Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Eve Online: Still Full of Dicks

Now, in fairness, if my readership was mostly European I would have titled this: "Eve Online: Still Full of Cunts" but because the "C" word isn't acceptable on this side of the pond I went with 'dicks'. I figured there'd be enough people slighted by an article bashing their precious EVE that I didn't need to throw in an inflammatory word. Well, okay, it seems I did manage to get it in but then again I'm not huge in the EVE readership circles so who's going to read this and really care?

I suppose I should get the disclaimer out of the way as the cry of 'care-bear' always follows as the comeback to anyone speaking out against the game. Ready? Okay. I'm not a care-bear. I like PVP and I like ganking. I like the odd bit of griefing as well. In my brief time in EVE (8 months) I did a bit of low-sec solo-roaming, noob-ganking, ninja-salvaging, afk-miner bumping, can baiting, and corporate infiltration (though some bastard cleaned them out the day before I had planned my theft). I'm not exactly thin-skinned either having spent a good deal of time amongst truly anti-social individuals. I'm not talking about "lets' bump this afk-miner for lulz" anti-social either, but "let's shank this fucker in the shower because he looked at me cross-eyed when I stole his jello" type of anti-social. In fact,  I often find the antics of the staunchest EVE defenders, or the bigger personalities in the game, amusing. They're like little children who think they're all growed up...but I digress.

I have, over the last few months, been following the game through various blogs (Hardcore Casual, and The Ancient Gaming Noob mainly). I also read the whole scandal surrounding the comments made by 'The Mittani' and the debate on cyber-bullying that followed but through it all I remained silent. Silent because I'm not playing EVE anymore, and silent because people don't really engage in rational debate on the internet. We hardly do it in real life, never mind on a forum where you can stay anonymous and say whatever you like without the potential consequences that come when you engage in real-life social situations (like I'm doing now- see how easy it is).

I read The Mittani blog last night, and ironically enough while I was doing that I was afk mining, and while I was doing that, the alt of the guy who was mining next to me was bumping me. I know, it is rather funny, but it was the end of the night and this article was already on my mind so I couldn't help but think 'yup, the game is still full of dicks'. Now, of  course, while I afk mine I usually use my alt to scan down mission runners and steal their shit so point doubly proven I guess.

I really liked the post that I read discussing the recent 'nerfs' to some practices in the game (not written by Mittani himself). From what I read it seems that some activities in high-sec (where you can't openly attack people and the 'care-bears' congregate) are being discouraged. Things like suicide ganking mining ships and even my much-loved, ninja-salvaging. I liked this article not because it was well written (and it was) or that his point was passionately made (it was), no I liked it because it was, essentially, a child's rant about how the big bad company is not letting him do what he wants. It's even funnier because I don't think that Mittani himself bothers with that petty griefing bullshit anymore. I'd say he's too busy making an ass of himself in public settings by mocking mentally ill people to do any afk-miner bumping.

Essentially the author was saying that CCP (the makers of EVE) is trying to make is safer in the safe zone for people who don't want to be griefed, ganked, or other-wise bothered. He says this is against the spirit of EVE which allows anything to happen, but yet if that was the case then shouldn't some people be allowed to play free of these things? Ah, well, there really is no point getting into it. As I said, meaningful debate about this is difficult because of the nature of the internet, and the personality types of those who always defend these behaviors. You see, in prison, the guy who steals your stuff and beats you because you dare to complain isn't interested in debating why it's wrong. His mind is made up and he simply sees the world in a different way. Your cries of 'this is wrong' seem stupid to him. You are weak, and he is strong.

The funny thing is, though, that all these griefers and pain-in-the-bollocks type EVE players aren't tough. No, really, you're not. There's two things you should know. First I know you. I really and truly know you and how you think. I could probably guess your race, age and describe your personality fairly well. Second, I know tough guys. Real tough guys and you know what? You aren't one so while you're free to keep living the dream, just realize that some of us can see you for what you are.

The thing is, from what I understand, the grand aspects of EVE, the things that truly make it great like massive fleet battles, corporate intrigue and espionage, low-sec piracy, Worm Hole battles, and the like, won't be affected. The author's complaint, as I said, is that CCP wants to attract more players by making it safer for those who don't want to be bothered. A new post on that blog points out the popularity of Day Z and it's free-for all nature. The author uses this to 'prove' that people want a free-for-all and that secretly everyone wants to get griefed.

