Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Sequel Will Be Called: UniverseKnight

This week, you get a bit of a break from the deluge of Anarchy Online related posts. That break comes in the form of GalaxyMage, another entry into the ever-growing lineup of Open Source strategy games, but this one's got a twist. GalaxyMage takes the form of a Strategy RPG (although the GM team seems to prefer the term "tactical RPG"), much like Final Fantasy Tactics and mostly everything Nippon Ichi has ever done.

It's no surprise that I downloaded GalaxyMage the minute, no the second, no the very millisecond I saw it pop up on the Tome. Chances are, between the Playstation and GBA versions of Final Fantasy Tactics, I've spent more time playing those games than I have breathing. Really, this is the kind of project I've been waiting for someone to start (and have thought about starting myself) for years. I would have found myself quite inconsolable if, after all these years spent twitching in anticipation, the game was a turd.

Luckily, it's not. GalaxyMage is still in a very early state - the sprite graphics have been taken from Wesnoth and the maps aren't anything that's going to knock you out of your chair - but, it's completely playable. Not that half-assed "Well, it's playable online if you know your friend's IP address" crap either, its got AI. This is a far cry from most of GalaxyMage's Open Source brethren, and earns the game a huge amount of brownie points in my book.

If you've ever played Final Fantasy Tactics, you'll be able to play the game as soon as you find out what key does what. The battle system is nearly identical, of course with the names of skills and such things changed. There seems to be, as far as I can tell, no character advancement system in the game at this point in time, but I'm sure that one is planned.

You'll probably see me writing about this game again - probably more than once. As good as GalaxyMage is in such an early state, it looks like the Wesnoth team may have some competition for the top of the Linux strategy heap on the way.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Better Team

So, in case you were wondering - Yes, I picked a character. Yes, I'm going to make you wait longer before I tell you, as to build suspense. Yes, this is another post about Anarchy Online. Proceed.

It's the Trader, I picked the Trader. Yeah, I know, what a surprise. I picked the only character I've played in months. Anyway, there are other reasons I decided to stay with my lovable cash-hungry wrangle jockey. In last week's post (referenced above) I mentioned that my character was, how do you say, without an organization. Well, he's alone no more. As of Sunday evening, I'm proud to say I've joined an org - a great bunch of folks they are, too.

The aforementioned organization will, of course, remain nameless. I can say that I've had such a great time since joining, AO has almost become a different game. Pickup teams - although I'm sure I haven't seen the last of them for good - have gone to being my bread and butter to the equivalent of fast food. I haven't yet met a member of the organization who was an asshole - hell, I haven't met a member who I haven't liked immediately, and I'm not the type of person who goes around liking every person they meet. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I was a bit worried at first that joining an organization (or guild, if you'd prefer) might sap into my time for doing things such as blitzing missions, buying new weapons or, um, blitzing missions. Luckily, that hasn't been the case. If I need the time to do something along those lines (and I have needed it, what with installing a whole new set of implants and trying to blitz a new set of armor) it's mine, nobody's going to bother me about it.

One thing I am a bit worried about, a thing that worries me about the entire MMO genre, is that with my newfound organization, I'll lose out on time for playing other games. I'm sure I'll pull through - after all, if pretty much everyone in the world who does a webcomic can get their work done while remaining completely addicted to World Of Warcraft, I'm sure I can find time in my busy schedule for a few more games. See you next week folks.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Good Team

Before anything else is said, apologies are definitely in order. The circumstances surrounding the absence of the last two weeks' posts (and the lateness of this one) are not something I'm going to get into - it should suffice to say that I'd be very surprised if an army of orcs ever tried to invade my house again. It's a sad occurrence, as this marks AYE's 100th post. To see it delayed is to see my own insides wrapped around themselves in a glistening knot of pain. Anyway, it's yet another AO post.

My Trader has been hanging around the Temple of the Three Winds the last couple of days and, being a Trader, it's not like I can just run in there alone and solo everything. Teaming is a necessity, albeit one that usually comes with more than it's share of pitfalls. Lately, though, I'm starting to wonder if some sort of mystical change is taking place in the world of AO. It's the teams - they've... been good. Not just good enough either, I am proud to say that I've been in some damn good teams this last week.

Pick-up teams, as they're called, are all I've got. My character has no Organization (like a guild or clan in other games, for those of you who don't play AO) and no friends (yeah, I know, go ahead and start sobbing now). Well, that last part isn't entirely true, it's just that I haven't seen anyone on my friends list actually logged on in months. So, while the elite (no, not the l33t) sit back knowing they can team whenever they want it, I have no such luxury. I can only hope that some people around my level feel like teaming, and that they'll invite me to their team.

Most of time, I know what's going to happen before the first mob is targeted. This is ToTW we're talking about, not team missions which have the effect of forcing a little team work, whether you want it or not. No, this is ToTW - even if you're not killed instantly, chances are your teammates will train, kill-steal, and generally be assholes to any team in the vicinity. When you find a team who does none of the above, has people who actually know how to play their classes, and just generally stomps on through any mob they may meet, well, you can see why it brings a tear to my eye.

Next week, depending, we may bear witness to the final showdown between my two characters. At last, both the same level - the decision must be made. Who will level beyond 65? Who will continue the down the noble path laid out at both of their feet? Who will... well, you get the picture. Stay tuned, folks.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Sweet Smell Of Free

...And we're back. It's been quite a while since an Anarchy Online related post, so that's what this week is going to be all about. Go ahead and groan, I hear you.

So far, I've only gotten my Trader up to level 55. That's not an awful lot, taking into account how many months I've had the character. The other character, my Adventurer, is only level 65. So, we'll knock off ten levels as part of the MMO formula that as levels go up they come slower - and we realize that, were I playing one character, after nearly a year I'd only have a level 110 character in a game where the max is 200(+20 with expansions). What's the point of this, you almost but don't quite ask? Read on, and all will be revealed.

The point I was trying to get to was this: There's quite a few good reasons I don't like the idea of paying monthly fees for a game, and the above paragraph is one of them. In a game where I'll go a month or so without looking at it, I really don't want it eating up my cash just to sit there on my hard drive - ready, shall I ever need it. Nor do I want some sort of 21 day game card solution where every time I let my character sit idle in the game for a second while I hit the bathroom it's costing me money.

I used to look at the AO message boards and, upon seeing the multiple "That's it. I quit!" threads, I'd always think: "Why don't you just stop playing the game for a while?" I could never understand the fanaticism at hand whenever a character class had some changes made: "Play another character, that's what I'd do". I guess you start to look at things a little differently if your character has literally cost you hundreds of dollars to hold on to. Now I'm actually starting to understand a bit.

Hey folks, go ahead and bitch about that new profession nerf - you deserve it, you paid for it. Me? I'll be over here. With my money.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Now With 100% More Seething Fury!

I suppose that today continues the new policy of picking a random game from the front page of The Linux Game Tome when nothing more pressing is at hand. At least that's what it was supposed to be, but I'll get to that... right now.

This week's pick is VDrift, a racing game. Now, I've been known to enjoy a few racing games in my time but, until now, all of my experience with the genre has been on consoles. Why? Quite simply, I don't own a gamepad. I know they're not exactly something hard to find, but since most of the PC games I play are best played with a mouse/keyboard control system, it's never been high on my list of priorities. Somewhat sadly, I never even got the chance to see how the cars would control with a keyboard, as the game (at least the most recent binary version, which is the version I downloaded) is broken.

I'm not even going to mention the various troubles I had even getting the game to run in the first place, aside from mentioning that if you plan to try running the game without installing it first, you'll need some luck. What really got me is this: The game comes with no default controls configured. The first time I tried to actually play the game, I was greeted with an idling but entirely unresponsive vehicle. I figured I'd take a look in the control section of the options menu and figure out what key did what. Much to my surprise, they were all unbound.

It was a pain in the ass, but I'm not so elitist that I can't be bothered to bind my own controls - that is, as long as it's really possible. Every time I tried binding a key to the accelerator, hitting the key would simply floor the pedal. It was quite effective at stalling the vehicle, but nothing more. The brake key did nothing to alleviate the problem, and there was no binding I could find for deceleration. Frustrated, I tried reinstalling the game a few different ways - wiping out any traces left behind (such as ~/.vdrift) each time. No luck. So, long story short: I'm not playing VDrift right now, I haven't yet played it and, as annoyed as I'm feeling right now, I won't ever play it again.

When the game's README file says things about pressing certain keys to do certain things, it can reasonably be expected that these keys will, in fact, do certain things upon being pressed. It's not fucking rocket science to hard-code some default controls. I know how these things are done, and it's absolutely bullshit that the game is downloadable in such a state. Apparently, from the messages listed in VDrift's Tome entry, compiling the game is an exercise in masochism as well.

Sorry, VDrift folks. Maybe instead of having flashy polls on your web site about which car should be included next, or whether car interior details are more important that more cars or tracks, you should be putting in a little time to ensure that the game runs on a system that's not your own.

Update From The Future: Forgot to post, here it is.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Well, I'm Back.

So, first things first, apologies are in order. Due to a seemingly conspiratorial series events including the unexpected longevity of an aforementioned sickness, long-term power outages, and a whole lot of being busy with other things, this site has been update free for two weeks now. For that, I'm sorry. The business mentioned above is largely the culprit for yet another problem - I had absolutely no idea what to write today. So, from now on, a new policy can be considered in effect: Whenever I've got nothing else planned, I'm just going to pluck a random game from the front page of The Linux Game Tome, give it a go, and relate my experiences.

