Thursday, December 14, 2006

Menus That Abandon You

Sorry about the lack of posts over the past few weeks. Last week I decided to migrate AYE to the new Blogger beta - a process that ended up taking the rest of the day - and the week before that I just plain didn't have much to write about.

Sauerbraten had an interesting release last week. Not only have we got some new fancy graphical effects since the last time I checked, but also a host of other tweaks and improvements. The new water effects (which were actually introduced in the "water edition" a little while back) are quite a step up. As shiny and pretty as the new mater may be, I'm not noticing much of a performance hit, aside from on maps that are just plain covered in the stuff. Still, if it's too much for your machine to handle there is - as always - an option to turn it off.

When I hit the escape key to bring up the menu for the first time, I was a bit surprised. Gone is the familiar old menu system we've been used to since the days of Cube, replaced by a fancier and arguably less functional menu system. It's nice looking sure - the menu basically hovers a foot or so off the ground in front of you and you navigate with mouselook - but, depending on where it is you're standing, it can be a downright pain to use. Hit the escape key while you're falling and watch that menu stay firmly planted above you as you continue to plummet.

The single player mode has received a few small updates, including a new (to me, anyway) gameplay mode that appears to be somewhat of a mix between Cube's "invasion" themed DM-SP mode and straight up single player. The new maps are, as usual, very well designed. I know it's quite an engine, but every once in a while I almost forgot I was looking at the Sauerbraten engine instead of something along the lines of UT2004.

I jumped into a few games online to make sure the net code is still holding up alongside all of these other tweaks, and it remains as smooth as ever. Instagib is still an insanely fast experience that will get your hands sweating in the first 30 seconds or so. My only complaint is that you can't download only the updates you need. When Sauerbraten was smaller, this wasn't a big deal, but now that it's pushing 100 megs, it gets a little annoying when you know that half of what you're downloading is already sitting on your hard drive.

I'll return next week. With what? No idea. But, I assure you, I'll be here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

ActionCube or ExcitementSphere?

This week you get a brief reprieve from my exploits in the world of Rappelz. The reason? A Cube mod (who thought that we'd ever see another one of those?) that's recently come out: ActionCube.

As the name suggests, ActionCube is inspired by ActionQuake (as are most of the various Action* mods floating around). More realistic environments and weaponry meet the fast gameplay Cube is known for. ActionCube takes a more team-oriented approach to the world of Cube, something I've been waiting to see for quite a while.

The release I'm playing is the most recent - before that the Linux package apparently had some problems. The problem with this is that either the master server is still showing the older version, or compiling ActionCube themselves. Every time I've tried to get online, the servers in the server browser simply say "[unknown]" under the "players" tab.

Luckily for me, ActionCube has bots. Not like the monsters in Cube which just run towards you while shooting either - I'm talking actual bots. At the moment, the only single player game type is straight out deathmatch, but that's enough to get used to the weapons and maps before taking it online.

The five maps included are all pretty well designed, and they definitely play very well in the deathmatch mode. How well-balanced they are is something I can't yet comment on since I haven't had a chance to try out the game's team modes. I'll have to get back to you on this aspect (as well as a whole lot more) of the game.

It's easy to wonder why we're seeing a mod for Cube so late in the proverbial game. It seems that Sauerbraten would have been a better choice, although there could be some engine maturity issues I'm not taking in to account. Either way, ActionCube still looks pretty good - there's still life in the Cube engine yet.

So far, I'm enjoying ActionCube, and I'm most definitely looking forward to the chance to actually play it online. I'll report back here either later today in the form of an update, or next week in the form of a whole (or at least half) post. For now, the best way to find out more is to play it for yourself. Keep in mind, this does not need the original Cube. Just download and enjoy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Yep, Like A Soft Drink

Well, it's been a week since I last touched base (as usual), and Rappelz is still interesting. I guess that's not a bad sign.

My main character on the Tortus server, an Asura Strider, has only made it to level 21 since last week. I mentioned last week that leveling wasn't too fast in this game - I wasn't kidding. I suppose I'd be a bit higher level-wise if I hadn't started a new character: A level 13 Gaia Kahuna.

Yeah, it's a silly name, Kahuna, but it's a fun class to play so far. Unlike the Strider which, in either the melee or ranged variety (I chose ranged), is basically a straightforward class, a Kahuna is a little bit of everything. You've got damage over time spells, direct damage spells, you even get some heals later on. Don't feel like wasting your mana? Well, you're pretty handy with a mace as well.

Still, I've been playing the Strider more, as my Kahuna hasn't even made it off of the Trainee Island yet. Although the leveling is slow, the game hasn't lost its Diablo-esqe reward system. If you're not about to level up, your pet probably is. If you're not about to finish a quest, you're probably on the virge of affording that new weapon or armor upgrade. I've yet to feel the "grind", though at my low level I suppose that's not uncommon. Still, from what I can tell, it seems that even at higher levels the game still maintains its fine pacing.

One thing I neglected to mention last week was the music. Usually in an MMO the music is either annoying or nonexistent. It's almost never likable. I've spent more than a week hearing the music in Rappelz, and I've got to say: not only has it not started to annoy me yet, it's by far the best music I've encountered in an MMO. Epic symphonic swells definitely do a much better job at instilling a sense of purpose or accomplishment than the off-the-rack J-Pop that accompanies your adventures is either other GPotato game.

I've been playing it strictly solo, as is my style, but I hear that around level 30 partying (not that kind of partying) is pretty much required. Actually, I don't mind one bit. I'm sort of looking forward to the prospect of it, especially since I'm not a Cleric. Strange for antisocial me, I'll admit, but I can't deny that I'm waiting to see how my own skills match up against other's. I doubt I'll have information on that by next week, but I won't say that next week's post won't be Rappelz-related.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rappelz Sounds Like A Soft Drink Company

It's always a good sign when I have to tear myself away from playing the game of the week so I can actually write about it, and that's exactly what happened this week. The culprit is Rappelz, the latest MMO from GPotato, which officially comes out tomorrow.