DayZ has blown the lid off of that particular box of misconception. With over a million current players, and tens of thousands more added each and every day, the DayZ mod (even in its ‘alpha test’ state) has proven that there is a hidden yearning from more than just internet spaceship geeks for a game that has no compunction in letting the other guy kick you when you’re down. It may even make the argument that every gamer out there secretly and subconsciously wants to play a game in which you are not rewarded for waggling your fingers in the right order, but instead find small rewards ultimately fulfilling for the effort, knowledge, and cognitive ability it took to achieve them.

I liked this bit a lot but only because it's funny. His point is almost well made but slightly flawed. Day Z has no 'care bear high sec' so everyone playing it knows what's up. No one is getting scammed, or griefed- just robbed and killed and this is what the game is about. People, especially now, playing Day Z know what's up, and they are, in fact, up for it. Some people playing EVE online just want to do their own thing and NOT get kicked when they are down. That's why they hang in high-sec.

In the end though, who am I to talk? I'm only pissing about on EVE because they allowed me to re-activate my accounts for two weeks free of charge. My emotional investment in the game is very limited, and while I do like the passions that it is evokes in people I find it's most reverent supporters slightly annoying and not-so-slightly full of shit. But hey, if you've got a problem with that then I suggest we fashion up a couple of shanks with whatever's on hand, and then we can meet up in the shower afterward to debate the issue. Oh, and don't forget to wrap it in a towel you fucking shank-noob!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Saturday Tune: Jeffrey Foucault

I met Jeffrey Foucault in a little Pub in Lismore, Ireland, on a Saturday night in 2005. I bought him a pint for which he thanked me, but in Ireland when someone says they'll buy you a pint, they mean 'I'll buy the first pint', so if you're reading this Jeffrey, you owe me a pint damnit!

I love this guys music and I find it sad, and shocking, that in a world where Lady-Fucking-Ga-Ga can get millions of hits on You Tube, someone with basic, genuine talent can go relatively unnoticed. That's not so say he's struggling, or unknown. He's released nine albums and toured the world so he's no newb. You can check out his website here. I think he can best be described as 'folk' but give him a listen and you can decide what label you like best. I estimate that I've listened to his Ghost Repeater album at least 500 times. I've owned it for years and currently it's one of the albums my baby likes to fall asleep to so it's getting a rather heavy rotation at the moment. Enjoy, and if you like what you hear, please support the artist.

Ghost Repeater by Gankalicious

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jagged Alliance Back In Action....You Almost Had Me At Jagged.

My first working title for this post was:

Jagged Alliance, Back in Action. Not As Bad As You've Heard.

But then I played the game some more and had to change it. There are a ton of reviews out there talking about why the new Jagged Alliance isn't very good. Many of them focus on how good Jagged Alliance 2 was, or the fact that the new offering wasn't turn based. I started out not liking this game based on those factors, and admit that I was biased by several of the reviews I read. I've sunk over 20 hours into the game, now, so here's my two cents added to the jar.

I loved Jagged Alliance 2. It is one of the very few games I have ever completed. Jagged Alliance 2 was not perfect. It was hard. Damn hard. It was also buggy and frustrating, but it was fun because turn-based was the in-thing at the time, and this game offered something new and challenging. The new Jagged Alliance is also hard. Damn hard. It is also buggy and frustrating. I seriously wonder if all these Jagged Alliance fans who are wishing it was more like JA2 remember that game because they are very similar indeed.

Jagged Alliance Back in action has several things working for it:

  1. It is a legendary title in that those who played it will be interested in trying it, and those who've only heard about how good the earlier one was will also be keen.
  2. It is the only game in town, literally, that allows you to play a squad-based tactical game in a modern setting. If I'm wrong, please let me know.
  3. It is hard which means you will have to think about your strategy.
  4. It looks good.
The game, however,  has been rightly criticized for several failings:

  1. It tries to walk the line between turn based and real time and doesn't succeed.
  2. It is hard and while this is usually a good thing most of the time you are losing due to game mechanics and not any failing on your part. 
  3. There is some really, really stupid game-play. Example: how can two enemies with axes rush five of my mercenaries with automatic weapons and kill three of them before dying? I call bullshit.
  4. The game has no heart. I do not feel connected to the mercs and there is no 'me' character. I could care less about them as individuals and if they die I'll hire someone else without a problem.
  5. No economic system. I can buy the merc then I seem to own him with no wages at all. That's a slave, not a mercenary.
  6. Non destructible environment. This is unforgivable in a modern, AAA release. This is actually a game-breaker for me. I have grenades. I have C4. I can't blow that wall? Get bent.