This week's pick was Warsow, another entry into the ever growing pool of multiplayer-focused first person shooters appearing on the Tome. I wasn't expecting much going in, which isn't to say I was expecting to be disappointed. It's just that after a while, all the various deathmatch oriented shooters seem to blend together into one twitching mass, at least to me. In a way, I got what I had been expecting, but I did end up quite pleasantly surprised by what I found.

The first thing you'll notice about Warsow is that it has a whole lot going for itself in the style department. It's a Quake 2 based engine(QFusion I believe it's called), but it's cell-shaded - definitely a first for free FPS games. Most of the other features games like Nexuiz and Alien Arena have been cropping up with, such as light bloom, are also in effect. It's not this that really caught my eye, though - I've seen these effects before. It's the way they're used that really shines. The wdm2 map is one of my favorite deathmatch maps ever - credit definitely goes to the way it plays (we'll get to that in a second), but the look of the level is so unique but, at the same time, cohesive - it's a level of immersion I've rarely felt in a deathmatch situation. Not to mention, light bloom (and related new, shiny effects) look much better in a clean, crisp sci-fi setting than they do elsewhere.

When I first started up a local server and took a look around the maps, I wasn't sure if a game with so much style would have any gameplay to go with it. Luckily, it plays just as tight as any of it's peers, even Cube (which is a huge plus in my book). Since I just grabbed it today I've only had an hour or two online with it, but the DM games I took part in (both free for all and team varieties) played smooth and fast. The weapons don't stray from the standard shooter pantheon but they are represented well, and they look and sound great for the most part. Sounds in general are good - the power up and character sounds are especially good, although the rocket launcher sounds lack a little "oomph".

Warsow has definitely got a whole lot of promise. It's only got a small handful of maps, but the gameplay is already solid. Once they've had some more time to add some maps (capture the flag is apparently already supported, just no maps yet), it should be even better. Frankly, it's my favorite of the current multiplayer FPS games floating around.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sick Day

Sorry, folks, but no post this week. I'm just feeling too ill to produce one. I'll try to make up for it next week with something special.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Who Needs 'Em Anyway?

If you read Slashdot with a fair amount of frequency, or even if you don't, it's safe to assume that you may have stumbled upon this tidbit by this point. For various debatable reasons, Yahoo (a site I'm sure you can find without my linkage) has decided to close off it's chat rooms to anyone under the age of 18. I'm sure you're thinking: what does this have to do with an obscure videogaming website? Well, I'll tell you. Just give me a moment.

The fact is, as someone who hates children, I'm all for this. Not that I'm the sort who frequents chat rooms - in fact, outside of videogames, it's a concept completely outside of my range of vision. What I'm hoping for here is that, eventually, people under the age of 18 will be barred from any sort of online activity. Videogames, message boards, chat rooms: you name it, they're not allowed. Far from a utopian society, but a step in the right direction nonetheless.

We've got enough of a problem already with the above 30 crowd who decide they're going to rekindle the magic of their youth by never capitalizing the letter "I". Cut out the teenagers who think that words can actually be spelled with numbers and I'll be pretty happy. Ban them from voice chat in online games and I will ensure that you will be paid handsomely, even if it's in blood.

To be serious, this whole measure is entirely overboard on Yahoo's part. It would not surprise me in the least if this decision was reversed in a few weeks time: both Yahoo and Eliot Spitzer doing their best to act as if A.) this never happened, and B.) if it did, they were totally cool for doing it, but they didn't so... back to A.

Anyway, next week will be back to normal (ie. something actually about games), so stay tuned.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

That Shadow Could Hide A City

Much to my surprise, I received a Shadow Of The Colossus demo disc in the mail this week. I'd been interested in the game ever since I first heard rumors of a sequel to Ico, so I quickly popped the disc in and gave it a whirl.

As soon as you've passed the logo screens, you can see a strong similarity to Ico in terms of art direction. In the world of videogames, the word "cinematic" in thrown around with such frequency that its meaning has effectively become lost in the rubble. Shadow Of The Colossus, alongside its predecessor, is part of a small handful of games that actually deserve the term. The first time you mount your horse and start to travel, you'll be impressed. As soon as you catch a glimpse of one of the game's titular colossi, you'll be picking your jaw up from the floor with your hands.

Similarities to Ico don't end in the art department. The pseudo-sequel inherits Ico's loose, almost floppy feeling control system. This allows more realistic animation of the player character, and it looks damn good doing so, but the controls do take some getting used to. Once you're used to them, they feel like a perfect fit and you'll find yourself wondering how you ever found them clumsy.

The colossi themselves are, by far, the most impressive aspect of the game. Taller than some skycrapers - they are, in effect, giant moving portions of the game world. The sense of scale is simply amazing. Trying to hang on while the colossus at hand is doing its damned best to shake you off is a pretty harrowing experience, especially when you've still got a long way to ascend to its weak spot. Weak spots on the colossi are found by raising your sword to focus the light on the titan. It sounds easy, and most of the time it is, but sometimes it can take a while, and you can't just stand there while a colossus is swinging a hammer the size of a three story office building at you.

Shadow Of The Colossus is really a game that needs to be seen in motion to truly be appreciated. I had seen quite a few screenshots before and, impressive as they were, they didn't hold a candle to seeing the game move. More so, Shadow really needs to be played, not watched, to get the most out of the experience. Try the demo if you can, otherwise just buy the fucking game, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Anarchy Online: Now With More Green!

Sorry about this one being a day late, my bad. I suppose it's alright, though, seeing as it gave me some time to try out the Anarchy Online 16.0 patch.

This patch has been pretty highly anticipated within the AO community, as it contains quite a few major updates. The one you'll notice right off the bat is that the ground textures have been updated, which gives quite a different look to areas otherwise unchanged. As a side note, this had absolutely no impact performance-wise on my system. If you do find that game running slower than normal, it's possible to set a lower texture quality through the in-game options.

There have been other major changes, most notably the look of the city of Old Athen, which now bears little resemblance to itself a few days ago. The layout of the city has remained the same, for the most part, so it's pretty unlikely that you're going to get lost due to the city's face-lift. If you're the sort of person who constantly gets lost in Old Athen (and they do exist), you're probably not going to notice a difference.

I, as someone who spends a lot of time in Old Athen, think the city's new look is awesome. The buildings are unchanged - still the same drab old Omni architecture - but the remainder of the city now looks like a park. No other city (on Rubi-Ka, anyway, I don't know about the Shadowlands) has as many trees, bushes, and other various forms of foliage. Old Athen has become a much different, much more welcoming sort of place.

Not everywhere has fared so well, even though the changes were merely texture related. Avalon just looks wrong somehow - too green. The texture update had the unintended side effect of making certain places look plain, uninteresting, or both, sort of like an early alpha for an engine where all that's working is the terrain rendering. Luckily, this has only effected a few of the places I've had a chance to look at. Everywhere else looks much improved, especially forested areas.

As for balance changes and life without reclaim terminals, I haven't had any time to see the effects of the new changes. Maybe I'll have more on that next week, maybe it will be something else. It certainly will, however, be back on the regular schedule.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Open Sores: Part 2

So it's that time once again and, true to my word, what was started last week will come to its conclusion one week hence. If you're looking for an introduction, read last week's post (linked above in case you're not reading this on the main page), because I'm just going to get right into it. Proceed.

Grandeur, And The Delusions Thereof

Okay, so this was sort of touched on last week, but in the context of feature creep, not features planned right off the bat. What I'm talking about, if you're curious, is the over-ambition that sends so many new projects swirling down the crapper before the game is even playable. You want proof? Hop on over to the Linux Game Tome and see how many unfinished, never playable MMORPGs you can find before your eyes start to bleed. Sure, it's one of the most often attempted, hardest to create game genres out there - just because it's the best example of feature overloading doesn't mean it's the only one.

Even if you're using a solid pre-built, pre-tested engine and a solid toolset you don't have to develop yourself, building a game is a demanding task. Deciding you're going to build your own engine and spending three weeks working on the particle systems that still don't work isn't going to make this task any easier. Deciding early on that the open source MMORPG you haven't written any code for yet is going to have features that titles with multimillion dollar budgets haven't properly implemented yet isn't going to help either.

Isn't Everybody As Hardcore As Me?

Now this one isn't strictly limited to open source games, as it effects all games out there, but certain open source games certainly should be looking at their shoes and twiddling their thumbs in shame over this one. Game designers often seem to be at war with the people playing the games they create. People don't play games to be punished (at least not most people), they play them to have fun. There's a reason its called a game.

I think the reason that this seems to crop up in open source gaming so much is plain and simple: A.I. code is hard to write. There's a reason so many of the games coming out on the open source scene are strictly multiplayer focused. The problem is that boosting the hit and attack points of every monster and plopping down forty more of them doesn't boost the fun factor by the same amount. Just because you can plow through them all without a scratch doesn't mean that everyone will, or even want to.


So that's it for my bitching, for now anyway. Before I wrap this up I'd like to say that for everything that's been said in the last two posts, I have nothing but love for the open source gaming scene. It's grown by leaps and bounds over the years in terms of quality, quantity and creativity and I'm sure it will continue. Thank you for the great games, folks.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Open Sores

This week's post is going to be sort of a full on rant-mode type of thing, so just be aware of what you're in for.

