Monday, July 30, 2012

Distracted Gaming

I often appear, to the outside observer (and especially She Who Will Be Named Later), to be quite distract-able and unable to stay on task. The problem is not a lack of attention, I feel, but is the result of my obsessiveness, combined with a tendency to get bored quickly. This gives the appearance that I am easily distracted. Let me give you an example.

On Saturdays I have taken to searching for new games. Never mind the fact that I have a dozen or so currently in my hard-drive awaiting play, I continue to search for more. The same inner drive that leads me to being an alto-holic in MMO's keeps me searching for a heart of, wait, that's an old song that popped into my head. Oh, bugger. Maybe this whole post is bollocks as I've obviously been, in the space of two paragraphs, distracted from my point. So much for that then. I'll start again:

In addition to being a bit obsessive, and easily bored, I am also easily distracted. Pull out a shiny bauble and I'm done for. On Saturday I started to look at new-ish games on the market and started to wonder about Diable III. There was a lot of backlash against the forced, always-on, required internet connection but how did it play? I watched a few play-throughs but nothing tempted me enough to even to begin to want to pay full price for it. Like millions of others, I loved Diablo II and it remains one of the very few games (less than 10 I'd say) that I've actually managed to play all the way through. I played the crap out of that game and remember bringing into work on my laptop so I didn't have to stop gaming (remember I did say I was obsessive).

Now all that got me wondering about Torchlight, as I have noted Torchlight II is going to be released. I had never heard of Torchlight (shame on me) before the Steam Sale (and nor did I buy it then when it was cheap) even though it is an obvious Diablo II clone- and a fun one at that. How long it manages to keep my attention is another matter. I direct you to the theme of this post......

So I am distracted lately in terms of my gaming. I have played so many games in the last month that I am falling far, far behind on posting about them. It's getting so bad that I am forgetting what it was I wanted to say about them and am having to go back and play them again, which distracts me from getting new games, or indeed, playing the ones in my 'Current Games' folder which mocks me from my desktop. Off the top of my head, here are some games I have tried, or am playing and would like to post on:

Project Zomboid
UFO: Alien Invasion
The Dream Machine
Jagged Allliance
Silent Storm II
Torchlight\Real Warfare: Northern Crusades

Not to mention the games I own that I just want to play, and never mind the blogging, such as  Skyrim (yes I still haven't tried it), World of Tanks, Shogun II, Saint's Row III (though I am playing this quite a bit), Civ V, Spore, and Crusader Kings II. In addition to that I am also watching a couple You Tube series of games I'm never going to play but would like to see (Day Z, Max Payne 3, and whatever Nerd3's daily post is about). Sheesh, game much?

That's the problem with staying at home from work with an obsessive like me. Without something to focus on I'm all over the map, though you could argue that my focus is games.... lots, and lots of games. Well, on the bright side you're likely to get a snapshot of a lot of games over the next few months, and maybe an introduction to some you've never heard of and that will make it into your gaming library.

Oh, ya and on top of all that there's meant to be a baby around here somewhere I'm supposed to be watching.....hmmmm....I gotta go!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Summer of Indie: Dear Esther

I was interested in this one even before the $2.50 Steam Sale which put it into my collection. It looked stylish, and different from the promo trailer and I liked the narrator's voice. When I began to think about this post, and what I would say about Dear Esther, and the first word that came to mind was...different. Then I realized that 'Well, it's different' is usually what people say when they don't want to be mean and they think it's a bit crap. Not so in this case.....

....but it is different.

To say Dear Esther is a game is a bit of a stretch. In fact it is a blatant lie. You can't call something a 'game' which only involves you pressing W. Not A, S, or D, but W. There are no choices to make in Dear Esther, and no activities to perform. You can not alter the outcome of the story in any way. You are a passenger, a witness if you will, to a story. It is a beautiful, moody world, and the narration is well executed and a pleasure to listen to. The story is okay, over all, but I think it could have been much better if only Dear Esther would have had the courage to abandon the pretense of 'game' and simply offer an hour-long guided story in this beautiful, haunting setting. It was, over-all, an enjoyable hour and well worth a couple bucks.

I found myself engrossed enough to not notice my screen shots weren't saving so I'm simply posting the promo video:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fortuitous Friday: What The Dog Ate, Part III

With the arrival of New Mouth To Feed, who has almost doubled he weight in two months (making her aptly named here), we have been tired, and distracted. Our faithful, crafty Lurcher, The Sultan of Smart, has used this opportunity to add to his growing list of things eaten. Not much of a post today, I'm afraid. I'm off to walk said dog now, and hang out in the garden with some beer. Usually, in these cases, there isn't any evidence to photograph, but this time I was lucky enough (unlucky from his point of view) to catch him in the act.

Butter tops his list of things snatched with this being his third, albeit foiled this time (pun intended), pack of butter.

