31 October, 2009

Keepalive: Borderlands, Torchlight, Halloween

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, October 31, 2009

This post was an hour and half late. But it's got lots of cool pictures.

The shooting of men and beasts continues. It's soothing, mostly because I'm completing all the side quests and am higher level than intended. Also, I have a power that lets me regenerate rockets. Where I used to carry many weapons, I now carry three rocket launchers and a shotgun. One rocket launcher fires three rockets for the price of one. Another fires acid rockets for attacking highly armored enemies, and the last one fires incendiary rockets for burning down unarmored foes. So far, it's been best to stick with the three-fer, but I'm trying to learn what foes are vulnerable to what elements. It's good to experiment. Plus the acid and fire death animations are cooler. :)

To an extent, Borderlands is just a vacation with guns. The scenery isn't pretty, but it's got character.

The following picture is awesome.

I played some more of the Torchlight demo. Here are some pictures.

For the most part it's a standard hack and slash.

But it has some weird additions. For example, I taught my pet lynx to cast fireballs.

And this picture is less awesome than, but strangely similar to, the third Borderlands picture.

Overall I found Torchlight well made. But I didn't find targeting and killing stuff as much fun as Titan Quest.

Titan Quest was slow enough that I felt it was within my ability to land every hit, to switch between ranged and hand to hand at just the right moment. It felt like a dance. Torchlight will send a swarm of guys at you so you can wipe them out with an area effect attack. It's more hyperkinetic, in keeping with its art style. That's cool and all, but I find it more satisfying to wade through them, making every hit count.

Part of the problem is the way auto-attacking is handled. In Titan Quest, when I hold shift to stand still and attack, as soon as I've "painted" a target by holding the mouse over them, my character will keep attacking them until they die. This leaves me free to move the mouse over the next target so that I can transition as quickly as possible. In Torchlight, I simply aim where the mouse is at all times. This means I have to follow the target manually, sometimes flat out missing and often missing while transitioning to the next opponent. This feels sloppy, like I'm doing more work for less payoff.

Also, the loot is better in Borderlands. In Torchlight I have to worry about hats and gloves and boots and shoulder pads and belts and rings and necklaces and chest armor and weapons. Plus I can put enchantments on, perform transmutations with, and socket magic gems in all of them. In Borderlands you have four types of loot. Shields defend you, guns kill stuff, and the other two types let you kill stuff more awesomely. Torchlight is just as much about killing stuff as Borderlands, moreso even. All these fiddly bits just get in the way.

I didn't play any scary games for October. I may yet play one in November. Horror season doesn't have to end with Halloween.

30 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Blood 4-4b 4-5a Fire and Brimstone

We leave the woods and go find some lava.

29 October, 2009

Keepalive: Borderlands, Torchlight

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, October 29, 2009

I've cut back on my Borderlands. Apparently there's a multiplayer bug where you can permanently lose skill points. That sucks a lot. I'm guessing once PC users learn how to hack save files it will be fixable, but for now, I'll stick to single player.

It's pretty pathetic, really. The internet is pretty much the same place it was over a decade ago. These problems were pretty much sorted out in id software's original Quake (1996). There are Doom source ports done by enthusiast coders for free that work far better than Borderlands. Heck, even Saints Row 2, a pretty terrible PC port that also uses GameSpy for networking worked fine.

I had to spend fifteen minutes figuring out that I can't use the same GameSpy profile with Borderlands that I use for Unreal Tournament 3 and Saints Row 2. Why is that? I had to use some old profile I hadn't used in years. What possible reason could there be for that? Why would any developer use GameSpy? Even when I forwarded all the relevant ports, going as far to put my PC outside my firewall where it's more vulnerable to hacking, it turns out that Borderlands networking simply doesn't work on my PC.

But I wanted to support Gearbox and play when the most people would be playing, so I bought it new.

Never again.

In a related note, I downloaded (but haven't yet had time to play) the demo for Torchlight. It's a cartoony Diablo clone from some of the makers of Diablo. There's a whole story where many of them were working on a game called Mythos, which folks on the PA forums greatly enjoyed. But their company went under. Mythos got bought by a South Korean company who decided to make it South Korean exclusive for some reason. Now Torchlight is being sold as a single player game with hopes of raising enough money to make it into another free to play Diablo MMO (like Mythos).

