Why I Love Steam

9 08 2009

Every week, I make it a habit to check the Steam weekend deals. They have been good (Stalker for $4.99) to gooder (Dawn of War 2 for $24.99). This weekend, they happened to feature a whopping 10 indie games for $29.99, or 5 of those for $19.99. I was intrigued, especially when I saw the game list:

  • Audiosurf
  • Blueberry Garden
  • Braid
  • Crayon Physics Deluxe
  • Darwinia
  • Everyday Shooter
  • Gish
  • Mr. Robot
  • The Path
  • World of Goo

Wow. Even though I already have World of Goo and Audiosurf, I felt like I needed this. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Braid, to see what all the hubub was about. Also, after I looked over the list, The Path is very interesting. I encourage everyone to support indie PC gaming and get this!

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Battlefield Heroes Woes

4 08 2009

I was thrilled a few months back when I got into the, as it will be known from here on out, BF:H closed beta. I had this whole big write up I wanted to do on it, along with Quake Live. The first time I logged in, it was fantastic, the tutorial was fun, I liked the mechanics and everything. I go to start a game, and I get this:

Errord

Error'd

Ok, no big deal. It’s a beta right? They could be fixing the servers, or updating something, right? Maybe it’s a client issue? For at least two months of straight trying once every few days, on two completely different computers, and in two different houses (3 hours away!) I get the same problem.

Ugh!





MMMORPG

14 06 2009

Here’s what bugs me a lot on the iPhone. There are tons of different mmos that don’t have any compelling reason to be played whatsoever. I played a vampire one, an undead one, a mafia one and a racing one. They all seem to think that what people really like about mmos is the grind. What they then did is took away any social aspect of mmos and any reason to keep going, there is no “end game” at least not one that is defined and compelling in any way. So what you’re left with is an almost satirical reduction of the genre, every action reduced to a click of a box.
If you ask anybody that plays an mmo like WoW or Eve Online, the reason they subscribe to this game month after month is because of the social factor. That could be chat, guilds, groups raids, anything at all. I started playing WoW because my friends all play and it’s much easier to keep in touch. What keeps me playing is that I have something to aspire to be. And it’s not that I wanted to thwack more things, it’s that i progressed across the world with a purpose, whether that was taking out Edwin VanCleese in the Deadmines, trying to take out Illidan’s henchmen in the path to rid outland of his evil or storm Northrend to kill Arthas once and for all. There was not one point in the game that I didn’t feel like I was doing something that mattered.
Hell, I played EQ back in the day, before MMOs were good, and even though there was no obvious “point” i wasted days of my life taking a boat across the world just to see a new city and walk around it. That’s what EverQuest did right, they didn’t want maps published so you could get this feeling that you are discovering this world. They nailed that part because a city didn’t show up on any map, you didn’t know there was a Wood Elf settlement above you, and I remember finding it early on and just looking up at these platforms full of life and being amazed, i’d never felt this before.
It’s well-known that EQ was broken in many ways, but this is why it got big, and why people remember it. MMOs are supposed to give a feeling that the player occupies a world with other people in it.
The iPhone brought people the possibility to be on the internet everywhere people wanted it. The important stuff, not just email and crappy browsers that blackberry gave us. We can finally be on the bus, at a movie, in a church pew, or an Applebee’s restroom socially networking with our friends or shopping. Also looking at pornography.
The mobile game space could be changed too. What if there were thinned out clients for WoW, that could let you just chat or flag items at the auction house. Or maybe games like Lineage or UO could be re-jiggered to work on the device and supported by ads (bring me 5 bags of new tacos at midnight flavor doritos, your reward shall be a jubilee of flavor! Go forth, noble adventurer!) or people paying a dollar to gain a level or get a sombrero to show off to the bitches.
My nerd boner was throbbing, and nothing of the sort was even announced yet. I was sure that someone would do something with this.
What do we get instead? Games like the aforementioned MMOs where as a [mafioso, vampire, werewolf, zombie, pirate or race car] you have to [rob, bite villagers, storm castles, sodomize or race other cars] to get more [guns, weapons, pawns, acessories or parts] all in an interface like:
Storm castle
>click<
You get gold!
Then you have the joy of waiting for four hours to refill your action points! Woo! You can actually pay money to refill said action points so you can have more fun right away.
He worst part is, people want this! There are tons of downloads, and i'm sure everyone with an iPhone either is playing or has played some variant of this. You might even like them and think i'm nitpicky or annoying. The point is, the iphone can handle a lightweight mmo, maybe something with a text-based hub world and instanced dungeon crawling, like Diablo. Maybe the fate of flagship studios' Mythos could be in this new market. It would be nice.





