31 January, 2010

Make A New Plan, Stan

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, January 31, 2010

As I mentioned earlier, my videos are backed up through the end of March, so here's the new plan for the blog. There will be a new video every weekday. There will be special posts (articles and reviews) on Saturday and Sunday. And I'll do keepalives during the week as I play stuff I think merits discussion. This is the plan.

For those of you who aren't into the videos, sorry. I enjoy doing them, and some games are just better shared that way. I've recorded some video of Aliens vs Predator 2000 gameplay that simply has to be seen to be understood (or even believed). That game moves so fast.

Now to go fix the dates on all those Gunman Chronicles posts.

30 January, 2010

Game Journal: Gunman Chronicles

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Gunman Chronicles 01 - Intro, Tram, and Briefing

seiklus is great, but you should discover it for yourself. Let's skip ahead and start Gunman Chronicles, a bizarre tale of sci-fi civil war soldiers, aliens, and robots.

29 January, 2010

Game Journal: Gunman Chronicles

written by Blain Newport on Friday, January 22, 2010


Gunman Chronicles 26 - Bonus Song Parody

Technically this contains a few spoilers. Meh.

(to the (custom chip) tune of the MST3K Theme Song)

In the not too distant future
Next Monday A.D.
There lived a guy named Archer
Not too different from you or me

He worked at the Gunman High Command
Just another clone on the G.I. plan
He did a good job fighting jerks in space
But he left behind the General who
Took it out on the human race

He left me in the turkey
Back on Banzure Prime (La-la-la)
So I'm gonna kill all the folks I can
With every monster I can find (La-la-la)

Now keep in mind Archer can't control
Where the fighting begins or ends (La-la-la)
But he'll get through this thing somehow
With the help of his special friends

Gunman Roll Call
Gunmen (die quick)
The Mainframe (Hi Girl)
The Tank (always needs gas)

If you're wondering how he eats and breathes
And other science facts (La-la-la)
Then repeat to yourself "It's just a game
I should really just relax." for the
Gunman Chronicles Video Talkthrough

Video Tools: Fraps, Windows Movie Maker
Audio Tools: ModPlug, Audacity

28 January, 2010

Game Journal: seiklus

written by Blain Newport on Monday, December 21, 2009


seiklus 01 - Introduction

A meandering trip through freeware platformer seiklus.


The game is largely about exploring, so I strongly suggest playing it for yourself. Lots of the stuff that happens isn't nearly as exciting when you just watch it happen to me.

Actually, I changed my mind. This was a bad idea for a walkthrough. Consider this video an invitation to discover seiklus for yourself.

27 January, 2010

Keepalive: Mr. Kitty's Quest, , Nations @ War, The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just in case there's anyone who reads this that I haven't told already, Psychonauts is currently $2 on Steam. The action isn't the best, but the humor and setting are something special, and that price is not to be missed. Heck, it's still a deal at $10, but at $2 it's practically free awesome.

GameSetWatch does a weekly best of indie games feature. The game pictured above is Mr. Kitty's Quest. It's very simple. Just run around and shoot everything. Fight a couple bosses. Get a new ability to open the way to the next area. It was a pleasing diversion.

Since Co-op Tuesday moved to Thursday, I'm now up for Online Tuesdays with the LAN party folks. Mostly they play Counter-Strike, so meh. But every third or fourth week they play Nations @ War, a mod that makes Battlefield 2 fun. Of course, even with the game improvements, I always seem to find ways to make my own fun.

Our team was winning easily, so I decided to relax by taking a dip in the hotel pool. One of Matthew's kids decided to join me and show off by diving off a plank on top of the hotel. Over the course of the evening stuff blew up everywhere. I pulled off some quality commandering, anticipating the enemy's moves and my team's needs. But the thing I'll probably remember is how proud a child was to show off.

I haven't forgotten The Witcher. I'm still playing it and enjoying the simple, but visually exciting combat.