I've got to say that GPotato seems to have a keen eye for highly addictive games, a statement their latest entry supports. It's another straightforward "kill everything in sight to upgrade your character so you can kill everything in sight" MMORPG, but as with their other games, the magic of Rappelz lies in its pacing.

Leveling is actually slower in Rappelz than it is in either Flyff or Space Cowboy Online, but this issue is resolved by adding other methods of character advancement. Not only do you get experience from fighting monsters, you also earn Job Points. These go towards new skills, upgrading existing skills, or raising your Job Level, which is necessary for unlocking higher level skills.

A big point of Rappelz is taming and summoning creatures, and this is something you can start doing fairly early in the game. My character is only level 13, and I've had a pet Pantera (no, not the metal band) since I was level 11. Like you, your pet also gains both experience and Job Points. Unlike you, your creature doesn't need to worry about Job Levels. There are also ridable creatures which you can't own, but you can rent for 6 hour (in game time) periods. These make getting around a lot faster and easier.

Personal shops are implemented - something I think no MMORPG should be without anymore. I love being able to walk away from the computer for a few hours and return to find my character much richer. One issue arises in the form of "stamina", which doesn't effect you character's performance, but the rate at which you gain experience points and job points. The fastest way to regain stamina (besides potions) is to log out of the game, so you may find yourself torn between raising your stamina levels or your cash flow.

There are three different races to choose from: Asura, Deva, and Gaia, each with their own home city. When I first left the Trainee island and arrived in the Asuran home city of Kahlan, I was breifly awestruck. Towering statues spouting flames, huge stone walls rising on all sides around me, this looked like the home city of the race which represents everything dark should look. I've since taken a brief sightseeing tour of both of the other cities (by teleporter, walking or riding at my level would be impossible) and they're both nice looking, but not as impressive.

PVP is possible, but I find it surprising that there is no storyline set-up for it. Sure there are other races, but you're not at war. You just live in different areas. I suppose I've been a spoiled in this area by my time playing Space Cowboy and Anarchy Online, but PVP, especially large scale PVP, is what keeps long time players coming back, in my experience. There just doesn't seem to be much motivation for it at the moment in Rappelz.

The game officially launches tomorrow, so if you want to join in on the chaos that usually ensues on the first day of games like this, I suggest you start downloading soon. The download is 1GB (as in one gigabyte - ie. big) so depending on your connection, it may take a while.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I Love Being Told What To Do

It feels good to be back. Believe it or not, I'm still not feeling 100% better, but I am feeling well enough to get back in the posting saddle. A lot has happened in the month I've been away, most of it unremarkable. So what do I do, you ask? The answer is simple: I don't write about anything that has happened in the last month.

Savage: The Battle For Newerth is a game that had me interested, but for some reason I never even got around to trying out the demo. Since it was liberated last month, I figured it was about time I tried it out. Honestly, I can't believe I've deprived myself of this game for so long. It was definitely a smart idea on the part of S2 Games, as I'm now also very interested in the sequel.

If you're unaware of the game's concept, Savage is a novel mix of a first/third person shooter, and a real time strategy game. One player is elected commander and sees the action unfold RTS-style, while the rest of the players see the battlefield through the eye of a traditional soldier.

The part of Savage's recipe that appeals to me so much is actually knowing what it is I should be doing. I'll admit it, in most games, I'm just following the largest group of my allies. Having a little notification pop up, telling me to attack, followed by a glowing column of light showing me exactly where I need to go is something wonderful, as far as I'm concerned.

Of course, it's not like there's some unseen hand forcing you to bend to its will. If you don't like your orders, there's absolutely nothing stopping you from running off on your own and doing whatever the hell you please. Sure, chances are your team will hate you and your base will end up a flaming ruin, but it's your choice.

The battles I've had a chance to partake in have generally been nothing short of epic. The music is a big help in this case, so much so that even losing is fun due the dramatic score swelling up as your comrades fall around you. If there's one fault, it's the melee combat. It feels clunky, there's no way around that. The best you can hope is that your team does well enough that you'll have access to ranged weapons soon.

I'm going to give Savage: The Battle For Newerth a very high recommendation. I did myself a tremendous disservice by not trying it out until now, a mistake I certainly won't make with its sequel which, like its predecessor, will have a Linux version available from day one.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Don't Support Pointless Forks

Still in recovery, folks, but I wanted to comment on EDM. Basically, some guy who doesn't get along with Sauerbraten head honcho Aardappel decided he was going to take his ball and go home. Thus began EDM. Forks spawned by ego, no matter who's fault, are never a good thing. Do yourselves and the rest of the community a favor, folks: Stick with Sauerbraten.

That's all I've got to say for this week. Hopefully I'll return in full form next week. Thank you for your patience.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Sorry for the lack of posts. No, this isn't a cheap cop out. I've been pretty sick over the past too weeks, definitely not feeling well enough to post. Hopefully I'll be back next week. Hold tight.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Next Up: Underwater Cyclist Online

So I take a month-long break, then miss a post only two weeks in. Only here at Avert Your Eyes folks, only here. Anyway, as was alluded to last week, this is going to be another Space Cowboy Online post. Take it or leave it - it's all you're getting.

My I-Gear has made its way to the not-so-stately level of 35, something that actually didn't take too long to happen. I've been playing casually at best, with only one long grinding session taking place over the weekend. Weapon drops, at least for me, have been plentiful enough - there's almost always been a new piece of gear a few levels away. Combine that with the skill upgrades, and you've got that whole Diablo II feeling, pushing you to progress.