I'm rooting for these guys. It seems like they've worked very hard to make this happen. (Torchlight was developed in something like 11 months.) But I don't care enough to spend money without playing a demo first. If Gearbox, Valve, and Infinity Ward will PC gamers like this, I don't think any developer can be trusted.

Maybe that's fair. Maybe PC gamers have earned developers' disrespect by pirating. But I paid full price and got a pile of headaches for it, and I'm through with developers saying "we'll patch it". If you can't do it even close to right, get out of the industry.

"Never again" is probably an overstatement. But I'm going to start including the price I paid in my reviews to keep myself honest (and because it can color a review).

28 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Blood 4-3b 4-4a Crystal Lake

We leave the charnel house and head for summer camp.

27 October, 2009

Keepalive: Borderlands, Recording Hitches

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Borderlands has some problems. The interface is a little wonky. It uses GameSpy for online multiplayer, which is also wonky. Playing with people is often a pain. And it is definitely a grind.

But when I punch dudes in the face, it sets them on fire and little damage numbers cascade off of them.

I'm enjoying it enough that it was difficult to tear myself away to write this post and record the next installment of the Republic Commando "video talkthrough". Speaking of which, it's 1:30 AM and I still have to record, edit, and upload it.

See ya!

Now it's after 3 AM. The video is encoding and in about ten minutes will be ready to upload. That took a lot of retakes to get right. There is so much noise in Republic Commando. Even the characters in the game constantly talk over each other.

And while that's troublesome for a narrated walkthrough, it helps create a frantic atmosphere. Also they recorded so much dialog for all the characters that even on my fifth playthrough, I'm noticing new things. There's a stairway in the game where you see an enemy run through a doorway. Because of how many times I went through it in recording the video, I know your companion (Delta Six Two) can say at least three different things in response to that. Your squad mates even have multiple quips to make if you shoot without hitting anything.

The work John A. Hancock did on the squad AI and audio barks in this game still impresses me four years later.

26 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Blood 4-3a Charnel House

Caleb explores a Cabal building with an overly extensive sewer system.

25 October, 2009

Motion Control: Going Nowhere

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, October 22, 2009

After writing how all my hopes for the Wii didn't work out, my hopes for Sony and Microsoft's motion controllers are pretty restrained. This article was supposed to be a wish list, but instead became a list of modest hopes and complaints. Perhaps I should have written these last two articles in the opposite order. :\


From the demos I've seen, Microsoft's tech can do broad gestures. The enthusiast press suggested things like throwing grenades with a throwing motion. I think that's feasible.

I also heard someone float the idea of controlling an AI squad with hand gestures, which seems unlikely. If you limit the vocabulary dramatically (maybe two or three easily distinguished gestures) it might work. But that's not much better than pressing a button to bring up a radial menu, plus you've got to take a hand off the controller to do it.

I'm guessing the best uses of Natal will be gimmicks, small things that make playing standard games just a little more physical. Jab forward with your controller to make Master Chief smack a guy with the side of his gun. Kick out with your leg to make your character in Crackdown kick a guy off a rooftop. Make a throwing motion to deploy a ghost trap and raise and lower your foot to open it in a Ghostbusters game.

"But wait", you say. "If you can throw a trap, why can't you throw a pass or a pitch?" Those motions need to be very quick and precise to feel like you're actually doing them.

The Uncanny Motion

A robot builder (Masahiro Mori) discovered a phenomenon he called The Uncanny Valley. He found that robots that look mostly human but not quite are more disturbing than robots that are human-like but still clearly robots.

Motion control is the same way. Either it should be obvious that the computer is simply using your gesture to trigger a canned animation, or it should mimic your motion perfectly, so that you actually feel like what you're doing is happening in the game. Anything in between feels like you're not really in control. The mind picks out the subtle difference, and the experience feels crummy.

I believe the best uses of Natal will stick to simple, broad strokes. It won't change core gaming much at all, just give it a little oomph (and make gamers look a little more silly).