But it's not a short game. I even started ignoring side quests, which had some unintended consequences. Also, I think I've made at least one major plot decision incorrectly. What kind of a bizarro world is gaming where I'm breathlessly looking forward to suffering consequences?

26 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Friday, December 18, 2009


Republic Commando 40 - The Final Strike pt. 2


25 January, 2010

Game Journal: The Witcher

written by Blain Newport on Monday, January 25, 2010

First, for the casual blog viewer, pretty pictures.

I know. It's another water shot, but it's so pretty. If you look at the parts of the pier and plants that are underwater, you can see some of the distortion effect. Hundreds of games have water distortions, but The Witcher's is the only one I find myself paying much attention to. It's so restful.

Ooh. Pretty. Curse that silly druid for jumping in at the last second to spoil the shot.

The Witcher and some friends, getting hammered. Technically he's doing a stumble animation, but I like to pretend he's dancing. It was also funny because on the way back to the inn, an elven woman on the street said something like "Oh my." Whatever she said, it was supposed to imply admiration or possibly fear. But when you're drunk, it comes off as very tsk-tsk-y.

Second, for "core readers", my thoughts on the game so far (with vague spoilers, but nothing specific).

The Witcher is definitely a game for adults.

There's confusion.
Partly due to the somewhat free flowing structure of the game and the fact that you may or may not have killed certain people, I haven't found a decent FAQ yet. They either assume you'll make all the same choices the author did, or they're a mess of cross references.

There's sex. I believe it's actually required for the main storyline. And if you seek it out, it's all over the place. There's so much sex, I once had sex by accident. That's a lot of sex. To my knowledge, it has no bearing on the story. However, I overheard someone say one of the local ladies of the night had syphilis, so there might be a side quest involving a trip to the clinic. This struck me as kind of funny because I'm listening to the game in Polish and the Sci-Fi channel recently changed it's name to Syfy, the Polish word for syphilis.

There's boredom. There's a lot of schlepping and waiting in the game. I'm supposed to meet a guy at midnight so I have to go across town to the inn to sleep then come back across town to meet him. Then I've got to meet someone else at noon, so it's back to the inn. Plus there are plenty of fetch quests.

There's regret. The game has presented me with some choices and mysteries and always made it pretty clear that it won't stop me from doing it wrong. And when the wrong choice involves killing someone for a crime they didn't commit, that feels weighty. I feel like my choices matter. I am kind of curious how screwed up the game can get if the player does it wrong.

That's adulthood in a nutshell.

24 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Republic Commando 39 - The Final Strike

We're in the home stretch.

23 January, 2010

Keepalive: The Witcher, Torchlight, Talkthrough Musings

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, January 23, 2010

I took a couple pictures to make up for not having any in the last keepalive.

There are some pretty vistas in The Witcher. The water moves well, too.

There are a number of escort missions in the game. In the first one, it was easy for my companion to die. In most subsequent ones it's been impossible for them to die. I don't understand why the earliest mission was the hardest.

Here is Torchlight's obligatory lava level. Actually, there are multiple lava levels as the game follows a "boss every five floors" structure. I'm usually tired of the new look before the end of level two. :P

I blame the twisty nature of the levels. I find navigating them tedious. I remember watching a dev use a cheat code to move at super speed during the PAX demo, so it's possible even the devs feel this way.

Also, I'm still not enthused about the loot. I'm thinking Borderlands did a better job with it. Every so often I'd find a somewhat overpowered weapon that would let me blaze through baddies for a time. Torchlight is always a chore, and I look at new weapons like a plumber looks at a plunger. No matter how nice a plunger it is, it doesn't make the job fun. Perhaps I should have played on Normal instead of Hard.

I spent the day putting together a Gunman Chronicles music video to tide my YouTube subscribers over while I take a week off. The video will premiere Mon. January 25 on YouTube and the blog post will hit on Fri. January 29.

