Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Steam on linux?

The internet has been a little fired up today (at least the more geek oriented hangouts have been) as a certain forum (NeoGAF) has posted some information regarding the development of Steam for Linux. Here is a link to the source of the information but if the wall of text intimidates you then you will be please to know that The Verge have summarised the story for your viewing pleasure.

It sounds like an intentional information leak from Valve, that is if its not entirely fictional. If Steam really does officially launch for Linux then its a dream come true for many Linux driven gamers as well as none gaming supporters of the operating system as it if a firm step in the right direction if Linux is ever to become perceived as 'mainstream'

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

PC Gamers work harder!

This weekend I shelled out for a new PC (well most of one). It was an epic event in my life, I scurried home to throw my I5-2500k and Gigabyte Z68AP into my new Cooler-Master case (lol, geek talk) I frantically slammed the 8GB of Corsair Vengeance DD3 onto the throbbing hulk of technology and fired up my new best friend.

I installed windows 7 from a USB stick to save time and within a few hours I had a fully updated windows installation installation with every driver my system needed (throwing in a post installation Defrag for good measure.)

Then, for the fun stuff. I installed Steam and restored a backup of many of my games. This process was painless and simple. After the backup was restored I ran the Counter Strike Source 'System stress test' to see if my new machine was working okay (this is a ritual for every fresh install I have done since CSS was launched) All was well and I began re-installing my other games.

Eventually my main priorities where done and here is how they faired on my fresh install:

Friday, 20 April 2012

I am an ass, there, I said it.

For the first time in about forever, me and Hex are both playing and enjoying the same mmo, The Old Republic. So when he suggests that we start a new charcter together, why not I say. Me and Hex quite often play video games and chat over skype, usually a shooter like Left 4 Dead or Battlefield.

After about 20 minutes of playing, I realise that Hex is really beginning to annoy me. This happened the last time we tried to play a mmo together, which was Lord of the Rings Online. At the time I didn't really give it that much consideration, I didn't really like LOTRO and I think I chalked up my irritation to that. The question I had to ask myself was why was a mmo different to a shooter, or even a rts, which we have happily played.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Will you have to

Woot Dark Souls on PC confirmed, ah crap if is going to ship with Games for Windows Live. Now I am not going to moan about the actual GFWL service, we all know that it is unreliable, awkward to use and locks out people from a lot of countries. In the example of Dark Souls, I understand that they are porting over the Xbox version and dropping GFWL in is probably the easiest option. Though interestingly Namco Bandai seem to be at least listening to it’s customers, and is considering what it can do about the online features to avoid GFWL. So if Namco Bandai are willing to consider people's criticisms of Games for Windows Live, why do Microsoft continue to ignore the constant moaning from people on forums, blogs, gaming sites, twitter (and pretty much any other form of communication you can think of).  

Here is a theory, the reason that, seemingly, the service hasn’t been updated since launch, despite gamers obvious complaints, is that Microsoft want people to hate PC gaming. What? you may cry, why would one of the biggest software developers in the world want you to not enjoy your games on your Windows PC. Simply put, they would rather that you go and buy the Xbox version. Taking Dark Souls for example, when it is released on the PC in August I will buy it (probably regardless of what happens with the online service), and Microsoft will not get a penny of that money. However if I buy a (new) version of Dark Souls for the Xbox, Microsoft pocket a couple of pounds.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A second look at the Old Republic

My Sith Warrior in TOR is now at level 22, so I guess now is a decent time to look at why I am still playing. There are a few things that TOR does that makes it stand out compare to the dozens of other mmo’s I have, erm disliked. The companion system is an odd idea, and I was initially quite skeptical about it, however having the companion means you can happily take on big groups of enemies, thus making you feel awesome and I have actually become fond of her. Every time an opportunity to win her approval arises I can't help but take it. On a side note the fact that she is a hot twi'lek certainly doesn't hurt.