Sony Motion Controller
(which I call a wand)

Sony's solution is far more accurate, but because it relies on the camera being able to see the ball on the end of the wand, can't do something like a pass or a pitch or swinging a bat. You'd have to start the motion where the camera couldn't see.

The wand is good for aiming and manipulating objects in arm's reach. It'll be used for some shooter games and some puzzles in adventure games. It'll also be used in some strategy games, possibly to good effect, but I won't care because I don't like strategy games. :)

The Future

We're looking at first generation devices here. The technology will get better. But the technology isn't really the problem.

The problem is that we're using motion control to play games designed for gamepads. And just as gamepad games ported to the PC don't feel right, so games "ported" to motion controls don't feel right.

The indie space, where design is more fluid, would be the logical place to watch. But the tech's been out for years and to my knowledge we've got virtually nothing of note from the entire indie community. Just tech demos, clones of existing games, and videos of people controlling existing PC games / software with the wiimote.

Am I just a crackpot, or is nobody really trying to do anything novel with this tech? The former seems more likely, I'm afraid.

Too bad I don't believe it.

24 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Blood 4-2 Breeding Grounds

Caleb continues through a Cabal castle.

23 October, 2009

Wii Fail

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writing about the new motion controllers got me thinking about how they might be used to make gaming more awesome. But any conjecture and wishful thinking should be tempered by the fact that my hopes for the Wiimote in 2006 went pretty much nowhere.

How My Hopes Turned Out

The Wiimote wasn't accurate enough to support this until the Motion Plus came about (roughly three years later). Wii Sports Resort has a sword mini-game that is reported to be fun, but I'm waiting for Red Steel 2. There may still be hope for Swordplay.

Swinging Soldier (Bionic Commando)
Capcom was already working on a third person Bionic Commando game for HD consoles. To my knowledge, nobody else tried anything similar.

Magic / Psychic Soldier (Psi-Ops)
To my knowledge, nobody tried it.

God Games (Populus)
To my knowledge, nobody tried it.

Rhythm Games (Samba de Amigo)
There are plenty of them on the system (including Sambe de Amigo), and some are even pretty good. If I wasn't tired of the genre, I'd be a happy gamer. This is the one category where things seem to have worked out.

Boxing (Fight Night)
Boxing had the same problem as Swordplay (lack of precision). But with the added problem that there's no Motion Plus for the nunchuck, so it won't get better. The best boxing game for the Wii (Punch Out) was impossibly difficult with motion controls.

Robot Monster Rampage (Giants: Citizen Kabuto)
To my knowledge, nobody tried it.

Drive and Shoot (Lucky & Wild)
Okay, I didn't mention this on the blog, only in conversations, but Lucky & Wild was a silly game from 1992 where you steered and shot at the same time. It could have been done on the Wii since launch. To my knowledge, nobody tried it. Well there was a Starsky & Hutch game based on loosely the same principle, but it predates the Wii. And sucks.

What Happened?

Between the Wiimote's limitations, publishers' risk aversion, and a possible lack of imagination on the part of developers, motion control hasn't made much progress at all from my vantage.

Seriously, how do you have motion controls and not make a giant monster game? Why haven't any of the Wii games I've played put enough feedback on the screen that I feel I really understand how the sensors are translating my movement and can adjust accordingly?

But when early efforts like Zack & Wiki didn't move any units, it's not surprising that publishers and devs decided to spend their efforts elsewhere. The Wiimote was a missed opportunity.

Next Time: I imagine a brighter future (that probably also won't happen).

22 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Blood 4-1 Butchery Loves Company

Caleb hangs on by the skin of his teeth exploring more Cabal castles.

21 October, 2009

State of Motion Controls

written by Blain Newport on Monday, October 19, 2009

Preface: Kris Graft wrote this piece on motion controllers that took 1700 words to say stuff that most gamers had hashed out by the end of E3 (over four months ago). It's probably supposed to be introductory level material for a broad audience. It wasn't written for me. But I didn't know that at the time, so to me it felt like the piece beat around the bush and missed important information / didn't go deep enough. So I decided to write the piece I wanted to read.

The Basics

Since E3, we've known about Sony and Microsoft's motion controllers.

