piątek, 31 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 24 (31.12.10)

Company of Heroes - another campaign mission finished. Maybe I'll get to complete the basic campaign before I leave.

King Arthur - slowly digging myself out of the many quests. I still can't do some optional battles because of how demanding they are (they throw very powerful armies against you), but finally can do the stupid ghosts/wraiths battles, even though they are still going poorly. But at least I'm not losing each such fight! Another game I'm hoping to finish over the next week or so.

GTA Vice City... got to that irritating mission part. See, the mission itself is great. It works plotwise, it's fun to play and all, but I've tried doing it for around five or six times now, and always something goes wrong, some stupid random thing. My car gets hit and spirals out of control. I somehow lose all my armor when shot at. I am left with a silly amount of life and a stray bullet hits me. That's not my main problem. The main problem is this: watch this video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se6KP5xfcYM ), and tell me - WHY THE HELL ISN'T THERE A SAVE POINT WHEN YOU SAVE LANCE? WHY. THE. BLOODY. HELL? Each time you screw up, you have to do the whole thing again - going there, getting through the guys, saving Lance, listening to the god-damn short cutscene. And there's absolutely NOTHING you can do about it. I mean, look at it! You see what's happening when you leave that street leading to the junkyard? Seriously, it's a dice roll! I've seen videos where the guy doesn't even get hit on his way out and loses the tail, somehow, by some grace of the game, and it's a blue milk run. This guy - not so lucky. He basically gets gang banged by those cars.

I almost made it at one point. I lost the tail, I was way ahead. What had to happen? I stopped dead on a electrical post (because the metal lamp posts break like matches, but electrical posts in Vice City are made of titanium alloy - I'd say concrete, but you break the concrete signalling lights with no problem), and then when I tried to backtrack, I got hit into ANOTHER post and the car started to burn. I got out, Lance got out, but didn't follow me and died in the explosion. And this sort of thing happened to me at least three or four times!

Why did the people at Rockstar insist on ruining a perfectly good game like that? There's no way I can skip this mission, because it's a pivotal moment in the plot. There's no way I can make this mission easier, because there's not much I can do at all. So yes, this is my first major disappointment with Vice City. And to think that it could be made so much more bearable if they decided to add that one god-damn save point... I just hope this is the only mission which is ruined this way, though knowing the GTA series, I think I'm up for another disappointment.

czwartek, 30 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 22 (30.12.10)

So I beat that one level of Company of Heroes I got stuck on twice. Wasn't that hard, just had to do some micromanaging.

I also played just a little bit of Serious Sam and FEAR, no Vice City at all, and a whole lot of King Arthur. Damn, that game sure draws you in. Problem is, I got to that silly moment again when you've got a sick amount of things popping out everywhere and you're supposed to somehow manage to do it all. Since I was doing very well until now, and it seems I have a plan for the quests, I'm just hoping the game won't spiral into chaos again, because I don't think I can do it a third time...

Also, there's not going to be a Top Experiences of 2010 list, because I simply cannot remember enough really great experiences to list. Stuff I do remember, was having fun with C&C3 (not enough for it to make such a list, probably), Bioshock (right on the verge of getting on such list), Escape from Butcher Bay (definitely on the list), Batman: Arkham Asylum (if we count my second playthrough, because the first one was last year, I think)... and King Arthur and Vice City (the latter would be low on the list, but still there).

Most stuff I played this year was old games. Either old, as in 'beginning of the century' old or old, as in 'two years old'. Depends on what you tend to call 'old'. Most of the games I bought in 2010 I haven't even played yet. What I have played usually left a lukewarm feeling. Even obviously good games, like Grim Fandango or Mass Effect had their flaws which stopped them from being on a list of top 2010 experiences, if I made one. On the other hand, stuff I rather disliked, like Age of Empires II or Anachronox or Gabriel Knight 2 made me think about different issues, like 'what makes an old game timeless' or 'how well classics age'. So it's all good.

There are two rather depressing things here. First of all, if you asked me to give you a comprehensive list of stuff I played this year, I wouldn't be able to do it. I'd come up with 15-20 titles before having to think hard on each next title. This year is a blur. Now, is it a blur because I haven't played truly memorable stuff? Maybe. Is it because I played too much games? Probably. Does it mean my brain's not working as it should? Possibly so.

And I forgot what the second depressing thing was, but it was probably something worth mentioning. Oh well.

At any rate, to those of you who read this and follow the blog: thanks for paying attention. I reckon there's not many of you. Maybe that's because, in the end, this blog is nothing special and it can't and won't stand out among all those other gaming blogs. This doesn't mean that I'll stop writing, though I have my doubts about continuing... but I think it's only fair to try and get to the first year before closing down. So I've still got around 4 months if I'm correct.

I can only hope you're getting more out of this than I am.

środa, 29 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Days 20 & 21 (28/29.12.10)

King Arthur. Vice City. Serious Sam HD (yes, I got it to work). Thinking about FEAR. Thinking about Company of Heroes.

Also, I'm pondering a 'Most memorable 2010 gaming experiences' text. Maybe tomorrow.

poniedziałek, 27 grudnia 2010

Short Review #13: Grand Theft Auto 3

When I was around 10 or maybe 12, I played the demo of the very first GTA. This will sound like something out of a 'games kill people' article, but yes, the bit I enjoyed the most was beating up people, killing them and driving over them and then running from the cops in a fast car. All of you who played this game back in the day probably had the same preferences. And most of you were probably around my age, or maybe a bit older, or maybe a bit younger. At any rate, GTA was something new and fresh - even then I knew it, despite not having much experience with video games at that point.

The series was dead for me for many years. I had a very passing experience of GTA 2 at some point, and then a year ago I downloaded both GTA and GTA 2 (they're both free to download, by the way). The second part didn't appeal to me in the slightest. The first brought back memories, but after fiddling about, I decided to let it go - it just wasn't fun because of the missions. And then I found GTA 3 at an entertainment exchange, and got it, and tries it out. Lo and behold, it actually ran on my laptop. I looked like crap, but hey, I'll take whatever small successes I get. I got to around half the game, when it stopped working all of the sudden and it took me replaying it from the start right after I got here (Poland) to come to some conclusions.

First of those is: GTA 3 is a good game. It's not perfect. It's not outstanding. It's good. It has a lot going for it. Enjoyable (although quite blocky by today's standards, especially the character models) graphics, good (though limited) soundtrack and some of that nice twisted humour, not to mention good voiceovers (some of them celebrities) and the general gameplay. I have to point out some stuff though, which made the game a fun, but very frustrating experience.

GTA 3 borrows from the gameplay of the first part almost exactly. Instead of payphones with missions, you've got characters which issue them to you (and you've got payphone missions as well, so the tradition is maintained), but what changes is how they are played out. The mission goals are more complex now, and it is easier to navigate the city (though not easy enough, wait for it). But, at the same time, the game is as punishingly unfair as it was before.

Some missions have arbitrary time limits which make it nigh impossible to complete them. Others have the police suddenly appear out of nowhere and make your life miserable. Others have to be played through several times to memorize a certain path, or to come up with a system which will allow you to complete them. All that would be fair, if not for the fact that in some instances, I just didn't care. I haven't finished the game - I got to one of the final obligatory missions and resigned after failing it several times and then having a peak of what awaited me further on. A mission can be difficult, but in a game when you can actually save during the mission - not in GTA when saving is limited to when you have completed a mission, but hasn't taken a new one on yet. One small mistake, even at the very end of a mission, and you're done, you have to do the whole thing again. No autosaves, no 'outside help', just repetition. And frankly, I don't have time for this. I can attempt to do a mission twice, three time, or four times at most. After that I just lose interest. The biggest offenders here had me pulling my hair and cursing like a madman after another failure.

Secondly, Liberty City is designed in a very unintuitive way. To find your way around the city, you have to memorize every single lane and street. The map is of very little help, as it only shows you where to go, not how to get there. You lose time looking for a street which will lead you to the single bridge during some island hopping, or you can get lost trying to figure out where the tunnel is. I found that quite troublesome for most of the game. But this is a minor gripe.

I'm playing Vice City now, and I like that game a lot more than I liked GTA 3. One of the reasons is the theme. The theme of Vice City makes me care. You've got the pink and pastel '80's, complete with original music from the period, and character stereotypes which just work. GTA 3 is as bland as they come: the Mafia, the Yakuza, Latino, afro-american and jamaican gangs... The music is ok, but there is only a handful of tracks on each radiostation, so they get boring pretty fast. Plus, how come there are two techno stations, a hip-hop station, a reggae station, but no rock music? There are two pop/rock stations which are kind of listenable, a classic music station which is fun to listen to and a 'Flashback', '80's one. So the variety is there, but no rock/metal? Seriously? Plus, none of the tracks (other than the classical music) are licensed tracks, which kind of shows, even though they're generally quite alright.

For those of you who haven't played GTA 3, go for it, but don't expect a perfect game. It has issues with steering as well - some cars feel like they are made of lightweight plastic but have weights attached to the front and back, so when you take a sharp turn, it's impossible to straighten your run unless you stop and go again. If you're going fast, and you get hit by one of the cars, or just nudge a lamp post or wall, all hell breaks loose. You will spiral out of control, or end up on the car's back, and may not have the chance to get out of the car and run. Also, what is it with water insta-killing the character? He doesn't have to know how to swim, but come on, give him a chance! Liberty City is located on islands, so there's water all around, and there are several locations where it is extremely easy to get bumped into water, or take a sharp turn and fall into it. And that means you'll have to lose all the weapons you had on you and start with no armour and without any car you had at that point...

GTA 3 is a 6,5/10. It doesn't quite get the 7/10 which I reserve for games which are good and enjoyable, but not great because of its various issues. I did enjoy it, but I just don't see myself getting back to it at this point. I'll always take Vice City over GTA 3 in almost every department. But, if you missed out the same way I did, go for it and see the game which was a big hit in 2002 and which is a good example of how to successfully convert a 2D franchise into a 3D franchise. Not that anyone will have to do this at this point...

