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Showing posts from April, 2008

Chomping at the bit

What a day - it took me about 10 hours to get this project done to satisfaction. There hasn't been much time (read: any) for gaming today, and that likely will be the case over the next couple days as well. However, I did have a few interesting things to mention.
It seems Tabula Rasa is inviting the veteran players back to give the game another spin. May 2nd. When I last played this game, it was very much a "close, but not quite" game. Even after learning what made the gameplay interesting (hint: use cover) it just didn't have enough purpose to keep playing. The world was kludgey and incomplete. Despite the detail they put into it, it still did not bring all the elements together and, as a result, it lacked the unified feel of a well-crafted virtual world. Though it's a tall order, especially for a post-release game, I want to see if they were able to overcome this problem. My Open Beta access to Age of Conan is assured. May 1st. Get this, the maximum leve…

Darkstar Evaluation

Finals week begins. I don't have much left to do, but I'm pretty effectively dragging my feet nonetheless.

The weekend was pretty much spent playing Darkstar One. All the awhile, my inner game design critic was running. What we have here are some early observations that I'll probably clean up to deliver on my other Blog before too much longer.


Coding that many asteroids with working collision detection couldn't have been easy.

Once I actually got into the game, I discovered there's very much a routine in place:
Enter a new sectorCollect all free-floating artifacts in asteroids.Liberate system(s), collecting their artifacts.Complete the side quest to unlock the remaining system and collect that artifact.Defeat pirate gangs for "secret service" level weapon.Complete the main quest line to unlock access to the next sectorSometimes things would be mixed up a bit. For example, you might need to come back to a sector later to unlock the remaining systems in…

I'm Not A Rare Game Finder

When I wrote the GameSpot editor list was one to use to find "Diamonds in the Rough," that was a brain fart. Old habits die hard, I suppose. I guess I'll throw that phrase anywhere if I'm not careful.

Just to clarify for anyone that might have missed it before, this Blog is no longer about finding rare games worth playing. Truth be known, I was perhaps playing the rare game hunter for all of 3 days before I decided that's really a gig I don't care for.

Why aren't I a rare game hunter?

First and foremost, as a full time University student, I couldn't even afford the neccessary resources to be a rare game hunter. I like GameFly and Gametap, but it's not because I hate games and don't want to invest in them. On the contrary, I refuse to pirate games (it's not like it's hard for a fellow who knows computers to do) because I support the industry. No, I've been on a Financial Aid Student's dole for years, I simply can't affo…

Darkstar Anticipation

The semester is not quite over yet, I'm down to a finals week and two fairly hefty assignments to finish before then. However, it seems I've some rather awesome games to play now and in the near future. For now, it's DarkStar One. Despite the fact it's practically free, I'm loving this game. (No wonder GameSpot gave it a 8.1 - avg review 73%).

DarkStar One, released in 2006, is one of the few genuinely good "Elite-alikes," or games based on the first person perspective of being a starship captain given free roam of a universe. The last really good one released was Freelancer, and it's been quite awhile - 5 years, in fact. There have been others, of course, but few are truly excellent products. The difference, of course, is in the key features, and here are some that impressed me about DarkStar One:
Very technically friendly One of the main aversions most will have to the typical Elite-alike is that they are usually complex, involved simulations …

Lists and foreshadowing

The body's drive is a strange thing. Here, I stayed up until 3:30am the night before putting the final touches on something, slept 5 hours, and sort of lost track of the amount of caffeine I've taken to combat this. Now it's 8:50pm the following day and I'm jacked wide awake. Whoops! Oh well, I've a few things to say in my caffeine-addled state.

Heavy Duty (PC)

It's been long enough, and I wanted to talk a little bit about this game again, if only to say: It looks like it could be good. Really good.

Video Caption: Heavy Duty "Interception Trailer. (Game Trailers).

Imagine having a well simulated, complete, spherical planet with deformable terrain and convincing physics. Imagine it being a game where you are put in charge of an X-Com-like organization, right down to the base building and vehicle maintenance. Now, instead of troop combat, you and your squaddies pilot fully customizable giant robots and hovercraft. When you're not in the cockpit dis…

EVE Musings: Drone/Ewar?

The school semester is still wrapping up and yet, for some odd reason, I've motivation enough to write up an entry so late at night it's more early tomorrow morning.

I've been playing a little bit of EVE Online. My current plan is to continue to master my Learning skills while I'm offline. However, while I'm online, I think I'll work my character into a combination Drone (pets) and Electronic Warfare (debuffs) character. The strategy is to make the drones do all the work while I standoff and support, reducing the foes' capacity to fight substantially. Whether this actually provides me some kind of advantage over your average cannon-specced tank is yet to be determined.