A large portion of Avert Your Eyes is dedicated to open-source gaming and gaming on open-source platforms, so it's obvious that I'm a fan. There are, however, a few things that drive me nuts about the whole open-source gaming scene, and that's the focus of this week's post. Proceed to number one:

If You Don't Like It, Fix It

Anybody who's followed open source gaming for a while has surely run into this one at one time or another. Someone submits a bug report, mentions something they don't like a game, or offers any other form of what could be considered constructive criticism, and is met with the response: It's open source, fix it. Because, you know, everybody in the entire fucking universe is a programmer. Nobody who enjoys gaming could possibly do so without a deep knowledge of how the engine rendering these beautiful scenes works, down to the machine code itself... You know, like how you can't enjoy a cheeseburger without being a butcher. Chop it yourself.

Honestly, I do know how to program - beyond that, I'm a roll-your-own type of guy. The type who runs a backup system he wrote himself, instead of one of the countless backup packages out there, more or less just for the hell of it. That being said, I have little ambition to slop through somebody else's shitty C code to add a feature I'd like to a game I don't care about that much in the first place. Non-programmers are going to hate you for this more than I do. If you want your game to be played by more than a few people, don't ever do this.

You Can't Please All The People All The Time...

...but a lot of open source projects try to. Ambition is a great thing, as long as it's actually within the scope of what you can and can't accomplish. Far too many games have died out when the handful of developers behind them start to become stretched too thin - not only having to accomodate their own feature-creep ideas, but those of the community surrounding the game as well.

It's an easy thing to do, especially if it seems that it's going to bring a more solid user base to a project that's lacking one. One of the problems (among many in this particular case) is that, often, users don't have any idea what kind of effort it would take to implement their ideas, as good as they may be. This, of course, is deliberatly leaving out the shitty, "d00d, w0t dis game n33dz is m0r3 r0ck3ts!! l0lz0rs!" suggestions.

This is starting to run a bit long, it's pushing midnight, and I'd like to get this up while it's still Thursday - so this bit may turn in to a two part kind of thing. I haven't covered all that I'd like to, so unless the Anarchy Online 16.0 patch comes out between then and now and I get sucked up in that, you can expect more. Out.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Zero To Pissed Off In 32 Levels

Well, it would appear that R.O.S.E Online is out of the open beta period. There will be a closed beta during the month of September (which would be the month that today is the first day of) available exclusively (I think) to Fileplanet (doesn't deserve a link) subscribers (ie. not me), which may (or may not) be followed by another open beta. A much more concise way to put it would be that I am not going to play R.O.S.E online any more. Not just because I can't anymore, either.

My feelings towards the game have changed dramatically between last week's post and now. Once you hit somewhere around level 25, leveling up stops being so quick and painless - quite the opposite, in fact. If you're not constantly having your kills stolen (this assumes that you have found something available to kill), you're being gang-raped by 20 of the same cute thing you couldn't find one of 30 seconds ago. I don't think I've died as much in any other MMORPG than I have in R.O.S.E. Hell, I don't think I've died as much in any game than I have in R.O.S.E, ever.

I think I made it to somewhere around level 32 before I decided to stop playing. It was only as was logging into the game yesterday, knowing it would be the subject of today's post, that I found something was wrong. Like I said above, I really found it hard to care. My entire time playing R.O.S.E felt more like I was trying to enjoy the game, rather than actually enjoying it. The whole process was tiring enough that when I started to play Anarchy Online again, it felt simple, familiar, and welcoming. Not that I haven't enjoyed my time with Anarchy Online, nor will I stop playing it any time soon, but when playing AO solo doesn't feel like a grind anymore, you know you've just come out of a bad relationship.

In other news, Cube had another release this week - I'm sticking this in here because there really isn't enough material to deserve it's own post - which, sadly, may be it's last. After this, the team (or just Aardappel, I'm not very familiar with their development practices) will be moving on to Sauerbraten, which could basically be considered the "sequel" to Cube. Anyway, Cube's maybe-last release is a doozie, throwing in new models for items, weapons, and teleporters as well as a bunch of new maps, both singleplayer and multiplayer. One word of caution - if you like (as most people do) to play Cube online, be wary of the new version. Even though it's been out for a few days, every server in my server browser has the nice little message: [different cube protocol]. Oh, one more thing I haven't mentioned - lots of Cube stuff over at Quadropolis.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fairy Wings: Rent To Own!

After getting my Trader to level 46 in Anarchy Online, I was starting to feel somewhat burned out, so I decided to take a break and play something else. I wasn't exactly sure, then I remembered R.O.S.E Online, which I'd heard about some time ago, although I can't remember where or how. I certainly hadn't expected my break to be in the form of another MMORPG, but there's something about open betas I can't resist.

It did actually end up being a refreshing change of pace, which I really wasn't expecting. R.O.S.E (which stands for Rush On Seven Episodes, it's anybody's guess as to what that means) is much simplified from your usual MMO formula, which results in the game feeling almost like an "arcade style" MMO, as strange as that may sound. Leveling is fairly quick and painless compared to other games, at least during the earlier levels - something I learned quickly as I started playing yesterday and now have a level 23 dealer.

Before moving on to the graphical side of things, a quick warning. This game could be considered by some (ok, most) to be "cute" (complete with buyable fairy wings), and it's something that really can't be denied. It's not really a kiddie type of cute, though - more of an anime cute or, even closer, a 3D take on the look of several classic SNES-era RPGs. In fact, that's exactly what the characters strike me as - grown up sprites. Still big-headed, still goofy-looking, just occupying space in a three dimensional manner. Honestly, I really like the look of the game, especially the different playfields, but it's certainly not suited for everyone.

There are quite a lot of people playing the game, and almost every area I've been too so far has been crowded, especially with player shops. In towns, combined with the graphics, it gives a carnival type of atmosphere more so than any MMO I've played to date. Of course, with the crowding come problems. Kill stealing, scamming, and even exploits are plentiful, even if they are avoidable. This is sort of par for the course with these types of betas, and it's actually a good thing provided it helps the developers fix the flaws.

Exactly how long R.O.S.E is going to be in the open beta phase is a mystery to me, but I'm sure that it's not going to end in the next few weeks. It's still got a very beta-ish feel to it, with some missing or garbled text in places, so I doubt it will be released in it's current state. Nicks in the varnish aside, I've found my (admittedly short) time with it fun, and I'll probably be talking about it again next week after I've had more time to poke around.

By the way, it sure didn't take long for an open source project to show up after the recent release of the Quake 3 source code.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

This Has Little To Do WIth Videogames...

I have certain tendencies that make it, how do you say, easy for me to become more than a little bit obsessed with things. Let's say that I come across an author I like, it's never long before I've consumed the vast majority of said author's works and start looking for something new.

This effect isn't limited to novels either - it's happened with quite a few things. I Love Bees stole much more of my time than I am proud to say. Webcomics galore. When I first found Penny Arcade I'd read nearly everything (news posts included) in their archive within a few days. This exact same thing has since happened with Scary Go Round, VG Cats, Spells and Whistles, and Megatokyo. It's just something I do.

The latest target of my mind beams has been Red vs Blue. Yeah, I know, it's been around for quite a while now, and everybody loves it. This is not news to me. Sometimes I'm just slow getting around to checking out things that I've always meant to check out. This is one case in particular that I really wish I'd looked into sooner.

I think it was Monday (yes, as in four days ago) I took a look at my first video - by now, I've watched the entire 3rd season around 5 times. I really had no idea what I was in for. I expected lame ass Halo-related in-jokes and probably nothing else. I'm sure there may be a few (you know, I don't play Halo) in-jokes, as there certainly are quite a few general gaming-related jokes, but I'm sure they won't be lame ass. I didn't really think it was possible for most people to do comic timing well anymore. I don't just mean internet videos either, just comedy in general.

With Season 4 starting at this end of the month, I guess I picked a pretty good time to get into this whole thing. If you haven't already, definitely check this out.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Salesman

Sorry about the no-post situation last week. Let us just chalk it up to a sick day - fitting, as that's exactly what it was. I'll spare the details, but I was in neither the condition or the mood for an update. Now - fair warning - this post is about to get all Anarchy Online on you so, if you've got a problem with that, come back next week.

It's been a while since I've played AO, so my Trader spent quite a while stagnating at level 21. guess I've been on a roll this week, since I've just made level 36. It took a few runs in the Subway, and quite a few more missions, but the overall process was much quicker than I was expecting it to be. It's also been quite a lucrative week for our heroic salesman. Upon hitting level 25 access is granted to user special Trader-only terminals which pay quite a bit more than your standard shop terminals. Combine that with the tips that accompany the high demand for "Wrangles", as they're called - a line of nano-formulas that boost attack skills and allow better equipment - and cash is quite a bit easier to get than it was for my Adventurer at the same levels.

I've got mixed feelings about the inevitable trip to Temple Of The Three winds coming up soon. The experience isn't bad and some really nice items drop there, but if you don't have a good team the bosses there will send your ass packing back to the (soon to be obsolete) reclaim terminals faster than you can say "run!". The positive side is that when you do go in with a good team (like a take down the final boss with no doctors good team) the rewards are pretty damn sweet.

