Tuesday 30 October 2007

She's got that dark rhythm in her soul

I have a bit of a fondness for rhythm games. It started at the Game On exhibition five years ago, where they had a couple of dance pads hooked up to a PlayStation version of Dance Dance Revolution. I'd never seen it in arcades (having stopped frequenting them sometime around the Teenage Mutant NinjaHero Turtles game), so this strange and mysterious concept of stepping on arrows in time (well, vaguely in time) with music was rather interesting. A group of us picked up the game and a couple of pads, which was good for a giggle, but no good for non-console-owning me, until a bit of Googling turned up Stepmania and a PlayStation-to-USB connector.

Stepmania also had a huge advantage over the PlayStation game in that you could download extra songs, rather than be stuck with the fairly small collection of not-entirely-rubbish tunes on the official version. My personal favourites were the classic rock n' roll songs (Johnny B. Goode, Surfin' USA etc.), which bizarrely seemed to come from "DDR: Disney's Rave". As games go, it's not a bad workout either, which is no bad thing for me.

Then there was Guitar Hero and its open source PC equivalent, Frets on Fire, as I posted about a few times, basically the same thing only pushing buttons on a plastic guitar instead of stepping on a mat but very much more my style of music (I can't believe the scarcity of user-made thrash metal songs in Stepmania) , and I'm eagerly awaiting the third instalment of that for the Wii (and slightly miffed that it's already out in America). Rayman Raving Rabbids on the Wii also has a nunchuck-shaking rhythm game which is rather fun (and has the bonus of weird dancing mutant bunny things). As a result of all those (and general laziness), my dance pad's been folded up in the corner of the room for a while, but I may have to dust it off after spotting Dance! Online (follow that link to sign up with me as your referrer for... er... I dunno, really, but still) over at RandomBattle. I thought after the 600Mb-ish initial download I might be shaking my groove thang (as I rather believe they say on the street), but it turns out it wants to patch itself up with another couple of billion files, so looks like it'll have to wait 'til tomorrow before I strut my funky stuff (man).

Friday 26 October 2007

Curiously Orange

It seems like the entire rest of the PC gaming world has been swept up by The Orange Box, and after a brief attempt (mostly during the installation process while trying to remember previous Steam login details) to be the cool hipster, swimming against the tide and not liking the popular thing, the current caught me and pried loose my tenuous grasp on an upturned tree-root of curmudgeonliness, dashing me against the jagged rocks of really-quite-goodness... erm... quick, someone throw a lifebelt to get me out of this increasingly strange aquatic metaphor...

Anyway. It says something about a software compilation when the least exciting bit of it turns out to be the multi-award-winning game-of-the-year/decade/century/millenium/aeon/last-five-minutes Half Life 2 and its two expansions. I've worked through a bit more of the original game, but it's vying with Red Steel for "FPS that I'll probably get around to again sometime, maybe, if there's nothing else really". Then there's Portal. I'm rationing myself, as the two things that everyone seems to agree on is that it's a sublime work of genius, and also short. Actually it's probably only the latter that *everyone* agrees on, so I'm not too far in yet (or possibly really near the end, depending on just how short it is). Reduced to component parts, it's a standard WASD first person game with hints of The Incredible Machine, some crazy gravity/physics like Prey, and the dropping-stuff-on-a-pressure-pad-to-keep-a-door-open-centric gameplay of Eye of the Beholder (and probably about a billion other places, but that's the one that sticks in the mind), but, like a shot of espresso, caramel syrup and a bunch of ice cubes, when blended together they become this new and exciting thing that surpasses the individual elements. Unless you're one of those coffee nuts who go crazy for perfect espresso, in which case you're watering down the good stuff and turning it into some undrinkable sludge, for heaven's sake, you probably didn't even hand-grind your own hand-roasted beans you hand-picked; if that's the case, you can hand-craft your own metaphor here. Finally (if not counting Peggle, which is... Peggle! Mental note: must try running City of Heroes and Peggle in adjacent windows, that could liven up trick-or-treating) there's Team Fortress 2. I never played the original Team Fortress, and TF2 didn't immediately seem to offer much over any number of other team-based online shooters, most recently Unreal Tournament 3 and Quake Wars: Enemy Territory which are both with Hellgate: London on my "rather enjoyed the demo but there's just too many darn games around to justify buying the full thing at moment" list. The cartoon graphics didn't really do much for me, but hey, it was in The Orange Box, and Melmoth was online and fired up about it (side note: Incredibles MMOG, top idea!), might as well give it a go...

Initial impressions weren't great. Picking a Heavy as a fairly simple-looking (in all senses) chap, death came frequently from all sides (snipers half a mile away, a spy right behind you, any number of other exploding and/or projectile based assaults), and nobody was obliging enough to stand still so I could shoot them back. Flipping around a few classes led to similar results, with varying levels of ineffectiveness in attack with whatever peashooter I'd been handed compared to the clearly superior lethal instruments everyone else had been issued with. Not a great start.

