan Quest. I pick up almost nothing. My companions will pick up everything. They're not bad guys. They've just got much worse cases of loot lust than I do. If there's something that's painfully obviously for my character they'll drop it for me. I don't really care. They also kill everything way faster, so it doesn't really matter how I'm geared. I'm just along for the ride in both games.



I'm expressing myself more in D&D. I wrote up a little background for my character.

There's a lot about Devas (the race I'm playing) that's left very nebulous. Knowing almost nothing of the game world also makes it impossible to add a lot of detail. So I left his origins simple, mythic, and with some room for expansion.

I've included it below, but don't don't feel obligated to read it. I enjoyed writing it and felt like sharing, but that doesn't mean it's the type of thing anyone wants to read.



Preface
Deva are minor Hindu gods. My favorite Hindu god (and god of any kind) is Ganesha, the lord of obstacles. (appropriate for a controller wizard, no?) I have named my character as a reference to Ganesha.


Birth
A plain of dry grass. A tree in the distance. A blue sky with a few white clouds.



These were the first things Esha ever saw.

As was customary, he knelt and gave thanks to the gods for his new life, his new chance to serve against darkness. He then gave a prayer for guidance.

No sign came.

He sat beneath the tree and waited, with the stillness only Deva and holy men can know.

He breathed. He felt the grass and his silk robes. The light from between the leaves danced across his eyes. He watched the grass and clouds move with the wind which blew directly into him. He did this for a time before realizing that his prayer had been answered.

Without thought, he took to his feet and walked forward. It was his path. To stay beneath the tree was to serve Moradin, the stoic god of lasting legacy. To turn and follow the wind was to serve Pelor, for where the clouds went would be the fertile grounds of the god of agriculture. To cross the wind to either side was to follow Avandra, goddess of exploration. But his way was into the wind, to seek opposition. He would follow Bahamut.


Training
Pava was an older human woman who had led a difficult life. Her sex and dark skin had made her an outsider where she grew up, and it took much time and perseverance to overcome prejudice and become a wizard. She eventually retired from the order to raise her daughter in a remote location, and not on the best of terms. When the mystified villagers brought Esha to her tower, unsure if he was man or monster, she recognized her own plight in his, and took him in.

This was not an easy decision for a bitter recluse, set in her ways, and her relationship with the Deva was never an easy one. He was too literal. He was always in the way. His appetite for training wearied her. He never did chores as she wanted them done. And his calmness in all situations only made things worse. But she grew accustomed to the aggravation, possibly even thriving on it as she had been fighting one battle or another for most of her life. And since her daughter Saura had gone into the world to seek her fortune, Pava secretly valued the company.


The Adventure Begins
When Saura returned to visit, things changed. Saura had become a bard and had many stories to tell and songs to sing. Esha was taken with her charm and free spirit. And Saura was taken with his gentleness and grace. Pava felt her daughter had chosen a frivolous profession, and when she realized a bond was forming between Saura and Esha, felt somehow betrayed and afraid that both would leave her. In her anger, she estranged her daughter and evicted Esha, making sure they went separate ways.

Esha went into the world to join an adventuring company and serve Bahamut to the best of his ability, never forgetting his debt to Pava or his nascent bond with Saura.

07 November, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, October 20, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Blood 4-7a In The Flesh

Caleb finds himself inside... something. Amazingly, I manage to not crack up at all the farting noises and survive the first take.

06 November, 2009

Keepalive: Borderlands, Walkthroughs, DnD

written by Blain Newport on Friday, November 6, 2009

Our Borderlands group has started up again. We've instated two new rules. No "farming" (reloading the game and opening chests to get better gear). And friendly fire is on. So far it's been fine. It does mean that my character's power (which causes a burst of damage around me) can only be used on rare occasions. But because of limitations like that, I'm using powers I didn't bother with before.



Walkthrough recording is keeping me pretty busy. I'm producing roughly 25 minutes of video daily. That means recording (usually multiple takes), rendering, and uploading to multiple locations. It's a lot of time. I enjoy it, but sometimes I finish playing a game at night and realize I've got hours of stuff to do before going to sleep. That can be daunting.

Boo hoo. I gave myself one responsibility in my whole stupid life. :P



I also need to spend some time writing a backstory for my D&D character. We've been playing on Wednesday nights for 3 weeks now. I'm new to 4th edition, so there's a fair amount to learn. And I'm playing a "controller" wizard, which is a fair bit different from anything in previous editions.

To try and add to the novelty, I picked a weird new race (Deva) and class that nobody used in older D&D (illusionist).

The Deva are spirits that came back from living with the gods of good to walk as men and fight evil. When they die, their spirit is reborn (with faint memories of previous incarnations). Unless they succumb to corruption. Then their spirits come back as monsters. It's an interesting character to play, and I get to do a funny voice.

The illusionist class, by contrast, is even more pointless than it was in old D&D. Previously illusionists had weird spells with weird effects that were often of dubious value because the second your opponent realized you were an illusionist, they could attempt to disbelieve most of your effects. It was a difficult to play, guile based class. In 4e, illusionists have the same damage dealing spells as everyone else, they're just described differently. They should never have created the class in the first place if it plays just like every other class.

But it turns out the character class I'm really playing (wizard) is fun enough. I've made a point of choosing spells that let me make trouble. I can push and pull people a bit. I can create fields of force daggers or dark tendrils that hurt anyone in them, encouraging them not to go certain places. Plus I took a special ability that makes my fields of unpleasantness really big. It's fun, social, and gets me out of the house.

05 November, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 7, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Blood 4-6c The Ganglion Depths

Caleb finally reaches the bottom of the Ganglion Depths.

04 November, 2009

Keepalive: Mercenaries 2

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Here is a quickie pictorial of the stupid things we did in Mercs 2 on co-op Tuesday. Chris named his character Baby Snafu. This is definitely an extension of the Joint Ops Baby Clan. :)


This is Chris dropping a car into a bunch of cars we put together.


Cars are basically bombs.


So the next logical step was to put together more cars.


Even to the point where Chris was trying to stack them on top of each other.


I took a bunch of pictures, but I think the early stages of the fireball are the most impressive.


This is Chris leaping off of a helipad to try to get close enough to grapple an enemy transport chopper in mid-air.


So instead of cars, we could drop tanks. It turns out that's dull because tanks are too durable to explode when dropped. But we were really excited the first time we did it. :)

03 November, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 7, 2009

GAME JOURNALS CONTAIN SPOILERS. DEAL WITH IT PINK BOY.

Blood 4-6b The Ganglion Depths

Caleb continues through the trap and monster filled fortress.