28 February, 2009

Game Journal: Heart of Evil

written on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009


MediaFire Upload

27 February, 2009

Game Journal: Heart of Evil

written on Friday, Feb. 27, 2009


Ugly YouTube

Less Ugly MediaFire

6:00 - I'm working on the first video now. It will be posted here when it's done.

6:30 - It's being compressed.

6:40 - Uploading to YouTube.

7:00 - Uploaded. YouTube is processing.

7:10 - done

7:15 - uploading large version to MediaFire

7:35 - done

26 February, 2009

Keepalive: No Serious Gaming

written on Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009

I read the gaming news. I didn't care.

I listened to a podcast. I didn't care.

I played a flash game many press folks said was hilarious. I didn't care.

I'm a small actor who got cast in a play (because there are no small parts). I'm mostly learning my lines.

Part of me would like to shell out for a video capture device and put some Devil May Cry footage up. But I still haven't recorded Heart of Evil yet. I may like DMC more, but Heart of Evil is sort of a historic preservation project. Even at PAX, no one I met knew what it was.

It's definitely time to do that.

25 February, 2009

Game Journal: Devil May Cry

written on Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009


Devil May Cry still rocks.

I played up through the second boss. Even when I died, the fights were so cool I didn't care.

There's a mandatory "cooling off period" the game enforces by putting the boss at the end of a level. You don't just fight the boss over and over. You go through the level again, then fight the boss. In lesser games this might be irritating. In Devil May Cry it's a time to pause and reflect and soak up some atmosphere.

And the atmosphere is still great. Sure, the graphics aren't as fancy as later era PS2 games, but the game still looks pretty great to me. Sometimes even those camera angles that make some fights so broken really click and I'm just caught up in how awesome everything looks.

And for those who care, I'm using the starting weapons again. The more powerful ones are fun. (You can look like a total badass knocking a group of bad guys around with slow, powered up Ifrit gauntlet attacks.) But I like to keep things simple and a bit more challenging.

24 February, 2009

Game Journal: Perfect World

written on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009


There were only two ways to go with this entry (Remember, I'm prone to black and white thinking.), either say nothing interesting happened and basically not write anything, or tell you about all the uninteresting things that happened. In the interest of consistency, I'm following the latter. I won't scold you if you don't read it.

I've hit something of a crafting wall in Perfect World. Once crafting gets to level three, more materials are required to perform it. They don't drop very often. I've been visiting the Perfect World Database to find lower level monsters that drop the same thing, but there aren't many. And the drop rates even then are generally no better than one in ten.

The combat's also getting annoying. I have to pour most of my attribute points into strength because it's what barbarian armor and weapons require. I've made two weapons so far that I can't use. But that means I have very little left over to put into vitality, dexterity, and magic. The magic I can live without. It's annoying to have to drink potions so often. (I'd rather sell them.) But I can deal with that. Not having points for vitality kind of hurts because barbarians are a tanking class, so I'm not the best tank. And not having points for dexterity really sucks because I miss one out of five swings. When you're the tank, you need your threat generating ability to land reliably to do your job. And when you're grinding, it's annoying to burn mana on special abilities that don't land.

Wah, wah, wah.

I'm getting restless. It's time to play something else.

23 February, 2009

Keepalive: Perfect World, Devil May Cry

written on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009

I have played more Perfect World. When I go to an area where a group is killing stuff and ask to join, I usually get an invite and my quest goes quicker. While this is somewhat attributable to the more relaxed feel of the game, it is probably also due to me not caring if things get messed up since I actively seek out dying every so often anyway.

My only wish is that crafting materials I need from bad guys would drop more often. Even keeping my level down so I'm farming much more, it's simply not possible to get enough mats to keep myself in homemade gear, much less have leftover materials to skill up / craft gear to sell. This double sucks because my class is largely gear dependent. Wah, wah, wah.

I mentioned the idea that maybe my being satisfied with Perfect World meant my tastes were changing. To test this hypothesis, I put Devil May Cry back in the PS2.

Some of you have heard me refer to DMC as an old girlfriend. I know I shouldn't see her. That relationship has run its course. But when we run into each other, it's like we never spent a day apart. Is that still true?


By whatever diety or force you believe in, yes! I don't care about the occasional horrible camera angles. I don't care about the nonsensical button layout. That game is better than any game you like. It's probably better than you.

Well, maybe that's a little extreme. It's probably only as good as DooM. But in my reality, that's like saying it's only as good as true love.

Long story short: DMC holds up. My tastes are unchanged.

Maybe they're broadening. Maybe.

Or maybe I'm just avoiding my real life.

22 February, 2009

Paying for Free

written on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009

What I said yesterday (or on the other side of the three fitful hours of sleep I got from 7AM to 10AM), wasn't really fair. I chose to play World of WarCraft. I'd been invited, sure. But I respected Blizzard. The game was a huge success. And even though the free trial was kind of tedious, I wanted to see what people saw in the game.

