Thursday, December 11, 2008

Something Approximating Real Time: Savage 2 (Part Two)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Something Approximating Real Time: Savage 2 (Part One)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pause, Unpause

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

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

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

Thursday, September 04, 2008

OIJ)(#QIOJ - aka: Random

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Yes, Another Apology

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

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wait, Has That Been There The Whole Time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Okay, My Eyes Can't Even Handle Seeing That Many Bullets

Tell me: how the hell is it that I had no idea that Kenta Cho had written not one, not two, but three new shooters since the last time I checked? Well, really only two are of any interest to me because the other one uses Microsoft's XNA framework, but still, someone should be telling me these things.

The newest and shiniest of these shooters is Titanion - which, compared to some of Cho's other games (Tumiki Fighters and Gunroar come to mind) is a fairly traditional arcade shooter. Arrow keys control your movement and the control key fires your weapon. It may not be particularly groundbreaking, but it definitely holds up to the high standards that Cho has set previously.

Let me tell you something right away: Titanion is difficult. Really fucking difficult. Either that or I'm just starting to suck at shooters. After quite a few runs through the game, I'd only made it to stage 9. There are so many projectiles flying at you that whether or not you manage to stay alive seems be about 75% skill and 25% pure luck. But hey, this is an arcade shooter, it's supposed to be that tough.

If you've played any of Cho's other games before (and if you haven't, what the hell is wrong with you?) you're probably expecting top notch visuals, and you definitely won't be let down: Titanion is probably his best looking game to date. I was especially impressed by the way you can see the swarms of attacking insects swoop out of the background into the foreground before they start pummeling the crap out of you.

If you're predisposed to not liking schmups, you're probably not going to like this one. Everyone else: give it a try. At 5.5MB (none of Cho's games are particularly large) it's worthwhile downloading, even if you're still stuck with dialup.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fracas Management - Doesn't Have The Same Ring To It

Well, it looks like we did it. Jack Keane is indeed going to be ported to Linux. It looks like anyone who preordered the game might end up getting it before the end of the summer. It's always nice to see quality commercial games coming over to the platform, so I'm glad to see that RuneSoft got enough preorders to make it happen. Anyway, on to this week's game.

I should mention that I'm a fan of Risk, and by Risk I mean the boardgame, not the concept. There's really nothing like an epic, hours-long battle for complete world domination, especially when you've got a good group of people involved. So when I saw a mention of OpenFracas - a Risk like game of the computer variety - on LinuxGames, I figured it was worth a shot.

Here's the problem: Apparently it turns out that I don't actually like Risk. Apparently I'm more fond of the drinking and smack-talking that goes on when I play Risk with friends than I am the actual game mechanics. A round in a real life game of Risk (at least with the people I play with), can take over 10 minutes, sometimes way over. A round in OpenFracas takes about 30 seconds. How am I supposed to make a long winded speech about my inevitable victory in 30 seconds? How am I supposed to take a piss, grab a beer, and grab a snack in 30 seconds? It just doesn't work.

Of course, none of this really has anything to do with OpenFracas. I would have the same problem with any computerized Risk clone. As software: it runs, it looks better than a lot of other Risk clones I've seen, and it's got some nice sounds. But until I end up having to wait 5 minutes for AI Player 4 to stop talking and roll their dice, it's just not going to be the game for me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


So apparently I haven't been keeping up with Sauerbraten well enough lately. If I had, I'd have noticed that the game has picked up a Capture The Flag mode since I last checked.

I don't know what this means, if anything, to most of you, but it's a big deal to me. To this day, CTF is probably my favorite gameplay mode in multiplayer shooters. Sure, other modes are fun, but something about the frantic pace of a good CTF match just gets me every time.

Apparently there are other people who feel the same way. Everytime I log on to Sauerbraten lately, there is at least one CTF match going. Usually there are a few. People seem to be big on Instagib CTF, which can be fun sometimes, but it can also get absolutely insane if you have more than 4 players per side.