I'm still not exactly sure which character I'm going to focus on if my Trader gets up to the same level as my Adventurer before I play him again, as they've both got their benefits. Self-equipping weapons far above what others could self equip is awesome (that's the Trader), but so is being able to heal almost as well as a doc and turn into wolves (Adventurer). Ah, well - decisions, decisions.

That's all for this week, gentle reader, and I feel like you're being shorted. After the absence of a post last week a cheesy Anarchy Online cop-out feels a little lacking. Maybe, if you eat all your vegetables this week, next week's post will be really special. Probably not, though.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

What About Rome?

At first I told myself that I'd just wait until the Linux version came out, since the words "coming soon" give you a certain expectation of how soon something may be coming. Well, it has been far too long for my tastes, so this week I downloaded the Windows version of NERO and gave it a try.

It's beyond the scope of this post to try to fully explain what NERO is and what it does. For details, look no further than the above link. For a very brief (and mostly fictional) description, read on. The product of a scrappy rag tag team of computer scientists, all-around general brainiacs (to use the proper term), and a few artists - NERO is the answer to the eternal question: What happens when you take the results of artificial intelligence research, add some figurative dressing in the form of the Torque Engine, and see what type of game comes out of it. It turns out that the answer is "Quite an interesting one".

Gameplay wise, NERO is of the oft overlooked school of "set it up and let it whirl" of games. The first phase is the training mode, in which you're tasked with teaching a group of bots basic tasks - such as navigating around obstacles on the way to the enemy, how much to avoid too much enemy fire, and other basic necessities of a fighting robot's very short life. You don't have direct control, so you can only set which behaviors are rewarded and which are discouraged via the "Smite!" command. Besides placing obstacles to create ever-expanding mazes the only other commands you have available are "Converge", which makes the other bots act more like the selected unit and "Milestone", a command that I'll admit I don't understand yet. It can take quite a while to get your NERO (short for Neuro Evolving Robotic Operatives) performing how you'd like them to but this phase of the game takes an almost god-game approach to the process, making a nice relaxing counterpoint to the next phase.

The battle phase is much more simple compared to the above. You take your hard trained team and throw them into battle, either against another team you (or somebody online - Network play is possible) created, or one of the other pre-trained teams included with the game. From there, interaction is limited to moving the camera around, watching the fight, and moving your team's flag around (it isn't what you think, it's just a way to get slightly better control over your troops, assuming they're trained to follow the flag). This phase is surprisingly intense, especially with a time limit. The intensity wears off after a few rounds against the same team, but the attachment you have to your boys (or your girls, call the robots whatever you want) keeps it interesting.

It goes for all games, but with NERO especially - it's certainly not for everyone. It's a game that requires quite a lot of patience as well as the will to start team after team, creating for each different methods of training. There's even some patience involved in the battle mode, as matches without time limits can often take quite a while. The payoff - watching your well trained team kick some ass - is entirely worth it.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Cue Freaky Zither Music

CodeRED: Alien Arena popped up on The Linux Game Tome this week I didn't really give it a second thought at first. With Thursday looming and nothing more entertaining to write about, I figured I'd give it a go. The idea was sent back to the factory due to a recall when I realized that this game was being brought to us by the fine folks behind Alteria. Yes, that Alteria.

Then again, I figured, there were no other options. On with the show. The download is around 130 megs or so which, while not the most pleasant way to spend an afternoon, is still within the realm of possibility for dialup users. As I prepared to launch the game, the terrors of Alteria were still undulating inside my mind. Lovecraftian visions of bad gameplay and worse voice acting - causing nightmare and reality to exist, to me, as one nauseating... OK, I think you get it.

At least I can say CodeRED: Alien Arena is much better than Alteria. Its sense of style is probably the strongest thing Alien Arena has going for it. There's a sort of colorful cartoony sci-fi look permeating the maps, and the characters follow suit. The sounds follow the same theme, but they're sort of a weak point when it comes to weapons. Some weapon sounds fit well, but the vast majority just don't carry the power or impact you're looking for.

Even though it's main focus is net play, there is a single player mode of sorts where you square off against bots. To Alien Arena's credit, the bots aren't too bad. It's a good thing they're included too, since I had no luck finding a server with more than 2 other players. One issue I have with the single player portion, though, is that you can't pick and choose which maps you want to play, but instead have to complete them in order. It gives more of a campaign feel, but I'd prefer to try out maps whenever I wanted.

You may notice that under the Linux Game Tome entry, there are quite a few people being fairly loud about the fact that the only GPL'd part of Alien Arena is the engine, ie. all the art and maps are not. I felt I'd warn you, in case you're the type of person that takes these issues very seriously. All in all - CodeRED: Alien Arena is no Alteria, but it just didn't really appeal to me. I like it a whole lot more than Nexuiz, but I can say with quite a bit of certainty that I probably won't be playing it much, if at all. Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

This Should Be A Title, But Isn't...

Sometimes, for reasons entirely unbeknownst to me, I'll go months on end without actually checking out games that I really meant to give a try. Such is the case with Glest, an open source (GPL) 3D real-time strategy game and relative newcomer to the scene. It's been out for a few months now, so I really have no excuse for taking so long to give it a look but, since it had an update this week I realized it's time had come at last.

Let's start at the beginning here. I was in no way prepared for the level of polish I was presented with upon running Glest for the first time. Its menu screens are beautiful, with the camera gracefully navigating fully 3D backgrounds as you make your way through the initial options. In most of the open source games I've seen (a few, like Planeshift, are excused from this discussion) menus are, quite rightfully, more of an afterthought than anything else. After all, what is the point of lovely menu screens when the actual game suffers as a result?

Beyond the main menu, Glest continues to sparkle. Although I haven't yet had a chance to play through them all, the maps I've seen appear to be well crafted, both from the gameplay and aesthetic sides of the fence, although with current lack of multiplayer, I could see certain balance issues popping up in the future. The background music, oft lacking in many open source offerings (for obvious reasons, we're not all composers), fits nicely with the epic nature of a game like this. For the more graphically-oriented among you, there are also some really nice particle effects at work, especially for burning structures, which look awesome.

Gameplay is more or less your standard RTS fare, but I doubt that most people looking to play an RTS will mind this. One area where Glest stumbles is an apparent pothole that most of its open source peers have hit as well: its lack of an in-game tutorial. Granted these aren't the easiest things in the world to build, and I give all due slack in this case, but this is something that could end up driving many a new player away. Any RTS veteran will know from previous experience to start harvesting, building, and cranking out as many units as possible, but this knowledge shouldn't be expected as a prerequisite.

Right now, it's Linux and Windows only, but at one time Glest was a Windows-only project which was quickly ported, so it's fairly safe to say that ports to other platforms aren't out of the question. Give it a try, I'd say it currently outclasses most of it's competition. I know I liked it a lot more than I was fully prepared to.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I've Had It

That's it. From here on out, the only commercial games I'm buying are wacky Japanese RPGs. It's been looming on the horizon for a while, and now it's finally come - games are just getting too "cool" for me.

Take a look at any game related website or magazine, and I'm sure you'll find the words "gritty", "urban", or "starring" in there at least once. As much as the series' merits are touted, the game to blame for the current situation is clearly Grand Theft Auto 3. Its improvements on the previous games in the series can't be denied, but as soon as it was realized to be the cash cow it is now, other companies couldn't help but throw their hats into the proverbial ring.

"Gritty" and "urban" don't really need much elaboration - it seems all gamers want to do these days is commit crime in large cities - be it through street-racing, underground boxing, or all out shooting sprees. "Starring", though, may come off as a little confusing at first - and it works from different angles. The first permutation would be the most direct - people starring in a game like someone would a movie, ala 50 Cent: Bulletproof or Shaq-Fu (if I was drinking milk right now it would have squirted out my nose from typing that). The second is directly related to the Screen Actors Guild demanding that they get a larger cut of the profits from the games they "star" in.

I don't give one crap whether or not the main character in the game I'm playing is voiced by Gary Busey, nor do I want every single game I play to be set in a sprawling city. I don't care about tricking out my "ride", I don't care about hot polygonal girls shaking it for no reason, I don't care about what music is licensed from who, and I really don't give one fuck about actors/athletes/musicians who think that their very presence in a game is enough to drain the masses of all their worldly belongings. I've had enough.

From now on it's quirky music, characters with dangerously large heads and even more dangerously large swords, and unknown voice actors (if there is voice acting at all) who were probably dubbing hentai before they were hired for the game. Be warned, the next time you see me, I may or may not be wearing large purple bunny-ears.

Friday, July 01, 2005

A Rich Tradition

There have been a few notable releases this week, which I'll try to touch on next week. I'll be honest, it's not this week because in the limited amount of game time I've had, it's been spent playing Anarchy Online.

I was pretty busy with a number of other things this week, so my Trader has only leveled up to 21 or 22 (I can't remember) in the two nights I was actually able to play. I've actually been finding good teams this time around, which helps things go quite a bit more quickly leveling-wise. One thing I did not expect was to actually make some in-game friends. The buddy list of my level 65 Adventurer is so empty it's begun to collect cobwebs, but so far I've actually got quite a few on my Trader's list.

You may remember this old post, in which I mention a kind soul who gave my lowly Adventurer a lovely bag of pistols and some (ok, quite a bit more than some) credits, on the condition that I pass them on when I outgrew them. I'd actually outgrown them quite a while ago, but hadn't found the right person to pass them on to.

