Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
03 March 2014
Hey all, any of you still reading this.  Those who are are lucky ducks indeed, because you get to be introduced to Chrontendo!

Chrontendo is a series of videos, mostly hosted on the Internet Archive but also on YouTube, and there's a blog too.  In it a guy going by "Dr. Sparkle" plays and records video of EVERY NES and Famicom game ever made, the great ones and the bad ones.  And some, like "Super Monkey Daibouken," are amazingly bad.  Highly recommended.  Here's the new episode, #47.  Going back some ways, here is the first.  They are wonderful and amazing and terrific and superb and great and awesome and more than awesome.  You should watch them.  They're a treasure trove of forgotten classics and (more interesting) anti-classics.  He also has series on the Sega Master System, Genesis/MegaDrive and TurboGrafx/PC Engine.

Well, that's my find for the day.  I don't think you will be disappointed.
--John Harris at 01:51
Comment [ 1 ]

02 February 2014
JohnH's finished games for 2013
Yaawn, is the blog waking up again?

jvm posted his games finished, I suppose I should do the same.  Unfortunately I've played rather little this year, despite (because of?) getting a Wii U.  But I have played and completed (or at least played significant amounts of) these:

- Spelunky HD.  I have played a good deal of this, indeed it's one of the few games I can stand playing right now.  It gets so many things just right.  My win/play ratio is around 29/270, better than one in ten!  I still haven't attempted a Hell run yet, though.  I just enjoy playing it the "normal" way so much, it's open to a variety of approaches, you can make it with very little special equipment, whereas going to Hell means performing certain tricks here and there which put much stricter requirements on your play style.
- Little Inferno.  It's hardly even a game, and there's not really much reason to go through it a second time (there is a cute easter egg if you never burn the Free Hug coupon you get early on), but it's just entertaining to set things on fire and watch the carnage.
- Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+, on Steam.  Like more and more people, I've become an avid poacher of Steam's periodic sales, and I greatly enjoyed the original, so I snapped this up when it got discounted in the Winter sale.  Despite a few creature comfort improvements (the game slows down time when you're about to collide with a ghost to give you a fighting chance to dodge it, encouraging risky moves) it's not as good a game as the original.  CE, for all its flash and multiple regenerating mazes and emphasis on time efficiency ultimately kept as your primary foes the same four monsters from the original, with the same personalities.  Those personalities, learning them and exploiting them, are the game of Pac-Man.  They're still here, but with the introduction of the sleeping ghosts and the Ghost Train chasing you through the map they play a much smaller role in the game, especially since, if one catches sight of you, frequently instead of moving in for the kill it'll switch to joining the Ghost Train, in which mode it'll actually try to avoid colliding with you!  It's still a fun game (although vulnerable to scoreboard hacking), it just feels less like Pac-Man.  Even though I call this "finished," I'm still working on improving my strategy here....
- Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara.  I'm kind of surprised Capcom released this, emulations of two of their most beloved side-scrolling beat-em-ups, and among the best-designed brawling games of all.  Get this: you get an actual inventory, with item select and use buttons and all, and are expected to use them or you'll probably do badly.  Magic users and Clerics get spells that they can use at will.  You can find magic weapons that are actually quite easy to miss, and the right ones can make hard bosses a cinch.  There are many routes through both game, some secret.  There are genuinely hard-to-find secret passages.  In the second game, play as a fighter and find a short sword and you can dual wield, but you could play the game many times without discovering that fact.  There is a pleasing variety of levels to explore, including a steerable raft going down a river and a mysterious forest with a semi-random path through.  It feels more like a D&D game than some RPGs that carry that name.
- Also not technically "finished," but....  This is the year that I finally started playing Team Fortress 2, and have found it wonderfully designed and inspiring, even as I continue to die frequently to Pokeman-spouting kids.  If you're not played it since its release in the Orange Box, it's free to play on Steam now, and Valve has kept the PC version up to date with a large number of new weapons for each of the game's nine classes.  Brilliantly, very very few of the weapons are straight MMO-style upgrades, but instead give your character a new power but coupled with at least one major drawback, and none of them obsolete the stock arsenal, which are still widely used and generally effective.  Sometimes a weapon's drawback is as simple as replacing one of the stock items, but sometimes their implications are profound and requires some thought.  The result is, using those weapons doesn't make you necessarily better, but more specialized for certain roles, which are sometimes quite different from the one your opponents will expect.  You get the weapons randomly as you play, so your available options naturally expand as you play more TF2.  Once you equip the Gunslinger in particular, the Engineer's game changes drastically.  And it remains one of the funniest games out there.
- Oh: I also beat FEZ.  And decoded its cipher pretty easily.  And also deciphered its mysterious Tome artifact.  I nearly got every cube without help, but alas my understanding of the numbering system was flawed, which sabotaged me in solving the Boiler Room puzzle, dammit.  I did find one of the Red Cubes without help, though!

