Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I played this game recently… for all of about 30 minutes. I really hated it, largely because:
- I think dragons are dumb.
- I think magic is even dumber than dragons.
- I hate fighting with a sword, especially when you have to do it using a standard game controller.
- I hate the idea of a world so clearly divided into races like Aryan dude, Broad-featured warrior dude, Hideous elf dude, and Person with lizard or cat head, as though these are all equally different.
- I can’t accept the idea of a world where there are peaceful villages and yet somehow every single goddamn person you meet immediately tries to kill you. It’s like Mad Max meets Lord of the Rings.
- I wanted a horse, and it wasn’t clear how long I’d have to trudge around this stupid world before I got one. Riding a horse is about the only cool thing I can think of about being stuck in a stupid medieval/fantasy world.
Apart from the fact that this game clearly wasn’t made for me, I was also totally underwhelmed by the quality of the landscape. When in the open it all looked toylike and lifeless; when in a village it looked visually muddy. Possibly this is just a problem with the PS3 version, I don’t know.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
This was pretty good, very story-driven with massive action set-pieces. But it felt a bit too similar to Uncharted 2, especially the final chapter. One thing I was grateful for is that the final scene wasn’t a stupid impossible boss battle as it was in the previous game.
I got to ride a horse in this but truly the physics were terrible and it was more like I was wearing a horse than riding it; the way it swayed weightlessly with my movements.
It’s sort of got magic in it too, but it’s more vague Indiana Jones style magic than bullshit potion and spell collecting magic.
The Uncharted series is well written and doesn’t take itself too seriously, and has some of the best hair and butt modelling in its class today.
This looked great, but for some reason I found it annoying. Especially a particular scene where I needed to sprint from one rooftop to another to take out an escaping car. I kept failing and having to try again, and the load time was about twice as long as the sequence itself, so it drove me a bit mad and I just abandoned it.
Modern Warfare 3
This one also looked great, but also kept the story moving nicely and was basically just easier to roll through. I was actually surprised to finish this one because I was just playing it for an hour here or there to take a break from work. All you have to do is follow the white dot to whatever the hell you’re supposed to blow-up/murder next.
Here is what a Wild West themed video game looked like in 1980 (Outlaw on Atari 2600):
And this is what one looks like in 2010 (Red Dead Redemption on Sony PS3):
Limbo, the indie game I’ve been waiting patiently for, has been released for xbox 36o and finally I’ve spent a bit of time playing it.
If anything it’s even more gorgeous than I expected, although perhaps a little more gruesome. I was going to write a review, but if you click through to the trailer you will get a much better idea of it than anything I could write here.
Ultimately it is a platform/puzzler, and I am having to remind myself that as something of a nerd I am supposed to enjoy challenging puzzles– rather than just getting frustrated within seconds and wanting to throw the controller through a window. I think my attention span needs some serious stretching.
Limbo’s stylish visuals are also a great reminder of what I should be working on…
Because I haven’t got time right now to write anything halfway decent here, I’ll just embed a clip of what looks to be the most awesomest game evar…
Have seen a fair bit of bitching aimed at Valve with regard to Steam, the distribution & authorization system required to run Half Life 2. Until now I had assumed that people were shitty because they couldn’t play the game until they had authorized their copy via Steam… but now I realize [my internet connection being temporarily down] that you can’t play unless you are connected…
ie you can only ever launch this [single player] game while you are online!
When I tried to run HL2 without a net connection I got an error saying “This operation cannot be completed when Steam is in offline mode.” Even though the game still appears in the Steam menu with a launch option. Showing properties on HL2 explicitly declares: “Offline Mode: Ready” – Silly me had assumed that this meant: “Ready to play” , when of course I should have read it as: “Ready to tell you to fuck off, even though you’ve just spent US$60 to download this game”
Until now I had considered Steam to be a slightly fiddly but logical way to distribute content, but now I see it more as a steaming pile of shit, effectively forcing my computer to ask Valve’s permission every single time I want to play this game.
UPDATE: It seems I am mistaken, it is not so simple as I had thought, and now it does seem possible to play offline without hacking; unlike earlier today [???], if I disable my net connection I can now can play Half-Life 2 offline – so basically, I don’t have a clue what the problem was before, but the official word is that offline play is supported. Apologies for the half-cocked rant, but hey, you know… Half-Life 2…
The first time I saw him all I could think was: "Oh my god! It’s that guy from the intro! He’s standing right over there looking at me! I’ve gotta run as fast as I can to try to catch up with him! … Hey, where’d he go? He was just here I swear!" which is probably how the designers would like me to respond…
My final verdict – like it matters what I think – is that HL2 is bloody omazing, and the only things that interfered with my willing suspension of disbelief were a couple of hoary old FPS chestnuts like:
- Being stuck in a hole because for some reason your heroic character can’t climb onto a ledge above chest height. This limitation seems pretty stupid to me, especially after a game like Prince of Persia.
- The tendency to accidentally walk off ledges and the clumsiness of climbing ladders… again PoP showed that this kind of stuff could be handled better.
- Other characters’ feet still seem to skitter about as they walk; This one really irks me because it breaks the illusion of reality, and I’m sure more could be done to rectify it… Ironically, dead characters can often seem more life-like than living ones, because once someone dies they stop following pre-animated sequences and become a "rag-doll", fully integrated into the [mostly] excellent physics engine. *
- Other "friend" characters have an annoying habit of standing right in front of you, blocking your way, which is really frustrating when you’re in a hurry because someone is shooting at you.
