Showing posts from March, 2008

Brain Games

Not everything I have to say is new. (In fact, I imagine that just about everything I've written is going to seem old to somebody.) However, a lot of what I write here are significant things in the realm of gaming. Today, I want to talk about an independently-made game I stumbled across awhile ago, an eight-year-old work-in-progress by the name of Cortex Command.

Cortex Command is made by an independent gaming organization known as Data Realms. This is pretty much one guy, Daniel "Data" Tabar. Sometimes we like to talk about getting our asses in gear and learning how to program something significant, but guy this lives it. He works with a guy named Promster for some of the art assets. The game engine also features easy mod support, so it's hard to say how many hands are in the cooking pot overall.

Cortex Command's story is simple but awesome. (And I'm not just saying that because I came up with something similar.) "In the future, people will be a…

City of Heroes: I12 New Power Sets Pre-Evaluated

As I was saying a few entries ago, my City of Heroes/Villains MMORPG endeavors were derailed by the "powerset proliferation" coming in Issue 12 (probably a couple months away). Long story short, until I knew which new power sets those would be, there was no point to playing.

Today, I learned that the new power sets have been revealed. In this entry, I turn my practically obsessive-compulsive City of Heroes experienced eye on each.
Blasters, the purely offensive heroic powerhouse, get "Psychic Blast" and "Mental Manipulation."Psychic Blast, formerly a Defender power set, is notable for many reasons: It does the rarely-resisted "psionic" damage. The attacks slow enemy recharge times. Many Psychic Blast powers also have a controlling secondary effect: immobilization, stunning, sleeping. Compared to Defenders, the debuff potency will probably by reduced 35%. Mental Manipulation does not exist yet. The existing "Mind Control" power se…

Sins of a Simplified Empire Game

For the most part, I'm enjoying Sins of a Solar Empire, but I can't help but notice that there's not all that much to it.

Your typical 4X Genre game is usually a game of establishing a powerful economic base, then racing your way to the top of the technology tree while investing the minimal amount into your military necessary to assure that the barbarians battering at the gates can't take over your planets.

Sins of the Solar Empire is no exception, but it has a greatly shortened tech tree. If you can lay claim to enough planets to build the neccessary eight technology structures, you can get maximum technology relatively easily. In the end, in any game that has lasted about four hours, any empire with enough planets should pretty much have everything researched.

The entire TEC military tech tree. Imagine a very similar screen for the civilian tech, and that's all the technology you get in this 4X game.

At the point where everybody's finished their research, …

Three Minireviews of Awesome

Currently free of the MMORPG yoke, I'm now having far too much fun. A few things I've been up to this weekend: Startopia, Smash Brothers Brawl, and Sins of a Solar Empire.
Startopia Seeing it on GameTap, I gave Startopia another spin. Mucky Foot's one and only prodigy still plays absolutely fantastic. It is to your average real time managerial games what Descent: Freespace is to space fighter combat sims: unbeatable; simply the best in the genre, unable to be toppled even as technology has marched on. About the only negative note I see worth mentioning is that it's a tad easy... but, as a sandbox, that works out just fine. Startopia is a 2001 PC game about managing a circular space station in the future. You have three decks: Engineering, Entertainment, and a BioDeck. Your goal is to build a number of facilities that can attract, entertain, and maintain the nearby alien life. Your task is to turn a run-down station into a bustling space metropolis, one section…

Day 2 Mabinogi: Tedium Sets In

Well, I'm bored of Mabinogi. It broke one of the cardinal rules of modern MMORPG game design: "Thou Shalt Not Make Thine Players Spend More Time Walking Than Anything Else." But, really, there's nothing wrong with Mabinogi that isn't often found at the core level of basic MMORPGs design.

Video Caption: A worry many developers have with allowing players to use virtual world instruments to play whatever they want is that they'll use it to translate their favorite songs from real life. Thereby breaking immersion and violating copyright law in the process. Mabinogi proves that these are not baseless worries. Still, it's the coolest feature in the game.

"Travel time" is actually a great time sink that also helps make a virtual world seem a lot more worldly. When it actually takes time to get places, there's a feeling of genuine worth to the virtual space your transversing. However, like any other part of a game, the traveling portion of the…

Day 1 Mabinogi

Having put my first six hours into Mabinogi now, I'm happy to say that the passion has yet to leave this relationship. This is the first time I really had a chance to look at the combat, trade skills, and general economy seriously.


Things got off to a rocky start as I came to realize that the foes I was fighting were feeble little critters that could barely scratch me. Fortunately, this was not to last, and before long I was engaging foes that could absolutely devastate me in two rounds if I dropped my guard.

Picture Caption: My first screenshot of the game was marred somewhat by another player spurning an advance. Graphics in Mabinogi are a bit dated, as should be expected from a four-year-old game, but they're nonetheless decently stylized and easy to get used to.

I've yet to participate in a team, but it seems the single player combat model is strong.

Melee combat indeed involves reading your opponents and being careful not to attack them when they're set to …

Mabinogi: Bravely forging the way ahead, four years ago.

Once again thoroughly burned out from City of Heroes, it's time for me to take a serious look at the landscape of MMORPGs. For the most part, this landscape has stayed the same as when I looked just a few months ago. The major projects of the Western world, Age of Conan and Warhammer Online, are not any more released now than they were in January. However, as inevitable as the Pacific tides, a massive deluge of Eastern-made MMORPGs washes up regularly on the shores of the land of the free but financially segregated.

So it is that I found Mabinogi, a free to play game with surprisingly detailed virtual worldly aspects. As far as sandboxes go, Ultima Online may have some competition.