Of course, CTF isn't the only thing new to this release of Sauerbraten. There are the requisite new maps, a new player model, new graphical effects, and new single player campaigns. I have to admit though, single player Sauerbraten has never been my thing: too much "walk into a room and instantly see your screen flashing red as you're attacked by monsters on all sides" for my tastes.

This Sauerbraten release is definitely worth your time. One of the only things I think this game could really use at this point are real, honest-to-goodness bots. Human opponents are fun, but they're not always available. I know bots would be tough to implement, but I've still got my fingers crossed that some day I'll see them.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Second Verse, Same As The First

Well, it's apology time again. Not only have I missed the past two week's posts, but I can't even get you one this week. Both of my hands are pretty well messed up: my right hand is completely unusable, and my left is barely functioning well enough to crank out an apology post.

Hopefully I'll be back next week, but I can't say for sure. Fingers crossed. Well, I can't actually cross my fingers, but if I could, they'd totally be crossed right now.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Those Little Guys Must Really Like Fruit

As usual, apologies are in order. This time, the reason behind said apology is the three week stretch of no posts. Sorry. I can't really say much, other than that I've been busy. It happens.

So anyway, On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness came out last week. If you aren't familiar with the title, it's a game by the creators of Penny Arcade - one which I've been anticipating for quite some time. For a long time it was assumed that if you weren't a fan of the comic, you weren't going to be a fan of the game. I've now had the chance to play through almost the entire game and, honestly, I'm not so sure that assumption was true.

Granted, if you already like the comic (as I do), you're going to find more to like in the game, but there is a lot here to like for anyone who's a fan of games, period. For the most part, Rain-Slick plays like a mix of classic point-and-click PC adventure games and a console style RPG. Those aren't genres you hear of mingling very often, and it could have turned out to be a disaster, but here the two disparate styles complement each other perfectly.

Actually, the combat reminds me a lot of the whole Super Mario RPG/Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga/Paper Mario combat system, which seems an odd fit in a PC game, at least at first. Once you've got an hour or so of gameplay under your belt, it's second nature. There are a few extra nice touches - for example, your party heals fully after each battle, so you only need to worry about keeping yourself alive when you're actually fighting. Most RPG fans have had the experience of being thrown in to a battle with just a few HP left, and it's not an experience most of them wish to repeat.

The other half of the game, the adventure half, is just as fun as the combat - at least it is to me being a fan of Penny Arcade. Most objects can be clicked on for a brief, and often chuckle-worthy at the very least, description. It's this part of the game that could possibly be off-putting to non-fans of the comic, but the game has got so much else working for it - the already-mentioned gameplay, the music, the general atmosphere - that even if you're already sure you hate the comic it still may be worth checking out the demo.

Speaking of which, the demo is available for all three major computer platforms, yes, including Linux, so it's easy to give it a try. The demo can then, if you wish, be unlocked to the full version by purchasing through the new Greenhouse distribution system.

On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness definitely gets my recommendation. There's really no qualifying "unless" statement coming - I just recommend the hell out of it.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Click Carefully

It's been a while since I've encountered a good point and click adventure game, so when I saw on The Tome that pre-orders were being solicited for a Linux version of Jack Keane, I immediately downloaded the Windows version of the demo. I'm definitely placing a preorder for this one.

At this point, I could probably describe the game mechanics, but is it really necessary? An adventure game is an adventure game. Pointing, clicking, weird puzzles, you know the drill. Basically, if you've ever played a Monkey Island game (or any of those other Lucas Arts adventure games) you pretty much know what to expect here.

Jack Keane is definitely a charmer of a game. I can't really describe it beyond that. I'm not sure if it's the environments, the characters, the humor, or if it's all those combined (that's probably the case), but there's just something about the game that makes me smile while I play it.

Of course, this type of game isn't for everyone. The pacing and the style are probably not going to appeal to twitch gamers raised on nothing but shooters. But games like Jack Keane are few and far between nowadays, and it would be great to have this particular example ported to Linux.