Quickie: Divine Divinity

3 05 2009

I bought Divine Divinity from Target for $2.49. It was released in 2002, the game is an action-rpg with actual role playing when you’re not fighting (dialog and what not). It has been one of Target’s “budget” games for a while. Budget is quoted because of the stigma of being associated with titles like Prison Tycoon and countless diner dash knockoffs, however on this same rack you can find Civilization 3, Railroad Tycoon 2 and Galactic Civilization II: Dread Lords. It’s really not a bad place to spend a few bucks sometimes. Anyway, I live in a college town, so people don’t have the time to play video games, myself included, and the rest are … characters that wouldn’t want to play Divine Divinity. There were almost about 4 copies there for $2.49. I snatched it right up for that price, I’ve spent more on dysentery from Steak ‘n Shake.

Flaming rectum

Flaming rectum

I was excited, although felt the wahjah from taking a game with cover that could be mild biblical porn (rule 34) to the register. The baby food in the other hand might have helped, or exponentially worsened the situation, hard to tell looking back.

cue the let there be... jokes

Let there be side boob!

I installed it, got a no-cd fix and just started playing tonight. The game gives you three classes: warrior, wizard and rogue, in male and female flavors. Typical. I ended up choosing a female thief (rogue) because I felt sexy. Then I walked the character around for three seconds. Lowe and behold:

Practical

The front of the damn thing looked ridiculous enough, with every fantasy cliche being fulfilled, heaving cleavage and swimsuit cut chest armor, and yet gauntlets and knee-highs for armor value. Then I saw the back:

Yet shiny

Seriously? Fitting that I am literally spelunking for the screen shot. I mean the fiancee seeing the box art was bad enough, but got forbid she actually sees this. The game isn’t bad though, at least I’m enjoying the first hour I spent with it. The big complaint I have is your vision is limited to a circle the equivalent of 7 or 8 feet around your character, the rest concealed with the fog of war. It’s a real shame, the world actually looks really nice, the graphics aren’t as dated as I would have thought, the 2d style with 3d characters and details looks stylized rather than limited. I can see myself sinking quite a bit more time into it, at least until Good Old Games puts Baldur’s Gate up, at which point I might get drawn away for a while. One other complaint? These catacombs I was in, that may or may not be an accessory to demonic activities, presumably ruled by a maleficent ruler, has laying around, among corpses strewn about like garland in Macy’s on Christmas and spider webs that would make Jeff Daniels uneasy, the hell fiends thought ahead to lock their barrel. Singular. There is one locked barrel. The others are unlocked.

Oh, I see the lock now.

Oh, I see the lock now.

I saw this barrel twice. I just stabbed the barrel in the middle and it exploded, revealing it’s hidden gold to me. Nullifying the one advantage you might have to locking a barrel. Other locked things have you go through a manner of unlocking them: key or pick. I can stab open a locked barrel but not a door made from rotted wood that’s much less dense? I can’t show the blacksmith my heaving breasts and have him open the door? Dragon Age, how about we fix a few of those problems. Maybe even let me take off the steel thong once my dagger breaks and use it as a rudimentary Bat’Leth. I’ll settle for characters that resemble the average people they are portraying, not LA strippers or professional baseball players.

A Rod

Also: bulge

Also, if anybody knows a club that has dancers wearing metal thongs, please post it in the comments.





Games of Yore: Megaman Legends

14 03 2009

Welcome to the first installment of my new ongoing series: Games of Yore. What I want to do with this is look back at the games I played a ton when I was really young, maybe too young to know better. I know I endured some pretty bad games simply because I was broke, and made myself like them. The thing is, I’m not sure if these games were bad or not, I’d rather not tarnish my fond memories. There were the good ones too, I played Warcraft 2 and Descent and Doom and Commander Keen and Sonic the Hedgehog and at least two others. I want to look back at the games that kept me indoors on those summer days, let me develop this mole-person like aversion to the sun and sickly build. These are the games that, for some reason, stuck with me years later, and sometimes taught me a thing or two.