When I'm actually in the game, I find myself drawn back to mining in mid to high security sectors instead of doing missions. It's just more relaxing to mine rocks, yet still slightly suspenseful as I must watch for NPC ships and the occasional kamikaze player.

Still, it's dis…

Pirates, Barbarians, and Daoist Sages

Hail has been periodically ratting my house this weekend, an environmental abnormality for this time of year. However, being a bit of homebody myself, I welcome the indoors time.

Three things I'd like to post impressions of today: Zack and Wiki (Wii), Age of Conan (PC MMORPG), and The Forbidden Kingdom (Movie).

Zack and Wiki

Puzzles and Pirates seem to go together well.  Escape From Monkey Island is forever enshrined in many gamers' hearts as being amongst the best Lucasfilm adventure games ever made. Even the only puzzle-based MMORPG is literally called, "Puzzle Pirates," and has performed rather well. Capcom's Zack and Wiki continues this fine tradition.

Zack and Wiki's plot is the somewhat surreal stance of being a plucky young boy (Zack) with a magic flying golden monkey (Wiki) who are members of a band of rabbit-like air pirates out to find treasure. Lust for treasure, it would seem, is their entire modus operandi. The backdrop is cute, kids will …

Blue Streaks and Royal Regrets

A rambling entry of Sonic The Hedgehog fixation and elaboration on why there was enough to like about Hot Dog King to truly hate it.

Blue and spiky thoughts.

A Nintendo DS Sonic the Hedgehog RPG game, made by freaking BioWare, is in the works. This naturally piqued my curiosity, not only because it was freaking Bioware (makers of Mass Effect and the vast majority of good Dungeons and Dragons Windows ports) but also because I loved the Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. As far as I'm concerned, taking a platforming mascot and sticking them in a quasi-action turn-based RPG mechanic game is a bit of tried-and-true awesome that I've yet to bore of.

Caption: Sonic the Hedgehog - 2D, 3D, and on the TV screen. It's all about the power rings and chaos emeralds.

Suddenly, I have a reason to give a damn about Sonic the Hedgehog. Don't get me wrong, I know that the ludicrously-fast Blue Hedgehog has enthralled the hearts of untold numbers…

Digital Senioritus

The school semester is coming to a crashing halt, but my motivation to get much done had been lost to senioritus before the semester even begun. Last semester, the only time I could get anything done was the very last moment. This semester, I seem to be trying to get things done after the very last moment, and that just doesn't work. No matter how much mental browbeating and depressing logic I layer on myself, I've manifested an astounding mental block to get much done.

Considering how susceptible I've come to distraction, I really shouldn't be playing anything massively multiplayer right now. Thus, I've opted to largely stay logged out of EVE Online while my Learning skill slowly grinds away to complete rank V in a matter of days.


Video Caption: 2020 Super Baseball -- I'll get to that.

This approach hasn't entirely worked. Monday's entry is most assuredly a bad sign: It's about the point where you're pontificating a classical perspective of…

I'm no longer the Hot Dog King

At the risk of simultaneously bringing upon myself accusations of being a pervert and a prude, I'll say that Hot Dog King lost a bit of its appeal for me when I discovered that many of the outfits forced onto the largely teen employees (including the default ones) seem to be lacking undergarments. A crude polygon representation of shaved unmentionables awaits overly curious managers in Hot Dog King, an easter egg that doubles as a gynecologist's worst nightmare.

Perhaps it's a sign of my advancing years, but this discovery struck me as more gross than appealing. If I'm ordering a burger and fry combo from some girl who apparently didn't have time to change out of her cheerleader outfit before attending work, I'm hoping she's at least wearing some kind of insulating layer to distance her yeast-infected vulva from my food. I don't care if they have a food handler's license, these girls have lost all credibility as far as I'm concerned... you…

Paying to not play

I probably heard it somewhere else before, but one of the most interesting things about EVE Online is that this is a game that as much about not playing as it is playing.

I speak, of course, of the character advancement system that advances the character at the same rate regardless of whether I'm playing or not. Cue up a skill, and the only thing I need to do is remember to log in when that skill's timer is about up to switch to another skill. The only advancement-related reason to play past the character screen is to earn some ISK.

To an extent, this is a good thing. I played EVE Online so hard on Friday and Saturday that I needed a break from the game. My brother, too, reports that he woke up one morning with a startling lack of desire to play. EVE Online's advancement system gives me the freedom to go play another game for awhile and then come back with some new and interesting skills learned to play with. It seems like a genius advancement mechanic.

However, takin…

Random Adventures In Massively Multiplayer Space

Having caught up in my course load a bit, I turned my attention to finding some activities in EVE Online more engaging than mining. Actually, I started off by doing a few agent missions and pretty much stayed there. I even ended up saying up until 2am to finish off one mission chain because it sent dozens ships after me across four pockets and it took me awhile to get all those wrecks salvaged.