They need 200 preorders to make this happen, so if you want the game to come to our favorite system, now is the time to act.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

This Post Was Not Created Using Only One Button

I usually don't go for arcade type games, but browsing through the Tome, I came across one that looked too interesting to ignore. Fishie Fishie is an arcade game with a novel concept: you control it using only one button. Initially I was thinking to myself, "How fun can it actually be if you're only hitting one button?" It turns out the answer is "pretty damn fun."

You hold the space bar to turn left, and let go of it to turn right. That's it. Tapping the key at the right speed results in mostly-straight travel. The goal is to eat up smaller schools of fish while avoiding larger ones - if you don't do it fast enough you starve. The game is intensely simple, but it turns out to be much more than the sum of its parts.

The presentation definitely helps: the wonderfully drawn sprites, quirky music, and goofy sound effects all come together to give Fishie Fishie a lighthearted atmosphere and a definite charm. It's one of those games where kids would probably love it, but there's plenty of room for adults to enjoy it as well.

The only flaw isn't really a flaw at all, it just comes from being the type of game it is: games like this, for me at least, tend to get old fast. It's pure, undiluted fun, and a lot like pure sugar, I can't take too much of it at once. That goes for the entire genre for me though, so it's no fault against the game.

Being around a 3 meg download, it's definitely worth checking out for a quick burst of fun, whether you're a fan of the genre (arcade games, not fish-gobbling games) or not.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup, Addendum: Auteria

It's easy to say that I just plain forgot about Auteria during the course of the roundup, but I have the feeling that subconsciously I might have been excluding it on purpose. Mentioning Dark Horizons Lore: Invasion a few weeks back got me to thinking "What was that other Torque engine based game I came across recently?" I remembered, then promptly wished I hadn't.

Auteria just feels so damn... weird. The control setup takes some getting used to: half the time the mouse is directly locked to the camera, almost like an FPS, until you hit a toggle key which puts the mouse into cursor mode, like most MMORPGs. This setup isn't particularly bad, it just takes a lot of getting used to. On the plus side, it does help with autorun, and believe me, you're going to be using autorun a lot.

When you start up Auteria, the tutorial sequence has you running around the town (which consists of three identical looking huts, nothing more) trying to find a specific building, which takes about one minute if you go to two wrong buildings before finding the correct one. You then repeat this, although the process of elimination ensures that it's shorter each time. At this point you may think to yourself "well, at least that's done with." If only it was.

You'll find yourself basically repeating the " go to this place/person, then return to me" task over and over - the only thing that changes is the distance you travel gets longer and longer. Each time you might think "this has to be the last one", and each time you'll probably be wrong.

Now I've got another problem with Auteria, but this one is probably much more exclusive to me: everyone is so damn outgoing. I couldn't go three feet without someone saying hello to me, or speaking a line of a language I don't understand with a question mark at the end, presumably asking me if I spoke their language.

Now, I understand, most people will probably like the friendly playerbase, but part of the appeal of an MMO to me is the ability to disappear in a vast ocean of similar looking characters, and the relative anonymity therein. I want people to know who I am when I want them to know who I am, and not a minute beforehand. With Auteria's currently super-small community, that's just not possible.

I can't say I recommend it, but if you think you can tolerate a molasses-slow start, it may be worth a look. Just bring a book to the computer so you can have something to do during all the autorunning.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

First Apology Of The New Season

Sorry about last week's no-post, but I'm afraid it's going to be the same this week. I've started a new job and I'm still trying to figure out how to make time for A.Y.E, so please bear with me for a bit. We now return to your regularly scheduled lack of posts.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Penalty: Overuse Of Colons

I remember being intrigued by Dark Horizons: Lore, when it first came out. I also remember being somewhat intimidated. An mech-based FPS taking place in a sort of persistent world seemed like a good idea, but not being able to try out the gameplay mechanics against bots didn't. Long story short: I didn't buy the game. Now, the game has been renamed Dark Horizons: Lore: Invasion and made free-to-play. Plus, what do you know - now it has bots. These two things combined were enough for me to give it another look.

The first thing I noticed is that the Torque engine doesn't seem to have aged well since my days playing Legends. I mean, it still looks alright - it definitely doesn't look bad, but I can't believe I used to be so impressed by it. Anyway, most folks (like me) will happily play a slightly dated looking game if everything clicks in the gameplay department, so that leads us to the question: does it? Yeah, it does.

