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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

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.

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.

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


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


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


Blood 4-6b The Ganglion Depths

Caleb continues through the trap and monster filled fortress.

02 November, 2009

Review: Borderlands

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, November 1, 2009

Developer: Gearbox
US Release: October, 2009
Price Paid: $50
My Score: 4 of 5

Price Paid is a new thing. I used to try and call out when I felt that the price paid was important to my experience, but it's simpler to just include it in the heading and let you make up your own mind. I do not include tax, but I do include shipping.

Sooo tired.

Borderlands is absolutely a "just one more" kind of game. Just one more mission. Just one more side quest. Just one more fight. The game is built for addiction. And when playing with others, it's amplified because I don't want to let the group down, and I don't want to fall behind. Last night I was up until after 6AM. (Perhaps it was after 7AM. There was a time change.) So maybe this isn't the best time to write a review... But as the title song says, "there ain't no rest for the wicked."

Before anything else, I'm going to say that the PC networking for the game has definite problems.

I was forced to use an old GameSpy profile (instead of the one I used for Unreal Tournament 3 and Saints Row 2) for no apparent reason. Despite being perfectly capable of configuring my router, I was unable to host a game. I later learned that you sometimes have to invite people from in game. But sometimes that doesn't work and you have to invite them to a lobby first. It's just random. And since the best part of the game is multiplayer, that sucks.

There were problems with the in game voice chat that can't be turned off, but the Penny Arcade forum community posted a workaround (editing a configuration file to disable it) before I managed to get multiplayer working.

There were also other bugs. In multiplayer the game may permanently erase skill points, hamstringing your character. Also, it overwrites your configuration files on the first game start after a time change, so I had to change all my controls today. Why on earth would you write code to do something like that? How does that make any sense at all? A patch is being worked on, but this is how the game launched on PC (nearly a week after the console release and more buggy).

Industry standard PC woes aside, the game is certainly fun. The guns and their effects are satisfying. Learning which weapons to use with which elemental types on which enemies keeps things interesting. And the random loot means that the next guy you kill or next chest you open may give you the super weapon you've been waiting for.

And in co-op it can be even better because there are four characters you can play, and running with a balanced group means almost every great piece of loot is usable by someone. And when you use your special abilities to help each other out, you can kick major butt.

In case you can't see, that's a lot of large bugs, many of which are already dead.

The game has rough edges. Some special abilities (both skills and on weapons) don't work. Damage and health don't scale properly on the second playthrough. The randomness of the items you find sometimes mean finding what you want is nigh impossible. I could go on, but overall, I've had a lot of fun with game and expect to continue having fun with it for a long time.

01 November, 2009

Game Journal: Blood

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Blood 4-5b 4-6a The Ganglion Depths

Caleb continues killing brain dead zombies (possibly from Wells Fargo) in the fire caves and heads into the boss rich environment of The Ganglion Depths.