So I committed. I'm prone to black and white thinking, so I committed to six months in advance. $40 for the game and $80 for the six month subscription. But the game itself was more about planning and math than skill and daring. It was still nice to spend time with friends, but without them, the game was just grinding. And after wasting an entire Sunday trying to run a single instance only to have a continuous stream of flakes and incompetents ruin it. I had to quit. I was paying Blizzard to ruin my Sunday. I hated myself for being party to that.

Consequently, I'm much more fond of the "pay when you want something" model that Perfect World uses. I can show up and level all day and pay nothing, if that's what I want. But if I want extra bag space, or a fast mount at level 20 instead of 40, I just pay some money for it. I can use it and enjoy it at my own pace. There's no feeling that I'm obligated to play more to justify a subscription fee.

It's also sort of paying after the fact. I've been using their servers for a while. I've been having a good time. I feel it's only fair they get some money for entertaining me. By contrast, Saints Row 2 I had to pay up front for, and never would have touched if they'd had a demo. It runs horribly on PC. I knew it ran horribly when it first came out, but there've been two patches since then!

Rationalizations aside, it still feels weird to buy stuff in a free MMO, partly because it feels indulgent, but also because it feels weird to look at every loot drop as real money. One gold costs about a dollar. You can buy a gold in game for about 100,000 coins. So now I don't see a 1,000 coin piece of loot on the ground. I see a penny. I'm picking up pennies. So now the free MMO is entirely about money.

Considering I liked the relaxing nature of the game, this may end up a very bad thing.

21 February, 2009

Why So Cheap?

written on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009

Sorry for the late post. I started writing this article as a history of every buying decision I can remember making game-wise. It was long and rambly and inaccurate and not worth reading.

What I wanted to do was give a background on why I'm so cheap about games as a foundation for tomorrow's article about how I decided to spend some money in a free MMO. But it was too much. Maybe I'll clean it up or reorganize it and publish it later. There was some stuff in there that's worth sharing.

But for now, I'll give you the executive summary.

Most of my life I couldn't afford games. I rented and beat as much as I could. And when I could finally afford them (after I paid off my college debt), there were so many to catch up on that none of what I wanted to play was full price. And eventually that just became my standard.

Why would I pay full price when there is a constant supply of games (be they used, collected, or clearanced) for less?

I guess peer pressure is what makes most people stay current. But I stay current enough with PC games (which sometimes hit clearance prices inside of three months) that I don't really feel the need to do more. Plus I don't want to get a 360 then play it on my old SDTV, so every time I get tempted I remember that and stay away.

Okay. I'm not happy with this article either, but I'm forty minutes late. Tomorrow we'll talk about how World of Warcraft was the extent to which I succumbed to peer pressure and how it screwed me up to the point that I paid $20 for extra bag space in Perfect World. :P

20 February, 2009

Keepalive: Perfect World, Mafia

written on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009

The non-gaming continues. I actually paid some money into Perfect World to increase my inventory space. I figured for the number of hours it's given me, it was worth it. I also tried an interesting trick. The way the game works, you get Experience Points (XP) and Spirit Points (SP). XP levels you up. SP lets you get skills. Different activities net different rations of XP to SP. And SP are generally portioned out so that you can't possibly buy all the skills you want at a given level, forcing you to make choices. I want to make my own gear. But I don't want to have to abandon my combat skills to do so.

The answer is dying. Unlike many modern MMOs which don't want to scare people away with harsh death penalties, every time you die in perfect world, you lose 5% of your XP towards your next level. You can never level down, but you can reset yourself to the beginning of your current level, doing all the same repeatable quests and getting more skill points. I've already tested it once and it works. Imagine what kind of character you could build in WoW or Titan Quest or any skill tree game, if you could farm enough points to have every skill in the tree. You'd be a tanking, blasting, healing fool. And so shall I.

It's not really any bother, either. Enemies drop less loot if you're too high level. So staying at a low level lets me farm the ingredients I need to increase my crafting skills more efficiently.

Hmm. I guess the game is giving me some interesting decisions.

I also feel obligated to mention that I'm playing another game of dubious merit. Facebook's Mafia Wars. I check in three or four times a day and click a few buttons. But I've stuck with it for much longer than that first Facebook game I tried. Uh, Mouse Hunt.

Maybe my tastes are changing.

Maybe I need to put Devil May Cry back in the PS2 and see if it still rocks my socks.

19 February, 2009

Game Journal: Perfect World

written on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009


At level 20, you go to Archosaur. Apparently it used to be called Ancient Dragon City.

It's impressive, but I think I prefer the old name. Archosaur sounds like a monster, not a thriving metropolis.

Like every MMO city, activity centers in certain areas. Store cats are all over. You can see a manta ray flying mount near the bottom. My Batman style shadow is at the bottom left.

The banker is the guy with the orange sleeves, and is the focal point of activity. There are crazy amounts of glowy weapons, a couple raptors in the background, some various clothing styles, and a gal riding a polar bear in the top left. I like the tiger man with the 80s wrist bands and khakis.