Dark Horizons uses a class system, like many other games out there, but it also allows some stats to be customized before you take your MAV (that's your mech-like thing) into the game. You can prioritize speed or armor, or go for a middle ground between the two if you like. Once you've adjusted your MAV to your liking, it's off into the game world.

I really like the way movement is implemented in Dark Horizons. Your mech feels as if you're kind of fighting it for control - you don't stop immediately after letting go instead of a movement key, instead your MAV slows to a stop - but it never feels like you're out of control altogether. They've gone a long way towards making you feel as if you're controlling a giant walking machine without overcomplicating the controls.

If there's one problem with Dark Horizons, it's that there just aren't enough people playing it. I'll be honest: small communities bother me - I'm afraid that people will actually get to know me. I much prefer the relative anonymity of a large community. If this isn't a problem for you, I'm sure you'll find much to enjoy with DH:L:I.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week Five: Regnum Online

The last week of the round-up is one I've been fearing since the start of the whole process. I knew I'd have to mention Regnum Online, and really didn't want to have to play it again to do so. So, what the hell - I didn't. I know this is a cop-out, but I'm just going to direct you to the previous entry regarding Regnum, and leave it at that.

OK, that's not entirely true. I downloaded Regnum again a few weeks ago, shortly after the start of the roundup. I I figured, naively, that the game might have improved somewhat in the months since I'd last tried it. It hadn't, so I uninstalled it within minutes.

That I can only stand to play the game for minutes at a time (this is, of course, not taking into account the many initial minutes of loading) really says something about Regnum's lack of, well, any redeeming qualities. I'm seeing myself type these words and feel as if I'm being harsh, but in my heart I know that it would only take a few minutes of playing Regnum again before I start to wonder why I'm being so easy on the game.

If you absolutely must play a free-to-play MMO on Linux and for some reason can't play any of the others previously mentioned in the roundup, well, even then I have a hard time recommending Regnum. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week Four: Eternal Lands

Anyone who's been reading Avert Your Eyes through it's entire run should be no stranger to this week's game. Eternal Lands has been the subject of a good number of posts, and has the honor of being the first MMO I ever really enjoyed. EL has just recently had a sound-related update, so I figured it was an appropriate time to mention it in the roundup.

I'll be honest, I can't really tell what's different in this update. Except for sound, which I never bothered to use before, I can't detect any major changes. I will say that trying to enable music made the game extremely buggy feeling - the inventory window wouldn't open, trying to get the options window open to turn off music took a few tries - and it stayed buggy after turning music off. A client restart fixed this.

I was able to turn the sound effects on with no problem. After watching my character go silently through all his actions for so long it's very strange to hear footsteps and other sounds. When you attack a creature, there is now strong audio evidence that these creatures aren't, in fact, very fond of being attacked. Who knew?

Eternal Lands is not for everyone. It takes a while to get used to the slow pace - combat is slow compared with other modern MMOs, your character walks everywhere. Of course, when I first played Eternal Lands I didn't notice these things because I didn't have enough experience with other MMOs to know the genre's conventions.

After spending a great deal of time with other MMOs, coming back to Eternal Lands felt awkward at first, but that feeling didn't last very long. I actually find the slower pace relaxing compared to a lot of the other free-to-play MMOs out there. I've got to say, there's still a certain charm there that keeps me playing, if only sporadically, after all these years.

Eternal Lands is only a 43 meg download, so if you've got broadband it's quick enough to try it out. The sound package is seperate, and another 40 meg download. If you enjoy the game I recommend it, but it's far from necessary.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week Three: Planeshift

In honor of this being the third week of the roundup, we're taking a turn towards the third dimension. This week's game, Planeshift, is fully 3D, and open source to boot.

I first looked at Planeshift quite a while back, and while I was impressed with the ambition of the project, there just wasn't enough actual game there to keep me interested. It's been long enough since I promised myself I'd take another look, so that's just what I did. Let me say: Planeshift has come a long way from the stuttering crash-fest it was when I first encountered it.