Microsoft will have a camera + microphone + infrared depth sensor.

Sony will have a camera + microphone + glowing Wiimotes.


The Wii proved that novel, simple controls could help broaden the audience for gaming. Sony and Microsoft want to control the living room, so they need to appeal to that wider audience.

The Wii also proved the wider audience didn't care about bleeding edge hardware. Considering Sony lost over three billion on the PS3, and Microsoft lost over a billion on faulty hardware, both would probably prefer to extend the current generation a year or two with new controls than go through another launch.

Sticklers' Note: Yes, the PS3 helped Sony "win the war" with HD-DVD, and they are making their 3+ billion back in licensing fees. But at $10 a player and 11 cents a disc, that will take a while.

Why do I care?

You don't, yet.

If you're not into gaming, it's going to take some really impressive software / marketing to even put these on your radar. The Wii is already the system you're probably most interested in, and with the price drop to $199, it's the cheapest. This is even worse if you already own a Wii. Nothing's been shown that's worth buying a second system for.

Sony and Microsoft are going to be three and a half years late and are charging more. If their software and marketing aren't phenomenal, I don't think adding motion control to NetFlix / Blu-Ray / Facebook will be enough to take ground from the Wii.

If you are into gaming, you're going to buy these. As much as gamers like to deride motion controls, gaming hasn't changed much in a very long time. Hunger for novelty is probably enough to sell hardware, as long as there are decent games involved, but both solutions have additional cards to play.

For Natal, I suspect that will be face tracking. (If you don't have time to watch the video / are at work, it allows for 3D perspective shifts like Johnny Lee's old videos and adds head gesture controls.) As any gamer knows, more controls mean more tactical options. Microsoft knows how competitive gamers are and will use that to sell them Natal in mass quantities.

Sony's wands have their own advantages. For one thing, they become the path of least resistance for developers who have to design for gamepads and Wii controls already. Now Sony gets both versions while Natal support becomes the "if we have time" requirement. Additionally, the wands give the player pointing devices which they can use without taking their hands off the controller, good for shooting. Shooting with thumbsticks will never feel as good as pointing and pulling a trigger. And when gamers gets their first taste of dual wielding with independent aim, I think the sense of power and control they'll get will be hard to give up.

But these are minor advantages. The big win will be if it turns out it's possible to pull off solid face tracking with the PlayStation Eye. If it works close to as well as Natal's face tracking, Sony's solution will thoroughly outclass Microsoft's.

Sticklers' Note: Yes, PC gamers have had access to basic face tracking functionality in the form of TrackIR for eight years now and it never made much headway in the market. But only flight and military sims supported it, it was expensive, you had to wear silly glasses, and PC gaming was already ceding primacy to consoles by that point. With Microsoft (and possibly Sony) trying to make it mainstream, it will get in front of millions more people, giving developers a reason to put it in more games.

Wait. What?

Shut up about your core gamer fantasies! I thought you said this tech was supposed to be for the casual audience?


But you said it will only sell to core gamers.


That makes no sense.

You are not wrong. These new motion control offerings are going to do well, but not in the market segment Microsoft and Sony specifically developed them to capture.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong. After all, I'm just some gamer. I've marked my Google calendar to revisit this subject in one year, so we can see if I know better than the biggest players in the industry.


Wired's Game|Life blog article claims to have gotten the PS3 losing over three billion info from Forbes.

I don't remember where I first heard about Microsoft expecting to pay over a billion by extending the Red Ring of Death warranty, but I was reading Kotaku back then, so this article seems as good a source as any.

The Blu-Ray licensing fee info came from this CNet article. It's worth noting that I only cited the price for players and BD-ROMs. Recorders and writable media cost more to license. But since it's a joint license with Phillips and Panasonic, I don't expect Sony gets all the money anyway.

MTV Multiplayer turned me on to Torben Sko's work.

20 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Blood 3-7 The Pit of Cerberus

Episode three finishes with a dog fight.

19 October, 2009

Game Journal: Saint's Row 2

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, October 18, 2009

I finally decided to hit up the quests and finish Saints Row 2. I've had a lot of fun with it, and with co-op, I suspect I'll have a lot more fun. (I made a guest appearance on Adus' Let's Play even. I think I'll be in set ten and maybe one more set down the line.)