The main reason this game has got such a hold on me is my recent introduction to the world of Nation Wars. Yes, I've managed to bag a few killmarks (an item that drops when you take down another player's gear), some quite a few levels above my own. It's a great feeling when, after firing off a few Edrills, you manage to take down the enemy gear that almost took you out in one hit. The fact that skill plays such an important part in combat levels the playing field considerably. No longer are you constantly killed by opposing players simply because they log on twice as much in a week as you do.

There, of course, is some bad that's crept up during my playing time. First, it's always annoying when the (much overpowered) enemy decides to invade the area you're currently attempting to level in. All too often will you be happily chasing down mobs when one missile, out of nowhere, turns your gear into a hulking wreck of smoke and metal. The other, far more annoying problem - present in every MMO out there - is the incessant bitching of other players. They get killed, it's your fault - you should have stopped grinding and joined the raid. I've heard this at least 20 times in my time playing, and I'm not exaggerating for effect.

That said, I'm still going to be playing SCO for quite some time, and I'm sure you're going to be hearing about it. Especially if you don't stop grinding and come to Bark City immediately.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Well, I'm Back

After a month long break I return, rested and refreshed, to the world of Avert Your Eyes. I'd been looking at Space Cowboy Online - a MMO/shooter hybrid - for quite some time now, as it seemed the sort of thing that would be right up my ally. This week I decided to take the plunge, and there is definitely a whole lot to like.

After spending more time patching the game client than I had spent downloading the 983MB installer, I finally made it to the character creation screen. The four "gears", as they're called, are SCO's equivalent of other MMO's classes. Only having four choices may seem limiting at first, especially since there is no branching out at later stages in the game, but different choices in equipment and stat point distribution can produce radically different characters. I, playing for the first time, decided to go for an I-Gear. After choosing your gear, you're introduced to the game's control system by a quick succession of tutorials.

After finishing the tutorial, you'll find yourself standing in Bygeniou city. This is where the game actually begins. You could just hit the Take Off button at this point and start taking out mobs left and right, but the game will take the liberty of offering you missions that help you level up a lot more quickly (I hit level 16 in my first session). These missions usually task you with killing a certain amount of a certain type of mob, but every now and then they mix it up by having you find some items laying around a map or (gasp!) fly through a cave.

The real time combat instantly makes the "grinding" inherent in every MMORPG much more enjoyable, simply because it's so fun. Barrel rolling to dodge enemy missiles and trying to get in to position to return a volley of your own is much more enjoyable than watching your character fight slowly, an eye on your skill refresh meter, wondering how it's possible for 15 seconds to last 30 seconds.

Unlike FlyFF (another GPotato game), which is fun but doesn't give you much motivation to level, Space Cowboy remedies the situation by offering up some very interesting PvP. Upon reaching level 11, you're offered the mission "Decision", which requires you to side with one of two warring nations: Bygeniou City United or Anti-National influence United (I picked the latter). This is the basis of the game's focus on large-scale PvP which, though I haven't yet participated, has got me very excited.

I've only seen a small portion of the game so far, so I'm going to wrap it up for this week. I'm sure that, as interested as I am here, I'll be writing about this one again.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Odds Are Even

Had the Z-Lock Linux port dropped last week, bandwidth issues would not have not been able to stop the admittedly-very-stoppable force that is Avert Your Eyes. Created by Jumpei Isshiki, who you can also thank for Area 2028, Z-Lock is another amazing little shooter that manages to fit in a paltry 6mb archive.

Z-Lock's major gimmick is that the power of your ship's weapons are directly proportional to the number of enemies locked on to your ship at any given time. This serves two major gameplay purposes, the first being that odds that would otherwise be overwhelming are swayed a bit in your favor. The second is more interesting: the level of strategy it adds to the game. While smaller fighter-type ships are numerous, there are also larger, slower ships that take a lot of firepower to bring down. Do you take out the smaller enemies first, for safety's sake, or do you leave them hanging around to boost your firepower?

As I've come to expect from pretty much anything evilmrhenry ports to my operating system of choice, Z-Lock is a visually stunning game. No single element is responsible for this as, taken individually, the components are nothing more than simple geometric shapes. As a whole, however, the graphical elements are far more than the sum of their parts. While not as colorful as Area 2028's, the graphics are still a treat.

While it hasn't supplanted Gunroar as my favorite shoot-em-up, Z-Lock is a strong contender in the field. The sheer fun that occurs when you stop paying attention to other things and let yourself really get in to the game is not something to be missed.

I'll try to be back later on today with another update, but other things need to be taken care of first. If I don't return, there is always next week.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Oops: Part 2

The bandwidth issue I mentioned last week still stands. My remaining bandwidth is barely enough to get to the end of the month, and that's without downloading any large files of any sort. As I watch the floating point number trickle even further down, I realize - there is no way I can do a post this week. So, I'll return next week with either a super feature or a double feature. Either way, I'll do everything in my (extremely limited) power to make up for the two missed posts. See you next week.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I figured I'd just get this out of the way, rather than wait until next week to explain: there is not going to be a post this week (well, except for this small post which serves to explain that there is no post). I've only got a tiny fraction of my monthly bandwidth allotment remaining, no backlog of games to touch on, and no "special something" - this is, indeed, the fastest route to a no-post. Next week's post is near enough to the end of the month that I'll be in a much better position for downloading, so hold tight.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"I Will Revenge Grownup Lawolf"

Yeah, sorry about that. Once summer arrives it's much, much easier to miss a few weeks worth of posts than it is in the dreary depths of Northeastern mid-winter. Anyway, as I promised you a few weeks back, here are some of my impressions of FlyFF.

First things first - it's an MMORPG. Hence, it's got a lot of the elements that would cause one to describe the game as such, aside from what is clearly pointed out in the first three letters of the genre's quirky name. After you've played one of these types of games, you know pretty well what to expect from the next 15 or so. It's a combat focused MMO, so you're not going to find harvesting, crafting, or any of the trappings of a more complex game here. Luckily, it seems to work for FlyFF, at least in the early stages of the game.