Gaming Diary - Day 19 (27.12.10)

Yeah, almost forgot to create this post. See, this is why I'm not good at writing something everyday. It's just not how I do things. I can't sleep right now, which is why I'm doing this at all...

Anyway: the regular. Dogfighter (mostly meh), Vice City (mostly awesome) and King Arthur (great). Also had to uninstall Serious Sam and attempting a reinstall now to perhaps get it running. From what I've read online it's not going to help, but it's worth a shot I guess.

I'll maybe play some FEAR tomorrow, but I'm more likely to continue playing Vice City and King Arthur, and Serious Sam if it starts working properly.

Gaming Diary - Day 18 (26.12.10)

No entry yesterday, as I wasted a few hours trying to get the computer working. For some reason, reinstalling my sound card made Windows angry and I basically couldn't make it work for some time. Scan haven't showed anything, which means that the computer is now working normally, but I have no idea what caused the problem...

Alright, so, yesterday:

- I played some more FEAR. It's not as scary as I thought it's going to be, even though there is some spooky stuff there (the ladder scene, which any of you who played the game should know, for example). Fun game.

- I played GTA Vice City. Already I'm in the mood for the '80's, that's the one thing the game did very well. Other than that it's also very good, much better than GTA 3, with more character, less frustrating missions (though I already got to two, one of them mildly annoying, the other extremely out of place even if not that difficult when you knew how to approach it) and some small improvements. I'm encountering a problem, however, as the game tends to freeze on me and crash the whole system so I have to restart the computer. I haven't been able to find a solution for that - when I tried reinstalling the sound card, well, you already know what happened. So screw that, I don't care enough to put the whole system on the line.

- I also installed and attempted to play Serious Sam: The First Encounter HD. Unfortunately I can only play the demo, because when I fire up the Egypt campaign, I get an 'Unable to load level.' error and can't proceed... Again, no idea what this is, but I'm looking into it. Seems some people had the same problem, but I'm not sure if any of them solved it because I couldn't find any solutions online... As you've seen I also got the Second Encounter from my mom, so here's hoping I'll find a solution, because ending up with two unplayable games would only serve as a testament to my rotten luck.

I may be able to write the GTA 3 article today, but don't quote me on it. Plans for today include Vice City, FEAR, and perhaps King Arthur. Much depends on whether or not I'm going out today. If I'm not, that leaves more time to play games.

sobota, 25 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 17 (25.12.10)

First things first - Steam, I hate you and I love you. I got my dad to buy me a King Arthur pack yesterday for not more than 5 euros, consisting of the basic game and all expansions... I got it despite having the basic game, because with that deal it was still WAY cheaper than if I got the Saxons and two other (small) DLC packs in a bundle without the deal. I also got Serious Sam: The First Encounter HD, because the series I got the Second Encounter HD from doesn't have that first game. Yay to my dad, boo to PayPal for making it extremely difficult to get any money on the account.

I played some Dogfighter today, can't seem to find a non-bot match anywhere...

I tried finishing GTA 3 again, and decided to screw it. The game got uninstalled, I'm giving Vice City a go in a few minutes and stay tuned for a Thoughts On / Short Review of GTA 3 coming around later today or tomorrow (more likely).

I also installed FEAR and played 20 minutes or so of it, will get back to it tomorrow.

And also restarted King Arthur hoping to not screw stuff up this time around. Please, please, please, I don't want to NOT like this game, it's really cool!

My tenure as RPG GOTW is almost over, tomorrow I'll be handing the torch to another person.

Also, is it just me, or has time started flying like crazy? I can't seem to get anything done, I feel this pressure as if I was late all the time... I have no idea what's going on but I'm not liking it, it's not a comfortable state of mind!

piątek, 24 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 16 (24.12.10)

Today I played some King Arthur, Zombie Driver, GTA 3 and Dogfighter.

King Arthur has unfortunately deteriorated in fun, as it seems I have completed some quests to early and apparently forwarded the plot before I was ready for it. Now I can't really proceed with ANY of the main quests, because of how the random quests keep popping up and I'm fighting a war on two fronts with no chance of winning either conflict fast enough. This made me start a new game, but since the beginning is pretty boring, I'm seeing myself making a short pause in playing the game to regain my interest. I hate it when it happens, that your mistakes are only visible after a while and you find yourself in a situation with no sensible solution apart from restarting... Oh well, the game is fun enough to pull this off and not have me hate it. Unless it does it a second time, that is.

Zombie Driver... I completed several plot missions while listening to a CD my dad gave me for Christmas. Really fun game, though its indie origin shows quite a lot. Sure you're playing a complete product and all, but it just lacks polish, somehow... Same is true about King Arthur, but I'll address that in a review, which is coming sooner or later (preferably only after I complete the game). Anyway, Zombie Driver is a fun little game which I can see myself playing on and off.

GTA 3. Well, I'm very close to finishing it now, only three missions away from the End Game. However, those final missions are quite the pain in the ass. I'll try doing them tomorrow, because I'm quite eager to get rid of GTA 3 and try out Vice City, though I'll probably have to make a short pause from the franchise in order to regain interest fully.

And finally, DogFighter. Well, I'm not as impressed as I hoped I would be. It's a fun game and all, but since it's a typically Multiplayer Match game, there's really not that much for me there. A Quick Match I tried put me against Bots for some reason... I'll play around with the game for as long as the interest's there, and maybe I'll play some on-line matches as well. I wouldn't be counting on it staying with me long, though.

Finally, a quick sum-up of stuff I got for Christmas ;)
- three books by Polish fantasy writers ('Żmija' by Andrzej Sapkowski, and two out of three parts of 'Pan Lodowego Ogrodu' by Jarosław Grzędowicz)
- one music CD, a live concert of a band I don't really like that much, but with a symphonic background to it (think Metallica's 'S&M'), which makes it pretty awesome if not for the vocalist's god-awful singing and lyrics.
- a 'teach yourself Danish' book, yay!
- and what's probably most interesting for you guys, three video games: FEAR 2, Serious Sam HD: The Second Encounter and Mount & Blade. I also just got the First Encounter and King Arthur in a pack with all the DLC's for less than 10 euro's from Steam, courtesy of my dad. I would've bought them myself but I can't transfer any funds from my Polish card, unfortunately.

At any rate, I'm taking my time with games etc. I'm hoping to set up an evening with my closest friends next week or right after New Year's Eve, and to set up another meeting with the same crowd I played Chaos in the Old World and Age of Conan to play both again. The clock's ticking though, and I'm only here for the next two and a half weeks.

Oh, right, almost forgot - quite a big chance I'll be installing FEAR (the first one) tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. I think I'm in the mood.

czwartek, 23 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 15 (23.12.10)

First, a quick comment about yesterday's gaming.
Chaos in the Old World was, as always, very fun, despite the fact that I didn't know what I was doing as Tzeentch and, sure enough, wouldn't even qualify for a winner, no to mention actually winning.
Age of Conan was a big disappointment on the other hand. Going through the rules and playing the game took us more than four hours. The rulebook is a frigging mess. The rules are EVERYWHERE, stuff you'd expect to find in one place is needlessly spread out in completely different places. The game is quite complex, which means this first game would be shit anyway (just because nobody would know what they were doing), but it didn't have to be shit and LONG, and it would be considerably shorter if we didn't spend time looking for specific rules in the messy rulebook. So, despite its beauty, it leaves a very bad first impression. I'm hoping I'll get my friend to play it again now that we know what the hell we're doing and hopefully it's going to be better. If not, I'm going to be very sad - I've been hyped about the game since it got published, and got it as my Secret Santa gift...

Also, yesterday I played some GTA 3, and the same today. The game still doesn't fail to make me furious when I fail to meet a time limit by one or two seconds, or when my car gets trashed and I die, unable to get out because it's spiralling or sliding on the ground. Some missions are ridiculously specific, others are quite easy but very likely to go bad very fast. I'm hoping Vice City fixed the flaws of this game, because if not, I'll have a hard time enjoying myself with the setting. I just can't overlook this stuff that easily.

Anyway, I'm off to play some King Arthur, and maybe something else, but I'm not sure. I'm going through a movie period now, I've got a lot of movies to watch, so I may end up doing just that in the evening.

środa, 22 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 13 & 14 (21/22.12.10)

Hey all.
No note yesterday because I haven't played anything! I was out all day and when I got back I was too tired to do anything, so I watched a movie and went to sleep.

Today is boardgame day. In an hour or so I'll be playing Chaos in the Old World, and then Age of Conan (the boardgame) with some friends. After that, I'm planning to play some King Arthur or GTA 3. I'll edit this post in the evening or tomorrow to let you know what I ended up doing.

I'm also pondering about installing FEAR. I'll see if I decide to do that.

poniedziałek, 20 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 12 (20.12.10)

Not much to write in today. I played more King Arthur - a shocker, I know - and I'm just leaving for a friend's place where I meet up with said friend and my cousin for beer, movies and pool. Tomorrow's note isn't going to be very extensive either, because I'm meeting with a friend on town, so will be away from the house for most of the day.

Anyway, some really nice news - I have been chosen the Geek of the Week on RPG Geek. It's a spotlight for users who contributed to the community or are otherwise known around the website. I got number 50, which, considering how green I am compared to most users of the website, is quite the honour. Feel free to check a forum thread of Q&A here: http://rpggeek.com/thread/597003/rpg-geek-of-the-week-50-krzysztof-zieba-lord_krist

Gaming Diary - Day 11 (19.12.10)

Yesterday was King Arthur day - I played several hours of the game, and I have to say, it became really impressive! Some minor stuff notwithstanding, this is a great game, though it's very different to the Total War series. If you remember my text about Mafia, it's a similar case, although King Arthur is actually a good game. King Arthur is similar to Total War in how armies move around on the map, and mostly how battles work. But the campaign is much less 'freeform' in a sense, than in Total War games. The presence of quests makes the game more rigid, for example, a second quest now allows me to take rule over an independent kingdom after completing it, instead of military conquest! So yes, the name 'Role-playing wargame' is really accurate here, because that role-playing bit is not only visible in character advancement and quests, but also in other mechanisms.