Squad based, tactical strategy games are few and far between which is why I gave this game a fair chance. After 20+ hours I don't think I'll be going back and I have no interest in the upcoming expansion. I'll wait for X-COM Enemy Unknown and hope for the best.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

World of Tanks Goes Airborne. Physics Preview

The World of Tanks physics test server is now live and I had a chance to jump on last night for some air-born fun. They've also re-vamped the graphics and they look really, really good. I've played on every public test server and this is the worst for lag so be warned if you decide to give it a try. Also note you don't have to 'register' for these tests.They take a snap-shot of accounts a week or so prior so as long as you had a WoT account then you can download the 2-gig patch and play.

EDIT: I've just seen that they have stopped the test and it "won't be re-enabled until further notice". Yay, we broke it!

So far I have been unable to get FRAPS to work in-game, so unfortunately there is no game-play video.....from me. I have managed to find one on You Tube, however, so I'll post that at the end.

I only played for about a half hour before the server went down for maintenance so these are just some initial thoughts.

You can not only drive your tank off of cliffs, and bridges, or better yet bully smaller tanks by knocking them about like bowling pins (the enemy, or your own team mates as I found out in my Chaffee) but you can drive through, or over, previously inaccessible terrain. It really will change the way the game is played as new areas open up in terms of access and strategic importance. My initial reaction to this, my 'gut feeling' is that even though the community in general seems excited, these changes will alter the game so significantly that it may no longer appeal to a great many of us.

It is a step forward in 'realism' even though the game is, at best, only semi-realistic. I welcome the ability to push smaller tanks around, or better yet, off a bridge, but I think the ability to drive anywhere is going to take the game in a 'run and gun' direction that is contrary to what WoT currently is. We have now, for better or worse, a slower-paced tactical game where positioning and a strategic knowledge of the map makes a big difference in game play. The new engine is going to change that dramatically and I'm not sure that patient, tactical play will be the way forward anymore. There will also be areas of the map inaccessible to larger tanks so there is nothing stopping smaller tanks from hiding away in un-reachable corners of the map just to be annoying. I am an eternal pessimist, however, so I could be wrong, but I did predict the T50-2 would be an over-powered pain-in-the-ass, and that the new game modes would fail as players wouldn't be able to learn to co-operate in the average random group so we shall see!

In any case, in terms of the game-play I saw a lot of T50-2's and AMX's diving off bridges (as they are supposed to in this test) and, after repairing their tracks, driving off. I am assuming the damage model will be adjusted to make this impossible in the live version but it is very disconcerting. Any tank falling from a suspended bridge to the ground should be inoperable and knocked out, even in a game which is only semi-realistic. Anything else is utter crap. I got pushed around by team mates in my Chaffee as now the slightest bump from one of the big boys sends me spinning off. They've also adjusted the sounds, and I find them quite tinny and annoying, but as I said, it looks spectacular. In any case take a look at the video I'm posting from Darque (with thanks). He dives off a cliff, as you'll see, fixes his tracks, and off he goes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gnomoria: That Golbin is Hard, He is

I'm planning on a series of Gnomoria posts when I can find the time and energy. I really don't know how anyone handles a baby by themselves. There are two of use here, full time, and we never seem to catch up on anything.

In any case, check out this Goblin raider who ran the gauntlet of doom to get to my Kingdom entrance. After walking through a ton of spike and blade traps (seen as the orange things to the right of the pop-up box) he was bleeding, missing a leg, and near death. Did he give up? Did he retreat? Hell no! That determined little bugger picked up his own leg and came at my guards.

That's one hell of a hard Goblin, boy. Must be from the Kingdom of East London.

You could say the Goblin's are my nemesis.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Summer of Indie: Project Zomboid

Zombie mania appears to be the current flavor of the month, or perhaps the flavor of the year. There are a ton of zombie apocalypse survival games afoot including the now-infamous Arma II mod Day Z (soon to be a stand-alone release), a very similar MMO version (coming late this year) called War Z, and The Walking Dead Series, among many, many others. It's getting to be a crowded market to be sure which makes me happy. I've been hooked on zombies since I first saw George Romero's Dawn of the Dead or maybe I'm simply hooked on looting shopping malls!