my house

my house

Anyway, the first game is Megaman Legends. I had a friend Mike who was obsessed with it, I went to my local family owned video rental place next to Eagle foods. We started going there after some family friends told us they had sega games for $2 a week. I spent great times with Clay Fighter and NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. Boom shaka laka. Good times. I graduated to PS1 later when the family sold the house for scrap (above). I’ll always remember it, although not by name, for it’s Bambi scene and Final Fantasy 7 poster hanging in the window, Thumper fading away with careless window cleaning of the staff. Where was I? Oh yeah, I rented Megaman Legends one day. I never had a NES or SNES, and I missed all the classic MM games until years later when I masochistically played them while choking myself. It was a dark time. I enjoyed the X series because the ZSNES emulator lets you save your state, so you don’t have to go back to the beginning of the level when you die. There is nothing wrong with ROMS. MML was my first prolonged experience with Megaman, besides the cartoon I saw a few times. That said, this isn’t weird to me at all, considering he’s a toddler that can destroy terminators with his arm-gun:

robot killer

robot killer

Despite my lack of familiarity, I still found it a bit weird that a treasure-hunter/miner would have an arm and a gun, instead of two arms. Apparently, mining in this world is somewhere between the soul-sucking bleakness trap of October Sky and the carefree whimsy of Zoolander.

ill-advised picture

ill-advised whimsy

The game has you looking for treasure, then something happens and suddenly there are a ton of robots that need to be taken down, MegaMan-style. There are also some kind of pirates, which might also have been robots. Also there are Lego people and some woman in a giant mecha suit.

my house had a lot of asbestos

my house had a lot of asbestos

What the hell? I’ll be honest here, my memories of this game include walking a big gray maze looking for some kind of keys, you know, for the stones that were locked, and kicking a can behind a food court shop in a mall to get money to upgrade my gun-arm. The real reason I remember this game was a pretty bad ass-scene where the town square was under attack and there were big ground robots beating on everything, and flying robots shooting on everything and smaller robots shooting other stuff too. This was the first time, in a video game, I was faced with an encounter that actually required me to think about the order of how I do things. I failed countless times trying to shoot the ground units first, only to get killed by the air robots. After some tries, I realized that by quickly dodging and constantly strafing on the ground, taking out the air units first would make the ground units a piece of cake. The aforementioned smaller robots might not have actually existed.

This experience always stuck with me, I feel it matured me quite a bit as a gamer. I learned that sometimes, it’s best to push pause and consider what’s going on, instead of running around pretending to know.





Quickie: Watchmen: The End is Nigh

12 03 2009

I first heard of this game through the second-to-final issue of EGM. I read the article, subdued my nerd boner, and really considered it.

Pictured: Liberals

Watchmen is not about superheroes. It’s a human drama driven by some complex characters in an eerie world. The game being a beat-em-up seemed to turn our beloved Watchmen into something it’s not, which i disliked. I’m sure every true comic fan had this reaction.

I walked away from the article and thought about it. Watchmen was written after the fact. The protagonists did kick a lot of ass, and just because we didn’t see it in the comic, didn’t mean it never happen. My overreaction might have been a bit unfounded, and I downloaded the demo to give it a try.

It starts off with a comic-y intro, which reminds us that Dave Gibbons is not to be imitated. The drawings felt forced, like fan drawings sent to Wizard. The saving grace is the voices, they sound really close to (or perhaps are?) the movie actors, which is nice.  Once this scene is finished, the in-game stuff was actually really good. It captured the full feeling of the movie without being too taxing on my system. The animations were really good, from Nite Owl’s prone stance to Rorschach walking with his hands in his pockets and his head tilted down when not fighting.

The combat is taken straight from the movie, even certain finishing animations slow down, change camera angles and explode blood on impact. The game has you “finding” moves for each character, however, an annoying way to handle it and force repetition. Licensed games historically suck because we never feel like we’re controlling the characters we watched (or read about), their abilities are severely gimped, and things that shouldn’t be a problem to the real character cripple us (Superman 64?). Watchmen doesn’t have this. The characters kick ass in the way they should, easily beating on 5 or 6 guys at a time with little to no damage, but not in the sense that it’s particularly easy to do so. I had great fun with it.

Will I buy it, having played the demo? I’m not sure. The game gives me the same vibe as the Penny Arcade game did: something i’m sure I would have fun with, but can’t convince myself to spend $20 on it. I’m not sure why, I get the feeling that I won’t come back to it after a sitting and that it’s very short. Also, the game has very antiquated mechanics, not only with “finding” moves, but a prison full of doors that have advanced technology that can detect if all the prisoners are knocked out before opening. This is the same prison that is erupting in a riot because the prisoners all got out of their cells. Protip: use the shower room doors instead of steel bars next time, guys.