The other night, I was teaming with some people and everyone save myself and another player logged off. We were in the process of selling our "Ph4t l00t" when he mentioned that his pistols sucked. Having teamed with him, it seemed he was worthy of such a mighty bounty so, a few minutes later, he had a fresh new bag of pistols. Once again, the condition was that he pass them on when they were outgrown.

Hopefully, those pistols will enjoy a long lifetime of being passed from Adventurer to Adventurer, seeing much more of Rubi-Ka than any other weapon could dream. If they end up in the hands of someone who doesn't deserve them, I suspect they will "malfunction", resulting in the wielder wondering where all this blood is coming from, and why he feels so lightheaded.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Better Late Than Never

I goofed up and didn't actually upload this week's post. It's below, original date and time intact. Sorry about that.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Change Of Pace

The cause may be that I simply didn't have enough time to play anything new this week, or just that I felt like it but, whatever the reason - today's post is once again about Anarchy Online. To tell the truth, once I got my hands on my Yalmaha and hit level 60, I hit a wall of sorts when it comes to leveling. Not that it's difficult, I just haven't found myself doing it much. I spend more time just cruising the Yalm around, trying to find "dyna-bosses", as they're called, and killing them. That, along with a few missions, has gotten me up to level 65, but I was still itching for a change of pace.

What did I do? Well, I started a new character. I've tried this a few times before, but none of them ever got higher than level 5 before I'd just go back to using old faithful. This time, I tried a Trader, and it's been pretty damn fun getting him up to level 15, even if it did come at the price of being in a few bad subway teams. The differences between playing an Adventurer and a Trader are nearly night and day when it comes playing the classes. I've got to admit, as an Adventurer I got pretty used to being able to solo pretty much anything that came my way with little effort. A Trader's capability for soloing is nothing to sneeze at, it just takes a different approach.

I wouldn't recommend Trader as a first character to someone new to the game, since there's a bit of finesse required to make the class shine. Traders get nano-formulas called drains, which hinder an opponent's offensive skills while improving yours, which is cool right off the bat. It gets cooler when you realize that drains boost nano-skills which are used to get better drains, and said drains stack. Draining to be able to cast better drains has a ladder effect that soon lets you equip a much better weapon than you should be able to. As long as you keep your drains up high enough that your weapon doesn't become less effective, you've just turned yourself into quite a badass.

Traders also get a nice line of roots (which render an opponent unable to move) and calms (which, well, calm) that make blitzing missions for easy cash a breeze. Needless to say, it's quite a bit easier making money than it was when I started my Adventurer. If you read the description linked above, you'd already know that making money is more or less what a Trader does. The name gives a slight clue. Once I get him up to level 25 I get access to the Trader Shop, to which you can sell items for a much higher price than your normal shops. Pretty soon I'll be wiping my ass with credits, if that's possible in any way.

One last note to those of you who already play Anarchy Online, before I wrap this up. Somewhere in the options is a little check mark to use "Offscreen Surface Technology". I'm not sure what types of videocards can use it, but I'd suggest trying to turn it on as it basically amounts to a "Make Water Way More Pretty" button.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

All Frosting And No Cake

I've been hearing a lot about Nexuiz lately, so I decided to download it last week (still trying to get rid of the weird feeling that accompanied last week's post), and gave it a try. I'm all for the idea of a GPL first person shooter (you may be thinking Cube, but that's under the zlib license as far as I know) but, having played this game, I can't really understand why everyone is so excited about it.

The title of this post says it all, when it comes to Nexuiz. Sure, it's got realtime lights and way too much bloom, but the gameplay is nothing more than the standard deathmatch we've all been playing for years. Additionally, the graphics aren't even that good. Normally, screenshots pale in comparison to the actual game in action - here it's a case of the exact opposite. The screenshots look nice, but the first thing you notice running the game is the janky animation of the character models.

For it's engine, Nexuiz uses a customized version of the Darkplaces engine (edit: it was pointed out to me in the comments that it's actually just the stock Darkplaces engine). Hey, for something based on the Quake (not Quake II) engine, it looks pretty good. That being said, there isn't much that can be done to improve the actual level geometry so, even with new particle effects and textures, it's just not as impressive as it wants to be. The Nexuiz web site makes a big deal how some of the features can only be used by fairly recently released high end computer hardware, but who the fuck cares when games with lesser system requirements end up looking and running better?

I haven't even gotten to the sounds yet - they're not good. At least on my system (on which every game sounds fine) firing a weapon sounded suspiciously like throwing pebbles at a tin roof. Weapon models and tracer effects are unimpressive, some character models (animation aside) are just plain ugly. You want my opinion? Go play Cube. Don't care about open source? Go play Enemy Territory. Don't even care if it's free? Go play any game in the Unreal Tournament series. Any of the aforementioned games are infinitely more enjoyable than Nexuiz. How the fuck are you supposed to pronounce that name anyway? To me it seems like it would be "Neez-weez"...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Now 100% More Disturbing

I doubt that many people think of me as a strictly blood and guts type of gamer - after all, my favorite genre is RPGs, so that goes out the window right there. Still, I'm a little bit frightened to be as far away from familiar territory as I am with the Hanihani -Operation Sanctuary- demo.

In the Linux Game Tome entry (the link is back there), the game is described as being "A typical japanese 'choose a phrase' adventure based on a famous anime." I've watched some anime in my time, I'm not averse to it. You can hardly be a fan of the RPG genre and not have had your share of anime at some point. So, I decided to give it a go, although I'll admit I had second thoughts when I realized the download (torrent only, by the way) was ~150MB.

To try to put this as nicely as possible: This is not so much a game per se, but more of an interactive visual novel. I think that's what they call them, anyway. You can actually throw the whole thing into auto mode and just kick back while the story advances. You'll sit through the demo for a long while before you actually get to the point where you can make a choice, and I do mean a long while.

As far as I can tell, the story is mostly about a young man who goes to school and has a very short teacher. There are also some bizarrely uncomfortable moments of apparent sexual tension between this guy and the school nurse, among others. What I saw would be allowed in a PG-13 movie, but was still quite embarrassing to watch. One note, on the download page is does say that you must be 18 or over to purchase the full game - apparently it's a bit racier than the demo. It's also in Japanese, only the demo is translated as far as I know.

If really slow moving anime/manga or those creepy (sorry, but they are) dating sims are your thing, check out the demo - I'm sure you could do worse. Anybody who's interested in a game for the sake of a game, stay far away.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Vega Strikes Out

Vega Strike has been out for quite a while now, but during the Vendetta Online beta, there never really seemed to be a good reason to download it. Vendetta has been in the commercial realm for quite a while now, so I can't play that anymore. It started to seem like a good time to give Vega Strike a try. At around 200MB the download is pretty hefty, albeit still dialup-able for someone with the time and patience. Is it worth it? Read on.

I'll be honest, I find myself trying to like Vega Strike more than I do actually liking it. Hey, it's got promise. Decent 3D engine, space - you know, the prerequisites for a modern-style space flight simulator are all in place. What isn't in place is the controls. I like to use the WASD keys for control, not the arrow keys. I'm sure there are better buttons to use for speeding up and slowing down than the + and - keys. Why the hell did they make the secondary fire button the enter key when the primary fire is the space bar? I find myself hitting the wrong keys constantly, and there is (as far as I know) no way to remap them.

The controls are my main aggravation, but there are other nuances of the game's design that I just don't like. I know space is big, and that stars don't fly by you super quickly, especially in a small spacecraft. I'm sure most people know that. You know what, though? That hasn't stopped every other space sim in the fucking world from flinging them at you with vigor. You know why? It gives you a sense of movement. In Vega Strike, there is no sense of movement at all until you get to some of the highest speeds available with your SPEC drive, and it's annoying.

There are things that I do like about Vega Strike. The open-ended gameplay is nice, no missions crammed down your throat when all you want to do is fly around for a while - maybe trade some cargo. Um, wait a sec. There's more. Like, um... space?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

This Title Has Been Procedurally Generated

For this week's post I present to you this, a link to a link to a video clip of (as I've called him before before) master-of-the-art Will Wright's presentation at this year's Game Developer's Conference. Most of the presentation, which changes titles quite a few times throughout, is dedicated to Wright's upcoming game Spore. The presentation is mainly aimed at other people in the field of game development, but Will's humor combined with the gameplay aspects we're shown make it a must see to anyone who takes gaming seriously. A registration is required to watch the video, but sites like help you to retain your anonymity during the process, if that's your cup of tea.

I'm not going to ruin the presentation by going through all the details for the remainder of the post, but this is clearly something to be excited about. With all the flash and sparkle of this year's E3, I haven't seen anything come out of it that seemed truly next generation. With it's procedurally generated everything, and all the possibilities hinted at with it's transparent player created content, Spore is a game that shows that real innovation is still very possible. Several times while watching the presentation, I was unable to stop the creeping of a huge grin on to my face, while other moments literally caused my jaw to drop. Go see for yourself.

In other, ahem, "news" - I've been playing the Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst open beta a bit the week. Honestly, the more I play of it, the less interested I've become with the game. If the combat were more interesting, or if the game world offered more to explore, I could see myself enjoying the game quite a bit more. I guess I've been spoiled by the dynamics of Monster Hunter's combat system, which has a whole lot more depth than PSO's weak attack, strong attack, heavy attack system.