I've avoided playing Day Z, but I am following it through SideStrafe's video series. It appears to be, at this point in time, a simple grief-fest with player killing, and robbing being the dominant activity. The fact that zombies are afoot is a merely a formality. I've got nothing against griefing, or ganking, but there's something about the nature of it in this game that I just don't like. It seems, somehow, more personal, a bit sinister and 'un-gamelike'. It's people being mean for fun regardless of the goals and/or setting of the game. I listened to a few encounters (there is in-game voice communications) and some of them sound like real-life robberies. Sidestrafe pointed out that the developer made this mod as a social experiment to see how people would behave in a game with no goals other than survival. Being an eternal pessimist, the answer (kill everyone and take their stuff) doesn't come as a shock. I saw one video where a player was ganked by a group and then a few of them were playing around with his body which I found slightly disturbing. We all know that people who abuse animals, for fun, can often go on to commit crimes against people. What about virtual worlds and abuse of people within them?
Hmmm, I seem to be rambling....perhaps the topic of a future post, but in any case, enough of what I don't like and on to something I do like.

Project Zomboid is a top-down (isometric I think it's called), zombie-survival game with retro-graphics that assumes, from the start, that you will die. When, and how is up to you, but you will die. It's a zombie apocalypse and they will only increase in numbers. The power will fail, food will spoil, medicine will run out. You will get bored, depressed, anxious, frightened, and even lonely. And then you will die. Sound's pretty cheery!

The opening screen lets you know from the start....
....it's not going to turn out good for you.

The version of this game that I played didn't even have a save feature so they are pretty serious about the whole 'you won't live forever' thing. I believe the current build does have one, but I'm not 100% sure. A fed mods have already come out to allow you to farm and live outside town so you can continue on but not so in the vanilla game. You start off in town and spend your time rummaging through houses looking for food and supplies while trying not to get eaten.Your character will not only get hungry and thirsty, but will also have various emotions such as fear, panic, loneliness, and boredom. Items such as anti-depressants, pain killers, sleeping tablets, and books are scattered about to help you cope. Other survivors are running about as well for you to interact with.

There is a crafting element which includes building barricades, making bandages and fire-bombs, and cooking your food (it will spoil fast if you don't but once the power is lost your in trouble). You will have plenty of slow-moving zombies to bash with bats, hammers, and until the ammo runs out, shotguns. The game sort of revolves around the question of 'how long can you survive?' I saw a You Tube video of someone who lasted one game year and by then they had eaten all the food that was available on the map and then, of course, starved to death. I'm no where near that with my record being around 5 days.

It's only a matter of time.

 If you want to see what the game is about I recommend watching Hannah's Let's Play which I'll post here. All her videos are pretty good (I'm watching the Max Payne series one at the moment, and she is also doing a Walking Dead as each chapter comes out) and this one will give you a good idea if the game is for you. It is currently priced at $12 which gets you the game on release and access to all development builds. I played a pretty old build and even then it was very, very playable. The UI is a bit boorish, but it is something they are working on for the eventual Steam release under Project Greenlight. Updates are regular and the community is very involved with forum discussions, podcasts, and mods which you can access from their website.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Summer of Indie: Chivalry, Medieval Warfare

Thanks to the guys at Violent Gamer (who also turned me on to Gnomoria and keep tantalizing me with new games they review every week) I have taken a long look at Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. This game is currently under development, but is almost ready for release. The current Kickstarter, as I understand it, is going to be used for marketing the game rather than development per se. They have been working on it for over two years and it looks pretty damn awesome if you ask me. On top of it, the lead designer is Canadian so I can't help but get involved in this one. I've yet to determine what my 'donation' (which actually gets you the game so not so much a donation as a pre-order) will be. $25 gets you the game, $50 the game plus beta access, and $75 gets you four copies of the game, plus beta access for all of them.

The lads at Violent Gamer did a nice summary of the game and I'm also linking the developer videos, so I'll be brief: It's first person, player-vs-player medieval war where your play-style is determined by the weapon you choose to use. Plain and simple. My favorite quote from the developer is that if you choose to use close-range melee weapons you will have to get in there and "go berserker on people's faces". Nice. They also note that 'objective taking' will be more than raising a flag. You are a medieval army and will behave as such, damnit, so set about to the slaughter of those villagers immediately!