The game's chibi styled characters and generally cartoon-ish look are reminiscent of R.O.S.E Online - something you may or may not find appealing. A less masculine version of myself might call the FlyFF's look charming. I'll just say that I have no problem with the graphics. Much like R.O.S.E, the enemies you find in the game are either cute, disturbing, or both at the same time. If you take a bit too long to think about it, you'll eventually realize that you've just murdered an entire village of serial-killer children. My advice? Just try not to think about it.

I haven't yet run into the "grind" that is the most recognizable trait of most games like these, as my character is only in the low 20s, but I've been assured that it is very much there. Once (or more likely, if) my Magician hits level 60, I'll be able to pick a more advanced job; but beyond that, there isn't much pushing you to level. This is a characteristic of myself I'm sure does not apply to many others, but I really need some motivation beyond "level up to get better gear to level up..." and so on and so forth.

Now, the flying. Yeah, sure, it's fun to an extent, but it serves more as a way to reach far-off places more quickly than it does a fun-dispensing device. This also brings up an interesting point - the economy. My Magician has already obtained the best board (it's like a snowboard, but it can fly!) available in the game, and it was nothing short of very easy to do so. I'm sure that this situation is not exactly what the designers intended. Inflated economies do eventually collapse, and they often tend to take a large section of the player base with them when they disappear.

The final verdict? I'm going to keep playing it here and there, for sure. The combat system is interesting enough (for an MMO, anyway), and the look of the environments is enough to push me to level, simply to be able to explore further, but that can only last so long. Definitely a good enough choice for making a few hours disappear here and there. Days? No.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

With A Whimper

For a long time, it seemed like the moment of which we are now standing on the cusp might never come. Now that I'm staring it right in the face, I know that it has been in the back of my mind for quite a while. Ladies and gentlemen, it is with a somewhat heavy heart that I present to you this: the last Anarchy Online post ever.

Simply put, I couldn't do it anymore. When a game starts to feel like you have to play it, it just really isn't a game anymore. At least, not to me. I should have known what I was getting myself in to - I'm not a guild type of guy. I'm aware that the concept of being a loner in the world of MMORPGs might be an alien concept to some, if not many, but that (excuse me for using an awful RPG pun) is just how I "roll".

Just leaving the game is one thing. The manner in which I left, however, is another. Well, I just stopped showing up. At first, I was even trying to trick myself: "Maybe I'll feel like logging on again soon. Maybe this is just a break." I knew that wasn't true. It started slowly enough - first I stopped logging on often, then not at all, then I stopped even bothering to read the organization forums. Then, one day earlier this week, I uninstalled the game. Perhaps not the most tactful way for the second-in-command to leave his organization, I'll admit.

All that said, I feel great. Until now, whenever I was playing something that wasn't AO, it almost felt as if I was "cheating" on AO with the other game. That's no way to spend your gaming time. Now, I can actually enjoy gaming again, and that's no small victory. I'll be honest, I even feel like playing MMOs again. I'm just going to make sure not to get wrapped up in the game, so yes, it's back to being a loner for me.

Speaking of MMORPGs - I downloaded FlyFF (Fly For Fun) the day after I uninstalled AO. I've only made it to level 14, and you don't get to pick a job until level 15, so I haven't really seen much of the game yet. I will, though, and I'll be back with more on that next week.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Again, Not The Food

Sometimes, this project hits its rough spots. One of the problems of having an Open Source gaming focused blog is that, if nothing particularly interesting happens over the course of a week, you're left with no subject material. Two times in two weeks I was struck by this nasty occurrence (insert bitching about your favorite game never being mentioned on this site here) but, luckily, the drought has ended.

I'm consistently impressed with the quality of each Sauerbraten release, and the game is only getting better. The most recent update includes a whole slew of new features, maps, and other various improvements. Nexuiz also had a new release this week, a 2.0 release at that. I'll be honest - I'm becoming less and less optimistic about Nexuiz turning in to a game I'd actually like to play, so much so that I haven't bothered downloading it yet. I may not at all, only time will tell.

Back to Sauerbraten. It looks like Nexuiz won't be able to wave its "prettiest open source game" banner (something I never agreed with, anyway) for much longer. Full screen shader support made it in to the game with this release, allowing light bloom and all that stuff the kids go crazy for these days. It's in its infancy stages right now, but it looks quite good already. Enough about the graphics stuff - moving on.

The "Capture" gameplay type (along with the maps this game type takes place on) is, hands down, my favorite new feature. If you've played any of the "Battlefield *" games, you'll be quite familiar with the mechanics at work here. There are various control points scattered about the maps, and your objective is simple: control more of them than the other team does. The "Capture" maps are generally much larger and sprawling when compared to the deathmatch maps, further adding to the Battlefield-esque feel. Make no mistake though, this is still Sauerbraten - you're not playing this game looking for realism. You're still moving at around the equivalent of 60mph, and it's going to take a hell of a lot more than a few shots to bring you down.

The single player mode of the game has been greatly improved since the last release, feeling a little less Quake and a little more Quake 2. Checkpoints have been introduced at various points throughout the levels, and the general layout and design feels a lot more solid than Cube's singleplayer mode did. The respawn points alone are very handy, given the tendency of some of Sauerbraten's mappers to create brutal single player levels.

That's about it for this week, folks. If you already know and like Sauerbraten, make sure you get the new release. If you aren't familiar with Sauerbraten or Cube at all - download it anyway. I highly doubt that you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

If Guns Can Roar, Can Lions Shoot?

The "special something" alluded to last week is something I've handily managed to avoid over the course of the days following. Needless to say, but said anyway - that's not something in the cards for today's post.

