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.