Here is the kickstarter video:

It's not an MMO, so once you buy it there are no more fees. Also very nice. Here is an earlier You Tube video they have done as well. I recomend you check this one out if you like, say, Mount and Blade, or are looking for something different in your FPS 'shooter' games. Plus they're Canadian so you know they will be nice guys ;)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fortuitous Friday: My Baby Has a Fat Head

My baby has a fat head. No, it's true, but to be fair, all of her is pretty fat. To be even more fair, she's supposed to be fat. That's the thing with newborns, the more horribly obese they look, apparently, the more healthy they are. Unless they are actually obese, of course, and then they aren't healthy at all. It's a fine line but we have been assured by medical professionals that, as a breast-fed baby, her level of fatness is quite normal.

'Normal' or not, she's got a massive head. I'm talking about a scientifically larger-than-average sized baby head here. This isn't some subjective decision I've made to give her an early complex and ensure my psychiatrist bills remain high (er) throughout her childhood. No, according to the lovely nurse who jabbed our baby with two needles, sending her into a three-day 'fussy' period (if you want to call purple-faced screaming coupled with a fever and an all-over-body rash 'fussy'), and then measured her, New Mouth To Feed's head is massive. She is in the 50th percentile for overall growth, making her normal as normal can be, but her head? Hang on, 'cause this suckers in the 95th percentile for size compared to baby's her age. This means, essentially, that 94.99% of all other baby's her age have smaller heads. Ay carumba!

This is just one of the many characteristics, both physical and emotional, that she has inherited from her father which is me, in case you're not following along, or rather, like me, find that hard to believe (and I mean that in an 'I'm too immature to have babies' kind of way, not in a 'I need a paternity test to prove this is my baby' kind of way). It's true, I've got a massive cranium, but it works on me. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not freakish or anything, and in fact I am quite handsome (no, it's true, my Mom always said so). My cranium is very, very bony. I have some 'non-metric traits' which make osteo-archaeologists everywhere drool with the thought of one day getting to examine my skeletal structure.

A 'non-metric' trait is something that isn't very common in the general population, and in my case refers to mandibular torri. This is, simply, extra bone growth in the mandible but in my case they are both lingual, and buccal (both sides of the mandible). Even with rare, non-metric traits I have to be different. It isn't anything major, really, but it does make tooth extractions extra difficult and I should know, having had NINE extractions in my life so far. The last was a back molar I lost while eating a donut in Dublin. Yea, it sounds stupid and unbelievable but it's true and it makes for a great story over pints....or donuts. Oh, and I'm not some rotten-toothed bastard either. My jaw is simply too small, as are many others in the general population, thanks to evolution. It seems we no longer need all these teeth to crush the mushy food we now maintain ourselves with in the modern world. Once we get back to chewing Woolly Mammoth on the open tundra I'm sure our jaw size will increase once again. Until then, prepare to lose your wisdom teeth like the rest of us.

So, right, back to Cranius Giganticus who, at the moment, is taking an afternoon nap. Thanks be to God for naps, let me tell you. There are times I almost shriek with joy when she finally drifts off, but then that would likely wake her up, and to be honest, I'm scared of her when she's cranky. I find it odd, and slightly surreal that she's developing a personality already, and unfortunately for all involved, it seems to be one very similar to my own. So there you have it. She's inherited my big head, my cranky personality, and my unwillingness to sleep. I remember when I was younger hating sleep. I actually used to resent it as I felt it was cutting into my 'me' time. Now I'm so grateful for an afternoon nap that I...hey, wait a minute, that's a great idea!

Happy Friday Everyone!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Summer of Indie: Xenonauts vs. UFO Alien Invasion: Part II...The Elephant in the Room

In my previous post I briefly brought UFO: Alien Invasion to your attention, but during my search for a turn-based, squad-focused, tactical game (and my walk down X-Com memory lane), I also came across Xenonauts. This indie-game was successful in exceeding it's $50,000 Kickstarter goal with $154,000 pledged, and why wouldn't it? X-Com was immensely popular and there are no shortage of people who want something like it, but fresher. I tried to go back to the original X-Com and found that I couldn't. The graphics are a bit dated and I have to admit I'm a bit of a graphic whore. I also dislike black and white movies simply because they're 'old' so that's the kind of shallow bugger you're dealing with here!

Xenonauts start screen.
That said I don't need AAA graphics and I can appreciate pixelated, or 'retro' graphics if the gameplay is good. The problem with X-Com, as I recall from Terror From The Deep, is that it was not only hard (which is okay) but it was tedious at times. I no longer have time for two-hour long missions in which I have to search literally every room on the map to find the last alien. So I looked to the future, or at least the present, to find something similar (but updated), and Xenonauts is definitely that. It is an 'interplanetary defense simulator' that pays homage to X-Com but lets put our cards on the table and just say it: this is a remake.