This makes it an introduction to the Gunman Chronicles Talkthrough on the blog and a post release treat on YouTube. This time distortion is getting increasingly untenable. When I want to write a new blog post I have to sift through two months of talkthrough entries to figure out what day my next normal post should be. I need a new system.

22 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Republic Commando 38 - Moving Upstream pt. 2

It's slow going (moving upstream).

21 January, 2010

Keepalive: The Witcher, Alien vs Predator, King's Bounty, Torchlight, Shattered Steel

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, January 21, 2010

I haven't been good about taking screen shots. My apologies.

I've tried to get back into The Witcher. There's a slow patch right after the tutorial area, and the game's been crashing. I read that I needed a particular version of the .NET framework, and it's appeared to help, but I haven't played enough to be confident.

In anticipation of the upcoming Alien vs Predator game, the original was sold for $5 on Steam. It's amazing what passed for great games back then. The objectives and navigation are horrific. Death comes instantly and there's no checkpoint system. I often ignore video game stories, but the "story" in AvP is so meager and bad that even I was forced to take notice. The idea that this game came out two years after Half-Life hurts my brain.

I decided to give King's Bounty a quick look. It's so much Heroes of Might and Magic that it's hard to see any other influence. And I never found those games very interesting. I could see the strategies. I could learn. But victory never felt special. I was beating simple AI by bringing the right units or just having more of them. I've heard the game gets very silly later on. We'll see.

Listening to podcasts is Torchlight time. My game has finally recovered from the use of a dungeon scroll. The shops sell scrolls which take you to bonus dungeons. My bonus dungeon was well above my level. As a result, when I went back to the main quest, it felt pretty pointless as monsters weren't giving much XP or dropping any worthwhile loot because I was too high level for them. But even now that I've caught up, the loot seems seriously lacking. I'm level 20 and I'm having a hard time finding weapons better than my level 12 gear. But I'm just using it as virtual knitting, so it doesn't matter if my loot lust has waned.

I gave Shattered Steel a spin on the old 2001 PC. Once patched, it plays fine. It's really bizarre to see that this game from 1996 supported multiple kinds of 3D. When wasn't 3D the next big thing in gaming?

I think I'll take a week off from walkthroughs before I start it up in earnest. It's good to recharge the batteries and give folks a little time to miss you once in a while.

20 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Republic Commando 37 - Moving Upstream

with bugs (Geonosian and programming / scripting)

19 January, 2010

Crysis Warhead Spoiler Laden Thoughts

written by Blain Newport on Friday, January 17, 2010


I didn't review Crysis Warhead. It's Crysis. I played Crysis on the easiest difficulty and Warhead on the hardest difficulty, and didn't notice a difference. Mechanics aside, there were a few things I wanted to mention.

First, you never see Nomad, the character you play in Crysis. I thought the point of an expansion was to expand on what happened in the original game. There are some black screen voice-overs between major sections of the game which give some backstory, but I didn't care enough to bother to make sense of them. It felt like they ran out of money to make proper cut scenes. Based on Crysis' initial sales figures, that may be the case.

Second, you never see Prophet. In Crysis, something crazy happens to Prophet, and Psycho seems to know about it. You learn nothing about it in Warhead.

Finally, although the cut scenes had sound bugs and horrible pacing, there was one scene that may have been improved by these problems. There's a scene where things go very wrong. The McGuffin is stolen by the bad guy. Psycho, a friendly soldier, and an enemy soldier fall from a bridge and land in a stream.

Psycho tries to give CPR to the unconscious friendly. It takes a long time. It fails. Psycho looks at the injured North Korean, propped up against a rock in the river, and begins moving towards him. The soldier tries to shoot Psycho with his sidearm (conveniently not bothering to aim for the face). Psycho grabs him by the throat, holds him underwater, and kills him. It takes forever, and there's almost no sound during the entire sequence.