Just because I'm only going to be allowed to play it for a short time, I'll continue to mess around with PSO: BB, but I can't see paying a monthly fee for it, or anything for that matter. Hopefully more games will start to take the route that Anarchy Online has taken with it's "pay if you don't like ads but do like expansion packs" subscription model, because I can see the bursting of the bloated MMO bubble coming sometime soon, and the small time players may be entirely forced out of the industry. Anyway, go watch that Spore presentation.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Bursts Of Blue And Other Curiosities

As someone who's heard an awful lot about the Phantasy Star Online series, but never actually played any of the games, I figured it was my duty to try it out at least once. From now until June 9th, you too can try out the Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst Open Beta.

500MB is quite a hefty download, but considering Blue Burst includes PSO Episodes I and II right out of the proverbial box, it's seems to be worth it. I'll tell you, today's world of in-game tutorials being considered a near-necessity has softened me, more so than I originally thought it had. Starting up Blue Burst for the first time, once I got past the character creation screen I was quite hopeless. The Ship/Block thing I was used too, as it's analogous to Monster Hunter's Land/Area/Town system for separating players into more server friendly portions. After that, I could barely move my character around the screen. I actually had to log out and, gasp, read the manual.

I can definitely see Monster Hunter's roots firmly planted in the Phantasy Star Online series. That alone allowed me to have a vague idea of what I should be doing without having to log out yet again for another quick glance at the manual. Though, for now, I still prefer MH's signature brand of co-op boss fights, I can certainly see why PSO has left so many people with night sweats whenever unable to get their fix. I'm assuming that the somewhat simplistic(albeit still pretty) environments are an artifact from the series' Dreamcast roots, as are the comparatively low system requirements. The game still looks good, especially for what it is, and most people don't seem to be into PSO simply for the graphics. I'm not going to tell you what the rest of the game is about, since most people already know. I will tell you this: While I'll definitely not be paying a monthly fee for the privilege of playing Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst, I will be playing the beta until forced to stop.

So, E3 has shown us quite a few pretties this year hasn't it? The videos for Killzone 2 and Killing Day on the PS3 were nothing short of amazing if, indeed, these were straight gameplay videos we were looking at. For current systems, there were still quite a few really good looking games coming out, too. What really mystified me was the news on the upcoming SOCOM 3. 32 players online, vehicles, maps with sub-sections for smaller player groups, and a message from Zipper basically saying "Yeah, the lag's gonna suck. There's nothing we can do about that." Fascinating.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

6 Games - One Post

This week's post is something new and exciting, at least for this site. I've done a few roundups before, as you may recall, but until now they've been split up into multiple posts and, more importantly, have been games or mods by entirely different teams/individuals. All that and more goes out the window, and this week's one-post-roundup is devoted entirely to the arcade shooters by Kenta Cho.

The word "abstract" can often be in the same sentence as the title of any of the games I'm about to mention today, which is very fitting. I'd imagine that these games are what people thought the future of gaming would look like, back when Space Invaders was hot shit. They're all simple to pick up and play, and absolutely mesmerizing to look at. From the fast paced intensity of Parsec47, to the art-deco simplicity of noiz2sa - from the boss fight after boss fight of rRootage, to the "reinforce your ship with parts of theirs" mechanic of Tumiki Fighters - from the evade and conquer dynamic of A7Xpg, to the WipeOut meets Tempest bliss that is my favorite, Torus Troopers, there's an awful lot of variety here.

While, for me at least, none of these games are going to keep you playing for hour after hour, each one is perfect for a quick half-hour of fun, or whatever amount of time you may need to kill. The learning curve is steeper for some games than others, but even the strangest can be picked up within a matter of minutes. The graphics for each game follow the theme of "retro-futuristic", and while each game uses OpenGL for some awesome effects, there's a simplicity to the graphics that is very refreshing in this day and age. The only game that doesn't have strictly 2D gameplay is Torus Troopers, my aforementioned favorite. That's not the reason for my affinity for the game - the intensity factor is - but I'm definitely looking forward to some more 3D oriented gameplay if Kenta decides to do some more games in the future.

Each of these games is very polished. I haven't encountered any bugs with a single game, and each one seems a finished game, not a work in progress. Plus, the fact the so many of these games are very random in execution certainly ups the replayablity factor quite a bit. Each download is under 10mb, some a quite a bit smaller - so there's no excuse for anyone reading this right now to not download them immediately. By the way, Windows versions are available for all you non-Linux types.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Ann and me. Terri, Tory?: Part 3

OK, so I said this wouldn't happen again, and it did, but it's still all ETF's fault. After a member of the team suggested that my download might be corrupted I downloaded the full 1.3 version of Enemy Territory Fortress, and it still didn't work. I did finally get it to work by installing it in the stock ET directory, instead of my home directory like I'd been doing all along. So, yeah, my bad - but keep that in mind if you're having problems with the game.

Perhaps because it took so long to get the game working, when I finally did log on to a server and start to play, I was overwhelmingly underwhelmed. I've heard a few people complain about the graphics, and they're not really that bad. The characters look kind of cartoony, which I think is a nice touch, but where things start to fall apart graphics wise is the maps. It could be that a lot of them are redone versions of maps of historical significance among the Team Fortress community, but I've seen much better looking maps in Cube, not that I meant that in a bad way toward either game. Intermittent lack of prettiness aside, the maps included with Enemy Territory Fortress seem to be well-balanced and fun.

Gameplay in ETF if much faster and generally more Quake-like than stock Enemy Territory or Total Combat: Elite. This and the class mechanism, I'm sure, are part of the reasons that Team Fortress mods have remained popular for so long. Anybody who's been reading this site since back in the day knows I'm a huge CTF fan and, luckily for me, most any game I jumped into involved flags and the capturing thereof. That's one huge edge over both ET and TC:E in my book.

Since this is a roundup of sorts, I'm going to go ahead and do something I've always thought previous roundups were missing: I'm going to pick a winner. I'll tell you right away, it's not ETF. Sure it's fun, but it just doesn't stand up to True Combat: Elite. Enemy Territory on it's own is a blast, but there's something about True Combat: Elite that just... does it for me. So, there's your winner. That being said, both mods and the stock game itself are as fun as they are free, so if you've got a fast enough connection(you could try dialup, but I wouldn't) go ahead and try them all anyway. By the way, stuff should be back to normal now so expect weekly posting to resume.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Yeah, It Happened Again.

So, there was no post last week. This has been happening with a startling frequency over the last couple of weeks but, I assure you, it won't happen again in the near future. The reason for last week's no-post was, once again, Enemy Territory Fortress. As was previously mentioned, I found it impossible to connect to a game running the mod. I was so sure that the 1.3 patch was going to A). solve my problems, and B). be released before last Thursday, that I was completely unprepared when it turned out that neither happened. The not-released-before-Thursday thing is the reason for the missing post. But yeah, that's right, I still can't play ETF. The same problems are present, and it's pissing me off.

So, I played some more Anarchy Online. After "blitzing" missions for so long that I nearly gained a level from picking locked chests, I finally gained enough money to buy my very own Yalmaha at the modest level of 62. "What's a Yalmaha?", you may be asking. Well, it's a vehicle that not only let's you move much faster than foot travel allows, but also grants the ability to fly. The world of Rubi-Ka seems to change immediately, as you're no longer restrained to explore places that are more or less "safe" to travel. Out of the range of enemies, you're free to travel anywhere you please. This I did - as soon as I had my Yalmaha equipped I must have spent an hour or two zipping above the treetops, checking out the sights. Then, satisfied, I decided to take a break. Too much of a good thing, you know how it goes.

So, I've been playing Monster Hunter quite a bit more again, lately. I haven't really "accomplished" anything, as if that really matters, but I did manage to log on for the first time and find out it was "extra materials at the material shop day", so I've got a whole bunch of level 3 pellet ammo just begging to be unloaded in some dragon's ass. A strange fact regarding Monster Hunter - whenever you enter an empty town and signal that you're playing solo, other players show up faster than an N-Gage to a landfill. As soon as you signal that you're looking for some people to team up with, the town is so empty that you start to think of the tumbleweeds rolling by as friends.

One more thing this week, on the free stuff front. I don't know how long it's been around, but with all the hubbub surrounding the Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy movie(which I'd love to talk about, being a huge Douglas Adams fan, but this is a videogame site, after all), it's popped up onto the radar. What, you ask? A slightly graphic-ized version of the 1984 Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy text adventure game. Yeah, that's right, the Infocom classic. There are apparently not one but two versions of the illustrated version available, so choose the one you prefer. Don't forget the junk mail.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Um, Sorry.

OK, sorry about the whole no post thing last week - I'll explain what happened. In keeping with the recent theme of things I'd planned to spend last week's post writing about Enemy Territory Fortress, another total conversion for Enemy Territory in the theme of the many Team Fortress mods. The ET2.60 patch threw a stick between the spokes of my gaming bicycle, so to speak, and I found myself unable to connect to a server. Hence, no game to write about for last week's post. When I realized this I panicked, figured I'd never figure out a backup plan in time(which I didn't), and gave up on the whole thing. I'm not the only one having the problem with ETF, so hopefully by this time next week we'll be back on the right track.