Faith in Numbers

11 02 2009

I found this story  on the Shawn Elliott twitter feed and thought it was worth talking about. The fine people of PSX extreme thought that Edge’s review of Killzone 2 was an abomination.  I don’t think the article is worth a click, so i’ll post a few choice quotes then address the bigger situation.

Killzone 2 got a 7…and as a frame of reference, Let’s Tap for the Wii got an 8

But this is assigning a numerical value to a game that basically says, “it’s good, but there are better titles out there for your money.” This…is…a…lie.

if you’re scoring on a scale of 1 – 10, there’s no way on earth KZ2 gets a 7 in direct comparison to the other products on store shelves.

 

Helghast? More like Stupid-ghast, whos with me?

Who-ghast?

 

The author here saw the value of 7 on Edge and flipped the fuck out.  His rant accuses Edge of deliberately lying to the consumer simply because they think they’re better than everyone, which Edge is not allowed to do to.

Their own review of the game masturbates over the graphics and the audio (scoring an impressive 9.6 and 9.7, while the nebulous gameplay got a 9.8 ) and how the game is crafted so well that you forget you are playing a video game. The immersion is superb, and the A.I. is better than those stupid other games, you know those games? Those games that have the A.I. that’s completely dumb? Or the ones where it’s too hard? Yeah that game, Killzone 2 is better. The reviewer does everything short of using the trifecta of “orders of magnitude”, “paradigm shifting” and “pushing the envelope”.

Edge actually agrees with the PSX review about the game’s technology being amazing, with intelligent A.I. and fun multiplayer. The difference is that Edge says the story is completely derivative and too safe to the point of being boring.  Ben Dutka never once tries to defend this, he needs everyone to know that Killzone 2 is the greatest thing you can spend your money on, seriously.  The focus is entirely on the score here, because a 7 means that it is more good, having more better game than a 6 or less, but should immediately be passed on for an 8 or higher. Edge actually uses this to manipulate it’s loyal readers (which are responsible for their paychecks) by giving a stupid game for the Wii a point higher, so when Joe Whateverthefuck buys Let’s Tap instead, Edge will collectively laugh at how stupid he is. Oh the fun.

The bigger issue is that the Internet has taught us that information can be achieved instantly, and once we have this review in front of us, we need to instantly read how good it is instead of reading all those words, so we look at the number. The number is a grade, which we have been exposed to for years in school. In there, a B in gym and a B in physics are weighed the same, not only with GPA but in our minds, parents demanded a B or C average, regardless of the individual difficulties.  There have been times when i got a C in a class and was thrilled, because that C took 20 hours a week of homework and studying, and i learned a lot, and classes I’ve gotten an A in only taught me how to fake the teacher into thinking i actually cared about Asian philosophy.

Similarly, I spent a good two weeks of my life STRAIGHT playing Spider-Man 2 (the movie tie-in) for the PS2, even though it was a C game, at best. Most of that time was spent with my brother, taking turns with the controller, watching the TV trying to make a particularly cool line between some buildings, or get the best free fall length off the empire state building, or even just hitting all the buoys around Manhattan. The game was the definition of repetitive, with bad random elements and a lame story, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun.

Bad movies can be a lot of fun too, my fiancee and I watched Freddy vs Jason more times than i care to mention because it’s so cheesy and horrible that it never stops being funny. Is it a good movie because of this? Not by any traditional measure, but what does “good” mean then? Should I not have had fun with the movie? Should I have perpetually scoffed at it? Is a movie’s worth a combination of story and execution, or is it a measure of how much enjoyment you got out of the experience? All entertainment has the same arguments, and ultimately, there is no “right” way to declare goodness of an item. This is a stark contrast to grades in math class, where an equation has one answer and if you fail to find the answer, you get the problem wrong.  One student’s grade of 87% means he did better than the 74% student, but not as good as the 95% student. Entertainment cannot be looked at this way, is Killzone 2 better than Let’s Tap? Our life experiences have taught us that, if one is assigned a higher number, then it should be better.  Does this mean that all game-buying habits should start with 10-games, then 9, then 8, forcing us to by Killzone 2 after Let’s Tap, which is after Gears of War, which is after Grand Theft Auto 4?

It’s always been ridiculous to me that games were rated on absolute scales, every game I have ever bought has been because of the content of that particular recommendation, whether it’s magazines or a friend. It’s naive to think people are spending $60 on a game based only on a number on some site. Reviewers are not a shining beacon of trust telling us how to spend our money, they merely tell us their experiences about the game, and we decide if we want to spend our money to experience the same thing. They are not telling us how to spend our money, that is for us to decide.