That brings me to my favourite thing about TOR, the quests. I am a Sith warrior, but I am a nice (light side) evil Sith. However I am playing with my wife who is a evil sith (and also plays one in the game). What I love is that Bioware haven't pulled any punches about the Empire quests, they are on the whole despicable and thoroughly malevolent. It is very refreshing to be honest about being the bad guys, even if I am trying to be good. This has lead to some very interesting conversation rolls (if you are in a group, you roll to see who gets to lead the conversation), so sometimes if I lose a roll, the truly evil approach is taken, instead of the pretty evil option. In one case we were given the option of poisoning the rebel scum (sorry force of habit) so they die a slow, painful, lingering death, or eliminate them quickly. I lost that roll, so we poisoned them, and I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty over that.

The combat itself still hasn't deviated vastly from the expected mmo norm, however it is fast, fluid and quite satisfying. I certainly would have like to have seen a bit more innovation, and somethings don't quite make sense  (how exactly does a light-saber attack cause a bleeding effect?). But I get why they have stuck closely to the traditional approach and I can't really dislike Bioware for that. On a side note the space battles, despite being pretty simple and shallow, are a nice occasional distraction.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Faded desires?

I once had an X Box, the classic kind of X Box the big black one. Live had just been launched in the UK and a bunch of friends and I where pretty deep into Rainbow Six 3, we played every night and we loved it. Then a few years later we where just as heavily into Ghost Recon Advanced War fighter on the 360, it was lucky we liked it because it was the only game that I had at the time. Eventually, just before my interest in consoles died out we where pretty heavily into Rainbow Six Vegas. 

Eventually my game of choice was Guild War's. I played night and day and loved it. I was in a guild, there was Team Speak and many all night gaming sessions. 

The addiction to that game eventually passed and I ended up playing Lord of the Rings Online. but slowly game addiction faded and now I play all sorts of things. 

I haven't felt the force of free to play

Having been playing The Old Republic for over a month now I find myself in the unusual position of being subscribed to a monthly mmo for the first time in about 18 months. That in itself is a complement to the job that Bioware have doing in creating a polished and far more importantly from my perspective, interesting world.

So when I played the beta for TOR a few months ago, why did I bounce off it, quickly discounting it as a WoW clone (a criticism that still has a measure of truth to it). I have since come to the conclusion that when I play a free to play game, even something like an open beta, I expect to be disappointed. I think that when a game is free to play, instead of giving it a fair chance, I unfairly demand that it amazes me within seconds. This is not a demand that I put on the games I buy. This even extended to Rift which I won a copy of. I played a handful of hours before getting bored, though I think I had already made my mind up before playing it that I wasn't interested.

Friday, 13 April 2012

All in the mind?

Recently I have played the rather good 'Uncharted 2' on my Playstation 3 (I call her Tina). I have never played the first Uncharted game so it strikes me as strange how accepting Nathan Drake is of ancient mechanical structures, super powered purple yeti people and all sorts of other crazy encounters.

As I played through the game I began to question the version of events that where unfolding through the story and realised that they are being shown from the point of view of Nathan Drake, the biggest egomaniac in games since Duke Nukem 3D (notice I specified 3D not Forever) Is it at all possible that Mr Drake's ego is so inflated that it has made him mentally unstable and these massive chasms that he jumps with little consideration are no more than cracks in a trail and those mountainous drops he dangles from with such arrogance are a simple step down?

Maybe when he has a shoot out with ten highly trained merc's he is actually throwing rocks at a dog? Maybe the two women that he spends the whole game flirting with are totally imaginary and they are a way for his ego to ensure that someone see's his feats of awesome?

Oddly, after I came up with this version of events the game became more fun for me. :P

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

My money, let me give it to you.

 Last week, Fallout was free on for just 48 hours. I didn’t have a GoG account yet, although I knew about the site. Immediately, I went to GoG, registered, and downloaded Fallout. To be honest, I probably won’t even play the game that much, but I just love getting free stuff! And GoG is pretty smart, because now I love them, and the chance of me buying a game in their shop has increased a lot by giving me a free game. The next time that I want to buy a good old game, I’ll check GoG first, before Desura, Gamersgate or any of the other shops that I normally use.