Also yesterday I played a few matches of Left 4 Dead 2 Survival (you see how long you can last during a scenario's finale). It's pretty hardcore, we played five or six times and didn't even manage to get a bronze medal!

I'm planning to play some more King Arthur today, and maybe some GTA 3. I'm not home all day though, so I'm not sure how that's going to go.

sobota, 18 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Days 9 & 10 (17/18.12.10)

Haven't played much for the last two days. Yesterday I got Zombie Driver from Steam and played some of it. Fun game, though it shows it's an independent thing. But I was having fun. Later yesterday I got my Secret Santa game from Board Game Geek - Age of Conan! I've been learning it since then. I also met up with a friend yesterday and we played 1960: The Making of the President. It's a really good two-player board game.

Today I was out for most of the day on a boardgamey meeting, where I wanted to playtest two of my prototypes. I forgot bits and pieces for the first one, which made us unable to play at all. The second didn't work too well and was pretty boring. So a failure on both fronts, unfortunately. I'm planning to play some GTA 3 and King Arthur now, we'll see how that goes.

Also, I uninstalled Kane's Wrath. I just thought I wouldn't be playing any skirmish games, so why bother. So yeah, not much happened during the last two days.

czwartek, 16 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 8 (16.12.10)

Not much gaming today either... I think I was able to satiate my initial urge and now I don't really feel like playing that much.

Anyway, I played some more GTA 3 today. Finished a few missions, got to one that I can't possibly finish (called Grand Theft Auto)... here's a gripe. What I hate about this one mission is that it has an absolutely artificial time limit. The objective is to bring three cars to a garage, all have to be in mint condition, meaning that even the lightest bump or scratch equals a trip to a garage for repairs. So you, obviously, want to take your time, especially in a game like GTA, where you can be hit by anything at any given point and the steering of most cars is simply horrible. WHY THE HELL IS THERE A TIME LIMIT? You get six minutes, which gives you two minutes a car, and after turning it in you obviously have to grab some other one to get to the next point on the map. I'm doing all missions but this one, I don't care that there are two or three more which get unlocked only after completing this. Unless I absolutely HAVE to do it, I just can't be bothered. It's a stupid, unfair mission made way too challenging for what it's worth.

I also tried beating Joker again in Arkham Asylum. Can't be done, not on normal. The camera doesn't work properly so chaining hits is incredibly hard, there are too many enemies, some of which you can't hit unless you do a specific thing, and there are three frigging rounds of that crap. I started playing on Easy just to play through the entire game and finish it... but I'm not sure if I can be bothered. I know how the game ends, I finished it last year. I'll think about it, but there's a big chance Arkham Asylum is going to get uninstalled soon.

In related news, I haven't managed to try out Lord of the Rings Online... because of disk space issues. The installation files weigh around 10gb. The installation itself is 15gb. I just don't have that much room on my hard drive. Plus, I wouldn't be able to play it after leaving for England, so that would become a new source of frustration for me if I liked the game... and, well, let me just say I've got enough frustration and irritation for several people already.

I'm planning on playing some Left 4 Dead 2 now, and read a book later. I watched a movie today, 'Twelve Monkeys' directed by Terry Gilliam, and starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. Great movie, you should watch it.

Since today marks a week since I arrived here, let's just sum up the last seven days.
- Mafia uninstalled
- Red Alert 3 uninstalled
- Timeshift completed and uninstalled
- Batman: Arkham Asylum... reached the boss fight, can't possibly progress
- Company of Heroes: played through two missions
- Soulstorm: played a single skirmish game
- Left 4 Dead & Left 4 Dead 2: played a few games, some of which unfinished
- Grand Theft Auto 3: playing through
- C&C3: Kane's Wrath... played a single skirmish game
- Alien Swarm: tried it out
- King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame... playing, slowly progressing, having fun
- HOMM5: Tribes of the East... played a few turns of a game

środa, 15 grudnia 2010

Short Review #12: TimeShift

So there's this guy, called Dr. Krone. He gets his hands on a suit which allows him to travel in time. And he creates an alternate reality in which he's the ruler of all, a tyrant, and then there's this rebel force which fights his Magistrate, but they're losing. In comes you, a unnamed, silent protagonist (the game suggests you're a physics professor) who gets his hands on a second suit and follows Krone to defeat him... why do you exactly do that is never explained. There's a suggestion that Krone's altered reality (which is somewhere circa 1936, only with high-tech weaponry, steampunk-like zeppelins vs helicopters and jets, and a giant robot reminescent of Wild Wild West) would eventually encroach on the main time stream or something like that... The plot is VERY hard to follow. You are given snippets of info in between missions, but if those are the protagonist's memories, or some sort of projection, we are never told. Also, they are so scarce and short they don't really reveal anything. So I guess it's safe to say that even if the plot has any sense (which I don't think it has), it's best to not pay attention to it because it's not very good. Moving on.

Gameplay. Well, Timeshift is a FPS, so you get a lot of action and shooting. You get some very interesting weapons to use, my favourite one being a crossbow with explosive tips (and why that is will soon become clear), and I also hold a special place in my heart for a machine gun which fires burning bullets which set enemies aflame. Also, it doubles as an old school flamethrower. Besides that there's a regular assault gun / grenade launcher, a pistol, a shotgun, a sniper rifle, a missile launcher... the regular. None of them are really anything new or interesting, though I have to admit they are sufficiently fun to use.

The game's main 'thing' is the time shifting mechanic. You get three ways you can influence 'time' around you, and those are a slow-down effect, a freeze effect, and turning back time. You have a limited amount of energy that you can use for these, so you can only have the benefit of those powers for a short while after which you have to wait for the energy to regenerate. How did I like it? Well, here's the thing. At first I thought this was a pretty pointless gimmick. Sure, it's shiny, it mixes things a bit, but in the end it's just a feature that makes a run-of-the-mill FPS a bit more innovative. I still think this holds true for the third, time-reversing power, as it is used almost exclusively for puzzles (and given that the game, by default, chooses a power most applicable to a situation automatically, they're not even challenging puzzles). However, I have to admit that using the slow-down and freeze effects combined with some of the weapons (especially the crossbow!) is pretty neat. You enter a room, freeze time (or slow it down, I found that either works well, but slow down lasts longer, so I found it more universal), pop a few explosive bolts into your enemies and then de-freeze time so they all explode in unison. Heh, amusing stuff. It's also very helpful for getting rid of snipers. The same applies - freeze time, fire bolts (or bullets if you feel like it), defreeze.

Still, as much fun as it is, Timeshift reminded me of Portal, though the two have really nothing in common, but hear me out. In Portal, the Portal mechanics were the main tool of the game. The whole gameplay was focused on those mechanics and how the player used them. In Timeshift, the time-altering thing is something of a bonus feature. Yes, you have to use it in order not to die (enemies are pretty good at killing you, plus you move quite slowly, so usually you can't really hide that well without getting a time boost), but it's not a game-defining element, when it should be. The puzzles feel forced, and when you finish them you're like 'Huh, ok, whatever.' In Portal, finishing each puzzle was exiliarating, I felt so proud of myself for figuring them out. Timeshift is an FPS first, and its game-specific mechanics come second, while they really should be there on the frontline.

Another thing about the gameplay is a somewhat low number of enemy types. You've got your basic soldiers (in two flavours - armoured and unarmoured), some chrono-soldiers (which either have special shields that are hard to get around, or can move at great speeds forcing you to slow down time to even be able to hit them) and finally a more powerful chrono-soldier who teleports and uses a pretty strong weapon. That's it, seriously. I didn't think it was boring or anything like that, I just think it's worth it to point out. Also, the game box tells you that you'll get to use vehicles. And, well, technically you do, but only a single vehicle - a quad. You can mount turrets on transport cars, and you find yourself on board of a zeppelin twice, using its turrets to fight off Krone's forces, but that's it. So, hardly a real feature of the game, I would say.

On the technical side of things, the game looks pretty awesome. Light effects are great, blur effects are cool, the rain rocks, character models are pretty and environments are well done, even if a bit bland (most interiors look very much alike). The sound is alright, but no audio awesomeness like in, say, Call of Duty 2. The music... well, it's there. But that's all I can say about it. Saying it's forgettable kind of suggests that you heard it in the first place. I *acknowledged* it's there, but after it was gone, I wasn't able to even remember how it sounded. The cut-scenes look great, but that doesn't help the fact that they're hopelessly muddled and too short to amount to anything, so it doesn't really matter that much.

I've got a single thing left to address, and that's the ending. It won't be much of a spoiler that you, of course, defeat Krone. What I think is important is HOW you do it. See, this is an FPS, and I was expecting an old school boss fight, maybe with Krone using his time powers and the player having to adapt, perhaps a final level based in a different reality or something like that. What happens instead is this - you fight with some guys, destroy three turrets on Krone's great walking fortress (mixed with dodging artillery barrage from said fortress), and then when the fortress prepares to shoot a great beam of energy from a turret of sorts, you destroy that turret. The end. Krone lies on the ground (how he survived the explosion and falling down of the fortress, and why is he lying on the ground remains a mystery), and the protagonist shoots him in the head during a cutscene.

I don't know if I'm a big fan of boss fights, but you have to agree, this is kind of underwhelming. There's no dialogue during that execution scene, nothing besides a few flashbacks or whatever, which don't really reveal anything. The game ends showing the protagonist as he averts an explosion which takes place during the intro, saving his... umm... wife? girlfriend? colleague who he only had casual sex with? No idea. And then the suit's AI says that a Paradox is imminent and you get teleported out of there. Huh.

So yeah. Timeshift is your regular FPS with an interesting feature in the time-altering mechanic which seems severly underplayed. I feel that the company had an idea for a mechanic, but not for a game - they created something which, in theory, was to be a full-lenght exploration of that idea, but they just weren't able to do that. That would explain the half-assed plot, the uninspired ending, and the fact that in the end, what is fun for an hour isn't necesarrily as gripping for the next several hours. I enjoyed Timeshift, it's not that I didn't - I just can't help but thing they could've made a better game out of it, and as it is, it's only a typical, railroaded FPS. The multiplayer has time-altering grenades, but I doubt that alone is able to provide players with a timeworthy online experience.