18 February, 2009

Game Journal: Perfect World

written on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009


This is meditation. It doubles the rate at which you recover health and magical energy. I probably should have taken this picture at a lower angle to reduce the wasted space, but I wanted to see the water and the depth of the shade.

The physics in this game are pretty wonky. It's much faster to bounce up a cliff by jumping than to run. But running made for a better picture.

Originally, I believed that because I had nothing else to do while meditating, I'd be taking a lot of pictures while doing it. I can't see the future, but I don't see any other meditative picture pleasing me more than this one. I just stare at it. (The full version, anyway. The thumbnail's kinda lame.)

17 February, 2009

Game Journal: Perfect World

written on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2009


I spent some more time with Perfect World, getting to level 20. The meat of how I got there is generally banal, as it is in all MMOs. I don't really consider it playing a game. I consider it relaxation. I should probably go finish Otogi 2 or something.

But the MMO coma is setting in, like being under a warm blanket on a cold day.

Ooh. Pretties.

This is tiger form. All beast people turn into animals. Men turn into tigers. Women turn into foxes. It lets us travel long distances a little faster. Elves have wings which don't let them move faster but often let them take a more direct approach by going over instead of around. And humans... I don't know if humans have anything. Let's assume they do.

This is normal form for my character, Gok. I wanted a name that was strong, primitve, and simple to type.

Again, the water effects definitely add a lot to the visual appeal. The clouds can be nice, too. Some of them are objects in the world and actually have elevation and velocity. Once I hit level 30 and get a flying mount, I'll have to go fly through them.

16 February, 2009

MMO Impressions: Wizard 101

written on Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009

Wizard 101 is a kid friendly MMO that bears some striking resemblances to ToonTown Online. They're both targeted at younger players. They're both turn based. They both feature canned chat phrases. (Wizard 101 allows censored typing that can be heard by any account registered to a person above a certain age.) Both games have mini-games to be played while you're killing time after your latest defeat, or if you just want to earn some money without fighting. They both have instanced buildings you can fight your way up. And they both have fights on the streets which you can spectate or jump into.

The main difference is in the battle mechanics. ToonTown is about choosing between six types of gags to coordinate with everyone else. Wizard 101 is based on virtual cards used to cast spells. So you don't know what abilities you may even have at your disposal in any given fight. There are some icons that appear telling what ability you're using and on what target, so there's still some coordination to be done. I personally think ToonTown's system is a little more straightforward, but I was a child pre-Pokemon.

Of course, including a pretty extensive in game FAQ helps people find their way as well.

I didn't use it too much, so I can't speak to its actual utility, but it still seems like a brilliant idea that should be in more MMOs.

The other main difference is that where ToonTown has pies and pianos, Wizard 101 has magic.

Yeah. Magic is pretty cool. One of the coolest aspects of the magic attacks is the camera work. They do lots of smash cuts, whip pans, and quick zooms that make the fight visually exciting. I can't believe other RPGs (Persona 4, for example) make combat look so incredibly dull. Wizard 101's animations lose some of their punch after you've seen them a dozen times, but since you're leveling up and getting new cards and fighting alongside people from six other schools of magic who have different cards, there's a fair amount of variety.

I played as far as the free content would let me, which brings up another quirk of the game, it's pricing structure. You can pay a subscription, or you can just pay money to permanently unlock new zones. If my math is correct, you can buy permanent access to the entire game for $80 and have roughly $13 worth of points left over to buy special pets and gear or simply hold on to in anticipation of future content.

It does, however, make PvP expensive. If you don't subscribe, you have to pay upwards of ten cents per match to play ranked PvP, and get the associated gear. I tried to get into a match of practice PvP just to get a taste of it, but after a couple minutes in the queue, I decided I didn't really care.

Details aside, Wizard 101 is not for me. But it's well made and seems a good fit for its target demographic.

15 February, 2009

MMO Impressions: Perfect World International

written on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009

Perfect World is a free MMO that has a million subscribers in the US. That probably doesn't sound like a huge deal if you're an MMO player and know that World of Warcraft has something like 12 million subscribers worldwide. Clever readers will already notice that I'm comparing apples to oranges, so that I can lay the whammy on you and say that according to John Davison, Perfect World has 50 million players worldwide.

I always suspect numbers like that, and you should too. But it's probably safe to say Perfect World has well more players.

But is it as good?

From as far as I've played (level ten), not really. The auction house was a joke. In fact, it was practically empty. But that's partly because you can buy a money cat, stuff it with crap, and leave it in a public place.

It does make the frame rate drop pretty significantly in town, but you can just hit CTRL+F9 to switch to low detail mode. Overall I'd say the art design is a little less cohesive than WoW, but the graphics are technically a bit more impressive. Case in point.

Mostly check out the top of the picture. I think the trees seen through the water refraction is technically impressive. But even with the higher res textures and fancy effects, the environment design has nothing on WoW.

