Posts archived in games

So just to remind people I do play games…

I’ve relatively recently played:
Fable 2
Atlantica Online
Fallout 3
Left4Dead demo
Mirror’s Edge
Nightfall
And recently revisited:
Space Empires V
Call of Duty 4

Short reviews:
Fable 2
Fun, especially the first play through, and a fair bit of content. I loved the final choice, mainly because there were more than 2, but hanging around after the main storyline is done fairly boring. I did finish it twice, and wound up seeing several of the different world styles that came from it. I enjoyed that those changes were based on my actions. Sadly I wasn’t so hooked on the content to continue playing it just to experience more, so your mileage may vary depending on how much you enjoy combat and how quickly you finish games.

Atlantica Online
If you can stand grindy games and Korean aesthetics you may find this an enjoyable change of pace from standard MMOs. The tactical combat is relatively fun, and it’s rather liberating to never have to worry about aggroing mobs. The story isn’t particularly inspired, and the translations are… not too polished. Overall, I think it would take a lot more polish on it to keep my attention, but it does deliver something different and approachable in case you need a side MMO.

Fallout 3
Haven’t finished it… in fact I haven’t gotten very far at all. This may sound silly, but I find it kind of annoying that all my faces seem to come out rather babyish. The gunplay mechanics are really good, and the choices you can make are superb. I like that although Megaton is so close it’s almost guaranteed to be your first stop, you really do get thrown out into the wilderness without any direction to begin with. Moira was fun the first time you meet her, after that she can be kind of creepy though… I didn’t appreciate the armor designs as much, but then as you can probably tell, I’m overly fixated on my character’s style.

Left4Dead Demo
Not quite liquid crack, since I don’t feel the burning need to play it, but seriously fun as all shit. The AI director works perfectly, and so far I’ve just PUGed it and not met hardly any assholes. The only times anyone has really been overbearing was when they were ready for a much higher difficulty than the group. I know I can beat it on normal, but it’s still fun on expert even when I’m dieing every five minutes. Don’t play it solo though. The bots are designed very specifically, they are made to take care of themselves perfectly. Problem is, that ruins half the fun of having those ‘oh shit’ moments, and you never get the satisfaction of shooting that hunter off someone, or the quick thank you for being johnny on the spot against that smoker.

Mirror’s Edge
I haven’t had it very long, but it has the same liquid crack quality that Force Unleashed had. It’s just so much freaking fun to play. If I have any complaint, it would be simply that they need more maps. Something that might be fun would be to make a “Tony Hawk” style game out of it’s gameplay, where you could free roam some rooftops and get points for doing the really cool stuff. The story was not the most surprising in the world, but the city was well characterized. Still I have to wonder about police officers that give you one warning, and then turn a helicopter’s machine gun on you.

Nightfall
It’s IF, you’ll need glulx or something analogous to play it. It’s a very well designed game experience overall, and Eric Eve deserves a great deal of credit for creating such an interesting scenario. While it’s significantly less rare in IF, it’s rare in the gaming world to see a good human story. I find it kind of inspirational on that front. I won’t spoil anything for you, but he did use some interesting tricks to allow players to feel as though they can free roam in a world that is actually pretty directed.

I’m not going to review the last two, since they aren’t new experiences to me.

Right now I’m downloading SWG to play the 14 day trial. Even if it isn’t the pre-cu experience, I still feel like I should get in-game at some point and see what there is to see these days.

There was an article I found some time ago, and greatly enjoyed at the time. Slaughtering Sacred Cows (Amen!) over at Virtual Cultures. I read the article, and the comments, walking away with interesting ideas about ways to express death and failure. However, like most subjects of thought, it was eventually relegated to the “important but not fully understood” section at the back of my mind, where the node has been building information and thesis.

When I was largely dealing with only single player games, I hadn’t really had a chance to see the “sacred cow” of failure put under truest duress. But after some time logged in World of Warcraft, Tabula Rasa, EVE and WAR, it rather makes itself the elephant in the room. When all is said and done, the professional games industry does not, at any point, allow there to be true failure in games.

Before we go any further let me explain what I mean by true failure. First off, death is not failure, and failure is not death. Death is an end, a finite state, a point at which some character ceases to play a role, it can be a bad thing, but it can also be a good thing. Failure, true failure, is an action with lasting negative consequences for both yourself and, in one way or another, the world around you. In a system of true failure, not defeating the boss would mean that the world really is destroyed, or the uncouth host they promised really does set about ravaging the world. As you may have noticed, any number of popular MMOs are dead as way of insulating the world from failure.

Right now the vast majority of supposed “failure states” in games are built around a single guiding principle, “make the gamer physically uncomfortable”. Save/loads, level replays, unskippable cut scenes, corpse reclaiming and debuffs are all designed to make you sink in more time, many of them also provide a sudden break in the action just as the player is probably at the height of an adrenaline high. Note, I’m not saying these things are bad, just that they aren’t failure, they are punishment. They tell people we think they did something bad, and that they should learn not to do it again.