1. A plastic bag.
2. A dead pigeon (swallowed whole, with feathers) off the road.
3. The same dead pigeon, off the same road, seconds after he regurgitated it.
4. An entire raw pheasant meant for Christmas dinner.
5. One pound of butter, foil included.
6. Ibid, separate occasion.
7. Own faeces following consumption of butter, above.
8. Butter and most of a plastic container, separate occasion.
9. Human faeces encountered in woods on walk (thank you Travellers).
10. Ibid, different woods.
11. 7kg bag dog food (partial).
12. Mouldy loaves of bread thrown on beach for gulls.
13. Perfectly good loaves of bread taken from counter.
14. Human vomit, sidewalk outside pub.
15. Bird food, fallen from feeder in yard.
16. Cat food, unguarded, while visiting family.
17. Mouldy bones in yard buried by previous dog the summer before.
18. 15kg bag, dog food (partial).
19. Plastic lid (partial) off garbage can.
20. Chicken carcass (entire) from garbage can, above.
21. Christmas Cake (documented here).
22. 48 Jaffa Cakes.
23. Half Bar, JD Grossman 46% Chocolate.
24. Plastic Tub of Tropical Fish Food.
25. Lunch Bag/Cooler (Straps and Zipper).
26. Tuna Sandwich, unguarded (sitting on kitchen counter).
27. Pound of butter, portion of.
28. Very Berry Booster Juice Smoothie, including Styrofoam cup.

The Sultan of Smart looks decidedly UN-repentant

While the Duchess of Dumb has cowering down to an art form. This one is literally scared of her own shadow. She scared herself by stepping on a stick while out on our walk. True story.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gnomoria: Did I Mention It's Alpha?

2012-10-01 Edit: This bug is fixed.

Just a quick post to remind anyone who tries Gnomoria on the strength of what I have to say about it that it is in Alpha. This means there are bugs, and while the game is very, very playable, and I am enjoying it immensely there are some minor problems. Remember that F4 (save) is your friend and beware that there is a corrupt save file bug that may ruin ALL your hard work. There is a backup utility available, or you can back up your own save file (found in My Documents\My Games\Gnomoria\) every season or so.

I lost my current game at Year 3, Day 8 which is when another user reported losing theirs to the same bug after some problems with a wayward Emu. In a dazzling display of rareness, I am looking at the positive aspect of this in that I get to start again. That must be a testament to the fun-factor of this game!

And I had just finished some of my planned renovations :(

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Steam Damage

Though I run the risk of looking like a copy-cat by posting this today, I wanted to run through the Steam Sale damage to my wallet. I'll use the 'great minds think alike' defence on this one!

I started out morally opposed to Steam. No, in fact  I was absolutely outraged that games would make me log into a third party client, and the internet, just to play. I had bought some games on Direct to Drive (Pirates!) but they didn't require a log-in or the internet for you to access your game. As time went by I forgot my Steam rage (so many other things to rage against I often neglect some) and this is the first time I paid attention to the sale.

Maybe it was because I am home 24-7 with New Mouth To Feed which gives me more time to play, and piss about on the internet as she rocks beside me, or when she deigns to sleep. Or maybe, more realistically, it's because I'm a massive game addict, but whatever the case I was sucked into the Steam sale and found myself checking every few hours to see what was new on the flash sales. In the end I was strong and limited my purchases to a few titles I had wanted for quite some time but just wasn't willing to pay for, and couldn't manage to pirate (did I say that out loud?).

1. Saints Row The Third

Been wanting this one for some time and 32ndlaw's Saint's row posts only made me yearn more. I added two DLC's with my buy (Money Shot and Combat Vehicles thingy) and I am not disappointing. Good, mindless fun and a character creator that lets me, essentially, run around with a naked hooker killing people. Who could ask for more?

My initial character, and then I realized I look at a fat, bald, white guy every day in the mirror....

...and realized this would be more fun to look at.

Nothing says fun like a giant, purple dildo.

2. Jagged Alliance Back in Action. I loved JA2 but heard terrible things about this one. I even tried the demo and initially hated it. I was wrong and am happy to say it's not at all bad. I will be posting on this one later.

3. Spore. I had wondered about this game for ages, and this video series (and the $10 price tag) finally convinced me to give it a go. Good fun so far.

4. Dear Esther. $2.50 for a game I wanted on release was too good to resist. 'Game' is a bit of a stretch really, but it was interesting.

And that's it! I really held back, let me tell you. Like others whose blogs I read, the back-list of games in my hard drive, rather than monetary considerations, held me to these few. Now to get playing!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Summer of indie: Gnomoria

I'm surprised. No, that's not it. I'm shocked. Nope, still not strong enough. I'm utterly gobsmacked. Yes, that's the one. I'm utterly gobsmacked that I have managed to pull myself away from Gnomoria long enough to tell you that I'm playing Gnomoria. It's utterly addicting and I think, perhaps, it's consuming my very soul....