But as much fun as all of that was, one event will always stand out as the most amazing, the most frightening; the most ludicrous.

I speak... of the Pimpocalypse.

Pimps are naturally occurring in SR2. When you've taken over another gang's turf, pimps will occasionally spawn so you have someone to fight, if you so choose. But for some reason (a bug probably), in one intersection, on one night, just after a heavy rain, the pimps would not stop coming.

Pimps do not use guns by default, so I had my men switch to hand to hand. It was a proper brawl. We fought well. But eventually the tide began to overwhelm us.

I ran. To buy my men space to retreat I opened fire with my assault rifle. Fortunately the Pimpocalypse was a localized phenomenon, enabling us to flee with our lives.

I attempted to return to the scene and recreate the event to no avail (perhaps because it was daytime). But no matter what else happens in Saint's Row 2, I will always hold the Pimpocalypse as a treasured and somewhat unnerving event.

18 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Blood 3-6c Monster Bait

More exploring of the water facility.

(You can safely skip everything after 7:10. Instead of simply adding a step out of the water, the designer apparently thought it would be wiser to make the player repeat the ENTIRE LEVEL if he or she fell on the wrong side of the dam. Groo is unamused.)

17 October, 2009

Demo Impressions: Twin Sector; Madballs

written by Blain Newport on Friday, October 16, 2009

I guess my gaming feeling's coming back. I checked out a couple more demos. Like Wolfenstein, I didn't expect to like them enough that I'd want to buy them. A few days ago I would have just went with that assumption. But I've at least returned to caring enough to be curious (although apparently not caring enough to take screen shots before I deleted both of them. Doh).

Twin Sector is a first person puzzle game, definitely trying to be like Portal. The idea behind the gameplay is cool. You have high tech gloves. You can use them to pick up and shoot stuff like Half-Life 2's gravity gun. But unlike the grav gun, you can use the mouse wheel to orient what you're carrying to allow for finer control. You can also use the gloves to yank yourself through the air and break your fall from heights.

The problems are that none of it is very fun. Here is my attempt at some constructive (or at least not mean) criticism.

- The default controls feel awkward. Left mouse button, which is used for shooting in every first person game since forever, pulls stuff in. While the right button "shoots" things away. I think the developer anticipated this because there's a button swap option in the menus. But it's still disconcerting when pressing the right button raises my character's left hand and vice versa. It feels bad.

- The items I carry floated right in front of my face, so even simple tasks like stacking one barrel on top of another are difficult because I can't see what I'm doing.

- The gloves take a long time to charge and the character doesn't move very fast, making the game feel poorly paced.

- Falling kills you, and load times are long, which further contributes to the pacing problem.

- The environments are very simple and serve no apparent purpose. It feels like I'm in a puzzle, not a place.

Madballs: Babo Invasion is a game that hurts my brain by existing. There were these plastic balls with ugly faces on them back in the 80s when I was a kid. This game gives them guns and puts them in mazes, where they run (or rather roll) around and shoot stuff. Surprisingly, it's actually not bad.

- The different guns have specific uses. Unfortunately the player can only carry one at a time, so there aren't strategic choices to make.

- The guns have different elemental properties, so it's necessary to switch modes to damage certain enemies. It's busy work, but it kept me on my toes.

- Different balls have different special powers. Powers include dash attacks with can also be used to jump gaps, turning into rock to take less damage, becoming gigantic to crush enemies, spouting blades and spinning, shooting lightning to drain health, and burrowing underground to avoid enemies and presumably bypass certain barriers even though I didn't see that in the demo.

- The game has multiplayer, which seems like it could be pretty crazy if the arenas are well designed to take advantage of all the weapons and powers.

Despite being only $10 and an apparently well designed game, I still didn't buy it. I've played enough top down shooters to last me a lifetime. But for newer gamers, people who have a social group that enjoys kooky multiplayer (It's even got four player co-op.), or huge fans of Madballs, I'm sure it would be worth it.

16 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on XXXday, October XX, 2009


Blood 3-6b Monster Bait

Caleb continues exploring the caves of running water.

