Well Hot Damn! I hadn't really thought about it ahead of time, but after seeing the first ever comment on the site, courtesy of Golden Llama, I figured that such a milestone needed a prize of some sort. A prize of some GAMING sort. I've had this extra copy of UT: Game of the Year Edition sitting around for awhile, and under normal circumstances, it would make the ideal gift. In fact, I was hanging onto it just waiting for the next wedding I had to attend. However, if there's one thing I can't stress enough, it's that normal circumstances are a rare thing around here. See, I happen to know Golden Llama, and I also happen to know that he already possesses UT:GOTY. So, in the interest of maximizing the fun quotient of our Unannounced Comment Contest, I'll have to come up with something else. Stay tuned... But for the love of god - no more comments, I can't stand all the chatter around here.
The review is up. I've said my peace. I know essentially everyone else on the planet thinks Dungeon Siege is the best thing since man discovered fire, but I've never been one to bow to peer pressure.
My first review of a racing game was pretty cathartic. God help me when I do my first RTS review. Anyhoo - read all about Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed in my latest review. It's equal parts yin and yang.
Leave it to anyone but Microsoft to fix Microsoft's crappy software. The good folks at PuffinSoft have made available the first version of their DXport utility, which allows you to use more than one PC behind a NAT/Firewall for games that use DirectPlay (of either DX7 or DX8 variety). I haven't used it yet, so can't personally vouch for it, but I'll definately keep it in my box of tricks as I certainly could've used just such a tool in the past.
Better late than never. I finally played Unreal, and its Mission Pack. Technically (i.e. graphically) I understand what all the fuss was about. Gameplay-wise, it doesn't break any new ground, but instead showcases solid AI, fun weapons, and a fairly tight design. Heck - just go read the review.
...is still one of the least-rewarding games I've played. Exhibit C in my case against "action RPGs" comes in the form of a Nox review. It's a damn good action rpg. Whatever that's worth.
Just recently (a few weeks ago), I discovered a gaming website that seemed to have the right perspective on gaming: The Gaming Intelligence Agency.
Everytime I find a web site like this, one that is worthy of respect and contributes to gaming analysis in a valuable and tangible way, I'm reminded of just how bizarre and powerful the internet really is. I absorb information from so many sources, pulling on loose threads of opinion, conversation, and interpretation. It makes me feel like I've got a grip on the state of gaming, like I've fashioned a little grand central station for myself through which all relevant things must pass. And then I randomly stumble on something like the GIA, whose Nile of gaming discourse has been raging past my hub for years with me oblivious all the while. The internet is an infinitely dimensional space, and no matter how much you contort yourself, you can only exist in one of those dimensions: yours.
Anyway, the point of this post (I think) is that the GIA has shut down. They made the announcement in the beginning of April, apparently, and the plug was pulled on the server yesterday. That makes five: Gamecenter, Stomped, Lum The Mad, Quarter to Three, and GIA... Gamespot just announced their subscription content service, Gamespot Complete, and if that doesn't go well quickly, I suspect we'll be eulogizing them next.
I was tempted there for a moment to predict the demise of OMM as well, but it may be that Chet, Eric and crew have discovered the truth: that running a gaming website is a hobby, not a job. Jobs have to pay, and the world doesn't look like it's going to support more than a handful of profitable gaming websites. Everyone else had better reconcile themselves to providing content for their own narcissistic purposes. Update when you can with what you can. God bless PA, though. I'll pay for that.
Providing the yang to this post's yin, though, I'd like to direct your attention to Angry Babies, a nascent site, if you'll pardon the pun, whose contributors look to have their heads on straight. I justify this opinion on nothing more than the fact that they gave Dungeon Siege a harsh review. Not nearly harsh enough, of course, but I'll remedy that myself shortly.
Well, I am. Sort of. I'm always "shopping" for HW upgrades, but rarely actually buying anything. Anyway, I periodically sample the state of graphics cards to see which one I would get if were getting one. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck...
It looks like the Radeon 8500 sits in the sweet spot right now.
The sweet spot is identified by two factors:
The 8500 is going for ~$120, and scores well above the other card in that bracket - the vanilla G3 (~$130). The 8500 nips at the heals of the G4 Ti 4200/4400, which are costing ~$200, and arm wrestles with the G3 Ti 500, which is also ~$200. (Interestingly, the G3 Ti 500 looks to be close to G4 performance on some apps, and well below on others.) Then there's a steep climb in both perf and price to get to the G4 Ti 4600 (>$300), for when you absolutely, positively have to be faster than everyone. :-]
If I was going to drop money on a card now, I'd probably get a Radeon 8500. I've been happy enough with the Radeon DDR vivo that I'd go with another ATI card. Plus, ATI really crams in the features, and if you know you're making a concession and not buying bleeding edge, you still get a "current" feature set. Plus - DX9 is using ATI's pixel shader spec, instead of nVidia's, so your DX9 support might eventually be better (just speculation).
The vanilla G3 is a good card, but I was expecting its price to be lower by now. Since it's still costing as much as an 8500, it's not an option. I'd be more interested in the vanilla G3 if it gets down to ~$75, but it looks like that'll be awhile, and by the time it gets there, the picture will have changed.
Anyway, that's how I'd spend my money if I was spending it today... which I'm not. [sigh]
Here's a decent article from Salon discussing the Blizzard vs. bnetd issue. This thing is shaping up to be a legitimate litmus test for the DMCA. I knew Ross Combs (one of the bnetd leads) casually when I was still at NMSU. He's a nice guy.