No, not really but it has been consuming my waking hours for the last three days or so, and plenty of those hours should be devoted to sleeping I assure you. I like this game. I like this game so much that based on a couple YouTube videos of it, I decided to check out its spiritual successor, Dwarf Fortress before I played it (I'm obsessive like that). Dwarf Fortress is a terribly complex and user-unfriendly indie game with ACSII 'graphics'. It is so complicated that I had to watch over four hours of You Tube tutorials before I tried it. But I digress. Back to Gnomoria.

In the beginning....
As the game-site says:

Gnomoria is a sandbox village management game where you help lead a small group of gnomes, who have set out on their own, to thrive into a bustling kingdom! Anything you see can be broken down and rebuilt elsewhere. Craft items, build structures, set traps and dig deep underground in search of precious resources to help your gnomes survive the harsh lands. Build your kingdom and stockpile wealth to attract wandering gnomads to your cause, but be wary of also attracting enemies!

I read one post that said if Minecraft and Sim City had a baby, this would be it. I would say, more accurately, that if Minecraft and, say the Anno series, or perhaps the Caesar franchise had a baby, this would be it. It is an indie game that features a 2-d isometric world for you to shape and survive in. Your tools are the Gnomes in your Kingdom, nine of them to start, and you set them to mining, constructing, farming, crafting, and military operations (defence from Goblin raiders and Golems which spawn underground at the moment). It is a management game which is to say you give your orders (mine this, build that) and then your Gnomes go do it.

One of my first kingdoms....which eventually failed.

The Goblins helped bring about my destruction.

You will have to invent certain things like traps and door mechanisms.

Pre-ordering my mining in pause mode.

Then I turned them loose.

Gnomoria offers the creative, manipulative elements of a Minecraft-style experience with the added complexity of crafting, and resource/space/village management. Your people need to be fed, protected, and happy. Everyone, for instance, needs their own personal quarters in order to get a good nights sleep. The quality of that quarters is determined by what you put in- beds, chairs, statues, torches, marble floors, carved walls and the like- and that quality determines how well they sleep. How well they sleep determines how happy and healthy they are and that, of course, affects how they work. It is wonderfully complex. For example, you can easily dig out that room from the rock in your chosen mountain fortress but to really pimp it out you will have to do the following:

  1. Fell trees.
  2. Build a Wood Cutter.
  3. Have the Wood Cutter cut planks.
  4. Build a Carpenter shop.
  5. Now you're thinking, build a bed, but your wrong!
  6. Create a farm.
  7. Have a farmer plant cotton.
  8. Wait a few days.
  9. Harvest Cotton.
  10. Build a Loom.
  11. Spin the cotton into cloth.
  12. Now the carpenter can take the cloth and make a bed with the planks.
  13. Place the bed in the room.
  14. Repeat for every Gnome.
You can, of course, give batch orders for multiple beds (or anything you want to create) and when resources and time permits, they will be made and delivered as per your instructions. You can pause the game and give multiple orders (via the mouse on the screen, not the horrible keyboard system as in Dwarf Fortress) to make life easy. Gnomoria is a game of balance. You have to ensure the resources are in place, but also that you have room to store them. For that you will need space, and you will have to build containers and don't forget about food, and drink, whatever you do...oh, and the Goblins will attack and make your life miserable so you need some soldiers. Ooops, they have no armor. Better find some ore, turn it to metal bars and then have an armorer craft some....oh, and don't forget a weaponsmith for your weapons.....and you'll need to find coal too.....

Building plan for personal quarters at the very beginning of yet another kingdom which also failed.
Gnomoria is horribly addicting, and it could be the best $8 I've spend in a very long time (we won't discuss what $8 USD could buy in Guatemala 10 years ago). Remember the old TV ad campaign "I can't believe it's not butter?" well, I can't believe it's only Alpha. Gnomoria isn't finished and that $8 supports the indie developer and buys you access to every new build and the game itself on release. If you do decide to buy I recommend the developer site rather that Desura simply because you get immediate access to every update whereas Desura seems to take a few days. As for the quality of the Alpha version I can say that it is better than many released AAA titles I have tried (Stronghold III, I'm looking at you). There are a few bugs, and some crashes, but nothing that will stop you from playing the game to it's (current) full potential.

There is also a free demo which allows you to play for 6-in-game days which will give you a taste of what it's all about. It can be a bit confusing at first so I'd recommend a You Tube tutorial or two. I've been following this series, but there are a few out there so pick one based on the voice and personality of the presenter that suits you best (which is what I do)! You can, of course, continue to read about it here if I can every again pry myself away from it to present a play-through.