15 October, 2009

Keepalive: Hype Deflation, Blood Multiplayer, Wolfenstein Demo

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 15, 2009

Borderlands hype continues. But it's been undercut (for me, anyway) by a less than enthusiastic discussion of the game on episode 47 of the Idle Thumbs podcast. Nick Breckon (who also writes for Shacknews), found the game basically satisfying, but hampered with AI bugs, excessive schlepping, and general monotony.

I brought it up on the forums. People insulted Nick without even knowing what he'd said. It was the usual idiocy. I was polite with some people and ruder with others, but it was largely civil. The PA forums aren't as nice as PAX, but they're better than most of the internet.

Brütal Legend reviews also started hitting. It's as I feared. The theatrics are great, but the gameplay is lacking. It's sad (both for Brütal Legend and possibly Borderlands if it turns out Nick's opinion is the norm) to see dozens of talented, friendly people put years of their lives into something and have it met largely with ambivalence. There are just so many things that can go wrong with a game and wreck the experience. I'm glad there are people crazier than me out there who are willing to work that hard and take those risks.

IdolNinja from the PA forums, who I met playing Saint's Row 2, took a look at the Blood walkthrough and suggested trying some multiplayer. After some futzing we managed to get it running, and it was interesting. Movement felt oddly slow, slower than Blood single player, possibly because we were simulating a local game over the internet. But the weapons were fairly fun. And once we got tired of DeathMatch, co-op turned out to be pretty entertaining as well. The level design didn't always work out as many of the traps in the game are designed with a single person in mind, but it was still fun to run around shooting monsters and occasionally blowing each other up by accident. I learned to run for cover when I heard Idol fire up his lighter. :)

Here's IdolNinja running across a tightrope to pick up a key. In the single player game, this is a fun activity. But actually having someone in the stands is cooler.

Much like when I played some System Shock 2 with Matthew, the horror aspect of the game pretty much evaporated. Being able to infinitely respawn and gang up on the bad guys undercuts the tension. Luckily Blood is just as wacky as it is scary, so what it lost in scares was made up in extra chaos.

Finally, I gave the Wolfenstein demo a spin.

You can upgrade your weapons.

You can use mounted guns.

You can get Nazi super tech and disintegrate guys.

Yawn. I've seen it all before.

Okay. I haven't seen Nazis and debris float around the room. But floating Nazis can't fight back, and the low gravity slows the game drastically, so it's boring to play in. Hopefully they figured out a clever way to make wonky gravity zones fun somewhere down the line. But if you can't find a clever bit for the demo, I'm not desperate enough for gaming to fork over money to find out.

14 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Friday, October 2, 2009


Blood 3-5c 3-6a Monster Bait

Out of the frying pan and into the... water?

13 October, 2009

Game Journal: Fallout 3

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This post was an hour and a half late.

Wandering to the furthest northeast corner of the map, I came upon a compound of a few building surrounded by a chain link fence. A child let me enter, and I went to see the person in charge.

This is Dave. Dave's father was a king. Back then this place was known as the Kingdom of Tom. Dave claims to have "freed" the people from the wrath of Tom, and now it's the Republic of Dave. Did he kill his own father? Dave's son doesn't seem to think so.

He made it sound like a suspiciously cordial revolution. Why would Dave vilify his own father?

Ah. Daddy wouldn't let him take multiple wives. This Republic stuff is looking more and more like a scam. They even have a school to indoctrinate the children into the glories of Dave.

This didn't seem right, so I went outside and sat on a bench next to the playground. I thought I looked pretty scary with my assault rifle and hockey mask, staring at the swing set.

Apparently the little girl with the bow in her hair was unimpressed.

Now she's staring at me! Make her stop!

After the little girl stopped scaring me, I put some more thought into the Dave situation and decided to mess with the space / time continuum (save my game) to test the boundaries a little. Dave's first wife used to be a caravan leader. She seemed to have some actual leadership ability. So I rigged the election for her. Dave got so upset that he simply left the compound. Feeling somewhat responsible, I accompanied him on his journey, protecting him from a couple rad scorpions along the way. Eventually he set up the New Republic of Dave in the middle of Old Olney. With the Deathclaws roaming around, I guessed he'd survive all of three hours until nightfall.