Not too long ago, one of these Korean made monstrosities, Cabal Online, captivated me in rapt fascination by jamming a timing-based minigame in the middle of what's otherwise yet-another-monster-genocide-simulation. My hands, bloodied enough with the pixels of billions of imaginary beasts, sh…

"Grow Games"

I ran across an interesting Internet phenomenon today: "Grow Games." Before I knew it, 2 1/2 hours of my life were gone.

This solution video would rob you of the challenge if there was one.

The actual game design is simple: You have a number of objects. You use them in a certain order, you win. You use them in the wrong order, you lose. That's really all there is to the game, but it's made interesting because the game animates something every time you activate it.

So, how do you determine the right order? It involves keeping track of how many already-placed things "level up" when you place another - the goal is to "max" level everything. However, the few times you play, there's no real way of knowing this, so you end up just keep screwing around with it. Because of this, I'd argue that these "Grow Games" are no games, under the definition that a player has to be meaningfully challenged to complete them.

That I spent 2 1/2 h…

Somebody Else's Secret of Success

Apparently I haven't had much worth saying lately. But then, a healthy blogger doesn't care much when nobody's dropping a comment: they write because they enjoy what they're writing about, no?

Now that's quality PhotoShop-age.

Funny enough, my Digital Diversity class this morning had an interesting anonymous interview (via Second Life) with the Blogger who writes Jesus' General, once one of the top 20 Blogs on the Internet. One of the questions he answered for us is what a Blogger needs to be successful:
Luck. I agree, simply getting noticed on the Internet needs a lot of this. As world human population increases exponentially, so also do the number of Blogs, you'll have a lot harder time getting noticed now versus 10 years ago. Good Writing. Or, as I like to put it, "Once you get the people to try the game, they have to like it to keep playing it." He's talking content, the meaty hook that the people keep coming back for. The Niche. Jesus&#…


So, in accordance to a school project, I ended up not using the computer (or any other digital device if I could help it) on Friday and Saturday. I managed to stave off the resulting madness by reading about 1250 pages, finishing off the last two Harry Potter books in the series. In a way, so many hundreds of pages simply to cover the events of those last few books was an unnecessary grind of its own, leading to a reasonably interesting tangent.

In much the same way I'm disappointed to discover I reached the maximum level in an MMORPG, only to discover that there's really nothing left to achieve, it's a bit of a bother to complete an epic series just to realize that the story's over. The characters, whether they live happily ever after or not, are done, their role in your imagination finished - they might as well be dead (if they were ever alive). Perhaps, out of grieving, fan fiction results.

At least, with a book, an ending is expected. In an online persistent st…

CoH Issue 12 Announced

The features of Issue 12 of City of Heroes have been announced. There's some interesting features there, but my interest is on two of them: Powerset Proliferation and the Epic Villain Archetypes.

Powerset Proliferation

In accordance to their focus on adding more content for less effort, the various archetypes are going to get adjusted versions of already existing powersets. Basically almost every archetype is getting one more primary power set and one more secondary power set inherited from a version developed for another one of the archetypes.

Nevermind the potential for making everybody feel a little more watered down, my problem with this is just that it makes me a little more alternate (alt) character rolling crazy. Suddenly, all my painstaking evaluation of "what's the best hero for me based off of the existing powersets" is dust in the wind.

To an extent, I'm mortified... but to another extent, I'm excited - it's a whole new world of obsessive com…

Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice Review

I admit it, I'm a Phoenix Wright fan. Once I rented the first from Gamefly, I could not help but want to play through the two that followed. So, having discovered this to be the fourth game in the series, I'm pretty excited the series seems to still be going strong.

The basic flow of the game involves telling a story. In the courtroom, your primary challenge is in grilling the witnesses' testimony and presenting evidence to find contradictions. On the field, you're tasked with finding clues and talking to the people involved with the case. This is all done with a simple stylus-friendly interface that does not go too crazy with the pixel hunting. As the story progresses, the drama builds, solid writing and likable characters are the core of the game.

One thing always bothered me about the original Phoenix Wright series: the bonus case in the first game had features that none of the other cases did, such as the ability to examine items in 3D or have detailed crime detect…

Weak Off

Huzzah, it's Spring Break for me. "Confidentially," I wrote on my public Blog, "I don't particularly feel up to it." I need work more than play right now, this whole "full time student shtick" was a bad idea: I'm mostly getting better at being a slacker. As of late, I've been feeling too tired to even pass the time. Pathetic. Maybe it's time to find a job.

I made this as a Adobe After Effects assignment. It mostly sucks, I look forward to much one-starring from the 5 people who view it, but hey, it's 100% my content.

On the upshot, should I muster sufficient motivation, I'm not without some very good means to pass the time:
City of Heroes is kinda putting me to sleep right now. I've been mucking around with Controllers, who are extremely influential but have such a slow rate of damage that it's pretty boring.Turbine is offering Dungeons and Dragons: Stormreach ex-customers in good standing a week of free access as …

Virtual Obligation

An interesting tangent on a post I wrote up today lead to writing it into a Blog entry because, after all, truly interesting tangents are something I need more of around here.

Here's the scenario: You've a player on your team who has powers that can benefit you (in MMORPG lingo we call this a "buff") but he or she isn't using them regularly. You feel shorted and disappointed this player isn't granting you those buffs.

Not all related, here's a nice screenshot of a certain City of Heroes task force to break the monotony. (Avoid clicking if you're worried about spoilers.)

It's easy to call blame onto that player, but the reason you feel shorted is you believe that player is obligated to buff you just because they have this power set. That's an injustice because you're looking on that player as being the power set, and they're not, they're players who have their own will and ability to play.

Basically, working with skilled and di…