Performing missions can be quite profitable, if random. It mostly depends on what I find when salvaging, which randomly produces components that are used to build "rigs." Some of these components are worth tens or hundreds of thousands of ISK, other components only a few hundred. There's other gear, such as powerful guns, that may be recovered when looting the cargo holds.

Combat missions (if you're lucky enough to get them) offer a lot of rats (NPC pirates) to shoot up, but the difficulty is oddly random. My first mission chain was tough, forcing my new Cruiser to retre…

What do space jockeys do for fun?

Well, it's official, my EVE Online account is now a paid subscription. Yet, immediately after doing so, it seems that tedium is setting in. Met up with a friend of mine in game, we shot at asteroids with mining beams, and it seems to me that we were both wondering what we got ourselves into.

Maybe I am getting bored but, in an open-ended game such as this, that's mostly my fault. I'm still playing it safe, mining asteroids. That's sort of an activity you do half-afk, with just enough attention to monitor your cargo and if you're under attack. I've been able to spend that time browsing the market, calculating optimal ore profit, chatting with people I know, or even watching TV. In short, mining seems to be a "down-time" activity. Enjoyable, but only on a low level at a peaceful, if plodding, pace.

There are more involving activities in EVE Online, and I'll soon be trying to find them. Mining is only one of many occupations. The most obviou…

EVE Dev: "Real money trading is bad, mkay?"

Back when I used to hang around forums, I'd often get in disagreement with pundits who feel that Real Money Trade (the trading of in-game items for real money) is the way of the future.

To an extent, I can meet them halfway here, with Free to Play games using a real money support system. However, even in those Free to Play games, care is taken by the developers to assure that overall game balance is not compromised, leading to an unenjoyable (and thus unprofitable) game experience. Third party RMT dealers have much less concern for the continued wellbeing of the game.

In any case, because it's clear which side of the fence I'm on, I happily take the opportunity to post up things written by actual professional game developers or maintainers that explain the evils of RMT. Showing up on my EVE Online launch screen today was a link to such a resource:

Link: Real Money Trading Is Bad, MKay?

Having been engaged in large scale debates with individuals who would argue in favor o…

EVE of Procrastination

Thoughts of EVE Online and my free forum.

Time and Space

I played EVE Online hard all weekend and throughout most of the week, time I should have spent doing class projects. The end-of-semester wrap-up is just around the corner, I need to get those projects done quick, so my character will probably spend a lot of time skilling up offline in the near future.

Overall (not counting beta back in 2003) I've played EVE Online for a week now. It turns out that prospecting is a pretty lousy pick. As one of those, I spent about 320k of my 800k starting points on Refining skills. Yet, unrefined ore sells for more than I can refine it for. This is probably because established players can refine better than I ever could, short of owning my own space station.

Another reason why prospecting has lost its luster is because it seems combat is more lucrative than mining. I had a few days head start over my brother. After starting a combat character and performing combat missions constantly, h…

Learning The Ropes Of Space Mining

So far, I've found myself pretty fished into EVE Online. I've probably mined about 3 million ISK worth of ore over the past few days. For the most part, mining is a relatively effortless endeavor. Target rock, release drones, order drones to mine, engage mining laser, watch the radar for threats, wait until cargo hold is nearly full, recover drones, turn off mining laser, warp back to station, drop it off.

I'm starting to get tired of mining but, considering how easy it is to do, there's always room for one more load. That's how I somehow ended up racking up 19 hours in the game. During this time, I learned quite a bit about the game.

While the actual activity of mining is simple, the economics behind it are only revealed through actually applying a bit of rudimentary mathematics. It's often more lucrative to sell the ore directly, even if I have ample refining skill, but I have to actually do the math to find out. Many parts recovered off of hostile NPCs…

In Space, The Grind Is Without Friction

No Blog entry today. Hah! Lamest April Fool's joke ever. Actually, I'll be busy tomorrow, so I'm going to have to speak truthfully today.

I finally broke down and gave EVE Online a serious try. I really haven't played it with serious intent since back in beta. It was then, early 2003, when I discovered mining was an activity of pushing a button and waiting until my cargo hold was full. EVE Online's core activity was so simple as to not be a game.

However, playing it now, in 2008, I find I'm enjoying EVE Online somewhat.Though it's hard to say if it was deliberate or not, it's actually this kind of push button streamlining that makes it enjoyable. Let me see if I can explain that.

When I was recently playing Mabinogi, a good sample of the traditional sandbox, tedium set in quickly. I decided the tedium was in the simplicity of the activity: there was no real challenge to me (the random chance of failure being completely out of my control) and thus…