My final rating for Timeshift is a 6/10. If you're an FPS fan, feel free to check it out if you can get it cheap. Don't go out of your way to get it, don't expect a groundbreaking FPS with an innovative twist, and you should have fun.

PS: Forgot to comment on the resistance leader, Cook. He's as bland as they come. We know nothing about him, he doesn't even look much different than the others, we can't see why he's the leader, no characterisation AT ALL. And by the end of the game you want to shoot the guy, as he keeps telling you to hurry up, and do that, do something else and then do something else again. Because he says so, because he's the leader. Seriously, YOU ARE A BAD-ASS WITH A TIME-ALTERING SUIT and he's just some random prick. You're doing everything for this resistance, they haven't accomplished a SINGLE FRIGGING THING before you arrived... But yeah, that's just another part of the plot which sucks and is rather lame.

Gaming Diary - Day 7 (15.12.10)

My mood improved somewhat today, but that doesn't mean I played a lot, quite the contrary. I only played some King Arthur, and I am amazed at the depth the game offers. Just wow, it's really impressive how different elements in the game work together to create a really great experience! I'm still somewhat 'shy', if you get my meaning. I don't think I 'get' some of the mechanisms yet, so I play very cautiously and thus I found that I made some poor choices along the way. But anyway, I am very happy the game became more complex, because when I played the demo, I was underwhelmed by how curiously simplistic it was... I can see now, that it really pays to spend more than an hour or two getting used to it!

I also just finished Timeshift, and as soon as I post this entry, I'll write a Short Review of it. You'll probably just read two posts in a row anyway. Now I have to decide what to play next in the FPS/shooter category. I've got at least three options: FEAR, Call of Juarez or The Suffering. Condemned is also a possibility, but I'm not sure if I'm ready for it, so might as well play something scary beforehand to get prepared (yeah, as if that helped...). Or I might as well focus on Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead two for a couple of days, why not.

I may play some GTA 3 or maybe Left 4 Dead later, but I think I'll just read something tonight.

wtorek, 14 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 6 (14.12.10)

Had an absolutely rotten day, nearly start to finish. Seeing how I'm going through a tough to beat depression period, I haven't really felt like playing anything much. But I did end up finishing another mission in Company of Heroes, getting a bit further in GTA 3 (got to the annoying missions, by the way... how I'd love to get my hands on that mission designer...), playing a single short skirmish in Kane's Wrath (god dammit, the Easy difficulty AI isn't even trying. It didn't build a freaking Refinery! At all!) and played some more Timeshift. That's it, really. Nothing too remarkable to report today.

Well, as a kind of related note, I was taken into the VideoGameGeek council yesterday - a group of people who suggest ideas for the direction the website is taking and give some feedback on different concepts. So quite nice of them to think of me. I was also offered the RPG Geek of the Week title, and I agreed. This means that next week I'll be in the spotlight, answering some questions from users. I'm quite honoured and somewhat happy, though it didn't fix my very down mood.

poniedziałek, 13 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 5 (13.12.10)

Hmm... more of the same, really.

Got a bit further in Timeshift (I'm somewhere in the second half of the game).

Played some more GTA3 (slowly getting to the end of the first 'chapter').

Got some King Arthur in, I don't have all the options yet, but I won my first siege, which was pretty cool.

I played more Left 4 Dead, bits and pieces of different scenarios and then two full campaigns (Heavy Rain, which was insanely cool, and No Mercy) with two other players. It was cool, but the Advanced difficulty which we took on No Mercy killed us several times. I haven't survived that game, while everyone else did, but during the first one I was the only one to escape, so we got even.

I finally defeated Ivy in Arkham Asylum, but I can't possibly win the fights with Joker's henchmen in the finale. The camera just doesn't work well and it makes fighting extremely hard. It doesn't help that they added guys with knives, stun batons and guns to the mix, it ony makes it more frustrating. Also, the game doesn't save in between rounds, which means you have to do the whole thing in one go... See, this is how the ugly console mechanics trespass on my beautiful, near perfect game. I'll probably finish the game anyway, but it may be a while - if I don't succeed in the next few days, I'll probably just leave the game alone for a week or more. I really don't want to hate it, this is probably my favourite Single Player only game EVER...

Also, surprise, surprise, I played a single match of Soulstorm, just for laughs. I love the game for it's design and how well it portrays the universe of Warhammer 40K, but I'm not a big fan of the gameplay. It relies too much on twitch and reflexes, I used to say it's an RTS which plays like an FPS and I still think that holds true.

I may be away from home tomorrow, so I'm not making any very big plans, but I would like to play more GTA, King Arthur and perhaps Left 4 Dead. Batman is also an option, but that depends on my mood, mostly. I'm also downloading Lord of the Rings Online now, so there's a chance I'll be playing that soon. We'll see if it sticks, I like an MMO from time to time, thought its major appeal is definitely lost on me in the long run.

Gaming Diary - Day 4 (12.12.10)

Some stuff I did yesterday:

1) I played GTA 3. This game is really fun when played on a good PC. My previous frustrations with the game are now gone just because I like the graphics and how well the game flows. Or maybe it's because I haven't got to the most frustrating missions yet...

2) Played more Timeshift. Still having fun.

3) Installed and played a bit of Left 4 Dead 2. Fun game! It's different than the first one, but still good. I'm thinking the special infected may be too crammed now, but I'll see if that's right after playing some more. There's an achievement on Steam which I have to get to be entered into a contest. This will require me to play through all the campaigns, and I'll do that today I guess, but only one stage per campaign.

4) In Batman: Arkham Asylum, I got from Killer Croc to Poison Ivy, and I'm planning on playing further today. If memory serves me right, I'm almost at the end game.

5) Unfortunately, I haven't had time to play neither Soulstorm nor King Arthur nor Company of Heroes, all of which I wanted to play. Maybe today, maybe not. A day hasn't got enough hours, apparently.

6) I also managed to play three games of Hnefatafl with my friend yesterday, and to playtest one of my game prototypes. It doesn't work as well as I would have hoped for, unfortunately, so some tweaks are needed. I'll get to it soon.

So yeah, maybe today I'll update in the evening, otherwise I'll just get confused quickly.

niedziela, 12 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 3 (11.12.10)

I was quite tired yesterday, so I missed updating. For the three of you who read this - sorry for that.

So just a quick note.

I got to Killer Croc's lair in Batman: Arkham Asylum. Damn, this game is good. Playing it for a second time is almost as much fun as the first, and that's a rare thing!

Uninstalled Mafia, but that you already know. Installed GTA3 in its place and got through the first few missions. Loving it, the game's really enjoyable when you get into the right mindset, even if it has quite a lot of small flaws.

Played some more Timeshift. I'm progressing slowly. The game's fun, nothing special, but keeps you entertained and the combat is interesting, because its demanding. You can't really win big fights without using the time warping powers.

Also, I managed to finish another mission in Company of Heroes. I'm slowly getting to the one which I always end up being stuck on, so we'll see how I'll do once I actually get there.

And some more progress on King Arthur. Having unlocked most of the game's features by now, I'm still learning some of the mechanisms. It's not as enthralling as I hoped, but still a nice game, and I would probably play more of it if I didn't divide my attention so much.

So yeah, expect an update on today later on, or maybe tomorrow morning.

sobota, 11 grudnia 2010

Thoughts on Mafia

Having just uninstalled the game, here's why. The most important reason is the fact that I just got to Mission 11 (which means that I got to around 50% of the game), which is a stealth mission. I haven't even bothered to fire it up. I don't care about stealth missions in my shooter games. Seriously, why put a completely different mechanic into a game which doesn't work that way? At any rate, by saying this is 'the most important reason' I'm just stating that this is what made me uninstall it. But I have many reasons to not like it.

First of is the driving sections. They're tedious. Very, very tedious. They are there only to take you from your point of origin to where your mission is at. They are not enjoyable, or at least they are not nearly as enjoyable as driving in GTA3, which the game can technically be compared to, even though it offers a very different style of gameplay. Tell me this, why do I have to 'manually' go through the same steps (almost) every time I get a mission. Go to a guy for guns (there's no other point to him than a short cutscene in which you get the weapons), go to a guy to teach me how to break into a car (which I haven't done once since I started playing, because there's a number of cars available to you at the beginning of each mission), and only then carefully drive out to the street (using a narrow passage which is hard to drive in). All of this could've been done 'in the background', with no cutscenes and no wasting my time. I guess it's there because of immersion, but let me tell you, Mafia is one of the least immersive games I played. But I'll get to that.

Cutscenes. There's a lot of them and they're long (and mostly have really bad dialogue). You get some sort of exposition every 10 minutes or even more often than that. When the game finally allows you to do something, most often than not you'll have to do something which could've been done in a cutscene (as I discuss in the previous paragraph). When it allows you to take action, the action itself is almost as annoying as the driving sections, even if for different reasons.

It's annoying because you don't get to quick save. Instead, you've got checkpoints. And the firefights in this game can really go any way. I had times when I was dead sooner than I could react, and others when I was under a hail of fire and down to 4 life points, and made it. And if you find yourself having a really small number of life points, but there's enemies ahead, well, you'll have to go through the whole section again, even if you were 'this close' to completing it.

The game is kind of fun for the first hour or so. The 1930's American City is a nice change to the regular modern American City you get in most games like this. The cars are nice, the architecture is cool, the music is alright (it sounds nice, but it's painfully obvious that it has been recorded in our times, and is not 'the real thing'). But the driving and exploring aspect, which is so fun in GTA 3, is just tiresome here. Most cars are really hard to drive - they either turn too much, or too little. The map in the game is confusing and it's very easy to get lost. The speeding limit you usually take just to have cops stay off your back is an obvious issue when you want to have fun. Sure, it's a nice touch that, for once, you can get arrested for speeding in a video game, but in the end, I can see why this has not been implemented in other games.