It's still simple geometry plus texture plus objects. It's not nearly as bad as Shin Megami Tensei Imagine, but it feels fake compared to WoW's environments.

All right, all right, all right. The mandatory images are out of the way. The big question is "is it fun?"

I enjoyed levels 1-10 enough that I might keep playing a while longer. Considering how much I hate MMOs, that's huge.

It's got crafting that looks to be worth doing. I like playing as a panda man and seeing people flying around on psychedelic manta rays and giant swords. I think one guy had a giant snake for a mount.

The combat is fairly dull, but it's also pretty easy, so I can just zone out. The music sounds like something played at a Chinese buffet. It's relaxing.

And the relaxed feel seems to make other players less jerky. The worst problems I've had in the game were one guy who sent a duel request without asking and some occasional fighting over who got to kill a particular monster. And on the other end of the spectrum I had a person come up and cast a bunch of beneficial spells on me for no reason, letting me grind turtles like crazy. That reminds me of another really bizarre aspect of the game.

People leave loot lying around. Maybe it's just higher level players who are farming some low level material to get their crafting up. I don't know. What I do know is that I've seen small piles of coin and once in a while even magic items just lying around. In fact, there's one quest I'm on that requires a special kind of animal skin. I've never seen it drop from anything I've killed. But I found a couple just laying about. Three more and I'll have completed the quest. :P

Long story short, Perfect World is not perfect, but it has plenty to do and is relaxing fun. I'm thinking I'll start using it before bedtime.

Due to a typo, this post didn't actually appear until late Sunday night. My bad.

14 February, 2009

MMO Impressions: Shin Megami Tensei Imagine

written on Friday, Feb. 13, 2009

Oh wow. I am SO GLAD to be writing this!


Imagine the word gratitude. Picture that word in your mind. Hug it like a loved one you haven't seen in a long time. That's how I feel to not be playing this game any more.

It's the pacing. Everything is incredibly slow. The environments are cavernous and empty and take forever to traverse. Some bits of the tutorial even repeat. And the design...

I've seen student projects with significantly better art. I suppose the people and their crazy pets are supposed to provide the visual interest.

But I'm not here to look at pets. I'm here to do stuff. The tutorial takes way too long teaching the basics of melee combat then just dumps you into the world.

I was told to go capture a Leader Pixie and never told how that worked. Some monsters dropped collectible cards and some NPCs had an interest in sets of cards, but what the rewards were, or even what cards went into a set was never explained. There was a place to store excess monsters, but I couldn't get it to work. The game was confusing, and I wasn't sure if any of the things it hinted I could do would be any fun at all.

Of course that still puts it somewhat ahead of Perfect World which was unplayable due to an unexpected server outage.

13 February, 2009

MMO Impressions: Fusion Fall

written on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009

The Rebel FM folks talked about a lot of free MMOs and how they're pulling in impressive numbers of users, etc. I decided it was time to take a look for myself.

I started with Fusion Fall, a kid friendly action MMO developed for Cartoon Network by Grigon Entertainment, a Korean MMO developer. Considering it runs in a browser and is for kids, it looks surprisingly good.

I'd say that's more impressive than Toontown Online, my only other point of reference in kid friendly MMOs. And who knows, maybe Toontown got some upgrades in the years since I played it last. Oh, and I also turned up the graphical settings to the max. Having the draw distance up really helps.

Flying Monkeys > Griffons

My gameplay assessment is less cheery, but bear in mind that I have not enjoyed any MMO I have played. They are designed to be slow and grindy to wring out more money.

That said, Fusion Fall isn't terrible. It's easy. You can die, but you have to be pretty incompetent / suicidally aggressive to do so. And the death penalty isn't that bad. You just teleport to the nearest spawn spot.

There's a little variety. It's mostly fetch quests and kill quests, but there are also obstacle courses to run.

The one thing that might make the game tactically interesting are little companions (called Nanos) that can be used to assist you in combat. If you're fighting a monster that can stun, you probably want to have a stun resist Nano equipped. And the nanos and monsters are color coded where every color has another color that beats it. For my part, I only really ever used the speed Nano to reduce travel time. If the Nanos ever make the gameplay rewarding, they might have wanted to show it off in the demo.

That was one thing I really appreciated about ToonTown. It provided actual choices. You needed lures to use traps. Sound attacks would break lures. You had to choose which gags to pick and level up. Coordinating attacks with the same gag boosted the total damage. Of course that's probably what made it too hard for most children in the later levels. But if you didn't want to fight your way up dozens of buildings to farm pieces for your cog suit to infiltrate Sellbot HQ, you could just play trolley games or go fishing or wail on random cogs walking the street.

Maybe that makes Fusion Fall better for the demographic they're shooting for. Personally, I'm still trying to figure out why John Davison (who enjoys many of the same types of games I do) called the game amazing. Maybe the amazing part comes much later.