So what would be a failure state? The destruction of a world, the permanent death of a storyline character they have grown close to, all the apple pies they were baking going bad, there really isn’t a limit to the variety and types of failure states. What they do have in common though is that they cannot be undone and have at least the opportunity to effect the game the player is playing as they move forward.

I’m sure some of you laughed at the idea of a game trying to make you physically uncomfortable, since it’s probably something that games never will be able to do. Why then do we try and make that the baseline for dealing with a player’s failures? Part of it has to do with content, as the internet expands and the reach of gifted amateurs increases, the value of content is dropping like a stone towards nothing. As we become more and more used to having amateur and semi-pro level content available for free at the touch of a button, the amount a player is willing to pay for sub-phenomenal content decreases to match.

While prices of games may be going up, the cost of content generation is increasing far in advance. Where someone once may have payed $20 for 8-bit graphics, limited synth chips and short disposable stories, they now pay $70 for fully rendered high definition 3d, surround sound stereo music with full voice over, at least decent writing and 30 hours of game play. The cost of creation being an exponential increase, hundred thousands to tens of millions, while the price difference to the end user is only 350%. Worst of all, the time needed to create a set amount of content has vacillated only a little, meaning that the human costs of content generation have remained basically the same, if not slightly increasing.

All of this works together to create a sort of underlying fear that people won’t actually see or appreciate your content. A certain amount of driving force is created to make certain all components of your game can be viewed by even the worst players, and that even the best players be forced onto a certain set of rails from which anything more than minor deviation is caustically punished.

On the other hand, it’s commonly cited that as a form of entertainment the players themselves don’t want to fail. To which I call bullshit. Maybe they aren’t the world’s largest segment of gamers, but apparently there are more than a few out there who seem to be fed up with the lack. And let’s be honest here, how are we to know if they aren’t a commercially viable group when the only thing even hinting at that is “common wisdom”, or was it only in my dreams that Wing Commander was a financially successful title.

Perhaps user generated content, in the Second Life or Saga of Ryzom sense, will be our great savior from these ails, but somehow I doubt it. I would put my money more on the creation of user colonized spaces, where the game’s own item set and crafting capacity allows the users to create their own lands. EVE comes close in this regard, but certainly isn’t a purist ideal, perhaps Neveron would be a closer example with almost purely player owned landmass.

I’m not saying that the industry must change now, but rather I’m wondering why the industry is so happy hiding it’s head in the sand. The Sims is actually commonly maligned for being a casual game, yet in further examination it’s one of the few to have actual failure, and by extension actual success, built into the core of the game. Spore is continuing that tradition, though right now it’s a little mired in the brick-a-brack of DRM issues, and also seems to be financially successful. Is it possible that in our headlong rush to define the importance of a game as whether or not the game contains enough bad asses, we may well have missed something both artistically and financially important?

And possibly your hands!

Okay, so I come to you, my heavily limited readership, with a very specific request. I need footage of someone playing WoW, Tabula Rasa, EQ2, Lineage 2, or whatever it is you play. STOP, let me get a bit more specific.

I need footage of your hands while you play even more than I need the screen itself. If you use any macros, please write down what you use and what it does, the same goes for UI mods. If at any point over the course of filming you want to do something and realize you can’t, write it down or say it out loud. As far as length goes, try and grab a typical game session, whatever you define as a typical game session.

Try and compress the footage if you can, divX is always playable, but pretty much anything will work. Veoh is generally considered a good hosting site for long or high res videos, so I highly recommend it for our purposes.

Once you have the footage somewhere it can be accessed, simply send me an email at sara.pickell at gmail dot com with the link or post it as a comment here. If it’s two months out and you happen upon this post, please send it to me anyways.

Thanks in advance,
Sara Pickell.

Just a thought on a possible mechanic allowing for sword dueling inside an MMO.

From the first person perspective you stand at about 4-6 feet away from your opponent. Just far enough for your blades to touch 6 inches below the tip.

Left click is a lunging attack, right click is a slashing attack. When you move the sword without attacking it can act as a block. While blocked, you can push against their sword by tapping space bar. It adds an amount of force dependent on your strength statistic, likewise for blocking, perhaps on a global cool down. W moves you one step toward your enemy, S moves you one step away, A sidesteps to the left, D sidesteps to the right.

The tip of the sword follows the mouse, allowing you to move it about the screen in order to block. Number keys may control different stances and ways of holding the sword. Moving the sword in front of a slash attack can block that attack, moving it across a lunge can push it aside. You’re ability to block or push aside a lunge is controlled by strength. Speed of your steps would of course be speed, and speed of a strike would be dexterity.

Different combinations of strikes and movements in particular contexts would be the “special moves” and, if you have classes, could be class dependent.

Just as an aside, my brother gave me his old game collection, so no I have not played all of these. Nor did I buy all of these.