When I play a game, I don't want it to be realistic, in the sense that I don't want it to make me feel like I'm doing a chore. I enjoy realistic shooters. I enjoy realistic RTS games. I neither of these game genres do we see sections where you're supposed to march for two hours before reaching your destination, or you have to plan with a great attention to details, which soldiers get how much provisions. That stuff is just TOO realistic, nobody cares about that. I enjoyed eating food in Stalker, but if they added a 'poop-o-meter' or 'piss-o-meter' to the game, I'd be pretty annoyed by the distraction. What I'm saying is, getting speeding tickets and commuting to 'work' have little place in an action game. A sim, maybe, I mean, there are games in which the only goal is to sit in the front coach of a train and steer, or to drive on a highway with a truck. But not an action game.

I have to agree with another comment I saw on the net, that this game seems like it started out as an engine with reproduced cars and scenery, and only then did they decide to put an action game in there. The game's design philosophy gathered very good reviews when it came out, but judging by today's standards, there's really nothing too interesting here, unless you're a Mafia fan, and want to play a game about the organisation. I was hoping for a more noir feel, but it didn't come.

Mafia would get a 5/10 from me, but since I haven't completed it, I'm not really sure if it picks up later on, or drags the same way. So I guess I'm just saying you shouldn't be going out of your way to buy this, but if you feel like it and find it somewhere cheap, it may be something you'll enjoy. For me, it's too mediocre of a game to play it any longer, not when I have so many more worthwhile games standing in the queue.

piątek, 10 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 2 (10.12.10)

Well, if it wasn't for a nasty surprise I got today, it would be a great day. Because of that, it's an ok day, but I did manage to squeeze some stuff in. Also, I got my RPG Geek Secret Santa gift, or gifts - I got the Conan 2nd Edition corebook, and the Mouse Guard corebook, along with the first part of the comic book. And an adorable hand-made Christmas card. So that brightened up my day.

Anyway, after downloading Batman: Arkham Asylum, Alien Swarm and King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame over the night, I managed to play all three. I'm currently playing Arkham Asylum the most, since I really love the game, but then again I already know it having finished it last year around this time. But yeah, it's a superb game, if you haven't played it, fix it. Worth every minute spent with it.

I only really played a single very short (failed) match of Alien Swarm, just to see what it is and how it works. Seems to be an alright game, but there's little reason to play it solo. I'll give it a go on multiplayer.

King Arthur is cool. I'm still at the Tutorial level, but it's sinking in pretty fast. I already have some slight issues with it, but nothing to serious, nothing that would hamper my enjoyment. Definitely one of the titles I'll be playing the most this month.

I also played the Sacrifice scenario in Left 4 Dead, and got my butt handed to me right before the Sacrifice took part. Damn. Also, I may be playing a short match in an hour or so, found some people to play with on BGG.

Haven't played any Mafia or Timeshift, probably will tomorrow.

Also, the game I ended up playing yesterday was a few turns of HOMM5. I'll get back to it sooner or later, I really like that game. Only with so many titles, I don't think I'll play it much at this time. Oh well, it'll wait.

If any of you want to play any of the following games on-line, give me a shout. I'm sure we'll be able to arrange something.
- Unreal Tournament 3
- Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance
- W40K: Dawn of War - Soulstorm
- Company of Heroes
- Left 4 Dead
- Left 4 Dead 2 (soon)
- Alien Swarm

Until tomorrow.

czwartek, 9 grudnia 2010

Gaming Diary - Day 1 (09.12.10)

Hello again. After having a short nap I got down to gaming. I'm currently downloading Batman: Arkham Asylum... and I have been for more than six hours now. Which is really silly. I don't know why this happens, but it's really irritating.

I removed Red Alert 3 after playing a single skirmish and remembering that as far as the game's ambience and shiny factor are great, the gameplay itself is everything I don't like about RTS games anymore. We'll soon see if Kane's Wrath shares the same faith.

I started playing Timeshift. Nice game, good shooter, though the plot doesn't seem to make any sense, and the time-control mechanics are mostly a gimmick. Shame, I was hoping for more. But I'm enjoying it so far and I'm planning on finishing it properly. It's not bad, and it's not even as bland as I feared. Fun game.

I also got to half of Mafia. I'm still not impressed. The game leaves a very dull feeling. On the one hand, it is kind of like GTA 3, but on the other, all Mafia really is, is a series of shoot-out levels with unskippable (and usually quite pointless) driving sequences, with added cutscenes which seem to take almost half the amount of time the gameplay takes. Plus, my obvious gripe about NO SAVING ANYWHERE I WANT, which results in me cursing that I've got 4 HP left and two or three mission sections to complete... I made it, but it wasn't any more satisfying than if I did that with a 100 HP. I begin to feel Mafia is one of the overrated games which did something revolutionary and did it right, and so any flaws that the game had were kind of ommited in the reviews. Against GTA 3, this game just doesn't defend itself. Sure, you could argue the setting is better, but the story is 'meh, whatever', the dialogues are actually rather bad, and the gameplay isn't all that gripping...

I'm off to play one last game before going to sleep. I'm thinking a short match of Soulstorm or Kane's Wrath.

Plan for tomorrow: play Arkham Asylum if it actually downloads, install and play King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame (again, since it's off Steam, if it actually downloads), play Timeshift and maybe Mafia, perhaps play some Left 4 Dead, and maybe even install and play Left 4 Dead 2. All other games optional, but possible.

niedziela, 5 grudnia 2010

Update before the Storm

Hey, all. I've been silent again, I know. It's because I got quite lazy lately. After completing MTU Kazan I am quite tired with writing, but I am working on my board game projects, and I hope to continue working on them over the next month.

I'm leaving for home on Wednesday, so it's time to go back to The Gaming Diary. Some of my plans for December and the beginning of January:
- finish Mafia
- play and finish Batman: Arkham Asylum again
- play Left 4 Dead 2
- fiddle a bit with Red Alert 3 and decide whether or not to keep it installed
- fiddle a bit with C&C3: Kane's Wrath and decide whether or not to keep it installed
- play and finish Timeshift
- play and possibly complete Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance. Then either play some more and remove to make place for Supreme Commander 2, or keep it there and install SupCom 2 anyway.
- play and finish Grand Theft Auto 3, upon completion start playing GTA: Vice City
- play and perhaps complete Company of Heroes (the basic game), start playing Opposing Fronts
- play Titan Quest, Left 4 Dead, W40K: Dawn of War - Soulstorm Heroes of Might & Magic V and Rome: Total War as a background thing
- play Dogfighter (not a very significant point on this list)

And this doesn't include a mystery game I'm due to receive tomorrow by post (my Christmas present from my girlfriend; I have a pretty good idea of what it is and I'm quite happy with it!), nor some other games I want to play over this month (like FEAR or Call of Juarez or Zeno Clash), but probably won't because of time issues. I mean, there's only that much gaming you can fit in a day. And I've got stuff to read, things to do and games to design as well!

Also, I'll get a board game (or a few board games, if he's generous) from my BGG Secret Santa. We'll see what those things will be. And I can't really not take into account the possibility that I will get some more games from either Steam or GOG.com, since the Christmas season usually means good offers. Oh, and then there's some games my mom probably got me for Christmas (FEAR 2, Serious Sam 2 HD, Mount & Blade)... Damn. You can now see why I called overhaul on my recent buying policy. It's gotta stop, otherwise I'll just drown in games. My room isn't too big...

I may be able to make that video I promised, but I'm not sure if I'll manage before Wednesday, and given that I've got some things to do I probably have to keep it for the new year. I've got the draft ready however, so it's only a question of using the Windows Movie Maker again and actually recording the whole thing.

Also, let me remind you about MTU Kazan again. If you haven't played it, go there and do it, and send it around. You can find the link below in one of the older posts.

piątek, 26 listopada 2010

It's a trap! Buying frenzy.

I've fallen into a trap of buying too much stuff.
It's easy to do in the UK, really. Between all the Charity Shops, the Entertainment Exchanges and Steam's offers, I most probably bought more games in the last two years than I did during all my life before moving to the UK. It's awesome, but it's also scary.

This comes back to my post about the gaming regime from some time back. I should probably introduce a buying regime as well, because right now I've got more games than I could possibly play through in the next year, or even maybe the next two years. And I still feel the need to buy more.

It's a state of mind. Steam doesn't help, really. The guys over there put up different titles on sale. There's a limited number of games I'm really interested in. There's another limited number of stuff I'd be willing to pick up because they sound cool. And for some reason, Steam manages to make me an offer on one or another near every week. Damn.

Anyway, my point is, I've fallen into the trap of buying stuff because it's either cheap or I really want it. As most of you know, I live away from my home town now, and I only have a crummy laptop to play and work on. By crummy I mean that it can't run Warcraft 3 with full details, and Diablo 2 slows down when I turn on the minimap, so you get the idea. I can't hope to run anything more recent than a 2003 game (even that can't be done sometimes). And yet, while here, I bought many games from 2006, 2007 and from around these dates, in hope of playing them over Christmas.

I'm going back to Poland for a month. There is no chance that I will get to play all the games I have bought in the last year alone over that period of time. I am hoping to play around 5-10 of them, depending on how I feel about rushing through some games instead of taking my time with them. And still I am tempted to buy new games which I won't run here. Why? Because of that trap.

It gets more tricky with the used game market. You can find real treats there and some of them you won't get for any reasonable price elsewhere. I bought a copy of Kohan 2: Kings of War for fifty pence for goodness sake, and that was the only copy of the game I've seen outside the one I bought when it premiered in Poland!

But yeah, a word of advice, if you're buying new games and just can't stop. Ask yourself these questions:
- will I have time to play this with all the games I have now which await play?
- is this something I've been waiting for for a long time, or is it just something that caught my fancy?
- if I don't have the time now, will I'll be able to get it cheaper when I do have time to play it?
- if I won't get it now, will I'll be able to get it at all later on?