Sacrificial Lamb, errr...I mean Rookie Soldier.

The graphics are crisp, and clean, and they remind me of a 1960's comic book which I am assuming is intentional. The combat is fast and there is a handy right-click feature for selection what type of shot you want to take (snap, quick, and aimed options similar to X-Com). I only played the free tech demo so there weren't many maps to see, and to be fair, I didn't play for very long. The game plays out like X-Com with the player assuming control of Earth's defenses and having to research the alien's motives and  technology in order to succeed.

Research is similar to that of X-Com

Defend her with your lives!

Unlike UFO, the environment is completely destructible and that, as you can see from the screen shots below, includes the ability to blow up half your ship and a few of your men with a poorly aimed rocket-launcher!

Oooh, look, it's a bad guy, let's get him!

Someone didn't pay attention in Rocket Launcher class.

I like the mangled body on the ground with the equipment.

He finally got him in the end. Note I blew the building at the top open as well.

Your welcome!

I like indie games. I think a lot of future innovations in gaming will come from the indie sector so I support them when I can. Unfortunately I think a lot of that innovation will come when the AAA developers take indie ideas and run with them. Sometimes you simply can't beat a big budget and that brings us to the Elephant in the Room: XCom Enemy Unknown. If you're an X-Com fan and you aren't aware that this is launching on October 9, 2012 then there's no hope for you..... Digital pre-orders are available from Amazon and if you're a 'leave the house' type of person some other places as well.

When I first saw the trailer for this I couldn't help but think 'Christ the lads at Xenonauts have bad timing.' What are the chances that as you are trying to get out an X-Com re-make, the X-Com series decides to launch a similar AAA title? That's some bad luck, or perhaps not depending on who came up with the idea first.

I want to support indie titles, but indie games are, well, 'indie' and I have a problem going over $15 to support them. Kickstarter/alpha games are simply a promise that the game will come. It's not finished and, lets face it, may never actually get made. AAA titles with pre-orders and release dates on the other hand will get released no matter what happens.

I love the idea of being in at the start of a new game and helping a small business/developer succeed but the whole 'kickstarter' thing is getting to be a competitive market and this is where I think Xenonauts falls down. The $20 price tag to support the game and get your hands on the alpha is a bit steep as far as I'm concerned and I really do hate saying that, but it's true. At some point you, as a business, have to look around and think about what's happening in the market. Is $20 too much to ask for your hard work? No, it's not, but is it too much to ask for an updated alpha version of an old game you can buy for $5 when the AAA title is on offer for $60? For me it came down to the fact I was really excited by the look of the new X-Com and decided to save that $20 to put toward the pre-order. Bad luck for the lads at Xenonauts I'm afraid. The game looks good but there is too much competition in the form of the old X-Com's, the totally free UFO: Alien Invasion, and the upcoming X-Com Enemy Unknown for me to give it serious consideration.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Summer of Indie: UFO Alien Invasion vs. Xenonauts Part I

I was jonesing for some squad-based tactical game-play several months ago while at the same time reminiscing about the X-Com series and so, after doing some quick Google searches, came across UFO Alien Invasion. This game is totally free, and is maintained and updated by volunteers (from what I can make out). That's right, there is no money being made by anyone on this nor will there. It isn't 'free to play', it is actually free. It is a labor of love- a dedication, if you will, to the memory of the fun had playing the original X-Com. The most recent update (as of this writing), in case you think these volunteers are lazy buggers, was July, 2012.

Did I mention it's free to download and play? Good, now lets move on. Note that all the screenshots that follow are taken from the UFO website because, unlike them, I'm a lazy bugger. The game is in English despite some German in the screen-shots.

I can't approach this brief review from any angle other than someone who loved the original X-Com and who enjoys tactical squad-based games. If you're not a fan of the original X-Com (and why the hell aren't you), will this still be a good tactical game for you? I think so, and I can happily offer you a 100% money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied (see 'free', above). If you've played X-Com, or are aware of what it was about, then UFO's game-play will not be much of a mystery. You are in charge of defending earth and must build bases, ships, and weapons to defend against the alien invasion. You will also be researching whey those pesky little buggers are here, and how we can use their technology against them. You will be equipping and controlling an 8-person squad in turn-based combat across a variety of missions and maps.