Current Kingdom, main floor.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Summer of Indie: Endless Space

Reviews and blog posts about Endless Space have been making the rounds over the last couple weeks since its release. I know a good bandwagon when I see it, so shove over, I'm climbing on! The folks at Amplitude were nice enough to give me a review copy in exchange for, well, some publicity. I've never properly reviewed a game which I was given so it feels a little weird. In fact, I never planned to review it. I was going to do a few posts about my game- a play through if you will. That, however, didn't work out.

What's cooler than a warrior-bird race? Alfred Hitchcock would love this.

As I said there are some in-depth, very informative reviews already out there and one of the blogs I read regularly is playing it as well. IGN's review mirrored what I felt about the game, and wanted to say so much so that I could just tell you to read that and we'd be done, but I'm not that lazy.....yet. I'm not going to do a full-on review, however, but I will do my part and promote this well-done indie game. It is deserving of attention, but ultimately not the right game for me.

This game looks great. It is extremely well-presented with a great UI. The developers mentioned they worked with someone to create an 'ergonomic' UI and it shows. Everything is accessible and easy to follow. Accessible is a good word for Endless Space. I don't have a lot of experience with the 4X Space Genre (limited mainly to Space Empires IV which I loved) but one of the criticisms of the genre as a whole is that once your empire is large and sprawling things can get bogged down. Endless Space has obviously made a choice for streamlining this experience and as you progress, things don't get bogged down.

Which is where the game lost me. It's a bit of a contradiction that I never finished Space Empires IV because it became too much for me only to now criticize Endless Space for making it easier. It's not really a criticism, but a game-design that ultimately fails to work for me. I love micro-managing and the lack of it leaves me feeling like there's little to do. Combat has also been streamlined to basically be a cut-scene where you choose your tactic (play your card) and each type (attack, defence, engineering, etc) can be 'trumped' by your opponent. It's like a game of rock-paper-scissors but not one that can sway the battle if you are outnumbered. Whoever has the best fleet (represented by a score) seems to win.

I played roughly half-way through a single game (they last 300 turns) and had to leave off for a while only to find I didn't feel compelled to go back. As the reviewer from IGN also said, I didn't feel connected with my Galactic Civilization. In Sid Meir's Civ Series I always felt connected to my civilization. I knew my neighbors and liked the rivalries that developed. All of this is likely because I am/was an archaeologist and as a result know a lot about the development of human civilization. Space, in general, feels empty and soul-less to me so I have to rely heavily on the strategy/ship design/combat aspects of these type of games to pull me in. I just don't feel that pull with Endless Space.

If you like space games I would highly recommend you check out some of the more in-depth reviews and/or check out some You Tube videos on it. It isn't my cup of tea, but that doesn't mean you won't like it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Saturday Tune: Lady Waks, Shake It

Ooooh, and I almost forgot this weekend!

Another master mix from the (probable) Queen of Break Beat, Lady Waks who is making me consider defecting to Russia so I can get to see her (but I'm not a stalker, honest). There is a slightly longer, better quality (not live) version floating around but I love the energy of the crowd and the DJ's on this one. As an added bonus my new-born baby loves Lady Waks and I dance her to sleep to a selection of her tracks almost daily. Break Beat Baby FTW!

Cities XL 2012: Ten Bucks On Steam (Today)

Just a quick post to say this ones going for $10 on Steam today and if you are a fan of city building games (ala Sim City) this one is well worth it. I did a brief review on it ages ago (which is now, incidentally my most viewed post ever at 800+ views) but never followed up. I keep meaning to return to this one but just keep getting distracted. Another factor is once I start it up, I can't quit playing and end up ignoring everything else!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fortuitous Friday: Going Home

Have you ever met someone, or been someplace that just really clicked with you?  I was lucky enough to find both when I moved to Ireland in 2003. I got a job working for a friend of a friend (isn't that always the way, so) and ended up working in Dublin where, unbeknown to me my future wife (originally from Wales) was as well. She was working for the same person and he became a great friend to us both. So much so that we invited him to our wedding. Which is where he met a long-time friend of She Who Will Be Named Later, and now they, in turn, are getting married. And so I am going home.

Why Ireland feels like home is complicated, and not something I want to blog about here, but it is nice to be planning a trip back. I've missed it a lot in the four years that I've been away. The wedding, which is sounding like a script from the writers of Four Weddings and a Funeral, will see a lot of good friends re-united.

Plans are still in the works but at the moment it looks like we will be flying into London, then off to Belfast for the wedding. After that I will be heading home to the South passing through Dublin, and Waterford on my way to see friends in Cork. I consider myself a Wateford man, having lived there for three of my five years in Ireland (Up the Deise!), so I will be driving through the county to see as many of my favorite places and pubs (often one in the same) as possible. In Dublin I have to find time to fit in The Cobblestone, The Stag's Head, The Long Hall, Kehoes, and Ryan's (up near Heuston Station). It will be an exhausting endeavor but one I am convinced I'm up for!

