piątek, 28 maja 2010

Star Wars: Saga Edition RPG core rulebook critical review

Yep, this time in English!
Pardon my pronunciation, I know it's crap.
Also, this is my first movie made with the Windows Movie Maker. So don't expect anything too impressing.
Comments are welcome, as always. Both here, and on YouTube.


środa, 26 maja 2010

First V-Log! (Polish only)


Oglądać i komentować! Bo się wnerwię! :P

poniedziałek, 24 maja 2010

Too many games, not enough time (or interest)

When I was younger, especially when I got into my "new computer, full games" period (about 2000, 2001) I used install lots and lots of games at once. I usually would uninstall them soon after, seeing how I lost my interest in playing them, because I had too much choice. This is the sole reason for the fact that I haven't finished some titles, even though I repeateadly tried to, over many years (Total Annihilation and Heroes of Might & Magic 3 are good examples here). And now, I think I'm having a relapse.

Living in England allowed me to tap in into the second hand market. There are lots of opportunities here to pick up older games: Charity Shops, second hand shelves in regular stores and places sorely dealing in second hand merchandise (so called "Entertainment Exchanges"). Since I moved in here, I must have bought at least 30-40 games, for the sum of (roughly, and guessing) something above 100 pounds, if that. The fact they're so cheap, and the fact that I missed out on these games tempts me to buying more. That has it's cons though. At the moment I've got around 30 games installed. About half of them are the kind of games I get back to often, or it's my 100th attempt at finishing them. Realistically speaking, only 5 or 6 of them are the kind of titles that I'll finish and forget for a longer while. So what about the other 24? Are they going to sit on my laptop now and for the years to come?

See, I had a philosophy which assumed that I should have no more than a few games installed at one time, so I can digest each of them, finish them properly, have my fun and then uninstall feeling that I've finished what I've started. With a majority of titles however, I never finish the games. And I know I can leave the Savegames when I uninstall them so I can get back at the point where I left. But it just doesn't seem right. I'm asking the question - do I really have such a short attention span? Or are the games simply the kind that you kind of play, but there's no definite "end" to them (games like Total War or Diablo 2)? I don't know, to be honest, but I feel that even if I had the sufficient time to finish all of them, the interest just wouldn't be there.

Sometimes I do try to sit down and finish a game. I tried that with Warcraft 2. Got stuck on some of the final levels. Then I tried the same with Red Alert 1. Got stuck on the final Soviet level, didn't bother to play the Allied campaign. Total Annihilation? Got to the seventh, eight mission, lost interest. Sim City 3000? Played it for a bit, uninstalled it today. Freedom Force? Seemed fun, but I just can't make myself play it (then again, I did watch my girlfriend finish it, maybe that's the reason). The list drags on. I'm not even starting on how many games that I bought I just installed, played once, kept on the hard drive for a while and then deleted.

My birthday is coming up in two days. And I plan on buying myself some games. But there is this silent voice at the back of my head saying "What's the point, dude? You've got a hell lot of games, why buy more? You won't finish them anyway...". But you know what? I'm planning to. I'm getting Dead Space, Mass Effect, C&C3 + Kane's Wrath, Riddick (Escape from Butcher Bay) and Mafia (another title I never played, despite it's impact on the gaming world). And it is my plan to finish as many of these games while I stay in Poland (with a good computer to run them), and then to pick games one-by-one. No more of that "10 played games" crap...

But yeah, we'll see how that works out. I'll probably find some work, which means that I won't be playing anything much I guess. That's life. Time to grow up? I'm not planning to. Not until I play all the games I missed. And if I finish Total Annihilation and HOM&M3 when I'm 60? Hell, I'm going to be a very fun old guy!

wtorek, 18 maja 2010

Diablo 2, how I .... thee

It's been a while. Sorry, I'm bogged down with work. And tired, so I don't really feel like writing. But, here I am.

Diablo 2. There comes a time every month, or two months or so. "It's Diablo 2 time.", I can feel in the back of my head. Time to kill some monsters to take their stuff to fight stronger monsters and take their stuff... Only now, it's different.