After loading up Planeshift and going through the obligatory character creation stage, I was greeted with a lengthy tutorial. Some of Planeshift's gameplay elements differ from a lot of it's genre brethren, so the tutorial was quite welcome. While I worked through the tutorial, one of the first things I noticed was that Planeshift was running at quite a respectable framerate, something it didn't do in the past.

Now, Stendhal got a lot of heat from me last week for the way it handled NPCs, yes? Yes. Planeshift uses a similar method, but it's implemented in a far superior fashion. Like Stendhal, you talk to NPCs by, well, actually talking to them. Unlike Stendhal, this happens in a seperate chat tab, and it's entirely private. This turns out to be a good thing, because you're going to be talking with them a lot, and you're not always going to be saying nice things.

Quests are obtained easily enough by telling an NPC "give me a quest." Anything besides this simple exchange turns into a frustrating exercise in trial and error. Early after leaving the tutorial area, I encountered a quest in which a woman wanted me to deliver a drink to a nearby NPC named Aleena. I was told that there was some coin in it for me if I returned and told her how the Aleena liked the drink. I tried every variation of "Aleena liked the drink" I could think of, and was invariably met with "I'm just a bartender, I don't understand what you're saying."

Looking past that, the game is enjoyable. Combat is of the typical MMO "click and wait" variety, so if that's not your cup of tea, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. There is a large variety of other tings to do, some implemented, some yet-to-be-implemented, but this is definitely more than a simple grindfest.

Your milage may vary, but overall I'd like to say kudos to the Planeshift team on how far the game has come. I'll be keeping up with it with far more regularity than I have in the past.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week Two: Stendhal

Continuing onward with the theme established last week, this week's game is another open source 2D MMO that draws inspiration from the console RPGs of yesteryear. I present to you: Stendhal.

I'll say it right off the bat: I can't get into this one at all. Everything about it just plain feels awkward. You talk to NPCs by, well, actually talking. For example, you type "Hi" and they say a bunch in return. Do you want me to continue talking? Yes?


This can get annoying pretty fast can't it? Yes?


I'm sorry, but something about that just feels wrong. It's just as monotonous as clicking a button labeled "more", but now you have to type three letters to achieve the same effect. And that's not all: most of Stendhal has this feeling. Is it a novel approach? Sure, but it also leads to less-than-fun gameplay.

Instead of the tried and true MMO combat, i.e. you click on the enemy then watch the combat play out until one of you dies, Stendhal makes you right click, then select "attack". Can't that just be the default? I mean, what else am I going to do? Pet them? Offer them food? Invite them for a night out on the town filled with drinking and dancing? No. I'm going to attack them. That's why they're there.

So now you've finally downed an enemy. How do you pick up any loot it might have dropped? Well it's certainly not done by simply clicking on the corpse. No, instead you have to right click on the corpse and select "look". Again, what else was I going to do?

Everything about Stendhal feels like this: drawn out for no particular reason. Hell that may appeal to you, and if you think it might, it's only a 16mb download for the client without sound. Give it a try. Me, I'll stay far, far away. Yes?


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Linux Free MMO Roundup Week One: The Mana World

It's literally been years since I've done a roundup of any kind, and a lot has happened in said years. As you might have guessed from the title, the next handful of weeks are going to focus on free (mostly as in beer, but some, such as today's, are also free as in speech) games of the massively multiplayer variety, all of which are available for our favorite operating system. The round-up kicks off with The Mana World.

If you've ever found yourself thinking "I sure wish there was a free to play MMORPG that looked like the SNES RPGs of years past" (and honestly, who hasn't), then boy have I got a game for you. If you don't believe me, take a look at a screenshot or two, I'll wait. See? By the way, that's about as populated as the gameworld has been every time I've logged in.

So, yeah, The Mana World looks nice, if you're into the whole old-school look (which I am). The problem is, there isn't yet a whole lot there under the surface. No character classes (are though there are plenty of customizable stats), no real skill system, and fairly uninteresting combat mean you're probably going to tire of this one easily, unless you're a sucker for grindfests.