Happy Friday Everyone!

How I saw most of Ireland.
And how it looked when I was done with it.
How I spent my last day there.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

World of Tanks: I Said It, Damnit. The New Game Modes Suck.

Yea, I did say it in this post, and at 5:00 into this video the top dude from World of Tanks says it too: the new modes suck in random matches because the average player is an idiot. To be more fair, it's nigh on impossible to develop a coordinated attack amongst 15 strangers who are not in voice communication with each other. As the over-dramatic voice-over says:

" can't see these tactics in random games because the average players don't always work as a team". 

Really... you don't say? They could save a lot of time and energy if they'd only listen to me, or at least let me do the voice over so I can clarify what they are really saying. I could also help out with the grammatical errors (it's "the average player doesn't always...", or alternatively, "average players don't always".)  In fact, let me re-post what I said as they obviously missed it the first time.:

Picture 15 random people of differing skills, with differing tanks, without the means to verbally communicate, plan, or organize, and add the fact many of them do not understand the goals of the new game mode. Pit them against 15 similar individuals with similar problems. Turn them loose and guess what happens. Chaos. Absolute chaos.

Yea, take that! I love being right, and it only took me a handful of matches to figure that out. So long Assault mode, and thank God. I was still seeing people flanking the old enemy base on assault mode when they were meant to be defending for crying out loud (in case you haven't seen the new maps, the old bases aren't even there). They are also going to be adding a choice to the battle section so that 'everyone can choose their favorite game mode' which roughly translates to: 'so all you fucking idiots who can't figure out the new modes can bash into each other in the regular mode'. It's kind of like a 'special class' for random pubbies. I wonder if they get bused in on a short tank?

I also like the comment 'because the random players weren't devising any tactics for these maps'. Shit, that sounds like 99% of the random games I play as it is, never mind with some actual (gasp) goals to achieve. I'd like to suggest a new game mode that most of the playing population would probably understand and like. I call it 'Face Off'. We all start off 10 feet from one another in an enclosed room with no engines and when the timer goes we start shooting. Wheeee! What fun.

As for the introduction of upper tier mediums and tank destroyers, I really don't have much of an opinion. I rarely run anything past tier VIII anymore as the income loss with Tier IX mediums and heavies, and the lack of a real role for TD's in pub matches sees my top tanks sidelined. In fact, I sold my top German Medium (E50) after less than a 100 matches and put my crew into the VK3601 for luls (and the fact that tank is used in Tank Companies at the moment). Unless they are going to overhaul the crappy economic system, count me out, and while I'm at it, what would the freaking point of a Tier 8 or 9 medium be when they will be in the same matches as the 10 and won't the Heavy Tanks still rule the field? Bah, never mind I'm just cranky now.

Toward the end of the video they say they will not be adding an option to turn off in-game chat which I think is pretty stupid. What's the difference, if no one is communicating and planning tactics anyway? 90% of the time I could do without what's being typed there and to refuse to allow us the option of turning it off is just plain arrogance. Instead they are going to add some kind of 8-petal flower-based communication thing to the center of my screen. Oh boy, can't wait for that. Soon I'll have all the stupider players in here with, their brown furrowed in frustration in a vain attempt to understand this, as they did the new game modes. Remember that because you heard it here first.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Summer Of Indie

I like Summer themes even though I rarely have one, and when I do, I rarely stick to it. Kind of pointless overall, really, but there you go. It all goes back to the Summer of Cider where I (much to She Who Will Be Named Later's disgust) decided that I would drink nothing but cheap cider. In public. Often. I also took to wearing 'wife beaters' and sitting on the stoop of whatever house I was living in. We moved a lot that summer, due to work, so there were plenty of new neighbors to 'impress' with my cider-drinking. For those outside of Europe, cider drinking white guys with wife-beaters are often thought of as 'white trash'. I know, I know, you like cider, and I can't help but laugh when I see you paying $10 for a pint of imported Strongbow because you think it's exotic.

In any case, my gaming theme for the summer seems to be Indie as I am discovering a lot of indie games. I could have picked a few themes for the summer, really, as I've been devouring games like Galactus devours worlds. I have over a dozen games added to my quite sizable collection in the last week alone. If that wasn't enough, I have taken to watching game-plays on You Tube. I have no idea why but I've become quite addicted to these. It started with some World of Tanks videos by DezGamez, and then spread from there. It reminds me of the 'old days' when my mate and I would have to share a single computer, and I would watch him play for hours.