Here's a list of the other MMOs discussed. I'll be downloading and trying them out over the next few days.

Perfect World
Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine
Wizard 101

12 February, 2009

Keepalive: Metal Slug 3, NecroVisioN

written on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009

I watched the Retronauts podcast folks play some Metal Slug 3 and figured I'd play through it on GameTap.

I'm going to say this as nicely as I can.

#&^@ that game.

I shouldn't blame it for being a quarter muncher, but seriously, the sluggish controls and sheer amount of deaths you can't see coming unless you've played it before is a design relic that deserved to die. Even with infinite continues it wasn't worth finishing.

I didn't play any more of the Necrovision demo since yesterday, I just wanted to make a note about why I wrote so much about the game. At first I really disliked the game, but it grew on me. So part of the length of that post had to do with how long I had to play to fully form an opinion, and part of it was me talking myself out of hating it. That doesn't just happen, you know. There's a whole process.

11 February, 2009

Demo Impressions: NecroVisioN

written on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009

Necrovision is a WWI era action / horror game from The Farm 51. Some of the founders of TF51 worked on Painkiller, a hell themed Serious Sam clone. Necrovision is not a blast fest like Serious Sam or Painkiller. It's kind of a unique beast.

It has a combo system that rewards using different attacks in succession to boost a "Fury" meter. Combos also add to your bullet time supply so you can slow things down when you need to. The idea isn't bad. It encourages the player to mix it up, which I fully support.

The downside is that combos don't always happen reliably. I remember wailing away on a guy with a shovel for quite some time and getting no hits. I think the hitboxes on the zombies are messed up. And when the attacks do work, they play a canned animation which often doesn't look like the attack is connecting at all. Plus the animations for some of the combos paralyze the player for a bit, which can be fatal.

The controls are overly complicated. One button zooms in if you're not holding two weapons, but fires if you are. There's a special attack button for throwing certain weapons. There's a kick button (necessary for certain combos) that isn't even bound to a key by default. It may give you a lot of tools, but it's pretty awkward. Plus the game doesn't recognize additional mouse buttons, which could have helped balance the load a little bit.

The game doesn't look bad.

The first time I played it, I turned up the detail. The game looked like claymation and wasn't very playable. Turning down the detail to medium fixed it, and also fixed the game leaving my system sluggish, so high detail probably has a pretty huge memory footprint. Regardless of the detail level, load times stink. Plus it crashed once. So there are some technical annoyances.

And because I almost always have three images per post lately, here are the two additional obligatory images.

This is the Russian Roulette combo. It's really just shooting a zombie in the head. It's not a big deal. Other combos include stabbing a guy with a bayonet then kicking or shooting him off of it. You can get a guy on the ground them kick him where it counts to get a Boot Sector combo. You can also just kick and beat on him to get a Soccer Foul combo. If you can manage to survive the lengthy animation and land the throw, you can hurl the dagger / bayonet (from up in the first picture) end over end to get a Circus Throw combo. The game's definitely got style.

This is a dead giant with a power up floating over him (while a zombie attacks on the right). If it hadn't been for the mounted machine guns he conveniently stood in front of, I probably would have stopped playing the demo when the giant showed up.

The power up lets you get higher and higher combo levels. As your combo level rises, every subsequent combo becomes more powerful, even causing lightning bursts that knock down other enemies in the vicinity. It makes no sense, but it's pretty cool.

The dialog makes somewhat more sense, but is less cool. The game has the main character spouting awkwardly phrased badassery based on whether he's taking or dishing out damage. It's probably no sillier than normal action hero dialog, but the mediocre translation makes it painful at times. Plus the quality of the main character's voice changes. Sometimes he's really raspy and evil sounding. Sometimes he sounds normal. I mostly try to ignore the dialog.

It does make me wonder if this stuff sounds good in its original language.

The physics also seem poorly translated from another language. It's not unusual to see boards from an explosion hanging in the air, pivoting on strange axes.

Finally, the difficulty in the game is fairly serious and somewhat uneven, at least on the normal setting (which they call "Man of Courage" for some reason). I expect hard games from Eastern European designers. Serious Sam, Painkiller, Stalker, and even Crysis (not to mention the original Far Cry) will kill the heck out of you. And I expect uneven difficulty from smaller studios that don't have the resources to do comprehensive, well instrumented playtesting. These expectations are so ingrained that I probably wouldn't have mentioned the difficulty at all if the long load times hadn't beat me over the head with it.

In summary, this is a game with an interesting hook and many rough edges. I look forward to picking it up on sale and learning all the combos, then getting to the harder parts, getting sick of it, and quitting or possibly finding cheat codes so I can kick people with impunity. I do love kicking.

And impunity. But who doesn't love impunity?

10 February, 2009

Keepalive: Random Musings & Ennui (yes, again)

written on Monday, Feb. 9, 2009

I'm just not feelin' it lately. I have gamed enough. I have taken enough pictures. I have said enough stupid things.