Since other cut scenes that obviously should have had sound didn't and other scenese that should have been fast paced with quick edits drug on interminably, I don't think Crytek made this scene so effectively on purpose. It also didn't connect to any motif or characterization (other than the name Psycho). But accident or no, it was probably the one thing I'll remember about Warhead (besides the disappointment).

18 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, December 14, 2009


Republic Commando 36 - Heart of the Citadel

No baby Wookies. :(

17 January, 2010

Keepalive: Street Fighter 4, Dark Void, Evil Genius, Fallen Earth

written by Blain Newport on Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm overloading this with everything I've been playing. Just skip to the games you care about, or just look at the pictures if you don't care about any of them.

I bought Street Fighter 4 during the Steam sale, mostly just as a way of saying "Hey Capcom. I like that your console ports don't suck so much that I'll even drop a few bucks on a game I have no intention of playing. I played three fights with Dan on easy and promptly forgot about it. I may eventually go back to finish it with Dan because I love seeing his silly storylines.

I checked out the PC demo for Dark Void (published by Capcom, but made by O2Tight). At first it was pretty terrible, as it only gave me Xbox controller prompts, but once I unplugged my gamepad, it was only kind of wonky. Using the mouse to fly instead of a thumbstick is pretty awkward. I didn't have nearly as much fun as I did with the PAX demo.

My brother bought me Evil Genius. The game has lots of character.

Here is my evil genius laughing as a secret agent is spun around in a mixing bowl. Two Playboys are eating in the cafeteria, being served by a biochemist in a hazmat suit and chef hat. Meanwhile some of my minions are admiring an enemy agent encased in ice, spoils from a long past caper.

Here a Bruce Lee wannabe is about to be dipped into a vat of chemicals. The spiffy floor reflections help with that 60s spy movie chic, and the cartoony style helps compensate for the low polygon count.

There are lots of cute animations that don't relate to torture. Minions hold their ears when they're blasting out new rooms. Valets confuse enemy agents by rushing up to them as though something is wrong with their attire, spinning them around and brushing them off to keep them distracted. But now that I've unlocked all the minions, it's falling into a repetitive pattern. I pull off a caper. I repel the retaliatory attack. Repeat. Maybe I should move to a second, larger island and start messing around more with traps.

I finally used my ten day trial of the post apocalyptic MMO Fallen Earth. The default graphics settings made a horrific first impression. Once I tweaked them, it still looked bad, but I could believe it was released in the last decade.

The frame rate bogs down in town, what with all the horses, ATVs and other mounts parked outside the bank.

This is my completely full bank vault. The game has bazillions of crafting recipes to learn. There's something satisfying about hunting and scavenging to make all your own gear. But it's mostly busy work, and the combat is nothing to write home about. I can't imagine why anyone would pay a monthly fee to do busy work, especially when there are free MMOs and Facebook games that provide the same thing, and Fallout 3 looks, plays, and has better stories than Fallen Earth.

16 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Friday, December 11, 2009


Republic Commando 35 - Search and Destroy

Wherein we destroy two (or more) of every droid.

15 January, 2010


written by Blain Newport on Sunday, December 13, 2009

Back in the day game music was very simplistic: beeps, boops, and white noise. But because of that, it was also very distinctive. As didgeridoo is to Australia, the square wave is to the worlds created in early games. Those sounds are of a time, place, and culture. When the CD storage medium turned game soundtracks into the exact same scores we had in films, games lost that feel, that sense of a unique reality. They became wannabe movies instead of something else all their own.

The same can be said of graphics. Once they went past being symbols and started trying to look real, they became less than what they were. At least the reality of an 8-bit Mario game looked consistent. Today we have ragdoll weirdness and clipping problems everywhere, aliasing, obvious level of detail switches, polygonal silhouettes, animation hitches, and dozens of other small problems that make our game realities only look right at certain angles under meticulously placed lighting.

