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Showing posts from May, 2009

Jade Empire: Combat Niggles

Jade Empire is a terrific game but there are a few things about the combat system that I wish were different: 1. Combat is a clickfest: Early in the game the fast paced combat is enjoyable but it gets old fairly quickly. Once you get over the initial learning curve you soon realise than targeting an enemy and clicking the same few skills over and over as fast as you can will get you through almost every battle in this game. 2. Missed Opportunity: Combat styles. The game has a large range of combat styles including weapons magic and unarmed combat. Choosing and upgrading your styles is a big part of character development. Sadly the promise of variety turns out to be an illusion and you end up falling back on a few tried and trusted combinations. Combat in the game is not sophisticated enough to benefit from the wide variety of skills. 3. Monster Immunity: Too many of the monsters in the game are 100% immune to certain styles of combat. Spirits are immune to weapons, Demons are immune to


If you are a father then I am sure you will understand the bitter sweet dilemma: "How do make sure you are a good dad when deep down you haven't really grown up yourself?" Recently Bill Harris decided to teach his son the value of hard work and application by signing them both up for unicycle lessons. The tale of how this resulted in a father clutching a chain link fence in bleeding hands as he struggled with manic desperation to master a device he had come to loathe is an absolute classic. You can read about it on his Dubious Quality Blog: Start here , then here , here , here and here .

Jade Empire: A Confession

Confession: I started over after two hours of Jade Empire and re-rolled because my original female character wasn't shapely enough. Sad, I know but years of exposure to Hollywood has conditioned me to demand that my heroines be beautiful as well as deadly. Happily I can report that the game itself is an unexpected delight (particularly when viewed from behind the foxy curves of a scarlet clad ninja!). It's an action rpg with a strong oriental storyline that combines martial arts themes with steam punk. The graphics and sound effects are beautiful and top quality characterisation and voice acting really enhance the game. My scarlet assassin started life as "fast" character relying on speed rather than brawn or magic. You are not constrained to your starting styles though and a few early deaths convinced me to beef her up. In fact I am nor sure that specialisation is a good thing in this game because certain enemies are immune to certain styles and the terribly underpo

Freedom from MMOs

I do not have any active mmo subscriptions. Apart from a couple of hours spent messing about in Free Realms it has been over a month since I have played an mmo and it feels good. I am enjoying not having one game which demands all of my attention all of the time. I am enjoying the distance that allows me to cast a disinterested eye on all those petty niggles which become so frustrating when you are immersed in a particular game. I am even enjoying the lack of social responsibility that comes from being in a guild and trying to make a positive contribution. Even though I quit because of boredom it has still taken me about a month to reach this new happy state. Mmos are great time fillers and provide an instant answer to the nightly question of "what will I do now"?For some years I have relied on gaming as a major pastime and have come to depend on the nightly shot of endorphins that a good gaming session can provide. Quitting an mmo leaves a gap and it has taken me several

Seriously Finished

Woot me, I successfully completed Serious Sam on normal level without cheating. I gratefully accept whatever minuscule amount of kudos is still available to someone who completes an eight year old game. According to X-Fire it took me 22 hours of playing time. The in-game clock shows about half that. The difference is due to the number of times I died and had to retrace my steps using quick save. As might have been expected the last few levels were completely chaotic particularly the second last stage: an arena in which you have to face off hundreds of tough mobs all charging you down. Eventually I had to rocket jump onto a nearby wall to allow me to shoot the mobs from a safer perch. Although this is an exploit the game designers seem to be OK with rocket jumping. They have even included a number of handy launch pads for getting you back into the action but it does feel less satisfactory that facing the foes toe to toe and shooting it out. After finishing the game I had a quick look

Hardcore single player gaming. Seriously.