I find these help to determine whether you buy something or not. For example, I bought a used copy of Call of Juarez today, because I don't think I'd be able to pick it up at all, but I have the sequel (prequel, technically) to the game, so I figured - what the hell, why not? Though again, it's one of the games I probably won't have time to try out until the Summer holidays...

Seriously, anyone with issues like mine, we need help... but not if we can control it. We can do it. Meanwhile, go play something.

wtorek, 23 listopada 2010

Thoughts on Civilization III

... I don't get it.
I tried playing this game several times. I tried another 'Civ' title, Alpha Centauri - didn't get that at all. Civ III I didn't give up on that fast, but ultimately, I did give up. I just don't get this game.

It seems that I am given both more options and less options then I'd like. On the one hand, you've got your workers and city management (the latter being absolutely convoluted and unclear to me) which I don't care about that much, and then you have the turn-to-turn movement of units and research options which I think are very underplayed... Most of the game I'd spend seeing what's going on, confirming the AI's choices and checking how it develops... the game basically plays itself. It skips over turns in which I'd like to do something. It gives me the option to do something when I'm actually just skipping forward. It suggests research and upgrades that I don't know how they work, nor do I care much. It shows me uprisings in my cities which I don't know how to stop, nor how to alleviate once they're there. And all of that in the name of what? A grand history of a civilization spanning over 4000 years? Bullshit.

There's no single civilization here. You pick a character/nation, who is going to look differently over time in a weak attempt to make the game funny, but that doesn't mean shit. You can play with the Aztecs and introduce democracy sooner than the English. You can play with the Germans and build the Pyramids. Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' can be researched by whoever feels like it. When I heard about Civ, I thought that it was a great premise - to see the development of a nation over time and change history. But this is not a historical game in the least. Sure, researches are based on the age and you have to do some stuff in order, but it doesn't matter in the end, because anyryone can invent anything, and the period won't even be right.

I know this means that I'm just a shitty Civ player and that it puts this entire article in the rubbish bin, but by 2050, when the game ends, I was still at the Industrial age and my cities were still producing Swordsmen for some reason. Sure, I had Ironclads, and Cavalry and whatnot, but I was only going out of the Industrial researches, not even entering the Modern age yet. As I said, I know this is due to my ineptitude and all, but this just didn't make any sense.

Alternate history is cool. I really dig Medieval and Rome, the Total War games. Spreading the English influence over the whole of Western Europe, or creating a great Gaulish empire to combat Rome is all good. The thing I don't like about these games is that, at some point, your empire will strech throughout the whole world. I'm a history geek, I really like history, listening and reading about. I hate the premise of 'What if one nation dominated the world', because it NEVER happened and as such is a really stupid premise. That's why I prefer the Viking Invasion in Medieval: Total War - because it actually does look somewhat realistic if I conquer the whole British Isles with a single faction.

The scale in Civ is epic, but the gameplay isn't. They want me to believe that I am forging a Civilization, but they show me Queen Elizabeth in a toga. Bismarck in a mongol outfit. Joanne of Arc as a cavewoman. It's like "Here, you have the history of the world in your grasp, feel free to rewrite it. Oh, also, here's a bunch of clowns so you get annoyed once in a while". I'm not feeling this.

So yeah, if there are three main things which bug me about Civ III and are the reason I gave up on the game, it's these:
- History. What history? Germans building the Great Wall isn't history, it's bad fanfic.
- Control. What control? Stuff's happening, I don't know why, the game doesn't make me care, I have no idea what I'm doing. Which brings me to...
- The Point. What point? I really have no friggin idea what I'm doing. I'm trying to control stuff, but the game won't let me. When I don't give a damn, I suddenly find myself asking - why am I just skipping to next turn? I could turn off this game and play something else... sure, there is the allure of the "next turn", but while in some games the "next turn" may bring something interesting, here it's always nothing worth mentioning.

Sorry, Civ. The premise seemed like a dream come true, but the implementation has left me dissapointed on every possible level. I wanted something in between the Europa Universalis games and Medieval: Total War in complexity. I got something... well, different. And served with a sauce I hate and sides I won't eat. For me, Civ III is a 4/10.

Also, I know the game deserves better. Which is why this isn't a review. I don't feel competent to write a review of this game. The worst thing is, I feel guilty for not liking this game. I know it's a posh thing, it's the high-brow thing to play and be good at Civ. But you know what, screw this. I don't care. I'm off to play something more fun. Call me a simpleton if you wish, there's games and then there's games. I've got better things to do than waste time on skipping turns or trying to understand a complex game which doesn't even have a proper tutorial explaining what it's about and how it works.

I was thinking about buying Civ IV, but now I don't think I'll bother.

niedziela, 21 listopada 2010

Short Review #11: Grim Fandango

Finally, after a looooooong playthrough, I finished the game earlier today.

For those of you who don't know, Grim Fandango is considered by many to be one of the best, or even the best adventure game ever made. Its creator, Tim Schafer, is a legend among game designers, a guy who co-created the Monkey Island games, and is responsible for several other classic LucasArts adventure games, as well as Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. The game has been released in 1998, and was one of the first adventure games to feature 3d graphics.

The game has a very specific South American feel to it. The characters you meet belong to the Land of the Dead, so most of them are skeletons. Many buildings have Aztec and Mayan features to them, while the colour scheme and indeed the whole design on the characters is directly inspired by the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition. The music comes in two flavours - Noir style Jazzy tunes and Mexican/Spanish soundings tracks. Both are great - Grim Fandango features one of the best, most original and most memorable soundtracks I ever heard in a video game.

That Noir bit needs some more attention. While the surroundings are definitely south american, the plot and some of the locations has a very noir feel, and by that I mean you will, at times, be reminded of movies like Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon. This mix of '30s era USA with the near-tribal Dia de los Muertos tradition could seem strange or out of place, but it works great.

The game has a lot of humour. I haven't laughed very much while playing a game for a long time now, and Grim Fandango didn't bring any tears to my eyes with its witty dialogue and jokes, but it sure did bring a smile often. I wouldn't say the humour in the game is a reason to play it, but it does a good job of keeping you entertained and in a good mood throughout the whole thing.

Something I don't feel so strongly about is the inclusion of daemons in the world of Grim Fandango. They serve as a working class of sorts, being mechanics, drivers etc, but they aren't really explained (as in why they are there, and how they work). What's worse is that they have a completely different character design, one which doesn't really work well with the game's early 3D graphics. Their models simply look unattractive and blocky. They are funny and all, and your main character's companion, Glottis, provides a lot of quality comic relief, but they just seem an odd fit in all this.

Speaking of graphics, they're aged, obviously. They are not ugly or painful to look at, but being an early 3D thing, they aren't real beauties either. As mentioned before, the design on them is great, and most locations look good. If anything, it's fire and light effects which haven't really passed the test of time. I'm not a big graphics geek, so I'd say it's a 'take it or leave it' thing, and I took it with no problems.

Grim Fandango is clever, beautifully designed and interesting, but is it a good adventure game? Well... no, no it isn't. Don't get me wrong - most riddles are alright, though I had to use a Walkthrough much more often than I'd like, but the control scheme is atrocious. The game boasts 'A smooth, seamless interface' which 'puts you smack in Manny's world', but that's a darn lie that is. You control the character with the arrow keys, but the camera is static, changing if you walk to a particular edge or point on a static background. What this means is that sometimes you get stuck, and no amount of fidgeting is enough to get out of a place you weren't supposed to end up in. Othertimes, you will struggle to reach the place you want to get to, or to have the main character look the right way.

Manny looks around with his head to indicate stuff you can Examine, Use or Pick Up. This sucks because there is no indicator of what stuff can be used, and what stuff is just there as background. This had me miss several important doors and I couldn't further the plot without checking a walkthrough which told me that there's a door in this one wall that I can't really see because of the camera! Or that the doors I tried to open but it seemed Manny can't be bothered to try are supposed to be opened, but I have to stand REALLY close to them.

Finally, the inventory isn't much better. When you open it, you have to browse through every Item to find what you need. And then, some items have animations when you take them out - this means downtime. When you take an item out of the Inventory, you can put it back, but you cannot choose to not take an item out of the Inventory. This is all very irritating and takes a lot of time - especially if you're at one of those classic 'use every item on this thing to see if something will happen' moments.

What's my final mark, you ask? A 7+/10. Sorry, Grim Fandango. Your great story, theme and atmosphere can't make up for the shitty controls which at times nearly ruined the whole thing for me. While the artistic vision gets an easy 9/10 from me, and the story a strong 8/10, the controls - and hence, gameplay - can only receive a measly 4/10 at most. You should've sticked to the Mouse, people, instead of trying to innovate before you actually had the technology to do that.

Still, Grim Fandango stays a very interesting game, well worth checking out. I wouldn't recommend it to players unfamiliar with adventure games, as it can get pretty hard (unless you want to play through with a walkthrough in hand), but if you like what you read about it here or elsewhere, I'd definitely try to play it. It may be hard though - I got my copy from a second-hand store, new copies are either unavailable or insanely overpriced, and not many people let this one out of their grasp, if only out of sheer nostalgia. And if you don't want to play it, at least check out the screenshots and listen to the music - those things alone are worth doing for Grim Fandango's sake.

sobota, 20 listopada 2010

MTU Kazan completed... finally.


Well, this is it, people. MTU Kazan - the project with put all my other projects on hold and took more than a month to complete is here.

MTU Kazan is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game translated into the internet/website format. It is free to play (there is an option to donate some money though and every little bit is very appreciated!), requires the newest Macromedia Flash, but other than that all you need is some free time on your hands. A fast computer is a plus, but not a requirement.

Please play through, and comment on the website in the Comment section. I need all the feedback I can get, though with the amount of stress and frustration this project alone put me through, I probably won't be doing another game like this anytime soon, at least not using the Wix format. If MTU Kazan is popular, however, I'm planning to create more games like this, probably a bit more complex and definitely longer. But those are plans for the future.