So anyway, I've been playing a little bit of Anarchy Online again lately. The new advertising system is in place and, honestly, it's not that bad. Billboards have been scattered about Rubi-Ka since I got my first glimpse anyway, now they're just advertising real-world products instead of in-game items like Yalmahas. The really sweet part of this deal is it's starting to look like stock Anarchy Online is going to move into the realm of being free for quite a while. Sure, there haven't been any major announcements, but I give you this quote from the news bit linked above: "... I am confident our free players will welcome the permanent continuation of our complimentary subscription in the ultimate sci-fi MMORPG". Seems like a solid hunch to me.

I've bumped my Adventurer up to level 53 by now, but it's been a slow process. Leveling in Anarchy Online, at these levels anyway, is actually quick and easy - it's me that's slow moving. For me, the draw of an MMORPG has nothing to do with leveling, quests, or even socializing. No, for me, it's all about exploring the massive, intricate worlds laid out in front of you. I spend the vast majority of my time in AO doing just that, running around looking for cool areas and maybe taking a screenshot or two, if the mood is upon me. Maybe, if ETF isn't patched by next week, I'll post some of my favorite snapshots of my travels.

I often wonder how different my character would be if I'd never met the kind soul who gave me a million credits and a backpack full of BBI Faithful 22 pistols. I'm sure that I'd be quite a bit more impoverished, as well as having died quite a bit more. I've just recently equipped the last two pistols of the bunch, so that means that pretty soon I'm going to have to take matters into my own hands when it comes to weapons. It also means that pretty soon, I'll be able to do the same favor for another clan Adventurer - I just hope I don't end up giving away hundreds of thousands of credits worth of free pistols to someone who, later on, reveals themselves to be a walking pile of crap.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

By The Way...

The Linux version of the Darwinia demo, as well as the full version, are now available. OK.

Ann and me. Terri, Tory?: Part 2

This week it's all about True Combat: Elite, a total conversion for Enemy Territory. It's also a sequel of sorts to the original Quake 3 engine-based True Combat. I'd already downloaded TC: E before last week's post, and I'd like to say I've been enjoying it straight from then until now. I would - I've enjoyed what I've played so far - but, as is too frequent an occurrence, I hit a snag.

What snag, you ask? Well, if you already play Enemy Territory, you already know. The 2.60 patch was released on Monday, as well as the Mac client. I, the type who upgrades as soon as one is available, had the patch downloaded and installed minutes after I'd heard the news. The problem? I guess nobody else did. When I loaded up Enemy Territory, there were four servers running. Two were empty, the others had about eight players combined. While the amount of available ET servers quickly started to grow, the servers for True Combat took a while longer to catch up.

Anyway, I've only had the chance to play about five games of True Combat: Elite but, what I've seen, I've liked. The gameplay can best be described as a mix of Counter Strike, the SOCOM games, and vanilla Enemy Territory. There are two gameplay modes: Objective and Bodycount. Bodycount is more or less a slowed-down, objective-less version of the ET gameplay. You get killed - no big deal, you respawn in a few seconds. While this mode is pretty damn fun, Objective is where the real meat of TC: E lies.

In Objective mode, you're limited to one life a round, just like the other two games mentioned above. There are also, yes, objectives to be accomplished. While that sounds pretty ET like, especially with the addition of classes, right now it's basically what most other games would call Demolition mode. It's almost right in the middle of the Counter Strike and SOCOM Demolition modes. There's one bomb, which needs to be picked up, only accessible by the Terrorist team. The other team defends one of two points where the bomb can be placed. Slow-paced fun ensues.

The people behind True Combat: Elite have done an excellent job on this game so far. The maps I've played so far are great looking, as well as truly well balanced. Of course, these guys have probably had some time to get used to the Quake 3 engine, since some of the team members worked on the original True Combat - but they've really gotten it to shine. I do have one major gripe though. The server list keeps disappearing after connecting and playing one game, seemingly only fixable by a complete reinstall. I can't even use XQF to find a server, as the 2.60 ET patch uses a different master server than the 2.56 version. Luckily, tcetest games show up in the normal ET server browser, but it's a less than optimal solution to an annoying problem.

Still though, True Combat: Elite kicks at least as much ass as the game it's based on.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Ann and me. Terri, Tori?: Part 1

How I could have let something like this slip by me while it was fully in the scope of my radar for so long remains a mystery to me. Maybe in the days before I had broadband it could be considered acceptable - the download is pretty big, after all - but it's simply inexcusable that it's taken me so long to finally try out Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory.

The list of commercial games available on the Linux platform is growing, but it's still fairly minute. The list of commercial games available for free on said platform is considerably smaller. As you may already know, since the game has been out for more than a year, Enemy Territory was originally developed as an expansion pack for Return To Castle Wolfenstein. The project was canned and, thanks to some kind soul, released for free shortly thereafter.

In retrospect, it was probably Call Of Duty's multiplayer aspect that kept me from downloading Enemy Territory as soon as I was broadband-enabled. Anybody who's played COD multiplayer knows exactly what I'm talking about - it's as addictive as... well, something really addictive. I don't know if it's longevity will match that of COD but, at least for now, Enemy Territory has me pretty well hooked.

It's really nothing new. An objective-based multiplayer shooter with different player classes set in WWII... I can think of quite a few games that might describe. The execution of Enemy Territory is where it really shines. All the stock levels, while small enough to keep it fun with small groups of players, create an impression of being massive - even though, in actuality, they're quite confined. Where the genius is, when it comes to level design, is the inclusion of very well-placed chokepoints that ensure that most of the action is happening in no more than one or two particular areas at any given time. Of all the online shooters I've played, the only one that used chokepoints almost as effectively as Enemy Territory was, yes, Call Of Duty.

You may wonder why this post's title has a "Part 1" at the end of it. You see, the world of Enemy Territory includes more than just the one game. There are a few mods out there - from small server side mods that add a few nifty features, to full blown total conversions. In the next couple of weeks I'll be taking a look at those mods, so stay tuned.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Apparently Forever Was Eight Years Ago

There's been a whole lot of videogame-related news this week, although most of it's been crap. That which was not crap I deemed largely unworthy of my attention. The Game Developers Choice Awards were given out, basically all to Half Life 2. We all know how I feel about that whole thing already, so I won't get into it - but the only game this year that actually did anything ground breaking in terms of gameplay to deserve the awards it received was Katamari Damacy. Kudos to them.

The Independent Games Festival portion of the GDC was a bit more interesting. The titles that got the awards(Alien Hominid, Gish) definitely deserved them and, at least in the case of Gish - they were probably more interesting and original than the games that got the "Big Boy" awards, Katamari Damacy excluded. Aside from that, the most interesting part I found in reading the coverage of the GDC was Emily Dickenson - The Game, a competition of sorts between masters of the art Will Wright and Peter Molyneux, as well as some guy I've never heard of named Chris Hocking. It would take me entirely too long to explain so I'll just link to the Slashdot article and let them sort it out for you.

But wait! There's More! Sony and Microsoft both continued to hype their new consoles, Shigeru Miyamoto and Nolan Bushnell both got "walk of fame"-style stars and, there was some possible news on the supposedly most realistic physics engine yet. What game is it to be used in? Halo 3? Half Life 3? Unreal 3? Not by a long shot. The honor goes to, wait for it.... Duke Nukem Forever? That's right. The game that's taken so long to come out that even jokes about how long it's taken are way too old has finally resurfaced... again.

Am I excited? Crap no, it's Duke Nukem for fuck's sakes. What's wrong with you?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

This Week: GL-Pong... Really.

So, Darwinia is supposed to be out tomorrow, and there is still no Linux demo available. That's certainly no way to make me happy, but the game is so good I'll let them slide on that one. Sure, you can play the Windows version of the demo via Cedega, but there are quite a few people out there who either can't or won't install Cedega, myself included. Let's just hope that the Linux versions of both the demo and the full game are out sometime soon enough. Anyway...

My post two weeks ago was titled "Next Week: GL-Pong". Honestly, I sort of intended it as a joke. Little did I know that there are actually quite a few 3D Pong variants out there, the most interesting of which is Pong2. See, most 3D Pong clones are just the original Pong with 3D graphics, nothing more. While it's not the first to try this, Pong2 moves the whole operation into actual 3D space.

There's just one problem. Actually, there are a few problems. The first is that Pong2 is just not fun. Playing by yourself, this game is literally impossible to win. No, it's not hard - it's impossible to win. You're not playing against an A.I. or even another player, it's you versus, well, a wall. Yep - one big, infallible wall. Network play is supposed to be the heart of Pong2, and here's where another problem comes into light. If you want to play Pong2 against one of your buddies, you need to know their IP addresses. I'm sorry, but in this day and age, this is simply unacceptable. Server Browsers aren't the way of the future, they're the way of now. Hell, with the right utility we didn't even have to worry about this shit in Doom.

Another problem: Pong2 just doesn't feel right. There are a couple different camera modes you can try out, but none of them really feel like you can see what you're doing as much as you'd like to. Your paddle is green and transparent, so there's no missing shots because you couldn't see the paddle or because you couldn't see through the paddle - but there are quite a few occasions where you miss a shot simply because you were sure you had the paddle in the right place but, thanks to the camera, misjudged your paddle placement a little bit.