The graphics won't blow you away but they are an upgrade from the now-dated original X-Com series. The only drawback to game-play is the lack of a destructible environment. One of my favorite tactics in X-Com Terror From The Deep was to have two UFO entry teams. One would go in the front door, and one would blow a large hole in the back and go in that way. It may seem minor but I find it to be very limiting in a tactical game (and one of the reasons Jagged Alliance Back in Action eventually annoyed me).

In the end though, free is free, and (regardless of the lack of cost) this is a good game. It pays homage to a much-loved series and it does it well. I played it quite a lot (20+ hours), and it filled my desire for both an X-Com, and a squad-based tactical game. It is a good community effort and I recommend you check it out.

In the next part I will be looking at another self-professed homage to X-Com, the indie offering (still in Alpha) Xenonauts and asking if it can offer anything that UFO: Alien Invasion does not and most importantly, is it worth the kick-starter cost?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Quoting You! Babies vs. Gaming

From Charlie Brooker, another older first time gaming father. I know, I know, 40 isn't old but the world seems to think its a bit late to be having babies....

I used to play vertical-scrolling shoot-em-ups in which a blizzard of angry pixels swirled around the screen like a synchronised galaxy impersonating a flock of starlings, accompanied by a melodic soundtrack of pops and whistles apparently performed by an orchestra of frenzied Bop-It machines. But at least then you could press pause. Now I find it hard to cope with seeing a banner ad slowly fading from red to green while the The One Show's on in the background, which is why over the past few weeks I've ratcheted down my engagement with anything not made of wood. There's a baby to attend to, and his old man needs a lie down.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Saints Row The Third. Holy Crap I Finished It!

I have finished Saints Row The Third and let me tell you, no one is more surprised than I. It's been a very, very long time since any game has managed to hold my attention long enough for me to complete. The last story based game I completed was the Guild Wars Nightfall campaign in about 2007, or if you want to exclude MMO's then it would have been Hitman: Blood Money in 2006.

The Saints Row campaign was good fun and I'm looking forward to messing about in the sandbox until the game loses it's luster, or something more compelling comes along. The new X-com is due in a couple of months (and Terror from the Deep is another one that I have finished) but I will have to wait until the end of December at the earliest for the new Hitman. Perhaps I'll check out some of the downloadable content for Saints Row, but then again there are sooo many games in my computer awaiting my attention. Ah well, for now, I'll enjoy the completion! Any recommendations on the downloadable content would be welcome.

It's not often I get to see the end credits of any game.

Bless me Father for I am about to sin.

Ahem, gratuitous naked chicks wrestling picture.

Eventually I plan on buying her clothes...maybe.

Imagine my joy when I found out you can beat the crap out of everyone in your own cribs with no repercussions.

And my collection of police vehicles grows... muhahahahaha!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Saints Row The Third Pictorial

I'm at a loss about what to post for my Saints Row The Third play that won't have been covered elsewhere since I'm late to the party. A review seems silly so I've decided to stick with picture-only posts! I'm currently 49% complete and may, just may, try and finish this one but I do keep getting distracted which is the point of the game I think. I'm currently collecting police vehicles. Love that siren!

Appeasing my legion of fans is never easy. I of course beat them to death following the photo shoot.

First things first. Time to start a collection of police vehicles starting with the cruiser.

Then the undercover.

And of course a SWAT armored car always comes in handy.  
I think this picture is self-explanatory.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

World of Tanks: The Matchmaker Won't Save You Because It's You That Sucks

I finally got a chance to jump in and play a dozen or so matches in World of Tanks over the last week since the new patch hit. This update sees the most dramatic changes to game balance since....well, since ever. It's been over a year since WoT launched officially and since day one (or day -60 if you count beta) the punters have been clamoring for changes to the match maker. "We can't compete", they cried, "against tanks three-four tiers higher, we want it to BE MOAR FAIR".

Well your day has come my whinging friends and let me be the first to tell you (and this may be both a shock, and hurt your pride somewhat) that the improved matchmaker isn't going to make you any better. In fact, you still suck. No, it's true. I played a few matches with you over the last week (yes, it was you, I assure you) and you still don't work with your teammates, you still don't know the maps very well, you still don't know what role your tank is supposed to play, and heaven forbid we get an assault mode, you still don't know how to play it.