These grievances are minor however, and on the whole I found HL2 an immersive and enjoyable experience.
* Example: At one point I accidentally sent a squad member into the line of fire [ I was trying to instruct her to run across the road, but she seemed to think I meant: "go stand in the open and engage that hidden sniper" ]. Of course she was shot dead almost instantly, and as the sniper’s round struck she was thrown backwards in a sickeningly convincing way – up until that point she had just been an annoying character spitting out predictable one-liners, but then as she died it all seemed so real for a moment, and I felt really bad.
Having a lovely time in the violent fantasy world of Half-Life 2, which I still haven’t managed to play though yet. In the snapshot you can see my recent visit to the flooded basement of what looks like a nightmarish hospital for the criminally insane.
As a result of I am finding myself in that weird headspace I haven’t experienced for a while, where my perceptions of reality are temporarily affected by the immersive gaming experience. In the real world now I walk into a room and automatically do a visual scan for explosive items… and as I walk close to objects I can’t help noticing how realistically they are rendered.
Back when I was working on 3D realism I used to think like this all the time… when I drove through the country I was constantly staggered by the level of detail in the trees and fields, trying to gauge in my mind the sort of processing power required to generate that sort of imagery in real time. Then I would think: I am such a nerd.
UPDATE – 11:09 AM: Well, that was an exciting hour or so… Stare at a black screen for a while, quit, restart, stare at a blurry title screen with no title and the word "Loading…" at the bottom of it, while loads of network activity and disk accessing goes on, then get very bored with that after 40 minutes [during which I couldn't even task switch or Ctrl+Alt+Delete to task Manager]…. restart the computer and actually start digging around in Steam to find that while it’s running it’s still eating all of my network bandwidth… Check out ‘Properties’ for Half-life 2 and now it’s telling me it’s only 84% downloaded… which kind-a begs the question: Why [the fuck] does it let me [attempt in vain to] launch a game that hasn’t actually finished downloading?
Actually my current theory is that even when it is 100% complete, it’s still gonna hang, at which point I will become so frustrated that I will probably throw my computer through the window. I forgot the golden rule: never get excited about anything, because reality is sure to kick you in the – Ooooo… 86%!
Curse DOSBox! It is helping me to waste more of my time, by allowing me to run classics like Prince of Persia properly! This is one of those few games I actually stuck with and played right through to the end, taking me probably about 50 hours cumulatively.
I loved it (in 1991) in spite of its cruelty [no save points, overall time limit of 1 hour, dangerous things located just off the current screen] and was particularly impressed by its excellent use of FM synthesis for the music via the old Soundblaster/Adlib chipset. In contrast, the "technically advanced" Prince of Persia 3D  sucked amazingly, and the demo lasted about 5 minutes before I deleted it from my machine.
Of course, now there is a new [advanced 3D] game in the franchise, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which probably won’t suck quite so badly, but I doubt it will ever be as famous or loved as its progenitor. The Flash intro at the official site is pretty sucky, if that’s anything to go by…
Prince of Persia Downloads:
Note: I cannot vouch for the integrity of these downloads, these links will take you to other pages with download links to zip files.
The authors credited on The Hobbit adventure game are Philip Mitchell and Veronika Megler.
Mitchell created the parsing system [called INGLISH] which helped make the game so groundbreaking [also I think he may have devised the novel image rendering system]. Megler was responsible for the location & character design; in effect she had to adapt the book into a game.
There is a very nice recent  interview with Veronika Megler here . I don’t know if Philip Mitchell is still about, actively programming, retired, whatever, which is frustrating, but here is an article someone wrote about him and his games 10 years ago.
Although personal this-is-me style webpages are generally derided [perhaps web logs are changing this perception], I’d still really like it if everyone who had ever published or created anything kept one, just so you could look them up and see what they’d been up to lately.
If you’re interested in playing this classic game on a PC, you can download the DOS version from Stephan’s Retrocomputing Site. Of course it’s pretty annoying having to play in full screen CGA [or EGA?] modes, but I’m just glad there’s a version I didn’t have to run in an emulator [funnily enough in order to do screen capture I did have to run it in an emulator - DOSBox, an open source DOS emulator]
Booted up an old Mac Classic II last night and played a bit of The Hobbit, a groundbreaking adventure game for its time. [visit this page for more info on the game and its various incarnations] I have been hoping to find an online version of the game, which ideally would utilize the best text and graphics from across the versions. But if there is one out there it is very hard to find, what with the general background of hobbit related noise thanks to both books and films.
Although the game obviously does not seem so impressive now as it did in the mid 80s, it still managed to suck me in as I wandered about in the misty mountains and the the goblin caves. I was engaged much more so than I am by the average contemporary first person shooter demo which I usually download, play for 10 minutes, then delete from my hard drive forever.
Playing The Hobbit reawakened old dreams I once had of writing my own epic adventure [on the Amstrad CPC 464] Writing an adventure game [engine] offers the programmer the ultimate exercise in elegant, structured programming, and yet it’s an exercise I never actually got around to doing.
Another Blast From Not-so-distant Past
Doom! Played straight through episode 1 [on easy skill level]… what a wierd rush, and even now I look at the game and have to admire it technically. Even the texture artifacts revealing the low precision stepping on the floor when you die [texture mapping gets choppy on the right side of the screen] makes me smile.