As someone who keeps as close an eye on the scene as I do, it's nothing other than a damn shame that it's taken me so long to get around to playing Kenta Cho's latest game, Gunroar. It's a mystery to me how one man can consistently create some of the best shooters I've ever encountered, but it's not necessarily one I'd like to see solved. All the Cho trademarks are in place: Abstract blocky yet startlingly beautiful graphics? Check. Crazy music? Check. Frequent boss battles? Check.

While I'm not sure yet if it's going to claim the place of my favorite of the "series", Gunroar is most definitely a strong contender. For the first time in a Kenta Cho game, the element of cover has been introduced in the form of islands scattered about the vertically scrolling levels, complete with emplaced weaponry. This seemingly inconsequential new element gives the shooting a much more tactical feel, as the islands do block shots.

You'll be warned of enemy ships from a distance, as you see their red tracking beams long before you see the ships themselves. Not only is this incredibly handy when the difficulty picks up, it's a nice looking effect as well. In fact, Gunroar may be Kenta Cho's best looking game yet, a fact not to be understated when discussing someone with such an impressive body of work under their belt. Particle effects fill the screen so completely that, at times, you may briefly become confused as to where on the screen your ship is. Luckily, in my time playing, this never became an issue that effected playability.

There are a large number of control schemes available, including gamepad support. The mode I found worked best for me was the "mouse" control scheme, which basically lets you control the game as you would a first person shooter - the WASD keys control movement and the mouse controls aiming.

If you enjoy shooters at all, and have an OpenGL capable videocard, do yourself a favor and download this game. It's only 5.5mb, so even the slowest dialup can fetch this game with ease. If this is your first Kenta Cho shooter, be warned, you'll probably download the rest immediately after trying Gunroar.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wii-bles Wobble, But They Don't Fall Down

Weeks without posts are starting to become routine around here, but let me assure you, I'm not exactly happy about the current state of affairs. Last week I was still halfheartedly absorbing the E3 coverage, and the only game I'd played all week was the latest alpha of OpenArena, which is in such an alpha state that it didn't really deserve it's own post. Anyway, more on that later.

As I'm sure most folks are aware, Nintendo's Wii had a good time at E3 - enough so that people aren't talking exclusively about the name anymore, but not enough to stop people from dubbing the controller the "Wiimote". I've got to say, over the past week my opinion of the system has shifted from something I was merely keeping an eye on, to something I'm genuinely interested in. If the price point is as low as some people are speculating, I'm even more interested. There's just the one problem, something I was discussing with a friend the other day - I'm not a kid anymore.

When I'm gaming, my primary reason for doing do is to relax. My days of jumping around like someone being stung by bees on the mat that came with the NES Track and Field game are, how do you say, over. I really can't see myself standing ready for battle, sweat on my brow, swinging the controller, shouting "Hyah!", or "Take that!" with each thrust of my pseudo-sword. It's something my neighbors could probably do without as well, especially since I do most of my gaming at night. I suppose we'll see. If the same results can be achieved in a more relaxed fashion, I'll really be inclined to take a look at the system.

I mentioned OpenArena at the top of the post, or rather, I mentioned it's un-postworthy-ness. I suppose, coming from the Linux world, I'm used to the possibility of things labeled alpha being usable. OpenArena is not one of these pieces of software yet. It has a lofty goal for sure - to (as the name implies) implement a completely free (as in freedom) version of Quake 3: Arena. Hey, I'm all for that. But, for now, there's just not a whole lot there. I'm in no way writing the game off, and I'll revisit it again for sure, but there's just not much you can do with the game in it's current state.

Well, that's about all I've got prepared for this week. I've been planning on doing a "special feature" of sorts for the past few months, but it keeps getting sidetracked. Seeing as the loyal people still reading after all the missed posts deserve something special, I'm going to try to pull it together for next week. See, AYE is pretty much a "Oh crap, it's Thursday, what the hell am I going to write about?" thing most of the time, and this is going to take a bit more time than that. Anyway, if it's not up next week, it is on the way, so stay tuned.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Two To The Uh Oh

Once again, apologies are in order due to two weeks of missed posts. Every time update day has come around I've felt like a wet sack of sick - something that doesn't exactly manage to put me in the prime mood for posting. Anyway, enough of that. The linux installer for the 2.0 version of Glest came out on Monday, so I figured I'd give it a whirl and try out the new techs/units.

Although both factions have received some fancy new units and tech upgrades, a lot of the focus seems to have gone towards the Magic faction. It definitely needed it. Previously, Magic was a heck of a lot harder to win a game with than Tech - now it's just somewhat harder. Units still don't seem to stand head to head with the opposite faction's rough equivalents - the new Golems are too slow to be of any use (they're basically defense structures that can move), Drake Riders seem to keel over nearly instantly, and the new Daemons (whatever the hell comes from a Wicker Daemon, I can't remember the name at the moment) don't seem much stronger than their lower-class brethren.

Still, it's the same old Glest we've come to know and love. Maybe a bit too much so, considering this is not a point release upgrade. I'd have loved to see more new maps, maybe a new tileset, and maybe some refinement in the pathfinding code. Hang on a second, what's that other thing? That thing I can hear people screaming off in the distance? Oh yeah. Multiplayer. Actually, I don't give a rat's ass (or any other part of it, for that matter) about multiplayer. Maybe I will when I stop getting my ass handed to me by the (non-Ultra mode) AI.

That handily brings me around to a subject that I've managed to safely avoid over the course of the 2+ years I've been doing AYE - I absolutely suck at real time strategy games. How I still suck at one of my favorite genres is a complete mystery to me. Turn based, that I can handle - I know my way all around Alpha Centauri; Final Fantasy Tactics is like taking candy from a baby; whatever Wesnoth (the AI, not other people) throws at me, I can handle. Change the "T" to an "R", and suddenly I'm curled up in the fetal position on the floor as flames cover the entire viewing area on my monitor, tiny enemy tanks rumbling over the ruins of my base, pissing on my corpse.