If you don’t want to give me stuff for free, you might want to consider giving me a discount. I’m one of those people that just can’t resist a good deal. During the weekend, SOE did a 50% promotion on Station Cash, the currency used in their MMOs. I have an EQ2 sub, which means that I don’t have any gameplay restrictions, and I also get 500 free station cash points a month to buy cool fluff in the marketplace. I still had 1200 free station cash on my account, but still I could hardly resist buying some more. Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for SOE, there was nothing in the marketplace that I really wanted, so I didn’t buy extra cash, and didn’t even spend the cash on my account. So dear game publishers, here’s a 3rd  tip for getting my money: always make sure your cash shops are full of useless crap that I really want. 

I think SOE is doing a great job: they combine giving me free stuff and offering me nice discounts every once in a while, and they have new items in the marketplace almost every week. There's one thing that I'd love them to add to their shop: 'offline' items. Wouldn't it be cool to buy NPC garden gnomes, figurines of your characters or bed sheets with images from Norrath? They could also add the Everquest 2 comics, hats, t-shirts and guidebooks to the shop - everything in one place, fun to browse through, and lots of different options. I would definitely shop till I drop.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Power to the People, er gamers

A couple of months ago I put my email address onto an online petition. This petition was, obviously, game related. It was to bring Dark Souls, the rock hard rpg, to the PC. I had tried Dark Souls on the PS3 and liked it, but, as is often the case, I felt I was being hindered by the joypad. This petition ended up with the best part of 90 thousand digital signitures. Today Namco Bandai, the makers of Dark Souls, have announced that they are going to release a PC version in August.

This in itself made me pretty happy, but it got me pondering. We gamers seem to be in a pretty influencial position right now. Kickstarter has a new headline on the gaming sites pretty much every day, console games are being port to the PC and hell they are even amending (sot of) the

ending of Mass Effect 3 because the internet got upset.

It is no big secret that sales of games have dropped off a little of late, and I think that is due to gamers voting with their wallets, now more than ever. Plus at this point in time it is easier than ever to make yourself heard by game makers. if you are not happy about something there are multiple channels allowing you to express that annoyance (which is handled with varying degrees of success and dignity).

I think the days of releasing a game and moving on are long past for developers, when days (minutes?) after a game is launched you have forums, and emails and tweets from fans telling you what is broken with your game. As with the buggy launch of Skyrim, which is still being updated, not to mention the fiasco with the PS3 version. This is regardless of DLC, though again more than one game has given away free DLC that they were going to charge for as a way of saying sorry for releasing the game in a poor state, as in the case of Dead Island.

I certainly don't mind that developers are being more attentive and actually listening to the flaming, er feedback from their fans . I am just wondering if we are missing out on newer games because the developers, in the case of Mass effect especially, are having to go back and fix their mistakes. 5 years ago, hell even 2 years ago, this would have been unheard of. However now true gamers have the money to put into great ideas and the tools to critisise the bad ideas and get straight to the people who will listen. I am just not sure that this is a good thing on the whole.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

What is 0x10c?

0x10c is the strangest name that I have ever heard for a video game. However at this point I want this game more than any other that's in development. 0x10c is being developed by Notch (with his company Mojang Software), a man who in my opinion is the most important person in game development (I wrote a blog about that) .

Mojang (the people who brought you Minecraft) have been developing the game Scrolls for a while now and although it looks like a good game it has failed to capture the internet's attention like Minecraft did. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that Scrolls will be an excellent card game/RTS hybrid but its just not exciting the way Minecraft was. But now we have 0x10c to look forward to.

0x10c was announced recently via many websites (including twitter). So far we know that it will be inspired by the Frontier games (picture above) and will have a fully programmable 16 bit virtual computer operating the players ship as well as being a type of MMO (few details yet)

My Mom and the other gaming envious.

My Mother plays many of 'those' kinds of internet based games they are often made by Zynga and other companies without souls. The only thing I have ever caught her playing that I have any respect for is Plants vs Zombies. There is one game she plays that's a knock off of Air Control (already a knock off of something else, I'm sure) but with animals and, yes, I face-palmed when I saw it for the first time.

She has a habit of wondering past when I am playing something and stopping for a moment to admire it. When in conversation today she said that she finds the games that I play fascinating but lacks the patience to play them. I wonder why none gamers have this perception that gaming requires patience. I have never really thought of gaming as a chore that requires resolve (Okay, MMO grinding aside) 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Blackwell Legacy

I have before on this blog discussed ranted about my love of point and click adventures and how they are a dying breed. I write this post however correcting this notion. It appears that the Point and click adventure is very much live in the Indie field, in fact Desura is packed to the brim with them. Last night I sat down with a cup of coffee, a bag of snacks and played my merry way through the first Blackwell game, Blackwell: Legacy.