Well, that's not entirely true. For my own part, I can never say enough stupid things. I still think the concept of "marketing snake ladies" is comedy gold. But blogs are, by nature, self indulgent tripe. There's no need to risk crossing the self indulgence event horizon.

So what can I tell ya?

four paragraphs of biz and enthusiast press flotsam redacted

Not much apparently.

The truth is, very little has changed. Wii's winning hard. The 360 is lengthening its lead over the PS3. And Sony execs are still saying things that'd make you think they've got brain hemorrhages.

Third party publishers are still saying they'll support 'core gamers' on the Wii. I still remain skeptical. The new House of The Dead game comes out on Wii today (Tuesday). I'll be keeping an eye on the reviews.

I actually played Typing of the Dead on GameTap recently. It's basically House of The Dead 2, but instead of shooting monsters with a light gun (or mouse pointer) you type the words that appear to make them go poof. It's pleasantly bizarre.

If you find that limerick highly humorous, my apologies. You're as big a nerd as me.

09 February, 2009

Game Journal: Otogi 2

written on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009


Otogi is a super Japanese pair of action games for the original Xbox (or oXbox, which is fitting as the thing is freaking huge for a console).

I played through the first one and was never really sold on the action game aspect of it. The game is pretty slow paced compared to Devil May Cry or God Hand. But that's part of the super Japanese atmosphere, and sometimes it's nice to play a slower game.

Anyway, I've been trying to take pictures for screen shots. Maybe one in twenty is even remotely usable. It'll be nice when I finally upgrade to an HD screen and have my computer and consoles all together. Then I should be able to simply hook up a USB video capture device. But that's a long way off. For now, you get...


I swear it's a pretty ice cave. With a woman in a kimono attacking a crazy bird man with her scythe. Of course no amount of focus would make this next shot clear.

Dem's a lotta sparks. In addition to the special effects getting in the way, the camera is often a problem, especially during aerial fights, which often involve a lot of dashing and would otherwise be the coolest things in the game.

There's a lock on mechanic, but the lock seems to break easily and makes it easy to get stuck on stuff I didn't see when I'm trying to dodge horizontally.

These issues aside, the game is playable and unique. Where else are you going to be taking a sentient floating tree which uses a ship's steering wheel as a weapon into a nest of giant spiders to destroy their giant explosive eggs?


Does atmosphere and kookiness make up for the lackluster gameplay and camera? It's enough for now. Although I've gotten tired of it and put it down before, so we'll see how long it lasts. At least the missions have a bit more variety than the endless errands of Gothic 3 did. It's hard to give final judgment on a game like that. I had a lot of fun with it. It just got old. Does that mean it's fun or boring? It's both. But I rarely see reviews to that effect.

08 February, 2009

Game Journal: Arx Fatalis

written on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009


Actually, I'm tired of Arx Fatalis and I'm tired of writing posts about games I don't care about. So here are some baldfaced lies about screen shots from the game.

Relatively deep in the dungeon, the snake ladies run a fancy spa. For thirty gold you can get the couples package which includes a soak in the hot springs, facial, body chocolate, and barefoot massage. It's really a tail massage since they don't have feet, but the marketing snake ladies thought "bare tail massage" might send the wrong message.

After blowing all my gold on body chocolate, I made a stab at selling my services as an ersatz faith healer in some of the more run down caverns. Here I am treating a Rat Man with a bad knee. It's mostly a light show with just enough heat for the mark to feel like it's doing something. That plus the placebo effect is usually enough for me to get paid and beat feet. Sure, it's slimy, but I've got mouths to feed. Well, one big fat mouth, anyway.

Meet Chester. What, you thought I was talking about my own big fat mouth?

Some troll gave me this grub thing, about two feet long, as a pet. You don't turn down troll generosity (unless your skull is club proof), so I took him home. He was about as cute as a two foot maggot could be, which means it took all of three days for me to get sick of feeding him and replacing stuff he burned through with his acid spit up.

I threw him down a hole in the slime cave out back. I don't know if it was the slime or what, but something down there was Grade A grub chow. Now I have to find ways to come up with enough money to buy him a pig a day. I think it would have been cheaper to just move. Do maggots have homing instincts?

07 February, 2009

Demo Impressions: Burnout Paradise

written on Friday, Feb. 6, 2009

Well, it turns out the demo only worked for a half hour, so my second session will be my last with the game. Ten minutes of play per gigabyte of download is not an acceptable ratio. :P

Due to some kind of bug, I was able to drive something other than the default car. I also finally hunted around for the handbrake and boost buttons and mapped them onto my game pad. With boosting available, the game finally feels fast. Overall, though, the demo doesn't leave me feeling good about the PC friendliness of the game. Over a year in porting and it still feels like the PC version is an afterthought. I'll probably pick it up some day, but not today.

I still wanted to show some appreciation, though, for the fact that they're trying to get it right. My devotion took the form of spending a few hours writing a chip tune to go with some gameplay footage.

High res version available here.