I don't know why I continue to take the abuse, but I know that I do. As long as there are games like Glest around to drag me through the dirt - I'll cough it up, wipe the blood from my chin, and grab back on. Keep up the good work, folks.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Out With The Old... In With The New

Sorry about the missed post last week. A). I was doing some maintenance on my main box, which ran a bit longer than I expected B). I haven't been doing anything gaming-wise besides playing AO over the past two weeks or so. This week, I'd planned on writing up Glest 2.0, but I'm having a fuck of a time getting it to build, so I suppose I'll hold out for the installer. So get ready for yet another of installment of "What's Going On With Anarchy Online". Go ahead and hit the back button on your browser... now.

For a while there, I was starting to think we were dying out. People started to show up less often, then not at all. I hadn't seen our President in weeks. Eventually even my best buddy within the group hightailed it the fuck out of town. Sure, he gave me his gear, but what the hell was I going to do with it alone? I'm a fucking Trader. It seemed that, at this point, all that was left was for someone to come by and hammer a few nails into the top of our collective coffin, make it official. We weren't dying out. We were already dead.

I'd all but given up. Sure, I'd continue to show my polygonal face, it's something I couldn't not do, but I didn't expect much more than that from myself. When I logged in and saw people - people I didn't know, I was pleasantly surprised. When they kept on coming, well fuck, I damn near shed a tear. Our population had more than doubled, literally overnight. And they're still coming.

Of course, there are going to be a few bad eggs when you have such a large volume of people coming in to the organization so quickly. We're going to have to keep an eye out, and it's not going to be fun having to boot people, but it's a necessary evil. Most of the people coming in are great - a lot of them are quite new to the game so they have the eagerness to explore, excitement, and intensity that the few of us who were hanging around had been loosing. It's hard not to get caught up in their enthusiasm, to the point that it's really reignited my love of the game.

That about wraps it up for this week, you brave few who have continued reading up until this point. You deserve something special, but I doubt I'll be the one to deliver said thing. I'm figuring if nothing comes down the pike between now and next week, I'll boot in to "the partition whose name shall not be spoken" and give Glest 2.0 a whirl.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mix 'Em Together - Then You've Got Something

Well, fuck. The GDC has come and gone, and there's not an awful lot to say. Both keynotes I mentioned being interested in last week turned out to be reiterations of what we already been told so far. All in all, it was a real lackluster year for the GDC. So, forget that - I'm not going to rehash the same info you've been reading all week. Two of my current favorite games in the open source scene - Sauerbraten and GalaxyMage - got updates this week. Read on for details.

The latest release of Sauerbraten has two main features. The first - the addition of the Grenade Launcher - finally has me understanding what the whole "Physics Edition" business was in the last release. Although the projectile it fires doesn't exactly look like you would expect it to, it does act how you would expect it to. It's definitely a fun weapon to play around with, especially bouncing grenades around corners, but I have noticed that, at times, there is quite a distinct "skating on ice" effect when the grenade is moving across the floor. I'm sure this will be taken care of in a future release.

The title of this release is "Shader Edition", which gives you a pretty good idea of what the other major new feature in Sauerbraten is. This one, of course, doesn't have any effects on game balance or anything else besides the visual aspect of the game, so I can't really say I feel too strongly about it. Your weapons, as well as the various powerups and various static meshes peppered throughout the levels are all shiny now - that's it. I've noticed that mesh heavy maps take a performance hit from the new shader effects, so it's something mappers are going to have to take into consideration.

GalaxyMage basically has one major update for this release - Network play. Sadly, this mode isn't fully implemented yet. When selecting multiplayer you get a nice unfriendly screen asking you to input the IP address of the server you want to connect to. I've talked about this before, and my opinion on the matter hasn't changed any since the last time I mentioned it. I have good faith that the GalaxyMage team will pick up the slack and tack on a server browser some time in the near future.

Even if they do, I doubt I'll ever experience GalaxyMage's multiplayer mode. In my eyes, this type of turn-based strategy-RPG gameplay just doesn't seem to work in the online world. I'm sure this is an area where opinion vary wildly, but I just can't see it. At the moment, all the multiplayer mode means to me is that I had to install Twisted.

Well folks, that's it for this week. I've no idea what's coming down the pike for next week, so we'll just see what happens between now and then.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

GDC '06 - Part 1

While writing last week's post, I completely forgot that the GDC (Game Developers Conference, for the uninitiated) was going to be happening this week. The aforementioned conference makes up the bulk of this post, but not the entirety. Warning - there are a whole lot of links to Gamasutra, which may require you to register at some point. You can probably use BugMeNot, but honestly I'd deem Gamasutra as a register-worthy site.

First things first. Reaffirming that good things can still happen to good people, Darwinia won the top prize at the Independent Games Festival Awards - something I was hoping would happen. The awards ceremony's bigger, louder brother - the Game Developers Choice Awards, was basically swept by three games. Shadow Of The Colossus was the big winner, an event I have absolutely no problems with. Nintendogs and Guitar Hero were the other big winners, with Psychonauts putting in a small appearance.

On to the GDC. There were two major keynotes at the event yesterday, the first of which was the Sony keynote. Phil Harrison was the main speaker, although there were quite a few others showcasing PS3 demos. Apparently, what was shown was not that different than what we've seen and heard before, but there was a very interesting tidbit thrown out in the Q&A session after the keynote - the PS3 will be region free. Not the system itself, of course, but the software. That's great news already, but it gets me wondering if it will play PS1/PS2 games region-free as well. Not being a mod chip type of fellow, this could finally give me the chance to get my hands on some imports I've always wanted.