For now I'm taking a breather. Just to tease you a bit, here's a list of project I'm planning to focus on after I take a short break:

- a video, or maybe even a video series, on the basics of the RPG hobby
- learning the Game Maker software
- finishing a two-player board game
- designing a second board game
- writing short bulletpoint reviews for Videogame Geek (the first few of these can be found here: http://videogamegeek.com/geeklist/61009/lord_kristofs-bulletpoint-reviews-vg-side )
- and, of course, playing more games and discussing them here

So stay tuned, there's stuff coming up!

czwartek, 18 listopada 2010

Short Review #10: Half-Life

Half-Life is one of the games I played a while back, but haven't enjoyed and decided to give them another go when I found a used copy at local entertainment exchange places. The first time I played it, which had to be around 2000, I quickly dismissed it. And to be honest, after this playthrough, I have no idea why!

I won't bother to get into much details with the plot, just because I'm probably one of the few people over the age of 20 who haven't played this game till recently. But the basics are this: you're Gordon Freeman, an engineer working in a facility called Black Mesa, where physics research of different kinds is being conducted. After you participate in an experiment, all hell breaks loose, putting the whole facility in danger, and, apparently, beginning an alien invasion.

The game starts off slow, with a long action-less introduction during which you get the general feel of the facility and your role there. Then, after the event which sets the whole thing in motion takes place, you are without any weapons for a short while, after which you get the crowbar – a symbol of the series in a sense. Your weapon arsenal is quickly broadened, and by the end of the game you can use mundane every-day weapons like a Pistol, Revolver, Shotgun or SMG (with a built-in grenade launcher), some more heavy stuff like a bazooka and C4, a sniper's delight – the crossbow, as well as experimental weaponry and even an alien gun.

The game offers a quite long single player campaign, ripe in dexterity puzzles and fighting enemies of two basic kinds – aliens and the military. It's very fun to play, and from today's perspective feels quite fresh. This is because Half-Life introduced some gameplay elements which are almost a given in modern FPS games – stuff like places where you can regenerate health and armour gradually (instead of only picking up First Aid Kits etc.), advanced enemy A.I. (the soldiers will make you change your position with grenades very often), mines, reloading guns, turrets... Neither Unreal nor Quake 2 (the other two big FPS games if the same period) had these, so HL was a definite innovator in this regard. This is probably why it still feels fresh, though obviously the graphics are quite dated by now, and it does not offer as much as some modern day shooters.

If there are things which I found lacking about Half-Life, it's the small number of music tracks, not a big variety of enemies, somewhat too many dexterity puzzles (which can be a real pain in a FPP game) and the lack of subtitles. The music was great when it came on, but it happened very seldom, and that's a shame because I really enjoyed it. The enemies... well, you just fight the same soldiers and quite varied aliens all the time, which is fine for the most part, but becomes tiresome by the end of the game. The game seriously needs subtitles – NPC's will often talk to you, but sometimes there is so much background noise that you can't hear them properly. I had trouble figuring out what to do next at times because I didn't hear what the Scientists or Guards were saying.

The ending to the game could have been better, as it is obvious it's not as good as the Black Mesa levels, and also, at one point, the game strips you off all of your equipment. Now, I have nothing against stuff like that, if it makes sense in the long run. But the lack of weaponry didn't add much to the levels which come after your 'pacification', because they are composed mostly of dexterity puzzles anyway, so your guns wouldn't be much help here. Seemed a silly thing to do, not needed at all really.

So, to sum up. Half-Life is a really good FPS, and I can see why it was such a big hit in 1998 and why it was so influential. It added a lot of depth to the genre, and it doesn't come as a surprise to me that it received the high praise it did. That said, it's not a perfect game, not in today's day and age anyway. Some design and plot choices seem a bit off, and while the whole game is very enjoyable, its age starts to show. At any rate, my final rating is an 8/10. I really enjoyed myself, and if any of you haven't played this yet, you really should. It's such an important milestone, that you should at least give it a go to see what the fuss was about 12 years ago. Even if only for educational purposes, get this game and play it through. It's well worth your time – more than some newer, but still 'old' FPS games I could mention (Return to Castle Wolfenstein being one example).

sobota, 13 listopada 2010

L.A. Noire

As you may recall, I made a list on games I wanted to play a while ago ( http://lets-talk-about-games.blogspot.com/2010/06/not-yet-published-games-i-want-to-see.html ). There, I put the game L.A. Noire on the third place, so quite high (second, if you count the fact that my No. 1 was never actually announced). The good news? They just released a trailer for the game and it looks pretty awesome ( http://www.rockstargames.com/lanoire// ). The bad news? IT AIN'T COMING OUT ON THE PC!


On the bottom of that list of mine, there's this gem:

Honourable Mentions
Alan Wake and Heavy Rain. Both have been released more or less recently, both are games I would REALLY LOVE to play, but chances are that I won't play either of them. Why? Alan Wake is X-Box exclusive, while Heavy Rain is PS3 exclusive. God, I hate those people. And no, I won't be buying a console for a single game, so screw you, you assholes!


So, yeah... Given the fact that between then and now another game I would really love to play was omitted on the PC (Red Dead Redemption), I can only find hope in the fact that my current No. 1 and No. 2 most anticipated games (The Witcher 2 and Batman: Arkham City) are both coming out on the PC... And I sure do hope they won't get cancelled!

Anyhow, I'm still working on MTU Kazan - finished the story, but putting it all on the web is a pain in the ass. It will take me more time, so you have to be patient with my blog updates. On the bright side, I'm planning another video soon-ish, so that should mix things up a bit.

wtorek, 9 listopada 2010

General Update #2

Me again.
Still working on MTU Kazan. As was to be expected, there's no chance of it going live tomorrow, but there's a slim chance I'll be able to publish the game on Friday, and if that fails, I will finish it over the weekend and publish it on Monday with a 95% certainty. I'm almost finished with the plot (somewhere between the 90% and 95% mark), so all I hope will be left come Thursday afternoon is the linking of paragraphs. But that's going to take hours and hours.

Wychurst was fun, though I hardly had any sleep Saturday/Sunday night because it was freakishly cold and I couldn't focus on falling asleep. Plus different noises made it extra difficult, so I ended up rekindling the fire and keeping it up for the whole night to keep myself warm. Needless to say, I got back home early and slept for most of the day. Due to my service I was dubbed the 'Midnight Stoker', so that's always something!

I have decided to leave Tomb Raider on the side for now, especially since I was able to buy a used copy of Half-Life, and I'm playing it now. I was also able to pick up GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas at a bargain price from Steam. I can't wait to play and finish GTA3 and then Vice City. San Andreas, I'm not so sure. From the videos I have seen it's waaay too gangsta for me. GTA is fun as long as it's tongue in cheek, and San Andreas takes things too seriously... I will share my views on that at some point, probably when I finish all three games.

Shortlist of stuff I'm hoping to finish soonish to make way for more games:
- Grim Fandango (no progress for a second week now)
- Disciples 2: Guardians of Light (more specifically, the Empire's basic campaign + the Empire's GoL campaign)
- Civilization 3 (still not sure what to think, have to toy around with it some more)

Also, Board Game Geek's and RPG Geek's Secret Santas start next week. Can't wait to get my target, and I'm hoping somebody nice will send me something cool so I can enjoy some new stuff.

PS: played Descent, the board game, last week. Quite fun, actually more fun than I thought! Looking forward to playing some more this week or the next.

środa, 3 listopada 2010

General Update

Hey guys. In case you're wondering, I'm still here.
I'm still working on MTU Kazan and I have reached about 90% of completion on the plot, which means that the whole project is around the 80% mark. I'm hoping to reach around 85% today, and finish off tomorrow and Friday. I'm then leaving for the weekend for an Arts and Crafts event in Wychurst (an Anglo-Saxon site replica, complete with a longhall). I'm hoping to finish all the work on MTU Kazan around next Wednesday, which is the, very introductory, day for the 'premiere'.

I haven't been playing much recently. I've done some Civilization III, but despite several attempts I still don't really know what I'm doing. Going to give it a few more goes, but it does seem it's not exactly my kind of game even though, in theory, it's all I could ever dream of in the strategy department.

I'm also struggling with finishing Disciples II so I can go ahead and play some other strategy games (yes, my playing regime is still in effect and will probably stay that way for a longer while). It'll take a while longer I'd imagine, as I'm pretty tired with the game at this point, and I still have three missions to complete with the basic campaign, and then another three from the expansion pack to call it a finished game.

I almost finished Grim Fandango at this point, but I have the last chapter to complete and I haven't had time to sit down and do it, and neither had my girlfriend (with whom I play and finish most adventure games).

And finally, I tried installing and running Tomb Raider (the first one), but it doesn't work too well and I can see myself throwing it out and installing the second part instead. Also, it didn't really grab me. May be that's another sub-genre of games that I should like in theory, but in practice it falls short of my expectations. We'll see about that.

Okay then, back to work.

wtorek, 26 października 2010

Game Boxes

Just a short post to keep you entertained while I still work on MTU Kazan. Haven't made much progress since I was sick for the past few days and writing stuff was the last thing I felt like doing.

I guess that most of you are either older than me, or only a bit younger at most. So you probably remember what game boxes used to look like. You know, the big carton ones, which took a lot of space on the shelves, and had only a CD case and a game manual inside it. They've been discontinued around the turn of the century or so I think. The last box I had like this, was from a game released in 2005, but the one before that was from 2001, with no 'big boxes' in between. I think you can still get them with low-budget games, but no 'serious' companies publish games like that any more.

When they introduced the DVD boxes, I was rather dissapointed. I really like the old boxes, I like how they take up space and look down at you from the shelve. I know they're useless and taking up space is all they do, but hey! Some games released around 2001 or 2002 in newspaper editions had a 'do it yourself' cardboard box. But the DVD boxes, well, they look like movie boxes. You can fit a lot on the shelve, they look like small books, one next to the other. They no longer look proud, instead they are shy. They don't catch your eye with a logo on the side, with an imaginative font - they keep to a simple font and only the game's name, which makes them look like stuff you'd put in a file cabinet. And when you look inside... well, there's not much space there. Only enough to fit a few CDs in and a slim booklet. If the booklet is thicker, or there are more CDs in, you sometimes have slight trouble just closing the damn thing.