06 February, 2009

Game Journal: Arx Fatalis

written on Monday, Feb. 2, 2009


I've Arx Fatalis. Going in with low expectations has definitely helped the game. The combat generally lives up to those expectations and is no fun. But the rest of the game is pretty impressive, by comparison. It's very much an adventure game.

Get the jewler's permit. Get it signed. Take it to the goblin guards. Solve the mystery of the missing astronomer. Talk to the snake lady. Wait, what?

Oh. Snake lady. Creepy. She seems nice enough, though.

As an adventure game, it's a throwback, but a tolerable one, especially with GameFAQs at the ready. But the combat's almost bad enough that I wish it was just an adventure game.

This spider was a huge pain to kill. That's partly because I gave my character lots of intelligence and dexterity instead of strength and health while the game didn't give me much in the way of offensive magic. The worst part was one mission where I was locked in a room with a hostile goblin with zero offensive magic. It must have taken ten tries before I finally beat him. If I could have gotten the cheat codes to actually work, I'd have become invincible and been done with it. As it is, I just cheated to get access to a bunch more spells. Hopefully that will keep me out of trouble so I can focus on wandering through the puzzles and enjoying the local color.

The cheat also gave me an extra bag, which was awesome as I was always having to run back and forth to different stashes. And weapons in the game degrade quickly, so it's good to be able to carry a few with me.

05 February, 2009

Demo Impressions: Burnout Paradise

written on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009

The idea of the Burnout series has always appealed, even though I picked up Burnout 3 for the PlayStation 2 and quickly tired of it. Load times completely killed the momentum of that game. Still, the idea was appealing, and I've been following Criterion's work on Burnout Paradise. They've been releasing lots of free content. Many enthusiast press folk expressed love for the game. The price point was impressively low ($30). So today the PC demo dropped, and I jumped on it.

It's a mixed bag.

- Very stable, even through multiple Alt-Tabbings
- 60FPS on high graphics settings
- intrusive (and apparently broken) EA online sign in
- EA "download manager" installs itself to system tray
- unable to enable game pad for analog steering
- unable to even find list of controls in game
- large map that gets in the way when enemy cars are attacking from the right

- combination of interface elements make screen feel lopsided and cramped
- slow demo car that gives no impression of speed

For as long as the PC version has taken, and how polished the technical aspects of the engine seem to be, the lack of game pad support or even control setting menus is pretty baffling. And the default controls are pretty terrible. Steering with the arrows while holding down A to accelerate?

I'm used to using JoyToKey to compensate for the shortcomings of indie games, but I was expecting more from a game designed for game pads with over a year's time spent in porting.

And while it may just be the lack of analog control, I'm not sure I like the feel of Paradise's driving in the first place. When I start fighting with other cars for position, it feels like a completely different physics model takes over. It's jarring and I'm not getting enough feedback from it to know what I'm supposed to be doing to "win" those types of conflicts. Trying to do the classic PIT maneuver to no effect was very frustrating.

And is the fact that the EA sign in process doesn't seem to be working going to mean I can't play the game online at all? This was high on my list of prospective LAN party games to replace FlatOut (which I'd always thought of as a cheesy Burnout imitator :\ ).

A year's worth of anticipation, a company making a lot of good moves, and in fifteen minutes of play, I don't know if I want to bother touching the thing ever again. It just feels bad.

Game Journal: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

written on Monday, Feb. 2, 2009


In my previous entry I gave you a taste of the humor and charm that make good Mario RPGs good. Now it's time for a bit of dry mechanics talk.

I hate RPGs. I love action games. Mario RPGs let me time button presses to get more damage on my attacks and avoid damage from enemies. It's the simplest possible way to keep the action interesting, and it works. They're pretty much the only RPGs where combat is fun for me.

They also do a good job of scaling the difficulty. If I was a terrible player, I could equip special items that would make combat require less precise timing. As I'm a good player, I equip items that give me more coins and double the XP I get if I go an entire battle without taking damage. If I was super confident, I could equip an item that made me take and dish out double damage. :O

So the combat's fun. The story is cute and clever. And there's a lot of secret stuff to find and upgrade with. If it wasn't for the overworld movement being too fussy (having to constantly change abilities to get around various obstacles) it'd be pure delight. Even as it is, I'd say it's easily up there with Rocket Slime as one of my favorite portable games.

04 February, 2009

Game Journal: Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

written on Monday, Feb. 2, 2009


Superstar Saga is a Mario RPG for the Game Boy Advance. I loved Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. So I decided to dip into the back catalog. I have a Game Cube Game Boy Advance player, so I can play it on my big old projection TV, which saves on eyestrain. But it still makes for boring blog posts. I'm trying to take pictures to make it more visually exciting, but they don't look very good.

Still, it's better than nothing.