Admittedly, his own hypocrisy and corruption would be to blame, but I still didn't feel right about it. I loaded the old game and let the election happen as planned. I guess I'd gone soft.

Next Time: Some Random Stuff and a Terrible Secret

12 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, October 1, 2009


Blood 3-5b Spare Parts

More floudry in the foundry (or helter skelter in the smelter).

11 October, 2009

Keepalive: The Thrill is Noticably Absent

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, October 10, 2009

I would have expected a little binge gaming after a week of not playing anything, but I really haven't felt the need. I fired up Batman to test recording to my external backup drive. Recording to the same drive the game is on wasn't good for performance. I beat up the first room of thugs, then promptly shut the game off to begin reviewing the footage. I was aware that the game was trying to propel me forward, but I wasn't interested.

By the late afternoon I was getting a little confused. I can play games now. Why am I not playing games now? Then I went back to what I was doing. At one point I finally stopped and said, "Okay. I wouldn't mind shooting a gun." and fired up Mercs 2. I barely got my equipment air-dropped in before the game locked up. I injured one enemy, shooting him in the foot because it was the only part of him I could see. I didn't even kill him. And I didn't really care. Once I got my system rebooted I just went back to what I'd been doing before firing up the game.

I'm still looking forward to recording the last few episodes of the Blood walkthrough and getting started on Republic Commando (and the secret Batman walkthrough). But those are hobby projects, not passions, not needful things.

The same goes for Borderlands. I'm wasting time on the PA forum talking about it, downloading wallpaper, and even setting up some related Windows sounds. But I feel like an old lady putting out a lace doily under a nice crystal candy dish. It's more about the decoration than the candy. (Speaking of which, I could go for some candy.)

We'll see if this persists. It might be bad for the blog if it does. But it might be good for me, lifewise, so I'm largely indifferent to how it turns out.

I'm gonna go buy some candy.

10 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Blood 3-4b 3-5a Spare Parts

Caleb leaves the sick ward, and enters a foundry (or maybe a smelter. I don't know metalworking).

09 October, 2009

Keepalive: No Gaming Postmortem

written by Blain Newport on Friday, October 9, 2009

This post was an hour late.

My week of no gaming ends tomorrow. I felt so burned out that it was time for a break. I've still been reading about games and thinking about them. But not playing them has been a change of pace.

I'd occasionally feel that blowing something up would be nice. But it would pass quickly. As much as I enjoy gaming, being without it does not really change the texture of my life that much. It just forces me to face the dull.

Unfortunately, it's good for life to be dull once in a while. It's the only way I stop and consider what I ought to be doing. I was so bored I considered cleaning. I resisted. But thinking about it, considering where I'd start and breaking down the tasks in my mind, was more than I'd done in years.

As a result, it's time to start limiting gaming to the evenings. It's time to have a regular dumb life again.


08 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Blood 3-4a The Sick Ward

Caleb explores a Cabal run hospital.

07 October, 2009

Keepalive: FTC Compliance

written by Blain Newport on Monday, October 5, 2009

It doesn't go into effect until December 1st, but I wanted to be ahead of the requirement. Apparently the Federal Trade Commission has decided that bloggers will be subject to journalistic disclosure rules regarding conflicts of interest. The bottom line seems to be that they'll have to disclose any gifts (swag, free games, trips) they get from publishers when they review games by those publishers or face fines up to $11,000 per infraction.

With respect to gaming, this is pretty ridiculous. Our "legitimate" outlets aren't much more than blogs anyway. We've got a few gaming programs appended to TV "for men". :P We've got a couple magazines nobody reads. And then we've got a few news sites, which aren't much more than blogs.

I suspect this is just the government trying to catch up with scammers selling fake medical supplements or worthless real estate, you know legitimate crimes. If this law is ever used against a game blogger or publisher, I'll be very surprised.

But just for completeness, I have never received anything from anyone ever in exchange for coverage by my blog almost no one reads. :)

06 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Monday, September 28, 2009


Blood 3-3b Raw Sewage

More swimming in the sewers.