See, I've been playing the game since it came out (2000, that's 10 years!). That means Diablo 2 is most probably my most played game of all times, one that I not only come back to the most, but one that I played the longest amount of time, if you count the hours spent playing. This is probably true for many people, but my relationship with the game is a tad different. I only recently got to the Hell difficulty level, despite, as I mentioned above, playing the game for 10 years on an "at least once a year" basis.

That's because Diablo 2 is everything I hate about games. It doesn't have a real "save" option, it's dedicated to multiplayer, has many irritating features, has virtually no plot (though the background is quite rich, even if silly at times)... but I love it all the same. How this happens, I have no idea. To date, I have finished the basic difficulty level at least four times, with a god-knows-how-many characters created who never got past Act 2.

But I do long for something new. A different Hack&Slash to help me forget the hundred times I heard Warriv speak his text in the Rogue Camp. I tried Loki, I tried Titan Quest... both were good (though TQ is way better than Loki), but none of them scratched the right itch. It seems like the only thing that can really serve as an alternative to Diablo 2, is... Diablo 2. And I can't see why.

Titan Quest is a game superior to Diablo 2. Everything it does, it does better than Diablo 2 - you can modify your character and create interesting builds in many more ways than in Blizzard's game; there's a greater number of things to find; it has more quests; newer, fresher graphics... So why isn't it altogether more gripping than Diablo 2? Does the Lord of Terror feed you drugs the first time you put the CD in? Maybe it's the setting (which is very thematic, unlike the one from TQ which is simply bland and uninspired), the characters, the old but dark graphics? No idea what it is, but playing Diablo 2, even for the hundreth time is still more fun than the, theoretically superior, Titan Quest.

But that's the thing. I got to Hell level with my lvl 70-something Barbarian. And I can't possibly proceed. Even though I'm now lvl 75, I still barely defeat Blood Raven, and most of the bosses kick the crap out of me. I have to get back to Nightmare difficulty to collect cash, because I run out because I have to restock on mixtures and ressurect my Rogue companion time and again. Not to mention that my frequent deaths mean I barely make any progress (each time you die on Hell, you lose experience). To be honest, I'm sick of that difficulty and I can't see any chance of proceeding. But on lower difficulties I would have to grind a lot, and that's not fun, it's a chore and the sole thing I hate the most about any game - repeating the same location over and over again to be able to progress.

So I'm at a crossroads. Sure, Nightmare and Hell have proven to be quite fun, especially when I get drops which I never seen in my life, get to collect very rare Runes or get a sick amount of gold from a Champion. But where to now? I've got a Druid in Lut Gholein. He's a nice chap, but not as fun to play as my Hrothgar. I could try to play with one of the classes I never got, like the Necromancer or Assassin (had one, quite successful, but only to a point), but going through the first Act again is just tedious. And when I hear the call of Diablo 2, I play Hrothgar for a few minutes, after which I turn the game off so I don't start cursing on regular monsters killing me with two shots - frequently before I'm able to react at all. It's still better now than when it was when the Knights in Hell had the Iron Maiden curse (oh, how many swear words I created just in these moments...), but the VERY steep difficulty level makes me hate the game every time I play it now...

Diablo 3 is on the way. My thoughts on that another time though. I should also tell you why I feel the first part of the game is superior in some regards to the second... But not today.

piątek, 7 maja 2010

The RPG label in Video Games

Now this is a topic that works me up everytime I talk about it. I'll try to keep it simple this time, as it's something I'll be coming back to often, I imagine.

RPG is an abbreviation which stands for Role-Playing Game. You can define this in three ways - the relaxed definition, the strict definition, or the 'something-in-between' definition.

In all the definitions, a role-playing game is a game in which you play a role. The difference is in the meaning of the word "play".

In the relaxed sense, "playing" is just having a character you play with. This makes almost every video game ever made a RPG, and since the definition is so broad that it becomes virtually useless, let's leave this behind.

In the strict sense, "playing" assumes a large degree of freedom, one that cannot be really achieved in video games because of the barriers the medium involves. In this definition, only the "classic" pencil & paper RPG's (and not even all of them) meet this criterium. Just for the record - this is the definition I use, but since we're talking about RPG video games, there has to be a middle way.