It's amazing, what the industry has accomplished. But sometimes I get the feeling they have no idea what they lost by chasing film. Video games had their own reality.

14 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Republic Commando 34 - Live Ordnance

All the jerks at once.

13 January, 2010

Review: Red Faction: Guerrilla

written by Blain Newport on Monday, January 11, 2010

Developer: Volition Inc.; Reactor Zero (PC port)
Platform: PC
US Release: September 2009
Genre: Third Person Action
Price Paid: $10
My Score: 3 of 5

Red Faction: Guerrilla PC started strong. I loved wrecking stuff with the hammer and blowing it up with demo charges. But the game never really picked up from there.

Compared to the immediacy of demolishing a building with your hands, everything else was a chore: killing enemies, dealing with vehicles; performing various challenges.

Even the challenges that were about blowing something up usually weren't much fun because of strict time limits that made a lucky break the only way to complete them. I've already talked about the horrors of the driving challenges.

The rub is that I don't know how much of this is the PC port's fault. Is it the fact that the game runs at hyperspeed that wrecks the feel and pacing? Most people complained that the game went on too long, but after futzing to get it stable, doing almost every side mission, and spending a fair amount of time just screwing around to entertain one of Matthew's kids, Steam says I've played it less than 14 hours.

I haven't played the DLC which is included with the PC version, but it's never occurred to me that it would be worth my time to do so. It would be fleshing out a story I didn't care about in the first place.

My first impressions of RFG were gleeful, and I will always remember them. But the rest of the game never lived up to the promise of the tutorial.

12 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Republic Commando 33 - Saving Ammo

We've got Tarfful. Let's go!

11 January, 2010

GTA4 Shenanigans

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chris' laptop wouldn't go for GTA4 multiplayer, but some of the PA folks on Steam organized a Friday night hootenanny. We started out just messing around, and had so much fun doing it that we never stopped to get organized.

At first it was just driving and shooting each other. I mostly drove by people who were fighting and dropped grenades out the window. But eventually we decided to hit up the airport and get some nicer rides.

There's something about the washed out visuals and flying through the city in attack choppers that reminded me strongly of The Matrix. But we were just grabbing them to get out to the GTA4 equivalent of Ellis Island, where we did the obvious thing.

running over people with forklifts

That's not obvious? Well, maybe not. But it is pretty hilarious. Those vertical bars are part of the forklift I'm driving. I always drive first person in GTA4. Third person is extra sloppy, and the game's driving is too sloppy already.

After we got bored with that, we decided to try some precision chopper maneuvering. Carefully coaching the pilot, I managed to secure this lovely vantage point.

They replaced the Statue of Liberty's torch with a cup of coffee. I assume that's supposed to be satire, saying the US has traded the light of liberty for overpriced creature comforts. Meh.

Eventually someone had the bright idea to go hit up a ramp where we could all try to jump from one island to another.

The bus didn't make it, but that wasn't really the point. How often do you get to jump off a ramp in a bus?

Some guys enjoyed standing on the ramp so that the oncoming car would hurl them into the water. It was fun to watch. In this particular case, a couple cars hit each other and slid over the ramp and low speed. How low?

I think the front tire is clipping through my character's ankle. It took a lot of restraint to stay still for that picture.

Speaking of restraint, many people had none and would stand on the ramp but try to shoot the driver out of any car attempting the jump. Spoilsports. But they gave me this amazing picture, so I can't complain too much.

10 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Monday, December 7, 2009


Republic Commando 32 - Behind Enemy Lines

Grenades ho!

(recorded Monday, December 7, 2009)

09 January, 2010

One Year Later

written by Blain Newport on Friday, January 8, 2010

One year ago I decided to update this blog every day. I missed a day here and there, but made up for it with a few days with two entries.

I also started doing videos and video talkthroughs. On one hand, that meant less writing because I let them take up every other post. On the other, I worked harder and longer on those than I did on many posts (especially keepalives).