The next keynote speaker was Ron Moore (Slashdot link so you can see Cylon misspelled as Pylon), formerly of Star Trek fame, who is now working on Battlestar Galactica. It didn't have an awful lot to with games, from the coverage I've read, but it does give me a long-awaited opportunity to mention who much of a Battlestar Galactica fan I am. The original show I watched for the same reason I watch MacGyver - the cheese factor. The new one is just, well, I don't know what to say except that it's the only show on television I try not to miss an episode of.

That's it for now, but there are two keynotes of interest going on today that I'd like to cover - Satoru Iwata with some info on the Nintendo Revolution (I believe that keynote is going on as I type this) and Will Wright (Spore, man, Spore!), so if I get the chance, I'll be back later today with more on those. Otherwise, you'll get more GDC goodness next week.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Consider This A Stew

Sorry about the missed post last week, this is becoming too frequent. As the title suggests, this is another hodge-podge post, sort of summing up what would've been mentioned last week and this week's happenings all at once.

First off - Final Fantasy XII was finally released yesterday (sorry about the 1up link). Of course, there are still many months to go until the game makes it out of Japan, but we're getting closer. This particular iteration has had more mixed feelings in the previews than any other Final Fantasy game this side of XI. Honestly, the game could score 1/10 ratings across the board and I'd pick it up without a second thought. When you've got the art director from Final Fantasy IX onboard, that's all I need to know.

I suppose that last week's missed post could be considered a blessing in disguise, as all you would have gotten is a short post about Triplex Invaders. Don't get me wrong, Triplex Invaders is an awesome "schmup", but there really isn't enough material there for a whole post. The game looks awesome, think Kenta Cho's shooters, but even more psychedelic. The game plays, well, like a shooter. The controls are tight, enemies are huge, and the explosion effects are satisfying. Throw in the fact that it's written in my language of choice, and you get a big thumbs up from me.

Things start to move faster at this point, so keep up.Sauerbraten has some more servers up now, and I've been playing quite a bit of the game. It's a bit of a shame that some of my favorite maps have yet to show up in a server rotation, but I keep logging on, hoping to see one of them loaded up. I tried to check out Stendhal, something I've been meaning to do for a while. The catch? I figured I'd run it on my old laptop, which apparently is not up to the task. I might have more on that next week, once I try it out on my main machine.

That's pretty much it for this week, loyal readers. With some more time on my hands, hopefully I can have a double feature up next week, but only time will tell. Anarchy Online can be a demanding mistress, for which an unheeded call can be disastrous. If I can break the spell of the siren song, there is hope.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

No, Not The Food

Sauerbraten finally popped up on the Linux Game Tome this week, with a release that actually came out late last month. Since it is, after all, the successor to Cube, every release is a reason for me to be excited. The engine has taken shape, so the next few releases should be when it starts to get "really good".

The download is listed as "Physics Edition", and I'll admit, I don't know what that means. At the moment, the gameplay feels nearly identical to that of Cube, but I'll admit I haven't found a multiplayer game going yet, so my speculation is based purely on the single player modes. Speaking of that, the few single player maps included in the package far outclass even the best of Cube's single player maps. It's still pretty much Doom with every dial turned up to 11, but that is hardly a complaint in my book.

Of course, as with it's predecessor, Sauerbraten's main focus is on the multiplayer game. The multiplayer maps (and there are already a ton included) are really impressive. While my two current favorites - "moonlight" and "darkdeath" have already been around for a while, there are plenty of new and impressive maps that have come out since the last release I grabbed. "metl3" has made its way over from Cube, and "roughinery", "serpentine", and "face-classic" have all been ported over from the UT series. "legoland", which is exactly what its name would suggest, is absolutely surreal. There are even a few maps, such as "ladder" and "spiralz" that exist simply as a reference for mappers. If you really want to see how promising the engine is, take a look at the sprawling RPG maps included.

The biggest additional improvement over Cube is the absolutely gorgeous lighting/shadow effects. The aforementioned "metl3" looks significantly better than its Cube incarnation as a result. "nmp7" is another map with some brilliant lighting. Some other minor tweaks include better particle effects and it seems that textures can now be "fullbright". Either that or it's just another case of excellent lighting.

Now, I find myself wishing for two things. The first and more easily attainable is for some more servers to pop up. I'm seriously jonesing for some deathmatch action to test out the playability of the new maps. The second is to see some other projects start up using the Sauerbraten engine. As easy as it is to create maps, it would be great to see some mods with altered gameplay come to the scene.

So, come on. Give this baby a download, and we'll get this party started.

Update: I've had a chance to play a bit of Sauerbraten online, and it definitely plays as tight as Cube. I still don't really understand the bit about "Physics Edition" - the only difference I've noticed is that the "bouncing" effect on stairs seemed ramped up a bit. The larger, sprawling maps definitely make the Instagib mode quite a bit more enjoyable since you can have a fun time with more than four players. We still need some more servers online so, if you're that type, fire it up.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I Really Couldn't Think Of A Title

A no post last week was bad enough, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to leave you somewhat hanging again this week, as I'm rather sick. So I don't feel entirely guilty about this, I'll give you a quick rundown of my recent gaming activities, and maybe expand on some later if said expansion is required.

First off, just as I said I would, I gave Nexuiz another look, even if it took me a bit longer than I expected to. Long story short - I still dislike the game as much as the last time I played it. The CTF mode, albeit welcome, didn't do much to mitigate the effects of all the other parts of the game I don't like. By the way, I still don't find the graphics all that special - yes, even for an open source game. When I see the "it looks better than some commercial games!" comments (look at the Tome entry linked above), I can't help but wonder what games these people are playing.

I finally got around to checking out Narcissu, which is one of the most depressing things I've ever encountered. It's very well done, and the translation is solid, but stay away from this one if you're looking for something cheery. That's pretty much all I'm going to say about this one, anything else would be superflous.