The first breakthrough was the Pyro. This class eschews nonsense like "aiming" in favour of getting really close to people and setting them on fire. Of course there can be a great amount of skill in playing a Pyro well, lurking in ambush points, carefully setting up short range attacks on unsuspecting opponents... or! You can exhibit a total lack of self-preservation, and hurl yourself towards the enemy screaming "Mmmmmmf mmmm mmmmmph mmmm mmmmmm mmmmmff!" (your mask slightly muffles your speech, see). You'll still die, but with a bit of luck you might set a few of them on fire in the process, possibly even fatally. Playing the Pyro for a while, I got a bit more into the swing of things, started figuring out what was going on a bit, learning the maps. I flipped through the classes some more; playing a Sniper had two possible outcomes. If the rest of my team were dominating, I could get set up somewhere, usually next to a couple of other snipers, and ruthlessly pick off the enemy as soon as they stuck their heads into the open. I got my all-time kill record that way, but felt terribly guilty about butchering poor unfortunates who barely had a chance to fight back. If the teams are balanced, snipers usually get into a cat-and-mouse, Enemy at the Gates-esque duel, where one of them gets a helmet on a stick and pokes it up out of their hiding place, and the other one calculates the angles involved and ricochets a bullet off the inside of the helmet to take them out, and in those circumstances I'm usually slightly slower on the trigger... I'll have them all but in my sights, finger poised, butPOW! Dead again. The Scout is fun, speeding around the place with a baseball bat; Soldiers and Demomen are OK. I must try the Engineer again now I have a bit more of an idea what's going on; as a Spy, when in diguise I seem to be carrying around a giant placard labelled "HELLO! I MAY APPEAR TO BE ON YOUR TEAM, BUT I'M NOT REALLY! SHOOT MEH!" Either that, or with no friendly fire, everyone shoots everyone... I suspect it's option B, actually. I know I do.

The one class I didn't play at all was the Medic. I've done my rants about support classes, blah blah blah, I want to shoot things, yada yada. Then, last night, after being counter-sniped for the umpteenth time on the 2Forts map, I was trying to decide what class to switch to, and thought... why not. Just to prove I'll hate it. Just the once, I'll play the medic. Finding a nearby Soldier I fired up the old healing beam, and off we went, storming up the map, pushing past a chokepoint in a hail of explosions. It wasn't too bad after all... After dying, I figured I'd give it another shot, latched on to a Heavy, lasted long enough to get the Ubercharge off for a few seconds of invincibility, and somewhere along the line our team grabbed the intelligence, I managed to heal the capturing scout a bit before he vanished. It's not as if there's any hanging around, carefully assessing team-mate's health and deciding which powers to use, it's slap on the healing gun and try and keep up with whatever nutter you're following, while maintaining situational awareness so you're not in the line of fire, and keeping an eye for bastard spies who are usually your nemesis. It's not all jam and sardines (even aside from the aforementioned spies); you need to find someone to be healing to start with, which can occasionally be tricky (until your team notice someone's playing the doc, at which point you'll hear nothing but "MEDIIIIC!" for the next month or so), and while your healing beam can turn a good player into an awesome dispenser of death, it turns rubbish players into rubbish players who survive ever so slightly longer before pointlessly dying (I'm more the latter than the former myself with a gun, but still). I'm not going to exclusively be a Medic in every TF2 game ever, but if nobody else is playing one (quite probable, judging from the random public servers I've been hopping around so far), I'll give it a lash.

The whole style of the game has really grown on me too, the cartoonish graphics, the magnificently over-the-top accents. It just lightens things up a little; most online shooters take themselves pretty seriously, even the latest incarnation of Unreal Tournament seems to have toned down it's bright shiny colours into drab dystopian-future industrial landscapes, everyone's terribly grim faced. They're a SERIOUS BUSINESS! Team Fortress 2 emphasises the fun, and is all the better for it.

The ticking of the clocks

I'm still flailing away in a vast sea of games; quite literally, in the case of Rayman Raving Rabbids. Its peculiar sense of humour and simple but varied range of mini-games are strangely compelling, plus I get to kid myself that furiously waggling Wii controllers is an efficient cardio-vascular upper-body exercise. I know, like in Wii Sports, small, quick movements give the same (if not greater) accelerometer results as huge, sweeping swings, but that's not the point is it? If you're going to play motion sensitive baseball, you might as well launch yourself into a ludicrously exaggerated spin while pretending to hit a virtual ball.