I've been very immersed in games, then, as I don't leave the house much due to New Mouth To Feed being a mini-anchor (she might as well be made of lead), and the fact I have a grand total of 0 friends in this city (que the violins). As with other things in my life I tend to go on tangents and by the time I'm done I have a handful of new games to play. Case in point- I watched a video on the upcoming X-Com remake (I literally can't wait for this one). This lead me to the open-source game UFO- Alien Invasion. I then discovered Xenonauts (boy them must be pissed that Firaxis decided to release the new Xcom now). I then started to wonder how the new Jagged Alliance was (as it too is a squad-based game, and I was a huge fan of the 2nd installment) so I watched some game-play of it. I then decided I should maybe check it out and.... well, you get the idea.

I have a ton of new games to post about, then, but I have to play them long enough to have something worth saying.....hmmm, with that I'm off to hopefully start playing, although one of my favorite You Tube channels, Nerd3 (he's very, very funny) is doing a play-though of Spore, and I've always been interested in that.

Until then, here's the X-Com in-game footage video released by the devs.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Time For A Change

It's time for a change, or rather, more accurately, it's time to acknowledge that a change has taken place. For some time now I have had very little to no interest in MMOs. I think the breaking point for me, or the realization at least that the virtual gaming worlds I had once inhabited no longer held me fast was the launch of Rift. I purchased the pre-release and six months of game time but never played a single day past the beta preview weekend. Well, lets be honest, it was less beta and more marketing technique but in any case it was my last attempt at a traditional MMO.

Now the regular crowd of lads who join me here for virtual pints will note I played a lot of Wurm, and with over 7000 World of Tanks battles logged it would be fair to say I've played it a fair bit as well. Wurm was, for me, a solo endeavor, and WoT is a lobby-based tactical shooter as opposed to full-on MMO in the traditional sense. I've been slowly but surely returning to regular PC gaming for.some time. Now that my WoT battles are limited to a few pub matches whenever She Who Will Be Named Later takes New Mouth To Feed out of the house, non persistent game worlds are my mainstay.

World of Tanks is, by the way, getting more and more frustrating. I may be reaching burn-out with this one which, and should I stop all-together, that would bring my grand total of online games to Zero. Even the soon-to-be-released, next-big-thing, Guild Wars 2, is failing to raise any interest which is, for me, quite massive (pardon the pun). Guild Wars was my first MMO and I played it to death. I would have thought a follow-up would have me drooling for more, but it does not. Which brings me to the point (finally). I'm not much of an online gamer so my tagline 'Online Altoholic' seems a bit dated. The blog content won't change, but I'll be making some cosmetic adjustments over the next week which will reflect what I'm up to. I am playing a ton of games at the moment (especially indie-games) so I'll continue to babble on, as always about all things gaming. Thanks for dropping by. It's always nice to see your smiling virtual faces...... or at least know you're there by my stats page!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fortuitious Friday: Mother Nature, Trickster

Every religion seems to have its trickster figure. The Norse had Loki, the Christians Satan, and First Nations peoples had the Coyote. I think that these myth creators borrowed heavy from Mother Nature's IP because there is no greater trickster than her. The power she has over our lives, nay, our very ability to reason, is astounding. As many of you may know, I am now the father of a bouncing screaming baby girl. My life now revolves around the cry of this little creature. I'm either watching her cry, waiting for her to cry, or thanking 48 different deities scattered across a plethora of pantheons that she's stopped crying. I can't help but ponder the great trickster who talked me into this, the scam of all scams: parenthood.

I'm not talking about She Who Will Be Named Later, though she was pretty insistent she was interested in joining that (fatigued) parental club. The decision was, indeed, made by me...and perhaps too much wine that night, but I digress. The baby is here, and after witnessing the birth, often said to be joyous (but not by me) I have to marvel at the power of Mother Nature, and not in that proud, coo-ey way of a happy parent. If women could actually remember- I mean vividly remember- the horror of it all I would dare say the population of the Earth would halve each and every generation until we were extinct, because no one would do that more than once.

Now, to be fair, we had a traumatic birth experience, and not everyone does. I was told by those in the know that a mere 50-years ago I would have lost one, or both, of my lovely ladies in the process. And by lose I mean, of course, they would have died, not that I wouldn't have been able to find them in the warren of hospital rooms I found myself wandering through for the better part of 18 hours. We've come a long way in terms of what we can do medically and for that I am grateful. What I could have done without, however, is the Colic that followed, and what our Midwife is calling 'A difficult baby'. That's medical talk for a screaming nightmare who needs constant attention and has no tolerance for delay or discomfort. I was reading (finally) a book on 'being a Dad' and I got ten pages in before I had to throw it across the room in disgust. The passage that did it?

You may be wondering why your new baby is sleeping up to 20-hours a day.