05 October, 2009

Keepalive: No Gaming

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, October 4, 2009

I am not gaming. I did not game yesterday. At first it felt a little odd. It had become such a habit. But now it's kind of a relief. I felt like I had to have something to play. But I don't. Life's a bit less stimulating when I'm not hunting monsters or doing drive-bys, but it's otherwise unchanged.

This being October, I do intend to play through Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, which I picked up during a Steam sale some months ago. But there's no rush. Not playing games is nice too.

I'm still following the news a bit. But since there's nothing coming out that I care about, it barely matters.

Sure, there's a new handheld Mario RPG, but SuperStar Saga couldn't even hold my interest. Brütal Legend will be out soon, but it's console only.

All in all, it's looking to be a super dull holiday season. I guess it's just as well. I should be doing other things.

Speaking of things I shouldn't do, I made one last super hero a couple weeks back before they turned off the Champions Online character creator.

Fear the might of Diaper Baby!

I'm not sure which would be more disturbing, to make him huge, like a guy in a diaper, or small, like an infant that fights. What kind of powers would you give a baby? Maybe he flies around and zaps people. But since size doesn't matter at all in the game, maybe he just punches people with little baby fists and they go flying off into the distance. Maybe he has baby themed powers, using ear shattering crying to incapacitate foes.

But I'm sure actually making him in the game wouldn't be half as fun as imagining his exploits. Such is always the way of MMOs.

I do still have two or three more episodes of the Blood walkthrough to record. Once they're done, I'll be able to move the recording setup back to the main computer and start a "private" walkthrough of Batman: Arkham Asylum. I'm mostly just doing it for Paul, since he's also a Batman: The Animated Series fan, but just drop me a line if you want to watch. If you're actually bothering to read this far you deserve something for your time (although I'm not sure access to more of my drivel is really a reward, per se).

04 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Friday, September 25, 2009


Blood 3-2c 3-3a Raw Sewage

Caleb heads underground.

03 October, 2009

Keepalive: Deja Vu

written by Blain Newport on Friday, October 2, 2009

Well, I was going to title this post ennui (as I have titled previous posts), so either way, you were going to get a French word.

Stalker 2 feels so much like Stalker 1 I don't think I'll continue playing it. After the first swamp area, it's almost the exact same terrain as the first game, just slightly prettier. I've done it before.

I keep thinking I should go back and finish Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, but that's another series that didn't go anywhere interesting after the first installment. I've heard that Two Thrones is better than Warrior Within, but neither is as good as Sands of Time, so what's the point?

I grabbed a demo for Risen. It's from the makers of Gothic. You may remember I kept a lengthy game journal of Gothic 3 during the early part of this year.

Risen is pretty.

But here's the old version.

Are some slightly better sun rays and vegetation really worth buying and playing the same game over again?

Because it doesn't play appreciably better. Infinite kill combos don't break the game like Gothic 3, but the combat still isn't exciting or rewarding enough to care about. And the looting and story aren't nearly enough to propel me through the many dozens of hours the game undoubtedly takes to explore.

There just isn't that much I'm excited about right now. I've killed what needed killing and hoarded what needed hoarding. I'm still recording the last bit of the Blood walkthrough, but other than that, I think it's time to not game for a while.

02 October, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, September 24, 2009


Blood 3-2b The Siege

Caleb continues to fight through the war torn city.

01 October, 2009

Keepalive: Stalker 2, Saint's Row 2

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, October 1, 2009

I got Stalker 2 on sale. It's technically a prequel, but really it's the same game only prettier.

And I can't even run it at full pretties, with sunlight streaming through the reeds you explore. The game has wandering and looting and upgrading and shooting stuff, but I mostly enjoy the atmosphere. Exploring at night is particularly harrowing.

I played a bit more of Saint's Row 2, this time with Woggle.

He was doing a fire truck event I was not a part of, but I grabbed a second fire truck to chase him around in. Then I drove off a cliff and planted it. It's totally stable like this. I even got in a police car and rammed it to try and knock it over to no avail.

And this is one of many police chases we got into. The AI for the pursuers is pretty decent, and they'll follow you over all kinds of jumps.