Although I have over 130 games in my Steam library, many gotten from sales and Humble Bundles, I still haven't played most of them.  Among the games played only a short while, or not at all: FTL, Rogue Legacy, Terraria, Recettear, Magicka, Hotline Miami, Skyrim (a few hours), Fallout: New Vegas (also a few hours), and Brutal Legend.  That's not to speak ill of any of those games (although I've discovered I'm really not fond of Rogue Legacy), just... not yet.  Right now, many times it just feels like I have other things to do than play games.  Maybe some day, once the project is finished.
--John Harris at 03:16
Comment [ 1 ]

05 January 2014
jvm's finished games for 2013
Well, been a long time since I've been here. Sorry for being away, not that you cared.

I was thinking about what I'd played and finished this year, and wanted to write it all down. Boom:

  1. Bioshock 2 (PS3) - Had this at release, couldn't finish it. Picked it back up late in 2012 and finished it in January, right before Bioshock Infinite. Definitely the best Bioshock game.
  2. Bioshock Infinite (PS3) - Interesting premise, but ultimately tiresome and fails to deliver on the story and characterization that made Bioshock 2 so good.
  3. Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3) - Another game, like Bioshock 2, where I had to go back a second time to enjoy and finish it. Not sure what's up with that. Anyway, this was definitely a fun game and I'm looking forward to Arkham City and Origins. I just hope they'll put out some PS4 upgraded versions, so I don't have to do it on the PS3.
  4. Guacamelee (PS3/PSV)- Called a Metroidvania by many, I'd just say it's a great platformer game with awesome combat mechanics. Once you're fully upgraded, moving around is just plain fun and taking out multiple enemies with a slick combo feels awesome. Also, the ability to move my save game from PS3 to PSV and back was brilliant. Every cross-platform PS3/PS4/PSV game needs this...
  5. Tomb Raider (PS3) - I have a long history with Tomb Raider, and this was neat, but it has the same problem that they all do nowadays: you can only carry out the moves that the designers wanted you to. As I've said before, the original gave you a world and some moves, and if you could get somewhere in the map with the moves, then the game let you do that. That's simply not permitted anymore, and so it really doesn't feel like exploration anymore. Also, the story's a bit of a mess. And the killing, so much killing. In the original Tomb Raider, you killed a handful of actual humans and lots of wild animals. Here that's exactly reversed.
  6. Plants vs. Zombies (PSV) - I played this to completion before, but this was the playthrough in which I got my platinum trophy. So, yeah, done with it. For good.
  7. God of War (PS3) - Another platinum run. Finished this ages ago on the PS2 and then the remake on the PS3, but hadn't gotten the last few items on the trophy list.
  8. Hotline Miami (PS3/PSV) - As violent as it is pixelated, this game managed to convince me that most of the time I was dying simply because I wasn't skilled enough and just one more try might do the trick. Also has a nifty story with an alternate ending that feels like the developers are simultaneously reveling in making a violent video game and criticizing the genre at the same time.
  9. The Last of Us (PS3) - Game of the year right here. Absolutely riveting, especially if you have children and particularly a daughter. That said, it was so emotionally draining that I probably will never play it again.
  10. PixelJunk Shooter (PS3) - Finished this long ago, but missed the last trophy. Went back and cleaned that up.
  11. The Unfinished Swan (PS3) - So much more than I had imagined it was, based on the original videos. The kids watched me play this, and sat silently for long periods just taking it in. Simple and beautiful.
  12. OMG HD Zombies! (PSV) - Played and finished this upgraded version of the PSP/PS3 original. Enjoyed it immensely, even though I'll never get it 100%. You have to complete the game like 20 times -- madness.
  13. Game Dev Story (AND) - What a treat. If you follow how games are made and sold, you'll enjoy this cute game dev/pub simulation. I wish they'd hurry on the promised sequel, even if I have to wait a little longer to get it on Android.
I have this feeling that there are other games I've finished this year, but can't think of them. Oh well.