Twenty hours? Are you fucking kidding me? I can only dream of such a luxury and if this is you, and you are complaining, get bent. Our bundle of screams is currently sleeping 7-14 hours a day with 12 being about average. Now, to be fair, the Colic has passed thanks to some drops I purchased in utter frustration at a pharmacy while shopping in some kind of sleep-walking state a couple weeks back. I also came back with a new car, a couple vials of crack, and a Polish worker I hired to re-do the kitchen (not really). We are, we have been told, almost over the hard part. Six weeks is fast approaching and we can, ultimately, find ways to comfort her now which was previously impossible. I was thinking, for a while, of hiring Tom Cruise who seems good with these types of missions, but alas he seems caught up in yet another divorce. Our baby is finally starting to develop her own little sleep pattern, or lack there of, but at least we can predict it and prepare accordingly (drink lots of tea and slam many cans of cola).

Now that I am getting a few moments to reflect on it all I realize that Mother Nature is the greatest con artist of them all. Why the hell do we do this? As Charlie Booker recently said (and with much more humor than I could hope to muster), they are little more than a screaming pet rock when they are born. It is a one way relationship with you as the giver and they as the great taker. I am told by all my smug, knowing friends who have children that it is, or will be, the greatest thing ever (parenthood, not the screaming part). If not now, then soon. Very soon. Oh, and all the intolerable crying and 'fussiness'? Normal, apparently, despite the medical evidence saying 20 hours of sleep a day is the norm.

That's the thing about children. Anyone who's ever had one is only too eager to share their advice and relive their experience (or at least 'one-up you with their stories)....see, I'm doing it now and I've only been one for a mere 6 weeks. The first rule of Parents Club is that you always talk about your kids. It's also the second rule. I offer a counter argument, however, as was written in the Book of Booker (my bible, but really the Guardian column he writes):
I don't understand why everyone doesn't gain an additional nine layers of rage the nanosecond they become a parent. There's the sleep deprivation and the stress, of course, but that's largely offset by the underlying sense of delight that babies radioactively plant in their parents' heads in a cunning bid to stop them murdering them. It's the rest of the world that's the problem. When you're suddenly tasked with steering a defenceless, vulnerable creature through life, the state of the planet instantly feels like less of a wearying joke and more of an outrageous affront to human decency.

Don't get me wrong, I can see it coming. I can see, when she smiles at me (no, its not just gas), that we are going to have fun. She has great taste in music (she loves Break Beat and Lady Waks in particular) and we spend a good deal of time listening to me sing and dancing about the place, which should amuse her until she's about 12. I'll keep doing it, of course, which will, ultimately, be my revenge for all of these sleepless, cry-filled days and nights. That and I'll walk around the house, shirtless, re-living my glory days in Central America excavating Mayan Temples and talking about where I acquired my many tattoos, all the while drinking cheap lager only to embarrass her whenever she has friends over. No, your right, that's not going to work. It has to be cheap cider. Devil's Bit or something equally associated with bums and tramps, and when she has her first young, nervous boyfriend over, I'll be sure to tell those stories while sharpening the Machete I used to cut down all that precious rainforest.

I wanted to wrap this up in some humorous way, or perhaps with a story about the time I was nearly bit by a deadly Fer De Lance in a Belizian jungle and how that was nothing compared to all this, but I'm afraid the baby is crying and you'll have to settle for a couple of hastily posted pictures as proof I'm not entirely full of crap (which is likely what her diaper is full of, and hence the crying).

Happy Friday Everyone!

Fer De Lance..Yes, it can kill you especially since we were a two-hours from the nearest hospital with antidote.

Mayan Temple, Chan Cahal, Blue Creek, Belize, C.A.

Oh, hello. You're here to see my daughter? Great, come on it and let me tell you about the time I helped the Belizian army 'take care' of some looters who had crossed over from Mexico....

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Copyright My Middle Finger

Can I just say, brilliant, and Fuck You Steam.

I have been waiting for this ever since I bought a copy of Total War off ebay once only to find that you couldn't re-activate a used game on Steam. What kind of bullshit is that? How long did they think this fleecing could continue unabated?

Okay, let me back up a bit. I remember buying PC games for $50 -$70 which was, and still is too much. That price stayed constant for years and the excuse we heard back was that piracy was keeping costs up. Back then it was the dual hard-drives 'killing the industry'. Shit, I remember my Dad pirating Pirates with some kind of wire hook-up between two drives. It took hours and I refuse to believe it was the cause of a lot of lost sales. Anyhoooooo, that's probably not helping me make my point is it? Well, regardless, I did re-buy Priates several times over the years so, ahem, lets move on.

Then they said hardrives were killing the industry because all the big bad priates were copying them, and that's why game prices stayed high. Then it was the internet. They eventually rigged it so that we couldn't even bloody well own a PRODUCT that we paid for. That's right, its as product. Get over it. We do not rent from you so stick your EULA up your hard drive. We own you!