Frankly, I've decided that Blizzard can go f*** themselves. Their lawsuit is a ridiculously transparent power play motivated entirely by the inevitable transition of BattleNet to a subscription service. What I don't understand is why Blizzard thinks it can afford to alienate its customer base? Do they think there's some kind of shortage of subscription based games? Are they honestly banking their future on an MMOG?
The most disappointing thing about all of this is that no matter what, Warcraft III and whatever the hell else Blizzard publishes will sell a million copies in its first week of release because the world is full of fanboys. I guess I just answered my own question. Blizzard can afford to rape its own fans because it knows they'll just pull their pants up and buy the collector's edition.
Ordinarily, this kind of behavior makes me boycott a company, and I guess for the record I'll boycott Blizzard, but it's really just a symbolic gesture. After playing Diablo 2, I decided I had probably sampled my last Blizzard game anyway.
In my unyielding effort to clear out the backlog of game reviews that I should've written when I actually played the games, I've written and posted a review of Darkstone. Enjoy.
I just can't stop putting up reviews! Well, to be fair, these most recent two are what I'm calling "quick impressions". That means I didn't finish the game or play it enough to feel comfortable including a full scoring suite, but still had some analysis. That's the case for both Disciples: Sacred Lands (Gold) and Fallout 2.
Now that I finally got a scoring system put together, I've been clearing some of my mental backlog of game reviews. There's Fallout, System Shock 2, Heretic 2, and Rune & Rune: Halls of Valhalla. I put together a full description of my own personal review philosophy, as well, which acts as a guidepost for my reviews.
I should actually be able to get new reviews posted in a consistent fashion. I'm thinking maybe one every several weeks, but it all depends on the games. I'll get through some faster or slower than others, obviously.
Good lord, it took forever to get myself to sit down and crank this thing out, but my Diablo II review is finally online. I tried hard to be objective and not just bitter, and I think I succeeded. I think it's fair.
Quiet yuletide at the Grotto this year, and the gift-giving had a
decidedly hardware-oriented theme. I am now the proud owner of both a belkin nostromo n50 and a thrustmaster dual analog 2.
I haven't used the nostromo yet, but have already had several occasions
to curse windowsXP whilst trying to get the dual analog 2 controller to
function. Seems that microsoft altered things just enough to screw up hardware drivers.
I've been picking up some great games the last few weeks. They're really starting to pile up, so I'm going to roll up my sleeves and get to "work".
There's a recipe floating around the game design kitchen these days, and it goes like this:
Remove details and intricacies in the options and gameplay. (Good candidates are victory conditions, skirmish mode custimizations, co-op play, etc..)
Add 3D! If game is already 3D, add more. If schedule does not permit time for more 3D, remove more gameplay to make room.
When customers gripe about weak gameplay, release screenshots of upcoming sequel.
Examples: AOE I/II becomes Empire Earth. (NOTE: they haven't actually released screenshots of a sequel yet.)
Geez - my web server goes down for a few weeks and all hell breaks loose. Apparently, Lum the Mad is closing. That definately registers on the Suck-O-Meter(tm). And it looks like VoodooExtreme has been treading some choppy waters:
"As I'm sure most of you have already guessed our recent downtime was not the result of�technical difficulties. Due to the recent crash of the dotcoms our financial situation over the last few months has been less than stellar (to say the least). Add to that some really crappy internal problems and you can start to picture why we haven't made any updates in the last few weeks. The good news is that VoodooExtreme will return in the very near future." - Dave "Octane" Morrison, 20010926
Lastly - it looks like Stomped has lost a few of its reporters, for financial reasons.
Again - since I suspect the text to disappear, you can read the full LumtheMad statement in the extended portion of the post.
Brad Wardell (of drengin.net) has some interesting thoughts on multiplayer, and what to do about the fact that most people who play online are assholes. You heard me. Assholes. I know it, you know it. Unfortunately, it's a heck of a lot easier for a developer to program network code than legitimate AI, so more and more we find ourselves shelling out our $50 for the "pleasure" of spending time online with the Legions of anonymous 15 year-old megalomaniacal jerks.
Speaking of anonymous jerks... if you head over to Something Awful, you can sample the vitriol that oozes out of someone when their tolerance for mean, selfish behavior gets breached. I don't blame him one bit. Rock on, brother! (note: since I suspect that his perfectly appropriate verbal gesture is going to get replaced at some point, I'll include the full text in the extended portion of this post.)
I neglected to mention that the UT server is not back online yet. And like everything else, the fact that I have to redo something (in this case the linux UT setup) has caused me to consider doing something different. More on that in a moment. First I want to point out that the installation of a new harddrive for the server seemed like the perfect excuse to learn to use Debian. And so the new server is running debian 2.2. So far so good. I think I could get a lot cozier with it than redhat. We'll see. I also took the liberty of learning how to do source installs of mysql/ssl/php/apache. That was rewarding in a really geeky way, enough so that I can easily envision myself being religious about not using package managers, which is ironic since Debian is the distro that's supposedly got thee best package management system.
Not that anyone but me noticed, but the grotto was offline for close to 3 weeks. Catastrophe was what it was. Yessir. Hard drive died. That took my server offline. Then, my old friend, the viewsonic p815, died. That was a real kick in the teeth. Tragic, really. But all's well that end's well.