I picked up the Blackwell Trilogy in the Christmas Indie Royale collection but had not found time to sit and 'properly' play it. After recently finishing LA Noire I had an urge to play a good adventure game and Blackwell was at the top of my list.

The game is now fully voice acted, and pretty well. It looks great (depending on how you feel about the more retro aesthetic) The game history is well documented on Wikipedia. It has was developed using the Adventure Game Studio tool and has been successful for this type of title.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Let me play the damn game

I recently tried Asura's Wrath, and found it a struggle to work up any enthusiasm to play it. Not because it is unattractive or doesn't have a interesting story. The reason I struggled is that it isn't really a game. To get the same effect of playing it, pick up a controller, put on your favourit manga series, and randomly press a button every time something exciting or pivotal happens on the telly. That's about it really, very much a throw back to the full motion video style games, only with a 3D engine, not video. It is not far away from something like Dragon's Lair.

Asura's Wrath is far from the only game that is little more than an interactive tv show. Heavy Rain and LA Noire also spring to mind. I know I recently said that I love games with a good narrative, but with very little to no actual gameplay, then I am not sure they can even be called games. Something like interactive fiction or choose your own adventure is closer to the mark. Unfortunately if I wanted to sit and watch a story unfold I would go and watch a tv show or film, not like there is any shortage of either.

Essentially this comes down to control. Games are all about giving the player control, or at least the illusion of control. Things don't happen unless you perform an action, ideally involving some measure of skill or experience. The games I have mentioned seem to think that a few button presses to correspond to on screen prompts is interaction enough, it is not. It is clear to me that the creators of these games are unfufilled film makers rather than fufulled game makers. They have their vision of what should be happening and they aren't going the let anyone get in the way, let alone the player. In my opinion these developers can go take a long walk off a short pier.

Not that these people are the only ones that force actions upon is. Games like Crysis 2 actually

turn our camera if we aren't looking in the right direction, and at one point I had a game character screaming at me to get down to avoid the snipers. The snipers in question could be clearly seen out of the big window, but as I wasn't scripted to be shot at I was fine, hell made me long for a way to make the character wave. Don't get me wrong cinematic play is not a bad thing, but as soon as you take that control from the player, then the game ceases to exist. There are some great cinematic games that allow the client to keep control, Skyrim and Uncharted games for example.

Sorry this has been a bit ranty, I am just fearfull of the day when big high profile games can be played with little more than a DVD remote.

Monday, 2 April 2012

ALL the indie games

After picking up the 'Indie Gala two' bundle this morning it occurred to me that I don't play many of the indie games that I purchase. The reason for this is that when I buy a bundle I am usually only interested in one game but the bundle is cheaper than the single game is on Steam/Desura. The result is that I have a stack of games that I have no interest in playing.

Even if I'm not particularly interested in the whole pack, if there is one titles that I think maybe fun for an hour I'll buy it. The idea that by buying games from these bundles I am also giving money to indie developers as well as charity's makes me in some small way feel like my need to obtain new things to play is also helping the industry this and who doesn't want a stack of new games for $5? 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Memorabilia Birmingham

Once more I have found myself sitting down to write a blog that's not game related. This is a habit that I really am trying to kick, however with so much cool stuff that's not related to video game but still under the geek-interest banner I can't help but share my experience yesterday at the NEC Memorabilia show. The show consisted of three major sections, Sports collectibles, Comic's and Movie collectibles. All of which where organised well making it easy for me to avoid the sports related section. 

After a hefty walk from the car park to the event I was pointed to a line, the largest line of people I have ever seen but quickly we where guided like soldier ants to the event entrance. Upon entering the massive room I knew I was in the right place when I was greeted by a familiar land speeder.

The show as packed to the brim with awesome trinkets and random show pieces like Luke's speeder and a well known Delorean, there was also a TARDIS in the middle of the room with a remarkable David Tennant look alike (Apparently most the people there, like me feel that he was a better Doctor than the child who currently plays the part)