Now I have to get back to Resogun, Killzone: Shadow Fall, and Pinball Arcade.
--Matt Matthews at 20:53
Comment [ 5 ]

30 August 2011
Madden 12 for PS2 "Review" -- First Impressions
It's been nearly impossible to learn anything about Madden 12 on the PS2 other than it was going to be released and would cost $49.99. I mean, heck, had nothing on it, no preview, nothing. Most 'coverage' you did find was links to current gen console stuff, and the Wii hasn't been getting much press either.

Copy of Madden 12 PS2 in hand, I believe I now know why.

I haven't played Madden on my PS2 since 2005, having switched to the PC until that platform's series ended in 2008. I flirted with the Wii version of Madden 2011 by renting from a now-closed Blockbuster when I couldn't find any reviews of it either. It stunk. It was clearly for young kids, and there was too much emphasis on your maintenance of the goofy cartoon city in franchise mode.

Well, Madden 12 for the PS2 is exactly like Madden 2005 for the PS2. The controls are the same. The plays are the same. The graphics, if the same, strike me as less impressive. If you told me Madden 12 is Madden 2005 with updated rosters, well, I couldn't find a good reason to argue, except that, in 12, there's more shaking. Yes, shaking. The camera shakes more on "big hits" and the controller does its best to rumble me into submission.

If you want to split hairs, some of the "hints via HUD" are different and, now that I think of it, there are no obvious Old Spice Red Zone style advertisements when you get into, well, the red zone. I recall NCAA (and I thought Madden) going full-on with sponsors, and, strangely, it made the game more interesting. There's nothing like that here.

Oh, and 2005 had online gameplay, didn't it? Madden 12 on PS2 doesn't. And 2005 still had an NCAA football game partnered with it that let you import "real" college draft classes. No luck in 12.

So you're not paying $40 for updated gameplay, online matchups, or new features and minigames. It must be for updated rosters, right? Unfortunately, no. I don't care when this "went gold". EA decided that rosters current at the start of the NFL labor lockout were good enough, and the result of that decision stinks. If your users aren't going to be able to update the roster, take your time and get them right.

Exhibit A:
I'm a Redskins fan. I know them inside and out. Madden 12 has Albert Haynesworth, Donovan McNabb, Carlos Rogers, and Ma'ake Kemoeatu on the roster. Kemo, McNabb, and Haynesworth were cut, traded, and traded, respectively, on or near July 28th. Rogers was a free agent, not a Redskins player, after the end of last year, and signed with San Francisco on August 3rd. Ryan Torrain starts at running back for the Skins in Madden 12. Tim Hightower starts for the Redskins today. Hightower was added July 31st. He's not on the Madden 12 Skins roster.

Worse, one of the biggest changes when Mike Shanahan become the Redskins coach in 2010 (so when he appears in Madden 2011) was that the team hired Jim Haslett as their defensive coordinator to swap from the team's 4-3 in 2009 to a 3-4 defensive scheme last season. Madden 11 for the Wii still had the Skins in a 4-3. I thought that was slack enough, what with all the coverage the swap got on ESPN and local media.

It's been over a year now, and The Washington Post won't stop talking about how, this year, Haslett and Shanahan finally have the right personnel to run the 3-4. The two biggest additions to the personnel? Brian Cofield from the Giants and Stephen Bowen from the Cowboys, neither of whom, I don't believe, is on the Madden 12 for PS2 Redskins roster. The default Redskins defensive playbook? Still 4-3. It's like virtual Greg Blache and Vinny Cerrato never left. (That's an inside joke, I'm afraid. Blache was the d-coordinator for the 4-3 until 2009, and Cerrato's the lunkhead manager that brought in Haynesworth.)

Enough of that Exhibit. You get the point. In Madden 12 for PS2, the two biggest off-season stories of 2011 for the Redskins, McNabb and Haynesworth finally being traded, have been ignored. The default defensive scheme of the team? Also ignored, now for over a year. Personnel moves after the end of the NFL's lockout? Yep. Ignored. You essentially get 2010 rosters with a few rookies sprinkled in.