I am playing Serious Sam, the original encounter again. Time and again you scrape through an encounter gasping for health only to stumble across an inviting looking health pack sitting in the middle of an apparently unguarded area. Without fail, picking up that health pack will spawn a new horde of vicious mobs and the cycle repeats itself. I am talking about hundred of mobs here. My fingers are literally sore from mashing the WASD keys frantically. I am not talking about mindless button mashing here. I am talking about precision aiming while moving under extreme duress button mashing. This could quickly become tedious and a number of Sam's subsequent imitators did fall into the tedium trap but Sam's combination of cleverly designed levels with lovely graphics (dated of course but still lovely) great monsters, powerful weapons and an overarching sense of humour all just work to keep you playing and entertained. In my opinion this style of game has never been done better, before

New Headphones

My wife bought me a lovely new set of Sennheiser HD-555 headphones as a birthday present. I don't really listen to music but I do have an engineer's understanding of muddiness and distortion and it is lovely to have a set of headphones which reproduces the sounds in game as they are supposed to be. I briefly considered asking her to get me a set of surround sound headphones but reading comments from serious audiophiles convinced me that the trade-off in quality is not worth it. The clincher for me was the realisation that we only have two ears which means that with proper down-mixing it should be possible to perfectly emulate surround sound with just stereo headphones. Creative's CMSS technology aims to do just that and I can happily verify that it is still very good and does give a feeling of depth in the aural landscape of a game while allowing you to pinpoint sound sources in the horizontal plane (but not up and down sadly). The headphones do lack a microphone. This is

Why do you hate Darkfall?

Thank you Syncaine for showing us the response of the Darkfall community to the Eurogamer review. I can understand how a niche game like Darkfall generates such strong feeling among its fans. It's very isolation instils a kind of "us versus them" solidarity. I am a big carebear myself and I will almost certainly never play Darkfall but I am happy to let those who like that sort of thing get on with it. What I cannot understand is why Darkfall and those who play the game seem to have generated such strong levels of antipathy among people who have never played it and who admit to not liking that sort of game anyway. So I am asking why? You know who you are. You never intended to play Darkfall in the first place yet you have been busily writing blog and forum posts bad-mouthing the game and its players. Depending on your style these swipes have ranged from cleverly snide to downright vitriolic. Why?

Question Mark over Eurogamer's Darkfall Review

I am not a fan of Darkfall. I have never played the game and I doubt I ever will. Yet I am deeply worried about Eurogamer's Darkfall review. The review is here and Aventurine (makers of Darkfall) have responded here . If you haven't time to read all that my synopsis in a nutshell is that Eurogamer (highly respected games website) gave Darkfall (niche pvp focussed mmorpg) a very low score in a review. Aventurine wrote a robust response on their forums pointing out that the review accounts they had issued to Eurogamer have spent no more than A FEW MINUTES in the game. Eurogamer claim that their reviewer spent at least 9 hours in the game. Who is wrong who is right? I don't know but having read the review I have to admit it sounds like the reviewer never even got off the starting blocks. Aventurine's version has the sorry ring of truth. I could be very wrong. It could even be that the game is badly put together with such a terrible user interface that the reviewer couldn&

Another Plea for MMOs to have an End of Game

Tobold's I'm taking a break from World of Warcraft post today got me thinking again about why can an MMO not have an end of game. Please note that end of game is very different from end-game. End-game is a device to try and keep you subscribed forever. End of game is a mechanism to allow you to leave the game with some feeling of completion. This is a similar line of thinking to that which inspired my thinking about perma-death . I wrote my thoughts in a comment to Tobolds post but I am going to be lazy and copy them here for my own records: Why do we even have to justify our decision to stop playing a game for a while. Moving on is an entirely healthy phenomenon in my opinion and yet there seems to be a suggestion of treachery about it. It is no reflection on the quality of a game or its community that you have gotten bored and want to do something else for a while. Perhaps this is a fatal flaw in the current mmo business model. If Blizzard or Turbine or CCP's business m

A Complicated Card game

I grew up in a card playing family. We enjoyed Whist, Gin Rummy, Bridge and many other games but the perennial favourite was the traditionally Irish game of Twenty Five. Twenty five is a trick taking game like bridge or whist but the ranking of the cards is quite bizarre, it goes like this: Trump Cards (Trump suit is selected by turn of card at the start of each round) 5 of Trumps Jack of Trumps (more generally called the Knave) Ace of Hearts Ace of Trumps (bonus of allowing the holder to "rob" the card turned over to indicated trumps) King of Trumps Queen of Trumps The remaining trumps in natural order (10,9, 8 ...) for red suits or in reverse order (2, 3, 4 ...) for black suits. ("Highest in red, Lowest in black). Non Trump Suits King Queen Jack The remaining cards natural order (10,9, 8 ...) for red suits or in reverse order (A, 2, 3, 4 ...) for black suits. ("Highest in red, Lowest in black"). The Ace of diamonds is therefore worthless unless diamonds are