It's been interesting because people have wandered by and stayed with the video talkthroughs. 48 people subscribed to them, whereas this blog gets a little over ten hits a day, over 90% of which are just random searches, mostly for pictures from particular games.

We also had the photo journals of my time in Gothic 3 and Fallout 3. I never finished them, but I never finished the games, so that's appropriate.

On the review front, I reviewed 26 games. Fallout 3 and Plants vs Zombies were my favorites. And The Red Star was my least favorite game I bothered to review. I played a number of games (mostly indie games) that I just wrote blurbs for.

Looking back at the articles I wrote, some hold up. My three part series on motion control still feels relevant. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 I did a lot of research for that one. It wasn't investigative journalism or anything, but I was proud of it. I'll be curious to see how my predictions pan out. There's a rumor that Natal won't have an additional CPU anymore, which means serious developers will ignore it in favor of game visuals. We'll see.

The PC ghetto analogy wasn't news, but it still feels like a strong way of expressing my feelings about the state of PC gaming.

And my feelings about my feelings were fairly well expressed in an article on ultraviolence.

It's not a huge amount to show for a year's dabbling. But it gave me about as much satisfaction as a year's work at most jobs I've had. I don't intend to stop writing, reading, or thinking about games any time soon.

08 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, December 6, 2009


Republic Commando 31 - A Bridge Too Far

I can't tell. Is that a trite name for a level, or is it an old enough reference that it's become clever by virtue of obscurity?

07 January, 2010

Review: Grand Theft Auto 4

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Developer: Rockstar North; Rockstar Toronto (PC porting)
Platform: PC
US Release: December 2008
Genre: Third Person Action
Price Paid: $8
My Score: 3 of 5

The situations and characters of GTA 4 are far less wacky than previous GTA games. Decisions tend to have consequences. Many characters have done, are doing, or will likely soon be doing serious jail time. Many characters die. Characters have family ties and relationships that play out against the backdrop of a lot of hardship. But while that stuff is interesting to talk about, it doesn't make the game fun.

The main activities in GTA 4 are driving, shooting, and hanging out with friends.

Driving is sloppy as all get out. GTA driving has always been pretty loose, but by the time you get any sense of speed in GTA 4, you're completely unable to corner. It's important to let off the gas around turns because you'll lose traction otherwise. Drifting used to be a valuable cornering trick, but the best way to drive in GTA 4 is always slow and steady. It's not fun. I took cabs everywhere to avoid it, which means I also spent very little time listening to the radio, which is a large part of the charm of GTA games. And don't get me started on trying to shoot while driving.

Shooting is better than old GTA games, but still not great. They tried to add cover mechanics, but since your aim moves slightly as you lean out to fire, it's better to just walk around holding down the aim button and take cover manually. They added procedural animation, so if you shoot a guy in the arm he may stagger, or if you shoot a guy running, he'll probably fall. Aesthetically, it's nice, but the end result is that they get back up, so getting people to stay down can be a pain. Also, like many games, if you round a corner and meet an AI with a shotgun, you die. It's realistic, but it's terrible design.

Hanging out with friends is a new addition to GTA. You call or get called by people you meet throughout the game to hang out. You can go eat, go drinking, play a mini-game, or go to a show / strip club. At first hanging out is pretty cool. You pick them up, they tell you a bit of their life story. You play a mini-game. You drop them off. But they quickly become a pain as people start calling you when you're trying to do something else or call you from so far away you can't possibly drive to them in time. If I hadn't discovered the magic of teleporting taxis, I probably would have quit the game entirely.

I don't regret finishing it. Seeing it through to the end means I can talk about the game intelligently. It may be an important reference point in gaming history. But as I look back over the familiar scenarios, frustrating chases, and samey gunfights, there's not much to remember fondly.