I've never liked my single-player PC games being dependent on my internet connection. That may be old fashion, but I like to have access to stuff I own whenever I want it. On however many machines I want and then to sell it on when I am done with it. We are consumers buying a product and we have the right to re-sell said product if we like. End of. Now lets see some changes to those phony EULA's 'cause I may be ready to sell my World Of Tanks account!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rome: Total War.... Part II

Thank to Violent Gamer I had to change my pants after wetting myself with excitement over the announcement that the next Total War installment will be revisiting the best of that series. I absolutely loved Rome: Total War and was hooked on it for over a year straight. I especially loved the feature where you had to defeat someone to play them. I played almost every faction possible and re-bought it after a two year break and did it all over again. None of the other installments hooked me like Rome did (I still haven't payed all the way through Shogun II) and I haven't been this excited about an upcoming release in ages.

Sigh.... now the wait.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Salem: I Clicked A Lot

I finally got around to using my beta invite to Salem, the 'permadeath-crafting' MMO and boy did I have fun click the mouse a lot. Perhaps if I was female, that could be a euphemism for something more exciting, but as I'm not, it simply means I ended up with a sore finger. I played for a couple hours and there is a lot to like about this game......if you're waiting for the 'but', it's coming, rest-assured.

First and foremost it is a sandbox and that is a always a plus for me. I'm always excited about new sandbox games and I've been waiting for this one for a while. The game uses a study system to replace the traditional leveling system seen in most MMO's. It is interesting and feels a lot more organic than the usual 'you've leveled up now choose your skill'. You essentially get points by studying things you find or make and choose how to distribute them (wilderness skills, crafting, economy, crime, tracking, etc). As I do in most survival type sandbox games I focused first on fishing to get my food (you need food to fuel all actions). I had to study a few rocks, some toys I made, and use the points gained to increase my overall outdoorsy skills, and then the option for fishing appeared. After learning it I had to make a rod and some bait with items from the environment, catch the fish, and then cook it (on a fire I had to make and light).

The only thing more fun than fishing it watching someone else fish....virtually
Isn't it?

Christ I hope there aren't any Dingo's about....or anyone just out of prison.
It's all pretty standard stuff, really, if you've played any type of survival game (such as Wurm). The unique setting (New England is pretty unique, I suppose, at least in game-worlds anyway) and the 'bobble-head' toons set the game apart, but not as much as the much ballyhooed perma-death. I didn't engage in, or have any PVP forced on me in my brief time in Salem. I kind of wish I had, just to add some excitement to the experience and make this post a bit more interesting.

Where my experience with Salem went wrong (note my experience, not necessarily yours) is the endless amount of pointless clicking involved in playing. To be fair, I could have moved via WASD, but instead clicked the map to move..... a lot. Most of my time was spent walking around looking for resources to study/craft with. I have no idea how game designers can get around the endless grind they seem determined to incorporate into crafting games, but I certainly hope they work it out soon. The thought of having to wander endlessly looking for grass to pick is too much for me to bear. I've been through this with A Tale In The Desert- clicking the mouse does not equate to interesting game-play for me. I can imagine my rage at having invested 10,000 mouse clicks worth of play to be grief-killed by some idiot and then starting all over again again.

To be fair, my problem isn't with the crafting system, nor the study system. I do realize that in Salem you can eventually plant and harvest materials that you need for crafting. I only briefly explored the game. My problem was with the endless wandering around looking for resources at the start. Here is my introduction to this great game, one that I'm interested in, and already I'm bored. Wurm involved a lot of wandering but it looked better (using the unstable version), was more immersive (first person and all that), and  the sense of urgency (as you were starving) was more compelling. Watching my bobble-head from a top down view as she covered endless amount of land (I walked north of Boston for an hour of real time so over-population/stripping of resources doesn't factor in) wasn't immersive at all. In fairness the ground should be littered with grass. Why it comes only in pick-able clumps several screens apart is beyond me.

It is really frustrating and this key element- the grind- which game designers are using to keep us playing and paying for MMO's is driving me away from the genre as a whole. What is the alternative, though, in a skill-based survival MMO? How can you 'skill up' without grinding? How can developers make the game fun, and get paid, without using the grind as a hook? I really don't know- and that may make me a terrible hypocrite but then again, I'm not a designer. I'm a consumer. At the moment the indie-game scene is awash with innovative, fun, and accessible single player games while the MMO genre seems determined to churn out games designed to earn money through the free-to-play model instead of games designed to be played and enjoyed. I've said it before and I'll say it again: a game designed to get you to pay for it is not the same as a game designed for you to like enough to buy.

I'm not saying Salem is poorly designed, or only after your money. I have no idea how their free to play model will work. This is also beta, after all, and it is a small, indie game that likely will attract a very loyal fan-base. I'm going to do my best to give it some more of my precious, dwindling game time but, as I said, it's a big pond filled with lots of fish, er games.