007 Nightfire
Absolute Zero (Mac)
Jane’s ATF Gold
Air Warrior III
Al Unser Jr. Arcade Racing/War Birds (Mac) x2
Aliens Vs. Predator Gold
Sid Meiers’s Alpha Centauri
Ambrosia Software Disc 5 (mac)
Anarchy Online x2
Asheron’s Call
Asheron’s Call Dark Majesty
Barrage
Battlefield 1942 (only disc 1…)
Battle Zone 2
Beyond Atlantis
Ceaser 3
Call of Duty
Civilization 2: Test of Time
Civilization: Call to Power
Command & Conquer (Only disc 1)
Command & Conquer: Generals
Command & Conquer: Generals: Zero Hour
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Command & Conquer: Red Alert: Aftermath
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
Command & Conquer: Renegade
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun x2
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun: Firestorm
Command & Conquer: Yuri’s Revenge
Computer Gaming World – July 2007 (Battle Cruiser Millennium demo featured)
The Crystal Key
Dark Age of Camelot
Dawn of War: Dark Crusade
Deadlock (mac)
Delta Force: Black Hawk Down
Descent 1 & 2: The Definitive Collection
Descent 3
Descent 3: Mercenary
Descent: Freespace
Descent: Freespace: Silent Threat
Diablo
Diablo 2
Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction
Dungeon Siege
Dungeon Siege 2: Deluxe Edition
D&D Character Generator (I think it’s 3rd ed)
Echelon
The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind
Fable (Copyright 1996)
Fighter Squadron
Final Fantasy 8:PC
Baulder’s Gate
Baulder’s Gate 2
Baulder’s Gate 2: Throne of Baal
Icewind Dale
Never Winter Nights
Never Winter Nights: Hordes of Underdark
Never Winter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide
Freedom Fighters
Freelancer
G-Police
Gamefest” Forgotten Realms Classics
Gex
Grand Theft Auto: 3
Guild Wars Pre-order disc
Guild Wars
Guild Wars: Factions
Gunship!
Half-Life GOTY Edition
Team Fortress Classic
Opposing Forces
Counterstrike
Half-Life 2
Heavy Gear 2
Heroes of Might and Magic
Homeworld
Indiana Jones & the Emporer’s Tomb
The Journeyman Project Turbo!
Buried in Time, The Journeyman Project 2
King’s Quest 15 year Anniversary Collectors Edition
King’s Quest 6
Jane’s Longbow Gold
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Game)
Mechwarrior 2 (Mac)
Masters of Orion 2 (Mac)
Max Payne
Maximum CD (Mar 99) (Heretic 2, and Populous the Beginning featured demos)
Mech Commander 2 x2
Mechwarrior 3
Computer Gaming World (March 02) (Mech 4 Black Knight featured)
Mechwarrior 4
Mechwarrior 4: Black Knight
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault
Computer Gaming World (Feb 02) (Medal of Honor: AA featured)
Medieval: Total War
MSI Multimedia: Games Collection (No idea whats on this.)
Need for Speed: High Stakes
Nemesis (Copyright 1995)
No One Lives Forever (Only disc 1)
Oni
Out of the Sun (mac)
PC Gamer Demo Discs, 31 discs in all, earliest is Nov 98, Latest is Holiday ’03
Quake 2
Quake 3
Quake 4
Red Faction
Redneck Rampage: The Early Years (I swear I borrowed this from a friend and forgot to give it back…)
Ryl: Path of the Emporer
Sacred
Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator
Seven Kingdoms: 2
Shivers
Soldier of Fortune: Platinum Edition
Spider – Man
Stalker
Starcraft x 2
Starcraft: Brood War
Star General
Star Lancer
Star Trek 25th Anniversary (Copyright 1993)
Star Trek: Bridge Commander
Star Trek: Deep Space 9: The Fallen
Star Trek: Starfleet Academy x2
Star Wars: Dark Forces
Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Force Commander
Star Wars: Battlegrounds: Saga
Star Wars: Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight
Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Episode 1: Pod Racer
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron: 3d
Star Wars: Star Fighter
Star Wars: Tie Fighter
Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance
Star Wars: Yoda Stories/Behind The Magic: Vehicles
Summoner
Superpower (If you don’t know what this is, and your interested in what I consider a deep game, pick it up. It was pretty cheap even when it was new.)
Supreme Commander
Titan Quest: Immortal Throne
Tribes
Tribes 2 x2
Trivial Pursuit: Millennium Edition
Total Air War
Unreal
Unreal Tournament: 2k3
Unreal Tournament GOTY (My brothers, I went to buy my own when I was 16 and got turned down because It was rated M. Eat that Jack Thompson.)
Unreal Tournament: 2k4
Unreal 2
Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption (for the love of god never buy this yourself.)
Wing Commander 4 (Missing disc 7…)
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
World of Warcraft

I’m not a fan of flight sims at all. So if it isn’t for the mac, and it’s a flight sim, it’s from my brother.