06 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Friday, December 4, 2009


Republic Commando 30 - The Gauntlet

Dead Wookies,
Dead Wookies,
Dead Wookies

05 January, 2010

Review: Crysis

written by Blain Newport on Monday, January 4, 2010

Developer: Crytek Frankfurt
Platform: PC
US Release: November 2007
Genre: First Person Shooter
Price Paid: $14
My Score: 3 of 5

I wanted to like Crysis more. I really did. It's a true PC game, and I'm tired of playing cheesy ports. Saint's Row 2 stutters so badly while driving that some missions are borderline unplayable. GTA4 has a terrible frame rate. Red Faction: Guerrilla runs too fast. Borderlands has performance and networking problems. And Mass Effect has an inventory interface designed by monkeys on drugs.

But the basic experience of them is good, so I overlook the technical issues. Crysis is the opposite. Technically, it's very good. The lack of an option to bind separate keys to suit modes was my only technical complaint. But the experience of playing the game just doesn't do it for me.

The guns are weaksauce, often requiring multiple shotgun blasts to down an unarmored foe. It felt like playing STALKER again, always going for the head shot because it was the only way to do damage.

The powers are okay. Once I figured out the suit shortcuts, double tapping was pretty cool. It meant I could switch powers at will. But none of them felt that super. The distance I can cover with super speed / while cloaked felt paltry. Three jumps with super strength completely depleted my energy. And armor mode only made it so later enemies took two attacks instead of one to kill me. And this was on easy difficulty.

It turns out there's very little difference in the difficulty levels. Health regen rate and some interface tweaks are about it. I'm playing Crysis Warhead on the hardest difficulty, and it's practically the same game. Why put in four difficulty settings if they don't make an appreciable difference in gameplay?

There are a lot of design decisions that don't make sense. Having all sorts of options on all the guns was silly. Who puts a sniper scope on a shotgun or a laser sight on a minigun? Why give the player all this useless garbage to futz with? Why are there keys for leaning left and right? This isn't Rainbow Six. This is monsters and gauss rifles and nano armor.

It's not a bad game. I'm not sorry I played it. It's just confused about what it wants to be, so it ends up not being anything of note. I'm playing Warhead because it seems likely to have a more interesting story. Plus seeing my own character through another's eyes could be interesting. But Crysis itself is just okay.

Addendum (added 8AM, Jan. 5, 2010)

After talking about music so much recently, I neglected to mention it, and that's a shame because Crysis has very nice music. It sets an epic, heroic tone, and I enjoyed it.

04 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, December 3, 2009


Republic Commando 29 - The Bridge at Kachirho

Won't you take me to... Wookietown!

03 January, 2010

Keepalive: New Years' LAN Single Player

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, January 2, 2010

Between multiplayer bouts (or while others were playing RTS), other games were played.

Red Faction: Guerrilla - One of Matthew's children enjoyed watching me break stuff, so RFG was played on breaks.

Crysis - I picked the Maximum Edition up from the Steam sale for $14. I still think the hype Crysis got in the day was overblown, but I turned it down to easy and am feeling appropriately super as I play it.

The suit shortcuts (which let me doubletap certain keys to switch suit modes) are a big help, as well. Having to bring up a selection wheel all the time made the game feel like a console port. Dedicated suit mode keys would be better still, but as a PC gamer, I take what I can get.

Also, a funny thing about playing the Maximum Edition is knowing that in the expansion I'll be playing the same events from the viewpoint of a different character. So far all of his missions sound more interesting than what I'm doing, which is both promising and frustrating.

Grand Theft Auto: IV - The first game I played in 2010 was GTA4. It was overcast and drizzly in Roseville. And the weather in the game was almost exactly the same. It was a strange feeling and I sat through a long cab ride in the game (which I would ordinarily skip) just watching and listening.

I get the feeling I'm near to stopping the game. The main characters' cousin asked him to stop seeking revenge on certain people. I decided to honor that request. This means every few minutes I'm not on a mission, one of these people tries to call me.