So after a quick look, it appears that the game hasn't noticeably changed from Madden 2005, except that it's lost a major feature in online play. The rosters, the only other obvious reason to buy, are essentially a year old. What are we paying $40 for again? In seven years, the game's gotten worse in several major areas. Unforgivable.

IGN's review of Madden 2005 started with the following: "Madden NFL 2005 is still Madden. That is to say, it's another superb game of football that continues Madden's long legacy as one of the best in the business." Wow, how things change. I know, if I really want to play Madden, I need to finally move to a current console where I'll find constantly updated rosters, online play, and graphics from this century. And the PS2 version is $20 less than those for the PS3 and Xbox 360. But even this knowledge doesn't excuse the cheap cash-grab Madden 12 for the PS2 seems to be.

I'll update once I get a new memory card and run through both the features and franchise mode for a while -- see if there's a poor man's Tony Bruno in there somewhere -- I'll crack out the old disc and compare to 2005, and come to better informed conclusions. But right now, I'm not optimistic.

EDIT: /sigh The disc got scratched in some game room roughhousing, so I haven't been able to update much. Why would you buy Madden 12? I think the bottom line is for the minigames, because it sure isn't the season mode. The fantasy draft into a fantasy league, Speedball style as you win your way from Newbie league up through four or five others, is neat, but a little too gamey. That is, after each win, you get points to add to your players' overall ranking, which quickly turns the game from anything approaching a simulation to, well, Speedball Deluxe. There are apparently completely made up teams with fake, super-hero like players in the later leagues.

It's worth a play or two. Without online or enough attention paid to the current season, though, Madden 12 on PS2 simply isn't what made Madden such a great game on the Genesis through, well, through the PS2. This particular bloodline is obviously headed for extinction. People who want what they've learned to expect as a game of Madden need to finally shell out for a new system.

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--ruffin at 21:49
Comment [ 9 ]

28 June 2011
The ASUS XG Station Finally Arrives! But, um, it's Sony, not Asus, that delivers.

I've been posting about the ASUS XG station on here for a while. It's a [vaporware] device that allows you to hook your supra-1337-phat output port on your laptop to an externally enclosed video card so that you can, among other things, game with a video card limited laptop. I don't know why, but I've always thought giving your laptop unexpected power like this was awesome. I suppose it's because the video card is the item I most often want to upgrade on my tower, and I'd like to pour more of my money into upgrading my CPU by buying new laptops instead. I don't know.

Anyhow, remember when I said that since we have MacBooks with "Thunderbolt" -- Can I get my Asus XG Station now? It's happened.

The notebook itself only contains an Intel HD Graphics 3000 GPU, while the external dock contains an AMD Radeon HD 6650M with 1GB of Video RAM.

Still, my rational brain says you should just throw $700 at an Alienware m11x, game wherever the heck you want, and be done with it. Or, better yet, fork over $150 to upgrade the card in your tower and pocket the change.


--ruffin at 15:17
Comment [ 0 ]

20 June 2011
Meet your individual seeking: DS Phat Shell Replacement Part 1
Note: I hate first-person, payoff-delayed, story-mode columns that appear on gaming sites that are so heavy on the autobiography that you'd think it was Mark Twain doing the writing. Tell me about the game, dang it! But then this is a first-person blog post, so it's okay. More of a first-person, overly extended blog rant. Okay? I don't have anyone around the house that appreciates this sort of thing, so you're stuck with it. Continue.

My initial impression of the Nintendo DS was a poor one, based completely on the irrational opinion that every Game Boy should be backwards compatible with original Game Boy games until the end of time, you know, like Nikon F-mount lenses are with Nikon cameras. The GBA plays everything and had gotten pretty cheap to make; why would the DS have to drop backwards compatibility? I won't stand for it, Mr. Iwata! I can't recall if it was playing Elite Beat Agents and Brain Age on Matt's DS or just hearing him drone on about how awesome the games were that changed my mind. I think it was the former. Either way, Matt's PR campaign worked. I wanted my own DS. The question was finding the best way to buy one.

Matt and I have joked about wanting to start a racket that involves us offering folks in line money for systems that they're about to trade in at Gamestop for us to later sell ourselves. There's such a blamed large gap between what Gamestop pays you and what they're going to charge the guy behind you in line who buys your old stuff that they should all but be labeled predatory lenders. Right now, you can pay $70 for a "refurbished" DS Phat, $80 for a "refurb" DS Lite OR for a "recharged refurbished" DS Phat, $90 for a "recharged refurbished" DS Lite, or $100 for a new DS Lite, pick you color. A DSi is $120 used (unrefurbished), and $150 new. I'm sure the folks who traded those in got at least $20-30.

