Thursday, January 15, 2009

OK, Who Stole Those Six Hours

I was expecting to return from the holiday induced posting hiatus last week, and initially, that was exactly what I started to do.

My plan was to grab On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode Two from Greenhouse, and I was about to do just that, when I decided to take a quick look at the other games available through the service. One game in particular caught my eye: Spectromancer, a card based strategy game partly designed by Richard Garfield, creator of Magic: The Gathering. It seemed interesting, but was only available for Windows. So, I figured, I'd reboot into Windows, quickly check out the demo, then reboot back into Linux to pick up the game I'd initially planned to buy. An hour later, I purchased Spectromancer. Six hours later, I realized I should probably go to bed.

Now, collectible card games have always intrigued me, but I'm consistently put off by the investment required. You end up with a similar problem to microtransaction-based MMORPGs - whenever you lose a match, you can't be sure if it was your strategy that lost the match, or if it was just that your opponent had spent more money. Spectromancer ditches the collectible aspect entirely. The cards you use are the ones included with the game, because they're the only ones that exist. Playing through the campaign will grant you additional cards to use during the campaign, but those same cards are available to anyone who bought the game.

Spectromancer seems simple at first, and in a way it is: You and your opponent both have six slots in which to place cards, usually creatures or structures, which can do a wide variety of things, but usually attack the opposing slot each turn. If there is a creature in that slot, the creature will take damage, if the slot is empty your opponent will take the damage directly instead. The goal is to reduce your opponent's life points to zero. You also have spell cards, which are not placed in slots - they simply have an effect when used, such as healing your life points, hurting your opponent, or raising your stats. The game is simple enough to play that it doesn't have a tutorial, and doesn't need one, but underneath this simplicity lies a strategic depth that will gradually unfold the longer your play the game, and that's exactly what makes it so addictive.

Now the game isn't perfect: your deck is randomly drawn at the beginning of each match, so you'll occasionally find yourself in the middle of losing a match, thinking that you'd be doing much better if you just had a certain card. This is going to happen more often if your strategies often count on a single card or group of cards. The only way to avoid the aforementioned situation is to expect it, and get used to making due with what you have. Thus does add variety to the game, but I can see how it would turn certain people (especially those who enjoy deck building) off.

Spectromancer is only a 20 meg download, and I would definitely recommend trying it out. Unlike most of the games offered through Greenhouse, it's only available for Windows, and I couldn't get it to run using the copy of Crossover Games I acquired when they were giving it away a while ago. Still, if you have the means, I highly recommend giving the game a try, just make sure you've got the next few hours cleared.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Something Approximating Real Time: Savage 2 (Part Two)

As I promised in last week's post, this week's post is going to continue the theme introduced in said post. So the game remains Savage 2, and the format remains the same. And now, the thrilling conclusion...

2:30 P.M: Following the advice of a comment posted last week (thanks Tex), I've decided to forgo the tutorial, and jump straight online. Apparently the game needs to update itself first. Instead of Alt-Tabbing, I decide to exit the game to start writing this. Savage 2 doesn't like this, and calls me a pansy. Seriously. Nice touch.

2:45 P.M: OK, I'm in the game. I have no idea what to do, so I do what I always do: follow someone who looks like they know where they're going. I die quickly.

3:03 P.M: My first match has finished. We won, no thanks to me. I still really don't have any idea what I'm doing, especially since I was on the Beast team. In the first Savage I almost always went for Humans.

One thing I did notice is how nice the game looks. I'm actually surprised at how well it runs, given its prettiness and the fact that I'm running it on a laptop. Granted, I'm using a gaming laptop, but still. Anyway, I'm taking a quick break for lunch.

4:46 P.M: Back to the game. Tried to join another server, and the program decided to segfault. Awesome. Guess I'll try again.

5:24 P.M: That was epic, thanks in part to the fact that it was a 50 player game. My side (playing as Human this time) won, but everybody on the other team seemed to have a good time as well. This is exactly the experience I was looking for when I downloaded Savage 2.

Closing Thoughts: I guess that, in a way, I picked a good time to get into the game, since Savage 2 recently went Free-To-Play, more or less. You can upgrade your account for cash - something I plan to do, just to support these guys (well, that and out of guilt for never buying the original Savage).

There's no way in hell I plan to delete this game from my hard drive now, as I'm sure I'm going to be logging some serious hours. Savage 2 definitely gets a major recommendation from me. By the way, I've decided that I like the format of these recent posts. Don't expect to see it all the time, but do expect to see them again.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Something Approximating Real Time: Savage 2 (Part One)

So this week is going to be a little different than normal. And no, that difference isn't just that there's actually going to be a post this week. Instead of my usual format for posts, I'm going to try keeping a running commentary on the process of trying out a game. It's an experiment, so I'm not sure how it's going to work out. That's what experiments are about. Anyway, on to the show.

7:47 P.M: The game for this week is going to be Savage 2. I was a big fan of the original Savage (at least I was once I got around to trying it), and I've been meaning to try Savage 2 since it was released. Of course I'm downloading the Linux version - it's nice to see a 64 bit version available, since I'm using the 64 bit release of Ubuntu 8.10. The download (only 784MB?) is about 20% completed. It could be faster - right now I've got about 55 minutes to go.