This middle way is, in my opinion, covered by three different terms: Hack & Slash games, Action-RPG's and cRPG's.

The first doesn't have much to do with RPG's, but it does borrow some mechanics from this type of games. You have some limited dialogue (usually monologues from non-player characters), a character advancement system (you level up or upgrade your abilities) and you can choose what kind of weaponry and armor your character uses. But that's all the options for players if they want to influence the game in any way outside killing stuff. You have no way to influence the plot, very little freedom and the game is really only about killing things, so you can take their stuff, so you can kill more powerful things and take THEIR stuff. Is that an RPG? Nope, it only shares some ideas with the genre, which is why the term "Hack & Slash" has been coined. And don't get me wrong - I love myself a good H&S. But I hate when people try to call it an RPG.
Games that belong to this sub-genre of the "in-betweens" are Diablo 2, Loki or Titan Quest.

The second term, Action-RPG, has been somewhat more popular about 10 years ago. I rarely see it around anymore. The full definition of a game like that would be "A game with RPG elements which focuses mostly on action (fighting and/or dexterity tests), but allows for some freedom of choice." You'll have dialogues which outcomes you can influence, probably some skill-points/experience points kind of levelling-up system, and a bit of meaningful choices to make along the way. The plot is still mostly rigid and you can't really change much.
The games that fall under this sub-genre are Gothic, Deus Ex or (I think) Anachronox.

And lastly, a cRPG would be a game which is closest to a "real" RPG. It not only has RPG elements like the ones mentioned above, but also includes many chances for actually choosing what your character is like (usually quite limited, by congrats for trying) and the choices you make sometimes do influence the plot. Of course there is no absolute freedom, because the game has it's plot and you will reach certain points at some time or another.
The games here are: Knights of the Old Republic, Planescape: Torment and Fallout.

Why do I bring this up at all? I'm a fan of flash games, but I get really irritating when they give me a hack&slash, but advertise it as an "epic RPG". No people, get your facts right. It's high time some system of classification emerged here. If a game has character advancement, it doesn't make it and RPG. It just makes it a game with character advancement.

With that, I leave you. Any comments? You know what to do.

niedziela, 2 maja 2010

My projects

As some of you may know, I'm a novice board game designer. I've got several things I worked on at some point, or plan to work on in the future, as well as two major projects which are kind of nearing completion. This is what I'm working on at the moment:

- Mykeria. A card game which is due to be published by the end of this year. It's been finished since 2008, but many small and big problems pushed it to now instead. I'm doing some final tweaks, since I have the time.

- Legend of the Runes. A cooperative game, which is almost done by now. I need to playtest it a bit more, perhaps tweak a thing or two, after which I'm contacting the French company Asmodee and we'll see if they're interested. If not, I'll look for somebody else to do it, perhaps even the company which is releasing Mykeria.

- A two-player tactical card game. Work in progress, I'm trying to pinpoint where I want to go with it. The basic mechanism is in place, but this is somewhat far from completion as of now.

- An expansion for Mykeria. Working on the final polishes gave me a massive amount of new ideas for the game. If it sells, then I'll be very eager to release this.

- Caravans. An idea from 2007 (or maybe even earlier), in development hell because I can't obtain the right info for the game to be as historically accurate as possible. I'm not sure if I'll get back to this, though I would sure like to!

- Planet, Advisors, Tuatha de Danann, Space Station. Projects in various states of completion (Space Station being the most advanced) which simply didn't work out. There's a slight chance I'll get back to them, but as of now I have to leave them be.

- Paolo Pizza. A light card game about pizza that I've done with my girlfriend, but we had different ideas about it, and in the end I decided to back out after some playtesting of "my" version which didn't work very well.

- The Game Noir. Another project I tried to do with Linda, but again, our ideas about it were to different to cope. After one or two playtests we ditched the project.

- The Polish Fragmentation Period 1138-1320. A light strategy game using some mechanisms borrowed from Mykeria and Britannia I would LOVE to create. A quite fresh idea, I haven't even begun to develop it yet, and I don't know when I'll start.

So yeah, I've got my share of ideas, and not enough time or players around to move them forward at a steady pace. We'll see, I've got a whole career in front of me (hopefully), so one day I'll complete all of these projects.