So sure, thirty bucks off of the new price is nice, but if I'm only shelling out $20 less than new if I want a new battery or $10 less if I want a new battery and a system that's not older than the kid I'm buying the DS for, I'm not sure that's a deal. I don't recall the prices in 2005 or 2006 when I was buying, but they were similarly predatory. I'm a cheapskate and didn't feel like paying the Gamestop price. And there's nobody who goes to greater lengths to save a buck when it comes to electronics. Though it often leaves me penny-wise and pound-foolish, I was going to be creative, again.

In this case, being miserly had me hitting eBay, where I found that DSes with cracked hinges were pretty cheap, relatively speaking. I bought a heavily used DS with a cracked hinge and an awesome threaded "9" sticker on it, though I didn't find out about that last aesthetic benefit until after the system arrived. Nor did it have a stylus, which I borrowed from my Palm 3. The DS didn't even have a charger, but used USB DS chargers were about $5. The DS was still insanely expensive for what I was getting, but the hinge-cracked DS with Palm stylus and USB charger was by far the cheapest way in the door to playing DS games. It was fun. Matt lent us EBA and I picked up a few more games. The hinge, however, kept me worried.

Look, the DS Phat hinge system stinks. It's essentially a set of three quarter-inch wide plastic loops that hold the top screen and speakers to the rest of the unit. That sort of connection is fine if we're putting together a scale model Oldsmobile or B-25 bomber that'll sit on a shelf for 40 years. It's not so good if 12 year-olds are supposed to own it and take it with them in the car, in their backpack, and on the playground

Once a hinge goes, you're immediately pretty obviously in trouble. I could play DS games, but the screen would slide out a good half-inch or more if I wasn't careful, threatening to pull the screen off. Nor would it really hold the top up easily, and only really worked completely open. Games that required putting the DS on its side, like Brain Age, were right out. Put sidewise, the screen pulled itself down enough to make me really nervous. So "Number 9" didn't see much play for years. My family would add two DS Lites and my 9 would mostly sit in the drawer, used for an occasional game of EBA or Pac Pix. I'm guessing the folks that eBayed it were happy to get my kaishe.

This past Christmas, used DS Phats were down to some insanely low price, I vaguely recall (I can't seem to Google or that price back up), assumedly to push old inventory and sell some new games. I nearly picked one up. I really wish I could convince someone interested in retail sales numbers to also track prices of used systems, but I just don't know who to ask. I'd swear they were below $60, maybe even $40 or less, but I don't recall. In any event, I didn't bite. I already had a DS, right?

Well, to make a long story longer, this month, I again performed my bimonthly "Nintendo hinge repair" search, and again ended up with The Nintendo Repair Shop, Inc., out of Raleigh, NC, as the best option for parts. It takes about three or four random searches landing on the same spot before I'll actually pull the trigger on anything this wacky, and I'd finally become familiar enough with this site to be brave. It's a good-looking site. Here, "good looking" means that it's content rich and recently updated. It's also domestic, which makes me feel a little better about getting what I order.

Full repair runs a steep $55 plus shipping to their office, but they claim to cover almost anything at that price. That's too expensive for me for a DS that technically works, but they also have replacement DS Phat shells for $9.87, which seems pretty fairly priced. More importantly, they have a 27-minute how-to YouTube video on the page showing how to fix hinges in slow, careful steps. They even make the video in one single take, pulling Martha Stewart's "here's one we already pulled out of the oven," trick just once. This isn't a video made to sell shells so that you'll tear your DS down and later have to send it in anyway. This is a video displaying a realistic repair.

Unfortunately, they are replacing a DS whose bottom two woefully inadequate hinge loops are broken, not the top's like mine, but the video is exceptionally well done. I'm in. They jab me by adding a triwing (triforce?) screwdriver for $5.76 (?!!), but it's a very reasonable $3.24 for shipping, and we're up to $18.87 total. If I pretend I'll successfully fix the danged thing and that my time is free (apparently it is; I'm compulsively writing TWO blog posts about this), that's not a bad deal at all.