The Mana World does have one feature I love: a casino. That's right. Sick of grinding mob after mob for loot to sell? Trade in some of your hard earned gold for casino coins and try your luck. It's not much, but it's a feature I love and one that gives me hope that The Mana World will eventually turn into something great. Seriously, I love me some minigames, so much so that I'll grind for days if I find out there are more minigames available at higher levels.

I'll definitely keep an eye on this one. Even though there isn't a lot to do now, it's got promise. Plus, hey, it's open source. You can't go wrong there. Kudos to The Mana World team, keep it up.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Level 5

So last week marked the fourth full year of Avert Your Eyes. Honestly, it doesn't seem to me like I've been doing this for that long. Usually when this time of the year rolls around, I do a sort of recap post, touching on various posts from the previous year, but this year I'm going to do something a little different. Instead of looking back, I'm looking forward.

First person shooters. We've had enough of them. Sauerbraten rules (hell, Cube still rules), so does Warsow, so does OpenArena. Nexuiz, you still suck. My point is this: there are plenty of good open source FPS games out there. If you're starting a game project this year, please, do something else.

The same goes for roguelikes (hey, I guess I am looking back). Not only are there more than enough roguelikes, there are more than enough roguelikes for several civilizations spanning several planets. We also don't need any more ports of old DOS games (DOSBox exists for a reason), barely functional MMOs, solitaire games, or ASCII versions of tic-tac-toe (yes, multiple versions exist).

Here's a thought: why not try something new? Can't think of something totally new, why not mash two ideas together and see what you get? How about a sort of mix between Risk and Final Fantasy Tactics? What about Civilization type game where you can also control single characters in an RPG fashion? Crazy ideas? Maybe, but they've also never been done before (and if they have I'd love to know so I can track them down and play them).

My point is that it took me about a minute of thinking to come up with the above two ideas. Would they be tough to implement? Sure, but they'd also probably attract quite a few people interested in working on such a unique project. They'd also probably be more rewarding when they became playable, at least more so than generic FPS #24003.

At this point, you're probably asking: well, if you're going to bitch so much, why don't you just do it yourself?

Hell, I might.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

We've Got More Coming

Hey folks, it's the four year anniversary of Avert Your Eyes, and usually I use this opportunity to do a retrospective of the last year. I'm still planning on doing that, but at the moment it actually hurts to sit at my desk, so unless I miraculously start feeling better later on today, I'm going to have to put this off until next week. See you then.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

So The Battles Cost Nothing? Or Are There No Battles At All?

I meant to do this last week, but I was a little busy on the Thursday of last week, so here it is this week. Fuck, that's a week heavy sentence. Anyway, this week's game is another entry into the free-to-play FPS field: Battle Free.

Saying an FPS is battle-free comes off sounding a tad boring. Bad joke, I know. I just had to put that out there. On to business.

Battle Free has been catching an awful amount of flak over at Happy Penguin, and I'm really not sure why. OK, that's not entirely true: the guy who created it responds to several posts acknowledging that he created the game, then in a new post writes "Great game, cant wait to see the next release!" C'mon man, that's just adding fuel to the fire.

That aside, most of the hate thrown at the game is unjustified. So it's not open source. Neither are most of the games listed on the Tome. Go fucking play NetHack and get over yourself. Some people said it's not playable on Linux - not true - that's the platform I tested it on. It uses the Torque engine... so what?

Now onto the game itself. Well, there's not a whole lot there. Four maps, none of the particularly thrilling. Ditto for the weapons, they just don't feel right. Mix those two together and you've got a recipe for... well, I don't know what the hell that's a recipe for but it's definitely not for me.

The guy says he's mainly developing Battle Free to teach his son about game programming. Hey, that's cool, and I'm certainly not going to jump on the bandwagon of relentlessly bashing the guy simply for making a free game available to the public. On the other hand, in it's current state, the game doesn't have much to offer, and I can't really say I recommend it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Of Course The Name Doesn't Make Any Sense

Well, in the spirit of never doing what I said I was going to do, this week's post has absolutely nothing to do with Secret of the Solstice. Instead, I took a look at another free to play MMO called Dream Of Mirror Online, or DOMO for short.