I don't know if the guy calling is trying to start trouble. I don't know if he wants to make up. I only know that I said I would have nothing more to do with him, and I won't.

Some of you may remember I quit BioShock for a day or so after the twist. I was told to perform a task, and because the game couldn't actually force me to complete it, I just let it sit there, proving that I couldn't be controlled, and that Rapture couldn't be sunk. Eventually I went back to see the rest, feeling that I was doing it on my own terms.

I suspect I'll be doing the same thing with GTA4. Once I'm done catching up with some lost people from the old country, I'll consider the game ended and leave it for a day. Then I'll come back to see how the "Director's Cut" version ended. Much like BioShock (and Army of Darkness), I suspect I'll prefer the non-director's cut version.

I still wish there had been a third ending for BioShock, that the player could simply have chosen to let Rapture sink after the twist. "Rapture was created to embody the philosophy of Andrew Ryan, a philosophy that turned men into slaves and monsters. Rapture was destroyed when a monster, suddenly aware of what he was, made choice... and became a man." Sure, he became a dead man and sentenced all the little sisters to death, but it's more interesting than the official endings.

Keepalive: New Years' LAN Multiplayer

written by Blain Newport on Saturday, January 2, 2010

My traditional way to ring in the new year is to attend Matthew's LAN party. Much playing of games was done.

Nations at War - I largely did my usual, driving out to some lonely vantage point, requesting a supply crate and raining Javelin missile death upon any AI foolish enough as to try and use armor against us. But since Mike was there, doing some lovely helicopter piloting, I was happy to crew his gunship and kill any AI foolish enough to attack on foot (or in jeeps, or, given a few seconds to whittle away at them, APCs).

Once we had them down to one last flag, we switched to ground assault and I switched to medic. I tried to stay just a bit behind all the fighting, running from corpse to corpse as fast as possible, diving into them and using the shock paddles to bring them back to life.

In both cases it felt like I was helping, performing another thankless support role. Pretty much everyone including me was shocked when I had a ridiculous amount of points at the end of the round. None of the games we play (BF2, Quake Wars, Left 4 Dead, Serious Sam co-op) have scoring systems that can be used to measure how well people are playing.

Left 4 Dead 2 Versus - We used to have a rule about no versus games, botmatch only, because Paul and I got cranky when we felt our teams let us down. It turns out that's probably still a good rule because I got cranky. In my defense, it came out after playing through two complete campaigns that one player on my team had no idea how to melee. For those who haven't played Left 4 Dead, that's like having someone on your baseball team who doesn't know what a mitt is for.

Still, it's just a game, and I need to get over it. But when I've got four humans playing the monsters that are coming to get me, my tolerance for friendly blunders gets short.

Breathe. Relax. It's just a game.

I try to get a little a bit better every LAN party. But since there are only ten days or so of LAN party a year in which to improve, it feels like glacial progress.

Serious Sam 2 co-op - We tried to use the Insamnity 2 mod to up the madness, but AI enemies wouldn't activate, it was super laggy, and the game crashed for some people, so in the end we went back to vanilla Sam 2, which is still fun.

Some people wanted us to turn off unlimited ammo, which we tried. But that was no fun at all because as one of the better players, it means I have to waste a lot of time scrounging and using the wrong weapons for the job because I'm out of ammo for the right ones. And with a ten life limit, a lot of people were just sitting out dead even with unlimited ammo in effect.

I prefer the challenge in Sam 2 co-op to be combat rather than scrounging. I know it's wacky, but it's how I feel.

Even having infinite ammo, some of the enemies are still a pain. There is no right gun for fighting witches or exploding clowns.

02 January, 2010

Game Journal: Republic Commando

written by Blain Newport on Thursday, December 3, 2009


Republic Commando 28 - Aim for the Heart

Trandos & droids. Droids & Trandos.