OK, you do have to keep in mind that Pong2 is only at the 0.1.0 stage, so this is a release where bugs should be expected, and I got them. Actually, I've had to re-type this entire post because while trying to switch Pong2 to fullscreen mode it, for some reason, saw fit to crash the X server, thereby erasing the entire post. Keep that in mind, and maybe Pong2 will keep you entertained for, oh let's say, 5 minutes? Maybe.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Wish I Was A Darwinian...

I decided I couldn't wait any longer for the Linux version of the Darwinia demo to come out so, a few days ago, I downloaded the Windows version and took it for a test drive.

First things first, this game is oozing with style. The still screenshots hint nicely at the look of the game, but to get the full effect you need to see the game in motion. Sound, although not as impressive as the visuals, is very well done - from the little confirmation bleeps and bloops to the sound of dying virii. Yes, virii. See, the world of Darwinia - if memory serves me correctly - is(or was, we'll get to that later) a theme park of the virtual variety. Then all hell broke loose, and there are evil virii trying to take it over.

Darwinia, for the most part, is an RTS in the classic sense; but there are quite a few nifty features that set it apart from the rest. The first is the "task manager". Much like the little sidebar you have in, say, Starcraft - the task manager is responsible for unit creation among other things. What makes it unique is the "gesture system", much like the one in Black & White, where you draw certain symbols with the mouse to get the desired effect. Once you're used to what the gesture for a certain action is, this is a much easier system than the old-fashioned sidebar approach.

Another not-so-common feature of Darwinia is the squad. I know that doesn't sound as special as it's supposed to, probably because it's a word that's used in most games nowadays. Darwinia's squad however, is a group of four soldiers which are under your direct command. Sure, left click on the map and they'll go there, but right clicking will cause them to fire at wherever the mouse pointer is, giving the game a bit of a Diablo-esque point and click hack and slash feel. One more interesting feature is the way you move Darwinians around. They can't be directly controlled, so only by promoting a Darwinian to an Officer, which can order other Darwinians around. As you might have guessed, there seem to be a lot of opportunities for some very deep gameplay here.

I, for one, am thoroughly impressed by the one level packaged with the demo, although it's lack of a mid-demo save feature is responsible for my not finishing it yet. The Linux version of the demo is supposed to be out by the end of February, and with the release date of the game(March 4th) quickly coming up it should be Linux-demo-fied soon. If you have Windows and can't wait, don't. The file is only 10.8 MB to download so, even with a modem, it's worth downloading twice. The fact that it's so freaking cool is just one thing, the fact that it comes from an indie developer(Introversion Software, who also did Uplink a while back) pushes it into obvious territory. I will buy this game, no doubt about that.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Next Week: GL-Pong

Well, in keeping with the old-school tastes I've had as of late, I've downloaded and tried out not one but two Quake clients - FuhQuake and Tenebrae.

Tenebrae is, at least in most ways, the better looking of the two clients. Two features - stencil shadows and per-pixel lighting - are Tenebrae's claim to fame and, for the most part, it looks pretty good. There is only so much you can do using comparatively primitive art and a modern engine, but textures have the same "sheen", for lack of a better term, that Doom 3 constantly overuses. The intro map as well as the first mission of episode 1 have had slight upgrades to the lighting and even some slight additions that really show off what the engine can do, but after that is where things start to get a little dicey. Every other level has not had it's lighting redone, and Tenebrae's new lighting technique serves to darken every level apart from the aforementioned two. That is... not so cool.

FuhQuake(I'm still waiting on Fuh Q2... heh) is much more simple in terms of scope - it's basically GLQuake with support for colored lighting and snazzier particle effects. It's also the one I prefer to play. Tenebrae is all well and good, but until every level is re-lit I'm going to stick with something I can actually see. Take a look at the screenshots for each one and see for yourself. One word of caution though - FuhQuake actually has Linux binaries available but if you want to play Tenebrae on Linux, you're going to have to get it though CVS and compile it yourself.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Steam, By Definition, Is Constantly Evaporating.

So, honestly, the few times I've played anything this week, it's been Counter Strike or Starcraft. I've said various things to this effect before, but I'll say it again: If you're not familiar with those two games, you have absolutely no business reading obscure gaming weblogs. If you have to ask, you'll never know. That being said, the remainder of this post does have to do with CS.

So this week, it's all about Steam. As you may have noticed from a certain previous post, I'm certainly no fan of Valve Software. When it comes to Counter Strike, more specifically the Condition Zero version, I'll make an exception. So, for that one game, I'm forced to use a "service" that I'm very much against. Why, you ask? Read on, I say, read on.

Sure, I play CS online using Steam. After all, it's the only way you can play online. What I can't comprehend is how anyone with the mental capacity to understand how a computer works could purchase a product they intend on keeping via Steam. In that respect, Valve could not have picked a better name for the system. Within the recent connection problems lies a vision of the future. Buy a game through Steam and you're at their mercy. What has to be kept in mind here is that the game industry is quite volatile. I'm sure certain employees might want to think otherwise, but the fact of the matter is that Valve Software is not going to be around forever. No Valve, no Steam. No Steam, you're out 50(or 90, depending on the package deal) bucks.

If you have a box with a CD, you can be fairly certain that said CD will not self-destruct at the same time as the company. The exact opposite can be said about Steam. Not that I'd ever consider this(for reasons stated in the aforementioned previous post), but the only way to actually get a CD(or DVD, I'm not sure) and a box for Half Life 2 through Steam is to pay ninety dollars for the super duper "platinum package".

Everyone knows that with any online game supported by a central master server(which is pretty much all of them), it's all over the minute the developer decides to pull the plug. We accept that. What needs to be asked is: Can you really accept the same for an offline game?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Linux Free Strategy Game Roundup Part 4

This week's entry into the venerable Linux Free Strategy Game Roundup is netPanzer - a game that unlike, let's say netHack, is actually playable over the internet.

The last sentence was a bit of an understatement on the scale of "air is breathable by lungs". You see, netPanzer's main focus is hectic online play. Any player can jump right in to the middle of any game, at any time, no matter what. This small, seemingly inconsequential detail provides netPanzer with the bulk of it's staying power. When a player joins a heated battle, any multitude of things can happen. An area that had previously been thought safe can suddenly become a new source for a volley of shells, making an already heated battle even more chaotic - or the same battle can be swung in the favor of a struggling army if the newcomer decides to become allies. The ally aspect, by the way, is built right into the game, something I can't remember seeing in any of the other games in this roundup so far.

netPanzer's graphics, while not stunningly beautiful in screenshots, are a step up from, or at least on par with any of it's peers. Clouds of smoke billow up from still flaming ex-tanks, explosions are well animated, and the battlefields have a nice pseudo-3d look. One note against the graphics is that, while running 1024x768 resolution, the framerate is only around 48 fps. I'm not sure if they just have it capped but, at the same resolution, Cube gets 100+ fps. Only after pushing the resolution to 1600x1200, with 3x full scene anti-aliasing, does the resolution start to fall that low. Sound, while not the best I've ever heard, does a good job at capturing the intensity of a given situation with explosions-a-plenty.

Now, as I stated before, netPanzer's focus is online play but it is possible to get a game going with bots - it just takes a little more work than you may be used to. I'm not going to give step by step instructions here, as they're included in the README that comes with the game. For most GNU/Linux distributions, the game is either included on the installation CDs or available from a package management system like apt-get, so it's easy for most users to get their hands on. As with most any game now, Windows binaries are also available for download. Sorry OSX users, nothing for you yet. If you can, get your hands on this one, it's quite possibly my favorite out of all the games mentioned so far.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Level Up!

As I write this, I'm a little bit drunk. Drunk with a capital D and a whole lot of "unk" at the end. The letter "R" is also figured a little bit more prominently than it really deserves. Why, you ask? Well, I'm celebrating.

You see, three hundred and sixty days ago I decided to start a stupid little weblog like so many thousands(millions even) have done before. To be honest, when I started Avert Your Eyes I had no idea what was going to come of it, or what it was even going to be about. With the first two posts(two different links there), it was pretty apparent where things were headed. If you really need me to explain where it was that things were headed please go search now for something that you're actually interested in. Otherwise, read on because for the duration of this week's whatever-the-hell-you-feel-like-calling-it, I'm going to give honorable mention to the posts(Oh, I guess that's what they're called) I've done this year that I feel deserve some, well, honorable mention(be warned that there are many links to old posts ahead, you know, reminiscing).

I honestly can't remember why I started doing roundups, but that's when Avert Your Eyes started to feel like a real website. So far Free Linux RPGs, Unreal Tournament 2004 mods, and Free Strategy Games for Linux have all been a part of the roundup family, and I'm sure it will continue throughout the new year. Though, that's not all that's happened. Over the course of this year you've heard about my various addictions to Vendetta , Eternal Lands, Monster Hunter and, most recently, Anarchy Online. I've also tried my hand at serious videogame-related journalism. I've tried to cover E3 as well as newer, though just as disappointing developments. Most of all, though, I got pissed.

If not for the people out there making games that even a GNU/Linux user can play, or the(and I quote Penny Arcade here) unstoppable creative torrent of the mod community 2004 would have been a much more disappointing year. Even though many good games have been released this year(check the archives, I'm linked out...), with Electronic Arts deciding they're going to be the Microsoft of the videogame publishing world, more and more of us are going to have to start looking at what's being created by people who actually care about games. To end this post as others have ended: I'm out. Oh, and happy belated gaming new year, you fucks.