Daily Archives: October 2, 2008

Any man can lose his hat in a fairy-wind.

Progress in Warhammer Online continues apace, the game is certainly fairly stable as far as MMOs go, and free enough from coarseness that one can play quite happily without feeling the need to write a stern forum post explaining just how much of an insult the game is to your family, and that the developers might as well come around to your house, poo in the middle of your lounge and attempt to sexually molest your cat, because it would be less offensive to you than trying to play their game. Believe me, such posts have been written in the past and will be written again in the future; I did not write them, but I have witnessed them in all their glory, and like a drunken hobo performing a striptease on the buffet table at a Michelin-starred restaurant, you can feel the awkward silence and embarrassed tension building to a crescendo, even in such a wasteland of emotional expression as a text-based forum.

Of all the minor inevitable niggles that are prominent in my day-to-day gaming, there is one that particularly grates with me. Its importance in the grand scheme of things is so minute that it wouldn’t bother me at all, except for the fact that it exists, and in existing it should not be, because how on earth do you implement such a minor vanity thing and then not have it work? The mind boggles.

“Oh but my dear, dear, dear, dear, dear Lord Melmoth”, I hear you cry, “with it being such a minor vanity item the developers obviously had more important things to fix before release”. A fair point, to which I would feel compelled to respond “But my right honourable, lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely darlings, why put the thing in at all when it simply doesn’t work, why not just leave it out?”. And I imagine you would then say “Oh Melmoth, run away with me and let us find a small quiet village in the highlands where we can settle down, start a family together, grow alfalfa and raise rabbits”. Maybe.

A slight derailing of the thought train there. Um… niggles! Right. So this niggle is quite simple, doesn’t affect anything important in the game unless you’re me, in which case it’s more important than working out whether using blocks of cheese as dipping items for a cheese fondue is considered bad form. Simply put: turning the display of your helmet on and off doesn’t work.

No wait, come back, this is important! We’ll do the cheese fondue thing next, I promise!

Look, it may just be me (no ‘may’ about it — Ed.), but why put something like this in to the game when it’s fundamentally broken? Yes, you can turn the display of your helmet off – this is important for me because I find the bald spot on my dwarf to be an excellent reflective surface off of which I can bounce sunlight into the eyes of my foes – but it is reset, well, in every situation imaginable. Going into a scenario? Helmet resets and is displaying again once you’ve entered. Coming out of a scenario? Helmet resets. Going into an instanced building? Reset. Coming out the building. Reset. Standing around scratching your bum? Reset. Setting your helmet to not be displayed? Reset.

Ok, probably not the last one, but it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s not the fact that it’s broken, so much, as the fact that someone went to all the trouble of writing the code to get this to do something close to what it was meant to do, and then, what? I mean, they must have seen that the state reverts between world instances, was that really such a terribly time-constrained problem to solve considering they’d had the time to invest in implementing the basic feature in the first place?

“Well Stan, I’ve stuck in the code to turn off the display of helmets, but it doesn’t work in any but the most specific and useless cases, unfortunately they keep re-appearing.”

“Great! Call it a feature! We’ll call them Magic Appearing Helmets. Of Greatness. Plus One. In fact, get marketing to stick it in as a unique item for the Collector’s Edition.”

“Uh, but it’ll happen for everyone.”

“No problem, we’ll just say that we’ve decided to be generous and give magic hats to all. The peasants will love us!”

“The CEO said we weren’t to call them peasants any more, Stan.”

“Oh ok, the plebs.”




“Skinner box rats with a line of credit?”

“Jesus, Stan, I’m out of here.”

“What about the magic helmets?”

“Forget it. I think I’ll go and half-implement the mail box system or something”.

The Distant Future, The Year 2000

All WAR and no carjacking make Jack a dull sociopath, as the old saying goes. Actually, on reflection, additional carjacking doesn’t really help there, it just exacerbates the problem if anything. Old sayings, huh? What are they good for? Anyway, splendid as Warhammer is, and much as I’m still enjoying it, I’m not so mono-game-ous that my head isn’t turned by forthcoming releases swanking down the street in their brightly coloured zoot suits, snapping their fingers to the crazy jazz sounds coming from the coffee houses where love is frothy and milk is free.

The prospect of a Blogospheric outing to the Eurogamer Expo and recent Rock, Paper, Shotgun and PC Gamer podcasts have unleashed a veritable maelstrom of gaming possibility, so I’m going to peer into the far distant future starting with the time known as “the end of the month”, when flying cars and jetpacks will surely be commonplace, then going further still into what futurologists are calling “early 2009”, when surely there will be no more mistreatment of elephants (possibly because there will be no elephants). From these crazy distant times, a quick rundown of Games What I’m Looking Forward To In The Distant Future Approximately Ordered By Chronological Release Date That Coincidentally Happens To Be Order Of Sequel-osity Too, or GWILFTITDFAOBCRDTCHTBOOST as I’ll never refer to it in the future:

Kicking off with something wildly original, not at all sequel-y and apparently coming Soon, World of Goo. Despite Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s lukewarm reception of this, I might pick it up anyway. I haven’t tried any WiiWare yet, and this looks like rather a good place to start, though there’s a suggestion that the European Wii release will be as a retail box instead, I can’t seem to find any concrete details one way or the other.

Having enjoyed the original Far Cry (especially before the Trigens) and Crysis (especially before the aliens), I’m looking forward to trying Far Cry 2 at the Eurogamer Expo. Though if you start encountering robo-gazelles and cyborg hippos about halfway through, it might be slightly annoying. Or possibly brilliant.

Stepping up the sequel count, Fallout 3, due at the end of October and also displaying at the Expo. Now I may be about to commit heresy but… I never played Fallout, and couldn’t get into Fallout 2. After reading widespread adulation for the series, I picked up Fallout 2 cheap a few years after its release, got killed a lot in early combat, and gave up on it. As a result I don’t have a particular attachment to the setting, but I liked the Elder Scroll series (even if I’d run out of motivation for the main plots about halfway through), and I think the first person style could work well in a post-apocalyptic setting.

Up to the Fourquels, I’d missed that Grand Theft Auto IV has got an offical PC release date of November 21st, so huzzah! for that, though it does look like it might clash with the fourth Guitar Hero game, Guitar Hero World Tour (now with extra drums and vocals). Rockstar game vs rock star impersonation game, which to play first?

Finally, out to 2009: Empire: Total War, the fifth in the series. All the fun of the previous games, but more muskets, ships, rakes and gentlemen. What’s not to like? Though Medieval 2 was good, it did tend to bog down into an awful lot of sieges that weren’t really as fun as open battles, so a bit more gunpowder should help there. The 1700 – 1800 time period also just overlaps with the latter parts of Neal Stephenson’s peerless Baroque Cycle, a fine excuse to go back and re-read that (also reminds me that his latest, Anathem, is just out, must keep an eye out for the paperback release).

On top of all those, City of Heroes Issue 13 is due before too long, with Issue 14 hopefully in early 2009, and I’ve still got a bunch of games on the “must get around to sometime” list, headed up by Call of Duty 4, STALKER: Clear Skies (sounds like recent patches have fixed some pretty major bugs in that, so it’s not just MMOs that benefit from the three month rule) and the “Enhanced” edition of The Witcher. There’s just not enough hours in our day…