My fine Ninetudo DS [sic] shell came in last week, bright red so that I can't misplace the thing nearly so easily as I tend to do in silver. It was my plan (hello, foreshadowing) just to replace the top half of the shell with the broken hinge and then reattach to the silver original bottom. I really don't care how it looks, just that it works. I've been brave enough to upgrade an old iBook G4's hard drive, build a few Windows towers from scratch, and even make pretty serious repairs to my Jeep. A DS shell should be child's play, right?

To be honest, it was the FAQ at the Nintendo Repair Shop that finally goaded me into purchasing with its claim that, "And finally, be patient! We had one careful young mom do a DS Lite hinge repair in a little over an hour." Oh, it's ON NOW. It's time to meet my individual seeking (see #3, above).

(My DS is done, btw. I mean, that's almost obvious, right? Any serious ordeal demands blog-ige. I'll update with whether it's "done for" or "done fixed" in a second rambling, painful blog post later, penciled in for sometime in 2014.)

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--ruffin at 13:43
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24 February 2011
MacBooks with "Thunderbolt" -- Can I get my Asus XG Station now?
From Apple's propaganda page about "Thunderbolt":

Performance and expansion never seen on a notebook before.
With 10 Gbps of throughput in both directions, Thunderbolt I/O technology lets you move data to and from peripherals up to 20 times faster than with USB 2.0 and more than 12 times faster than with FireWire 800. Two 10-Gbps channels on the same connector mean you can daisy-chain multiple high-speed devices and a display, without using a hub — and without reducing performance.

So, I can finally stop waiting on the Asus XG Station now? If this isn't enough throughput, I don't know when we're going to get it.

Ah, forget it. I should just shaddup and get an Alienware m11x already.
--ruffin at 09:14
Comment [ 0 ]

23 December 2010
Merry Xmas to me: How I learned to hate Steam

When Steam come out for the Mac and brought with it Team Fortress 2, I was excited. Getting Portal (and some TF2 earbuds) for free made for a nice bonus. Figuring out that I've got a gaming store in my office (along the lines of the music store Apple put in my pocket) has me more worried.

It really is a heroin situation. The first hit (Portal) sure enough was free. The micropayments for games on sale drives me crazy. That I came out of a game of MLB 2k10 and saw a bulletin board filling the middle of my monitor full of games I'd like to buy for 50% off (see above picture), all only a few clicks away, is unsettlingly effective. It's a continual vortex. Play game you bought for $2, enjoy, quit, see six more games that you're only a micropayment away from, and buy two more. Wash, rinse, repeat. It's Herculean labor.

Perhaps a better parallel would be World of Warcraft's quests with their perfectly timely partial reinforcement. (Which reminds me, I need to go click my cow.) It's not that I've spent hundreds, but I've purchased more PC (Win and Mac) games in the last year than probably the two previous combined. Again, not that much cash. Significant, and some was unavoidable, like Civ IV, but the lack of barriers to entry into the games marketplace scares me.

I'm also a little concerned about the shift in my gaming dollars away from the local Play N Trade, which has used games from the 2600 [sic] on up, to Steam, which ain't hurting, I don't think. And I think some of these games must be played online -- AC2 said as much in the description, requiring a "permanent" internet connection.

Here, I'll come clean. You can see that I need to stop the Xmas bleeding before it becomes significant. The first three games I wanted. The next three, not so much. AC2 was on the "to get" list, but not this quickly.

Assassin's Creed II 14.99 USD
21-Dec Prince of Persia: Sands of Time 2.49 USD
21-Dec Lara Croft GOL 5.10 USD
1-Nov MLB 2k10 1.99 USD
3-Sep Braid 9.99 USD
4-Jul Sid Meier's Civilization IV: The Complete Edition 9.99 USD
27-May The Orange Box 20.99 USD

Note also that Mass Effect 1 and 2 are on sale now, one minute after I bought Assassin's Creed 2, for 50% off. See what I mean? Collect X of Y and then see me for more XP and faction rewards.

It's like the iTunes Music Store, but even more WoW questy. And I don't see Genius recommendations taking up my entire field of view after using my iPod. Steam encourages you to "rent" games. It makes me wonder how much serving these bytes is costing them.

