Friday, March 21, 2008

Vernal Equinox

You can find Vic Davis's comments on his new patch for Armageddon Empires here.

I haven't really posted about AE in this blog before but this game is an amazing combination of turn-based strategy with collectible card mechanics. Most importantly, his 'Iron-Man' mode helped me discover something about myself - I enjoy these games (turn-based strategy) much more if I don't have the option to save and reload. More is on the line and the game is shorter, and of course it feels like more of an achievement when I win.

If AE were more of a commercial release, it would have multiplayer or at least allow us to compete against shadow data, have an online repository for high scores and custom maps, a smoother UI, etc. etc. But this game is still an excellent example of what you can produce with an indie design team. And it's amazing Vince Davis can give us this significant upgrade for nothing - if you haven't had time to read the link at the top of the post, the Cults patch adds in independent rivals for control of the wasteland that show up every game. This creates some of the randomness I felt the game was missing, and of course the novelty of meeting and fighting the cults will be a great experience at first.

So that's it - try Armageddon Empires if you haven't already. Remember there's a free demo available if for some reason you didn't know that already.

Monday, March 10, 2008

So Yeah, I Finally Got a Copy Myself

So I finally got the game, and I'm working my way through the adventure mode now. The story so far seems like a sad attempt to find excuses to shovel in as many characters as possible, but who minds?

I mean seriously, the story in fighting games is only ever an excuse to get characters fighting for no good reason - most of the time two characters show up in an out-of-the-way location, look at each other meaningfully, pose, and then the fight is on. No dialogue required. Maybe more of the fights in comics should be like this? I mean if you have nothing good to say, don't say anything at all.

Anyway yeah, so Smash Brothers Brawl is great. The wireless connection doesn't seem to be working well enough for me to play it online yet, however. Someday when I have a lot of money maybe I'll invest in a repeater or something and see if the connection's any better in the living room. For some reason the connection works great for buying games, but not well enough to play them? Haha, funny how that works.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Shut Up About Your Preview Copy

This may be meanspirited, but I honestly wish game reviewers wouldn't blog to announce they'd just received a copy of a much-awaited game about a week before everyone else.

One of the faults in our internet culture is that it encourages bad ideas as well as good. Everything is grist for the mill... but sometimes I feel these type of posts are poorly thought out and, if anything, have a few bad outcomes these reviewers don't consider:

  1. It fuels the hype machine. Invariably if you're talking about a game before you've played it this amounts to a preview, and the more previews and fewer reviews a game has, the more it's hype-to-reality ratio goes up.

  2. It causes their audience to resent them. More importantly, it trivializes their position as reviewers to make them seem like 'fans who get the games first' rather than 'members of the media with a responsibility to report on the games.'

We're all sick down here

So I'm sick this week, which is pretty rare for me. I mean I oversleep, undersleep, get drunk, get into accidents like everyone else - I'm not unbreakable by any means - but colds, fevers, etc. rarely bother me.

But this week I've had one of those persistent colds, and it's kind of sad. I can't keep any energy going, I'm sniffling and coughing and craving soup (salt and hot water), and no matter how much sleep I get, it's never enough.
(By the way, I'm not the only one coughing and sniffling my way into work - on the train into work this week I've noticed a low rumble of sickly sounds coming from almost everywhere in the car.)

Don't worry, this post is more than a whine into my pillow. I think I can connect this to the perennial "hardcore versus casual" debate. This week I have no energy. Most weeks when I get home I have at least a little energy. This week the only games I wanted to play were casual games, like Forumwarz, or else just read a book or a Let's Play thread.
ps. I need to write a long post on the significance of Let's Play threads for our generation at some future time.
I even purchased a game I'd been looking forward to for some time, Dawn of War: Soulstorm, and all I could do last night was play through a tutorial, because I wanted a chance to look at some of the new units under no competitive pressure.

The key concept there is competitive pressure - because I was feeling down this week, I wasn't interested in doing anything difficult, that required a lot of mental focus or physical dexterity, because I was afraid of failure. What if anything makes me more afraid of failure on weeks when I'm depressed or sick? Well, on these weeks I'm looking for soft fun and avoiding hard fun, just as I'm looking for comfort foods. Disappointed and frustrated outside of gaming, I seek easy victories in a game - or just read a book - because I don't want to feel any more down. Maybe I'll feel better next week...

In any case, Ryan Schwayder's article on Adapting Games for the Aging Gamer expresses how this experience impacts my feelings on game design:

So, for people like me who are getting older and are acquiring new preferences and responsibilities, we need to look for other games for satisfaction; we don’t need to gripe about the games we’re playing and hope that they change for us.

The best way to combat a temporary feeling of malaise is to play games outside your usual scope. Play board games even, card games, do anything but what you usually do - because if you try to compete at your usual level when you're sick, you'll invariably fail and depress yourself still further.

Does this mean someday I'll get so old I'll have to give up first-person-shooters, or will I be forced to find older and older groups of gamers to shoot?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sometimes the Bandwagon is Full for a Reason

Found out yesterday, but I was in bed with a cold. Gary Gygax is dead. Not much more to say on that note...
I posted the "Empty Chair Eulogy" on RockPaperShotgun yesterday for him.
Vic Davis on Forgotten Lore has a better quote:

May You Always Make Your Saving Throw
March 4th, 2008

May your blade be Vorpal
May your foes taste your cold steel with a natural 20
May you never roll a critical miss
May your Cheetos never touch the basement floor
May you always roll for treasure type Z
May you fare well Against the Giants
May you survive the Descent, Conquer the Kuo-Toa,
Vault over the houses of the Drow
And Slay the Queen of the Demon Web Pits

Well, if you get all those references you pretty much understand Gary Gygax's contributions to gaming. Anyhow, it's a pity more people don't talk about Dave Arneson's contributions to the game - seeing as how he is listed as having co-created D&D. Hopefully he gets some recognition before his time runs out.