I also checked out Outgun, which I suppose could be an alright game. I've only had the chance to play with the (newly introduced) bots, so the verdict is still out on this one, as I'm sure the game is entirely different with a little strategy thrown into the mix.

Well, the post ended up being a bit longer than I thought, but I still owe you folks something special. Check back next week, when I expect to be healthier.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Loki: The God, Not The Publisher

Before we get started, apologies again for the underwhelming start to this season of AYE. Anyway, the Linux version of the Northland demo hit today, and since I'd never managed to get into the beta, I figured I'd give it a try. The game has obviously aged a bit at this point, but I came away from the demo feeling much more impressed with Northland than I had prepared myself for.

The first thing that struck me is that Northland has a lot of charm working in it's favor. From the little bit of music that plays when two of your Vikings get married, to the grunts and other audio cues given when your minions receive an order, the atmosphere of the game is well fleshed out. Graphically the game, while somewhat simplistic, has a very distinct cartoonish look. It's somewhat strange, since at first glance it may cause the game to seem lacking in depth, which is certainly not the case.

Even the amount of depth in managing your villagers, while not readily apparent, is nearly staggering once you move past the beginning stages. A series of tutorials is available to introduce you to the finer points of the game, and that is certainly appreciated, although the tutorials themselves could use some work. At a few points during the tutorial I happened to find situations where a simple mistake such as marrying a citizen to the wrong person, or turning the wrong farmer into a miller, left me unable to continue.

Combat in Northland is much as it is in similar title and honestly, my least favorite part of the game. This is, obviously, a personal preference - I'm the type of gamer who could tinker away with my town indefinitely. The economic simulation adds another interesting layer of depth to the game, and the combat certainly isn't bad, but I found managing the villagers needs and improving my village as a whole the most enjoyable part of the demo.

The game isn't actually available for Linux yet, but according to RuneSoft, it should be out soon enough. There seems to be a lot to do in the demo, especially if you're like and enjoy the village management, or if you're the type who will play through scenarios with different tactics. Definitely one of the more interesting commercial titles for Linux I've tried recently.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I Call It Pulling A Megatokyo

What a way to kick off the new season. I woke up today feeling fine - not so much now. Sorry about the no-post, folks. I'll make it up to you next week.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Level 3

Two days short of two years ago, Avert Your Eyes started off with the same vague ramblings that most sites like this do. I'd never planned on updating with any amount of frequency. In fact, I'll let you all in on a little secret - the only reason AYE updates on Thursdays is that, after a few weeks, I realized all my posts had been on Thursdays and decided it was a fine enough day to update. This week we're taking a look back at the past year, which henceforth shall be known as "The Year With Many Missed Updates".

I ended up writing about the Darwinia demo a mere two weeks after voicing my concerns about Steam. Strange, that - as less than a year later, Darwinia is being distributed through that vile service. That said, it's still great to see such an amazing game finally get some of the spotlight time it deserves. Hopefully it'll get some attention in the independents portion the next time I "cover" the GDC.

I suppose 2005 was a year for firsts as, at the very least, it saw me try my hand at "playing" a creepy visual novel. Another first? Me not liking a space-based game. Another? The complete awesomeness of the Spore video. The year also saw the first time I actually received a rebuttal of sorts from a disgruntled team member. By the way, sorry to say it Nexuiz folks, but your game hasn't gotten any better. I'll be over here playing Warsow while you're working on it. Last, but not least, you can't mention firsts without mentioning NERO.

Before I wrap this up, I'm going to give credit where credit is due and mention some of my favorite games that saw their first releases during AYE's last "season". Some of them I've already mentioned above, such as Darwinia and NERO. Other favorites of mine include Glest, GalaxyMage, and a handful of abstract shooters that finally made their way over to Linux.

Thanks to everybody who's stuck around and kept reading the site through all the missed posts, I'm going to try to make that happen less during the next "season". Although I did complain a little bit, it's been a great 12 months for the scene - let's hope it keeps up the momentum.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Like Mixed Nuts, Only Not

Yeah, yeah - I've been missing for two weeks. I guess that's what happens when I walk the streets with a bag on my head and a sign that says "You don't get this joke". Kudos to you if you did. Anyway, given my recent absence, today's post is going to be a hodge podge of a few different things. On to item the first.

It seems that the team behind a game I've always had quite the soft spot for - UFO: Alien Invasion - has gone MIA. Well, that was actually rather apparent a year ago. Anyway, fear not. It seems some enterprising members of our community have stepped up to pick up the workload. If you read what is currently the top post on the LGT page linked above, it seems their missing a few files, so if you happen to have what they're looking for, help 'em out. Watch out! It's item the second.

GalaxyMage has been rolling along rather steadily, hitting us with a 0.2 release that's huge improvement over what was already a very solid 0.1 release. The new features packed in are surprisingly in abundance. Terrain smoothing, random maps, new character classes, and improved A.I. are just a few. While there's still no apparent mouse control, the keyboard controls are as solid as the last release. Not to mention, they do add to the console feel of the game. I've got to say again that I'm really impressed with how this project is coming along. You knew it had to be coming, didn't you? Item the third.

Things have been damn fun in Anarchy Online lately, and apparently I've made a good name for myself within my organization. Last week I received a promotion to Squad Commander, meaning a whole lot more responsibility for myself. Granted, I've noticed this has caused me to log in quite a few times more because I felt like I should than that I really wanted to play. New responsibilities haven't stopped me from gaining level 80 and a nice shiny Yalmaha, which was actually bought for me by an org-mate who I now owe my soul, ass, and my sole ass. This turn of events effectively locks the door I had left open for myself as an escape route, meaning I'm not going to stop playing AO any time soon.

Well, hopefully this week's installment makes up for the lack of posts over the last two weeks. Anything I've forgotten to mention, I'm sure you've already read somewhere else. Next week is going to be special, as it's A.Y.E's 2nd anniversary post, so make sure to stop by.