And none of this would be a big deal if I didn't already have...
  • D
  • Driver
  • Doom 3
  • GTA: SA (two missions away)
  • GTA IV
  • GTA 3 (one mission, but I can't finish it for the life of, well, Tony)
  • Metal Gear Solid 3
  • The Temple of Elemental Evil
  • Railroad Tycoon 2
  • BloodRayne (finished 2 on PS2, but not 1 on Mac)
  • Halo
  • Tomb Raider Chronicles
  • Sin
  • Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
  • The Fallen: DS9

... and plenty of others I can't recall off of the top of my head sitting around waiting for me to finish them.

You feel my pain.

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--ruffin at 13:07
Comment [ 9 ]

17 November 2010
Two knock-down, drag-out FreeCiv replay maps
Ah, there was never anything quite as rewarding as watching a Civ reply map after you'd won. Just ran into these two, the second from The Huffington Post.


There used to be a YouTube video here:
But it looks like it's become another example of overzealous copyright protection. The vid is, indeed, down.

Here's a link to the video on their site.

And here's a very hastily constructed picture to tide you over....
animated gif of random frames from that video


--ruffin at 15:32
Comment [ 1 ]

06 September 2010
Are "heady" games just another niche?
From Jonathan Blow's blog for his next project, The Witness:

For all three days of PAX 2010, The Witness was publicly playable by anyone who came by the booth. However, it was unmarked and unattended, so it was easy to miss (as many people did).
I had several reasons for wanting to show the game this way. Firstly: At a show full of companies trying to capture your attention and sell you things, I wanted to do something that is subtle, and a surprise — if you notice it, and decide to investigate, you find something unexpected.

This weekend, I played and finished Braid, Blow's exceptionally impressive platformer of a few years back. It was the first game that forced me to finish it since, well, ignoring something in the Civ series, since, if I remember correctly, Metal Gear Solid. That it only took about seven hours to finish didn't hurt...

What I find myself wondering, though, after reading of a "stunt" like the one he describes, above, (stunt if only in its being unconventional, though combining it with a blog post questions the unconventionality a bit), is if gaming is so large now that there's simply a market for thoughtfully designed games. That is, is Blow creating the new, I don't know, "free-range video game," with all the cachet that implies?

I think Braid hit the nail squarely on the head. It was thoughtful, buoyed by an engaging, if not particularly deep plot (at least in a conventional sense of narrative; more poetic than having great narrative depth), and, dang it, the puzzles were just challenging enough to be fun without being anything close to impossible. I also wonder what sort of mind is needed to make the puzzles as easy as they were -- excepting. admittedly, the stars; I only had the vaguest notion of their existence on two of the levels that contained them. That is, would your typical 12 year-old SMB player have done as well as I did? Better? Or does the ability to play with time qua logic in these puzzles work in part b/c of Blow's [and my] programmatic mind, training, and skills? That is, I worked as a database admin for years and still program on the side while I'm teaching a 400-level course on games. Why wouldn't I like Blow's games? Something similar must go for those who review games. Blow's made a game that appeals to the finer sensibilities found within that/my subset of gamers.

Take, for instance, the number of people who say not to use online FAQs and cheats when playing Braid. If anything, Braid is not tougher than your average game. It's much, much easier. It's played by those who normally DO depend on walk-throughs and hints. As a friend of mine said in high school after cheating on a chemistry test, "I didn't cheat on the whole test. I took it first, and only cheated on the ones I missed." I wonder if that's usually enough for most gamers; we only cheat on those puzzles we can't quickly solve. Braid was special because we could solve it (in part because we, as a community, parroting Blow on his site, told each other we could), we knew we were watching something thoughtful and different [and like us?] as we did so, and we ultimately didn't want to ruin its relatively quaint intentions. A wine to savor rather than two liters of Coke to blast through. [Or, less appropriately, a keg to keg stand and funnel through.]

Ultimately, I'm not sure if Blow has created the equivalent of video gaming literature that stands out of the pulp, or if his "movement" with Braid and now The Witness is something that captures our shared moment better than the sea of alternatives. In fact, I'm still tempted to give Rockstar's and Hideo Kojima's games the leg up as true masterpieces of the medium. Blow seems to have done a better job building the sorts of games Ian Bogost would like to believe he's been building, ones that force a few of us to take a new look at our decisions and society, but, even with the attention Braid's gotten, I still wonder if its press isn't because it's, perhaps unwittingly, still doing no more than shooting for a very specialized sub-market.

Another, "I'm thinking while I type" post, brought to you by...

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--ruffin at 16:00
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