And if you look at the new trend in boxes, like the ones here: http://www.nowaklasyka.com/tytuly.html Well, they look like BluRay boxes. I even had to double check if the games didn't need BluRay drives to play them... I don't really like them. I don't know, maybe I'm just a reactionist when it comes to these things...

sobota, 23 października 2010

Thoughts on Diablo 3

I was meaning to write this short article a while back, but always something more important came up. But very recently, Blizzard has announced the fifth class in Diablo 3 - the Demon Hunter. And I think that's a good time to tell you what I think of what I've seen of the game until now.

As you probably know, I'm a big Diablo fan. I played Diablo for the first time around 1998 or 1999 I would imagine, and seen it earlier than that - and was very impressed. When Diablo 2 came out I started playing immediately, and never really stopped for longer than a year or so. Diablo 2 is possibly the game I played THE MOST out of all the games I ever played, just because of how often I came back it in the last 10 years. So when Diablo 3 was announced, I was hyped. The hype, however, withered away immediately after me seeing the first gameplay trailers, and was replaced by cautious optimism.

I had the same gripes with what I've seen you probably heard many times now. The graphics were too colourful. The light effects were too colourful. The enemies seemed like coming from another, less gritty and gothic, and more high fantasy universe. Weapons has glowing spheres around them, and nearly all special abilities had lightning effects to them that simply didn't fit. The Barbarian wasn't that bad, but I despised the Witch Doctor - not only does he have skills that used to belong to THREE different classes (Necromancer, Sorceress and Druid), and some of those are simply put, very silly (undead wall? Please.), but he also simply doesn't fit in with the rest of the world.

Then came the Wizard. This class isn't bad, it's just too over the top. Desintegrate allows you to emit a killing ray... Really? Plus, some abilities really look pointless (Slow Time is one, and Teleport... who's going to run away from enemies in this game?).

And then, the Monk... Do I really need to say anything? What good could have come from adding a Street Fighter / Dragonball character to Diablo? His presence in the game is a thorn in my side, because this basically meant that Blizzard decided to throw away what was left of the great atmosphere and ambience of Diablo 1 and the somewhat thematic Diablo 2. Instead, they opted to cater for the needs of the console crowd (I'll get back to that in a minute) and twelve year old anime fans who, when they see a Monk beating the crap out of deamons and zombies with his bare fists can only say 'Awesome'. But it's really more like 'Lame'.

And finally, Demon Hunter... again, in an attempt, apparently, to do everything bigger, more shiny and more over the top (without actually thinking if it's a good thing for the game), they gave the character some abilities which just look plain silly. The fact that the class can shoot crossbows as if they were machine guns. A skill which allows you to throw a bola which sticks to the enemy and then explodes... and the one which simply boggles my mind - Fan of Knives. If you played Warcraft III, you should remember this skill's spiritual predecessor, as used by the Night Elf Warden. There, even on the highest level of the skill, it still looked like the character could potentially have all those knives underneath her cape and throw them all around. And that was bloody Warcraft, a game which doesn't have to care for her feel and atmosphere, because it's high fantasy - plain and simple. And in Diablo 3? Visit their website to see why I think that ability is absolutely out of place. I don't even mind grenades, though that's an obvious 'inspiration' by the Assasin character from Hexen II (who also had a crossbow, and grenades). I don't mind that the Demon Hunter looks more like a Warhammer 40K character than a Diablo character. But the over-the-top abilities which make the whole affair silly, I do mind.

I mentioned catering to the console crowd ealier. As you might have noticed in the videos, orbs pop out in the game which regenerate health and mana. Will this mean that Diablo 3 will do away with mixtures, a vital element of the hack&slash genre since the original Diablo? No, apparently they stay, but will not play as big a role as earlier. And the whole graphics revamp so that it looks more like a jRPG than a dark, gritty and gothic euro RPG as it should?

Of course I will still play the game when it comes out. I would be silly not to. What I'm saying is that the direction they took with this game is crap. It may be a good, even great, hack&slash game, but it's probably going to be a very shitty Diablo game.

I will still pay attention to announcements, to see how the game wants to innovate, and how it wants to be played. But I can't stop from feeling dissapointed that after more than 10 years the sequel we get is going to be something so alien to the last two parts of the game that it barely feel right. Hopefully they won't do the same to the franchise as Rockstar plans to do to Max Payne 3... but that's another story.

wtorek, 19 października 2010

New Project

Just a heads up - you won't probably see much of me this week, because I'm working on a new project, a SF horror/thriller Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game called "MTU Kazan". You'll be able to play it, hopefully sooner than later (ETA around the middle of next week), via a flash-based website created using the software at www.wix.com.

I'm around 1/4 of the whole thing right now, after I finish I'll have to test how long it actually takes to finish, and if I find it's too short, I'll add some stuff here and there and then launch it.

So stay tuned.

Also, I came up with a brand name for my 'company', or basically a logo which is going to be included in all my future projects. Have a look and try to guess why this is what I picked.

piątek, 15 października 2010

The RPG Geek / Introducing people to RPG's

Yesterday, due to sheer chance, I ended up playing a short RPG session with a group from a nearby city. The game was Dragon Warriors - I've never heard of it before, apparently it's a UK-specific thing, a more-or-less generic fantasy setting with a similarly more-or-less generic d20 mechanic. As the name suggests, and what I gathered from a brief look at the character sheet, this is one of those old-school RPG's which tend to the D&D type players' needs. The GM introduced my and my friend's character to the game right before a standoff with the groups' antagonist from a previous session. We didn't really have any time to role-play (though Jack was able to throw some funny stuff in after the battle) or to even introduce our characters properly - we dived right into the fight. And it took more than an hour to resolve, while in in-game time it took less than a minute. This is a topic for a separate discussion, but it's my personal feeling that if any battle of any type (apart from really big battles and perhaps end-campaign boss showdowns) lasts longer than 30 minutes, then there's something wrong with either the players, the GM, or the system. But this is not what I wanted to talk about here.

My gripe was with the players. Sorry to say this, but when I came to England I was almost certain that the players here are not your stereotypical geeks - you know the type: overweight, socially inept, possibly low hygiene. I won't say it was as bad with this group, but it was pretty bad. I don't really get it. From all the people I ever role-played in Poland, there wasn't ONE player who fitted that description. All my gaming buddies were always highly aware, physically 'in the norm' (some of them quite fit, actually!) and with a good understanding of what is usually considered to be 'strange'. Sure, they were geeks, nearly all of them. Our conversations would often wander off to SF tv series or movies, or comic books, or fantasy novels, or video games. We had a lot of inside jokes nobody else would ever get, and every single one of us had his or her's quirks. And I could easily categorise 95% of my players as 'odd' in some, albeit usually positive, way.

This got me thinking, because I really NEED to roleplay now. It's the withdrawal syndrome, a physical urge to play or GM. I just love this hobby so much, and I can't get my fix for how many years now? At any rate, my point is - I want to play, but I don't want to play with these people. And by these people I don't mean this particular group, but rather a category of people. I encountered them before, when I wanted to join an RPG/Board Game group at my University - one of the reasons I didn't were time constraints, the other however, was how that group was constructed. I just don't feel like I can communicate with these people on a level I would like, and this means I have no interest in playing with them - because what's the point of spending time with people you don't really feel like spending time with?

I just want to touch on a different topic here for a minute. Jack, the friend I went with, has not role-played before in his life. He was a spectator, and knew what the hobby was about, but hasn't played it. And I won't lie when I say that he's a person I would REALLY like to get into the hobby, as I would seriously enjoy playing with him. But after yesterday, I doubt he's any closer to being interested in a session than he was before.

How should you go about with introducing new people to the hobby? I managed to run a mechanic-less session in a generic fantasy system during a convention in July, for an almost 100% noobie squad of four/five (two players shared a character) gals (a personal first), and I was hell-bent on showing them what the hobby is so I could interest them in it. I think it worked, as general opinions afterwards were positive and I heard from other people the girls were quite happy with the game and talked about it afterwards. Not only does this fill me with great pride and satisfaction, but I also think I know what kind of adventure one should prepare to show people how the hobby works.

What I did was simply throwing in a lot of different elements. There was something of an intrigue, I gave a lot of space for role-playing and inter-player dialogue, role-played several NPC's myself, there was some mystery, some tension and threat, and finally two skirmishes. And I think it worked quite well. If I wanted to improve on that, I'd probably throw in some intrigue sub-plot for any schemers interested in that sort of stuff - and then use it more or less depending on the interest.

Now, what I'm saying here will probably come across to some of you as an obvious thing, not worthy of discussion. But apparently, it's not that obvious even for people from the industry itself. Have a look at this series of videos:

This is a D&D writer GMing a session for the writers of Robot Chicken (a great TV show, if you don't know it: shame on you, go watch it), most of who are total newbies. How does his session progress? There's a short introduction, some roleplaying (he doesn't seem to try and 'drag' the players out to do it, though), a short comic-relief / riddle interlude (which is actually done quite well, even if sloppy and obviously unprepared) and then a battle. Which takes them the next several videos (each video is around 8-9 minutes). And then they have another skirmish, which takes them two videos. May I ask, what the hell? Is this what the creators of an RPG think a good introductory session is? Seriously, NOBODY who had no previous experience of the hobby is going to leave the session in awe or even impressed after he spent the last few hours rolling dice! In the videos, you can actually see one of the writers as he's apparently bored to tears with the battle and he only really has fun when they're cracking jokes outside of combat... Also, during the combat rounds there is NO roleplaying. They just focus on picking the right combination of skills to kill their foes, adding no description to anything, and the GM does the same, and doesn't encourage them to do otherwise.

So what I'm saying is - how are we supposed to throw away the whole social stigma if even the creators of triple-A titles are the source of the problem? Am I alone on this, am I just waaaaay too fanatical about the need to role-play and diversify problems in, you know, a ROLE-PLAYING game? Share your thoughts please.