In this scene we see Mario and Luigi getting ready to escort Princess Peach across a desert full of mushroom mummy bandits. She follows a set path, and if she leaves the screen, she gets kidnapped. I enjoyed how it turned the trope of her always getting kidnapped into a joke and part of the game. Actually, one of the interesting things about the Paper Mario RPGs was how you'd actually play segments as Peach, sneaking around the bad guys' fort and gathering intel. She was usually still the damsel in distress, never going so far as to actually escape on her own, but giving her something to do that mattered was still a huge step forward.

Speaking of which, Luigi gets a little more attention than usual in Superstar Saga as well. Mario has bean fever and Luigi has to go get the cure. But he's so scared by the prospect of mummies and monsters he has to go get hypnotized into thinking he's Mario before he can actually set out on his own.

Baby steps, Luigi. Baby steps.

03 February, 2009

Game Journal: Gothic 3

written on Monday, Feb. 2, 2009


I guess I should keep those spoiler warnings going. Someone might care some day.

I killed the undead priest. I got a crown. I turned in a bunch of quests. Then I went somewhere else.

Observant readers may notice a dearth of gusto in the storytelling at this point. Gothic 3 is beginning to feel very much like a "been there, done that" sort of experience. I show up at a town. I run a bunch of missions (usually involving killing a bunch of stuff) to get in good with the people who run it. Then I go do it again somewhere else. I must admit, though, the event pictured below still managed to surprise me.

All rise for the Sandcrawler national anthem (which is the sound of the Sandcrawler next to you getting hit by an arrow). I was just picking them off, one by one. (I can one shot them if I get a head shot.) But one arrow missed and woke up the whole group. This is actually the reduced group. The very first time I missed, something like ten Sandcrawlers all reared up and charged me. "And Bender ran."

Eventually, though, they succumbed, and I took screen shots of all the bodies. It came to 27 Sandcrawlers, all told. Obviously someone would reward me well for this feat of daring.

500 XP and no gold!? You suck, and I hate you forever! Plus you're plotting against the guy who runs the town. So you double suck. I'm going to do bad things to you later. Mark my words.

I ran a bunch of errands for the people in this town and the town further east where they smoke (swamp) weed all day. There are some slaves I'd like to save, but don't know who'll take them and a water mage being held prisoner I'll eventually want to release. But for the time being, I'm sick of that grind.

So it's back to the other grind. I'm thinking if a scene of high adventure like this doesn't get me going, it's time to drop the game for a while.

02 February, 2009

Indie Impressions: The Power

written on Friday, Jan. 30, 2009

The Power is a basic Metroidvania style game.

(For those who haven't played Metroid or Castlevania, that means it's a platformer where you fight stuff, constantly getting new abilities that let you unlock new areas to explore.)

It's got a simple, slightly neon, art style.

And it's challenging without being frustrating (mostly). It does pull the "go back and collect everything if you want the good ending" garbage, but I had been mostly collecting everything anyway, so I went back and finished it (unlike Shift 3). It was a pleasant diversion.

I will offer one suggestion, though. Getting around was dull. There was no ability I ever received that made it fun to explore. If you really want me to travel all over to collect everything, make getting around a little quicker / more fun. A dash mechanic, a glide mechanic, a multi-directional grapple, or any number of abilities could have made movement more fun.

01 February, 2009

Keepalive: Titan Quest Wannabes and Other Demos

written on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

I checked out a few demos (Silverfall and Loki) on Steam. Wow is it easy to make a horrible feeling Titan Quest type game. Add these to Sacred 2 and Space Siege and you have a whole lotta meh. It's like they couldn't decide which interface they wanted to have. They could have had a direct control interface where you're running around attacking. Or they could have done an overhead clicky game. They did neither and the games are no fun to control because of it. I'm constantly rejiggering the camera as I'm fighting. It's a pain.

I also checked out some other demos. Sorry for the no pictures, but I deleted the demos as soon as I was done with them.

Arx Fatalis is kind of a weird game. From the demo, it looks like Ultima Underworld ten years later. There are a lot of different interface modes in the game. Casting, combat, and inventory are all separate modes. And the game seems to always want to come back to inventory mode, which is a nuisance. But it's an interesting concept. The sun went out. So the surface is frozen and the orcs, dwarves, humans, and whoever had to dig down to the lava for heat. It's only $5 on Steam, so I'll have to give it a whirl.

Heroes of Annihilated Empires is basically Heroes of Might and Magic in real time with no base building. The troops in the demo couldn't stand up to any of the bad guys, so the game was just picking off bad guys one by one with my hero, waiting for my troop summoning ability to give me small periods of uninterrupted DPS. It was criminally dull.

Project Aftermath is a squad based RTS with no base building. The game's gimmick seems to be constantly switching which weapons your squads are using to keep hitting whatever the nearest enemy is weak to. It's definitely fast paced, but it didn't seem very deep. Maybe that's just because the demo ends before any upgrading would take place.

And finally I played a little Lumines, which is a straight puzzle game. It was pretty and appealing. I just don't get much out of puzzle games. If I did I'd probably still be playing Planet Puzzle League on my DS. :P