After trying out so many different MMOs lately, DOMO is a nice change of pace. Sure, you grind your mobs, loot them, sell things, get better equipment, level up, etc... but DOMO has got more than a few things you don't see every day, and a whole lot of quirk to go along with them.

First: instead of restricting you to one class or job, DOMO lets you change jobs and level said jobs' skills in order to mix and match abilities for your character. Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds, but these things never are, are they? Since in essence this job system requires you to re-level your character, DOMO bucks another recent MMO trend and lowers the level cap to 50 (at least for now). That might sound low, but you don't level quite as fast as you might in recent MMOs boasting a level cap of 200 or so.

Item gathering and crafting, two elements virtually non-existent in the free-to-play MMO world, play a part in DOMO as well. There's a wide range of "everyday skills", as they're called, from fishing to logging to alchemy. Sure, most of them involve moving to a specific location (fishing area, logging area), opening a window, then sitting back as your character slowly gathers whatever it is your gathering, but it's still always nice to have more to do than run around killing mobs.

The thing is, there are people only want to do just that, run around killing mobs. And it's this that powers the economy of DOMO. If they don't want to spend hours gathering wood, they can run to a player shop (or stall, as DOMO calls them) and buy it instead. As players become aware of this as a money making tactic, I suspect it's effectiveness will drop, but luckily you can still make enough money in DOMO using the old MMO standby of selling everything you loot.

One last element of DOMO that seems so out of place in a free to play MMO is the plot, ie. it has one beyond a couple of paragraphs on the website. Quite frequently you'll actually encounter cutscenes while playing, and even embark on story-related quests. Sure the cutscenes themselves are basically a three dimensional version of the type of thing you might see in an SNES RPG, and the story missions aren't that different from your basic quests, but it still takes away from the monotony of your typical MMO.

As with Secret of the Solstice, if you're going to be turned off by DOMO, there's a large chance that it'll be due to the anime-inspired, extremely "cute" look of the game. You start off killing things that would make a toddler squeak in delight, and honestly the only not-so-cute enemies I've seen so far are some very nonthreatening zombies. If you can get past the look though, there's more depth to the gameplay side of DOMO than most of its free-to-play brethren.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What Measurment System Is "Freaking Heavy" A Part Of?

First things first: last week's no-post was due to it being sort of a holiday (at least it was close enough for me to figure a no-post was justified). Anyway, let's get back on track. This week I decided to take a look at Secret of the Solstice, a free-to-play MMORPG currently in the open beta phase.

The look of the game is basically top-down 2.5D, with 3D backgrounds and sprites for characters, enemies etc... The anime influenced art style is nice, nothing we've never seen before, but it's definitely got a charm factor. Actually, I've found myself admiring it's look more than some full 3D MMO's I've tried.

Like quite a few similar games, every starts out the same class type. After levelling to 16 (why 16?) there's a little quest to complete and then you can pick your "guild", which is your job/class/whatever you want to call it. The game seems to assume you've looked around the forums a bit, because the class names (squire, apprentice, neophyte, acolyte) aren't as descriptive as they could be.

Gameplay wise, it's your typical MMO (ie. it's going to be a real grindfest at later levels). It's nice to see that every once in a while, you'll run into an odd quest or two that tries to mix things up a little bit. For example, my level 16 neophyte just completed a quest that consisted of carrying a "freaking heavy letter" (yes, that's what it's called) across the city, only to find that another letter which was "also freaking heavy" needed to be returned to the starter of the quest. Sure, it was a little on the boring side, but the reward wasn't bad and it adds a nice quirk factor to the game.

It's likely that whether or not the game will appeal to you will depend mostly on whether or not you're into MMOs that aren't full 3D, as well as the general look of the game. Me? I'm going to keep playing some more, as there's something about it I like that I haven't yet been able to put my finger on. If I find out what that certain something is, I might tell you next week.