The problem with the matchmaker, the only problem, was with the tank match-ups at the top level. It didn't really matter if you were put into a tier IX battle with your trusty tier V tank. You know why? Because there were other tier V tanks in that match as well. You weren't supposed to be able to do anything to that bloody IS4 that was on the top of the list. It wasn't your assigned role. Don't even get me started on the dedicated scouts crying that they were put into a high tier match. Learn your freaking role or change tanks please.

So, yes, when the matchmaker continually put, say the Tier IX medium E50 on the top of your team while the opposition had only Tier IX heavies, that was a problem. I understand the frustration of being 'on the bottom' of the list, tier-wise, but being more evenly matched isn't actually going to make you better because now you'll just get killed by better players who are in similar, or just slightly higher-tiered tanks to you. In fact it may be slightly worse because whose going to kill them for you? The only thing that's going to change is the excuse that the 'average' player uses for why they got killed by some HAXOR in the same tier tank as them.

Don't believe me? Well, each to their own, but I run the XVM mod which highlights the 'below average' players in red and no matter what tier they are, what the matchmaker spread is, or if they are on the top or bottom, they still play bad, die first, and leave the rest of us green-and-above colored players to pick up the pieces, or not as the case may be.

Oh, and while I'm ranting, for the last bloody time, new tanks does not equal new content. Stop letting them fool you into thinking they are adding content. It's the equivalent of a casino adding a new slot machine with green apple colored fruit instead of red. There. I said it. That is all. Resume your regular gaming program.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Addicted To Gaming

Hi, my name is Gankalicious and I'm addicted to games. No, really. I think I may have a problem. No, not really, but it is a nice way to introduce this post so I ran with it. I do, however, play a lot of games. It's what I do, hence the blog. As I am home currently with New Mouth to Feed I am averaging around 4-10 hours of gaming per day. Yea, I said it was what I do, and I wasn't kidding!

You would think with all that time I'd eventually manage to finish one or two (or perhaps ten) of the games I currently have on the go. As a fan of sandbox gaming there are a lot of games that never finish (Gnomoria, Cities XL) but I do have a few titles that could be completed.... if I could stay on track (see last weeks post about that particular problem). I do seem to have a problem staying with any one game which leads me to believe I may be addicted to new things, rather than games. There are times when I play a game just long enough to find out that I like it, or that I am good at it, and then move on. It's ridiculous really.

With that in mind I've abandoned all the games I have started recently and finally, finally double-clicked the Skyrim icon which has been so very, very lonely for so very, very long. I may be the last person who is interested in fantasy games to finally try this one. I played Daggerfall to death when it was first released but haven't touched the series since then. I look back on the 'interested in fantasy games' statement and realize I have to clarify. I don't actually know if I am interested in fantasy role playing anymore. There was a time when Fantasy was all I'd read and featured heavily in the games I played. In the last 10 years that interest has faded and Skyrim is the first Fantasy role-playing game I've played in that time.

I no longer read Fantasy fiction either. I think I got burned out, and to be fair, they keep telling the same bloody story over, and over, and over again. It's a bit sickening really. What's that, I'm a poor peasant whose village is overrun only to find I'm actually a hero, or the long-lost second cousin of the current King? It's boring, quite frankly, and in a genre in which ANYTHING should be possible (hence 'fantasy') I found it has become quite generic and predictable with a few notable exceptions. Case in point is the Game of Thrones books (now an HBO series) which are, in the end, like everything else that has come before it (or will follow). By the time I'd finished the third book I wanted to reach in and kill many of the characters who hadn't yet died. A high body-count is the series's saving grace as had half of those whiny bastards lived I'd not have made it past half way through the second book.

Realistically I'm never going to get anywhere near finishing Skyrim. Instead of playing it like I should, like someone who cares about what happens, I may go the opposite way for some fun and steal and kill until someone finally puts me in jail, or kills me. If that's possible, which I don't think is. In one of my first acts I went into the local inn and started a whole-sale slaughter. I kept getting killed by the Tavern-woman (she's nasty with that knife) only to find myself 're-born' at the front door like nothing every happened.......... Maybe I have to try harder to get arrested or killed, or maybe this game, like the genre itself, is afraid to take any chances and offer the reader/player anything new or unexpected. Every time I start killing the locals gathered there I hear some-one yell 'Someone should do something' and I agree. Someone should make some bloody fantasy that's interesting. It would certainly save me from having to watch Spartacus for my late-night entertainment.

Oh yes, and sorry for the week-long break. Family, real life, new baby, blah, blah, blah. Back on track now (I hope).