9:05 P.M: OK, so I accidentally screwed up the download. Had to start again. 56 minutes to go. Yep. I'm starting to think that this experiment might be more trouble than I initially thought. Oh, download slowed down. Make that 58 minutes to go.

10:13 P.M: Download finished a few minutes ago. Commencing install. Installation was successful. Damn, that was quick.

10:15 P.M: OK, that's a pretty cool menu screen. The game launches at my desktop resolution (1680x1050) with settings at medium, more or less, some lower, some higher. Everything is running smooth and looking surprisingly pretty - I'll customize the settings later.

10:22 P.M: I'm a little into the tutorial portion, and right now I'm trying to get by using my laptop's touchpad. Obviously, this isn't working, but I don't feel like moving to my desk just yet. Let's see if I can get through the tutorial without a mouse.

10:32 P.M: OK, so I've spawned a Journeyman. How the hell do I get him to repair my damaged tower? Aren't tutorials supposed to tell me how to do things?

Alright, it's getting somewhat late, I haven't eaten dinner yet, and I have to get up extra early tomorrow for a meeting. Given my penchant for quitting, I'm surprised I made it this far. One thing is for sure: next week will be about Savage 2 again. Will if follow this new, experimental format? Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Or, you know, look at the title of this post and take a wild guess.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pause, Unpause

Okay folks, I know it's been a long absence, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Next week, Avert Your Eyes will return to its normal schedule. Yes, next week. Today is Thanksgiving and, like most of you, I've got Thanksgiving-y things (mainly drinking, eating and lounging around) to do.

So why the long absence? Why the sudden return? Well, lately my day-job has been keeping me busier and busier, so at the end of the day, I really didn't feel like sitting at my desk at home, even for something like gaming. I realized this was a problem, so I did what most of us would do: solve the problem by buying a gadget. In this case, a laptop. A laptop with better specs than my main rig.

So, from now on I'll be able to write A.Y.E. from the comfort of my living room couch, much like I'm doing now. For those of you who've found Thursdays just aren't the same without a little Avert Your Eyes, I'm sorry about being gone, but I'm glad to be back. For those of you who haven't been missing it, why are you reading this anyway?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

OIJ)(#QIOJ - aka: Random

...And we're back. This has been a crazy summer for me, and Avert Your Eyes has suffered as a result. Now that things are winding down, we should be back on track.

This week I decided to take a look at ROM CHECK FAIL, which is another of those mashup games that have been popping up lately. The game basically takes a mix of different classic games, and then randomly selects a backdrop, player character, enemies, and music from these games. So one minute you're Pac-Man in a Super Mario Brothers level finding a dot to eat so you can eat the ghosts, the next you're the ship from Space Invaders taking out asteroids from, well, Asteroids.

Now, when it works, it can be pretty damn fun. The problem is since everything is random, the situations aren't always as ideal as I described above. When it doesn't work out, you're playing as Mario on a Pac-Man level, trying to destroy the bricks from Breakout. How does that even work? Luckily, your only goal is survival. Even that becomes quite difficult, as sometimes everything will randomize and you'll just die immediately from both player character and enemy spawning in the same space. Unfortunately, this happens more often than it should.

ROM CHECK FAIL is still a blast to play, it's just too random for it's own good. The unachievable goals aren't really a problem, so if they can find a way to prevent the all-too-present instadeath, the play experience will be much better. Still, it's only a 6.6MB download, and system requirements are slim, so it's painless to install the game, even if playing it is not.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Yes, Another Apology

It seems I've been missing posts again. It's been a busy summer for me, and I just haven't really had time for much. Luckily things will be slowing down soon, so AYE should return either next week, or the week after. Hopefully your patience will hold out just a bit longer.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wait, Has That Been There The Whole Time?

If you've been reading Avert Your Eyes for a while, and maybe if you haven't, you might know that I once had quite a thing for Eternal Lands. Even recently, I've found myself going back to EL every now and then. I usually play for a few days, get bored, and go back to playing WoW - but still, I've been keeping up with EL for a few years now.

Updates come frequently enough. Some add things I like (eg., when they finally added auto-harvesting), some just add content mainly meant for higher level players that I never get to see, but usually the updates are nothing drastic. That is, until now. What I'm trying to say here is that the most recent EL update is a big deal.

For one, EL now uses your graphics card like it should: ie., It actually uses it. Player and monster models are now drawn using the graphics card instead of the CPU, meaning a hell of a lot less jerky movements. Reflections are now longer mirrored level geometry, meaning water now looks much, much better than it has in the past.

There are lots of other nice little improvements, but I'm glossing over them because I want to get to the major change: there is now a sky. There's a sky and you can see it. I'd imagine right now some of you are thinking "yeah, big deal", which simply shows you've never played EL. No longer is the camera locked in the top down perspective. If you take advantage of the limber, dexterous new camera and bring it down far enough, you will indeed see sky.

The world of Eternal Lands seems much different when you know there's a real honest-to-goodness sky up there, instead of a dark endless void. It feels more like a world and less like a series of maps strung together. It sounds like a simple, nearly useless change, and in some ways it is, but I can't stress enough how different it makes the game feel.

Oh yeah: also, there are bows and arrows. Haven't got a chance to mess around with them.