In MMOGland, City of Heroes trick-or-treating continues apace. Well, I say "apace", it's quite a slow pace. Standing entirely still, actually. My main badge-gathering hero has most of the previous Halloween event badges for killing assorted witches, werewolves, giant pumpkin-things, ghosts, zombies, people with really cheap plastic tridents and pointy teeth who can't make up their mind if they're a demon or vampire and surly teenagers in casual clothes who might stick a plastic mask on if they're really making an effort before demanding stuff. Something like that, at least... I've also got extra costume slots from the event salvage, which I think just leaves the three new badges they added this year, for collecting costumes. In the cold light of efficiency metrics the best way to get these is to stand in front of the same door (you could move around, but there wouldn't be much point), and click on it once every 60 seconds in the hope of getting appropriate treats. This isn't the most scintillating activity ever devised, but I just love those badges... On the plus side, the hectic one-click-per-minute (with occasional blasting of spooky villainy) action affords ample time for reading, watching television, chatting, or anything else you can squeeze into roughly-57 second chunks. It's also proven me entirely wrong in predicting that I'd never use the stopwatch feature of the G15 keyboard.

Mostly, though, I've succumbed to the delights of The Orange Box, which I think deserves a post of its own...

Monday 22 October 2007

More games to play

Games! So many games, oh my.

First up, The Orange Box turned up last Friday. This is a perfect compilation for me; I got Half-Life 2 with an ATI 9600XT graphics card a while back; at least, I got a voucher for it. Then it got delayed for a while, as I recall, and by the time it actually came out, the system only just supported it. I played through a bit, but was mid-CoH and/or WoW, so never quite finished it, and never got around to re-installing Steam on subsequent builds for that or Episode 1, so to get them in a box along with Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal and (of course) Peggle Extreme? Sorted! In theory, I could gift Half-Life 2 itself to someone else, but only if I could remember those original Steam account details, and though I'm fairly sure I remember the address I used I got bored five minutes after clicking "send my account details/password" and created a new account.

First priority on installation, naturally, was a quick game of Peggle... which took care of Friday. I've restarted Half-Life 2, with a view to finishing that before going on to Episodes 1 and 2, haven't even fired up TF2, and then, of course, there's Portal...

Friday evening, we had friends round, when once again the Wii came into its own, allowing a veteran hardcore gamer and total non-gamer to duke it out in Wii tennis on a level playing field. I think the hotly contested match wound up at one set apiece, after a couple of epic games that stayed at deuce for ages... The hardcore gamer had already finished Portal on Steam, and spoke of it so highly we had to have a go at the first couple of levels right then, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of it. Inspired by the multiplayer Wii fun, and a handily placed newspaper advert for game discounts at Argos, I then went and picked up Rayman Raving Rabbids (utterly insane game, lots of fun) and Red Steel (seems like a fairly average shooter, but uses the Wii controls well). Oh, and stuck a pre-order in for Guitar Hero 3 while in town.

Then! there's the Hellgate: London demo, I had to give that a try, and I rather liked it. Hard to make much of an assessment from such a short time, but it was a lot of zombie-splatting fun, with extra loot. Where Tabula Rasa puts a little bit of shooter electroplating on an MMOG, but is really quite conventional at heart, Hellgate seems first and foremost a first person shooter (for the Marksman class, third person stabber if you're a Blademaster) with a MMOGy veneer of levels, skill trees and loot aplenty. Didn't really like the Blademaster, but I've never been much into 3rd person games, I much preferred packing a pair of pistols as a Marksman. The real classics of the FPS/RPG hybrid (Deus Ex, System Shock 1/2) stood out for their powerful story, but I could easily see myself being drawn into a not-quite-so strong story for more piles of random loot... The post-apocalyptic/alien/zombie London setting looks quite fun too. If not for the huge pile of other stuff I'm building up I'd certainly pick it up; as it is, I might leave it a while. Probably wouldn't go for the subscription as well, though, I think I'd be happy enough without those extra features (though the extra storage would be a huge temptation for my pack-rat-ism).

Finally, like that little lot isn't enough to keep me busy for the next six months, it's Trick-or-Treat time in City of Heroes, with an event almost identical to the last couple of years, only now with added mob-group costumes which are rather neat (and just as importantly, have associated badges) and our villain posse wrapped up the first strike force, despatching Bat'Zul to whatever pit he came from without too much trouble (though with three Shivans, which certainly helped). Phew!

Wednesday 17 October 2007

The sound of the keys as they clink

Back in the world of hand-held gadgets, Nokia announced the N810, and it's looking really rather nifty. All the WiFi/Bluetooth/open source goodness of the N800 in a more compact (and better looking) package, with added sliding keyboard and GPS. The N810's single miniSD slot is a slight step back from the N800s two regular SD slots (I've got a bunch of regular SD cards kicking around already), but not the end of the world.

Course, just to keep life complicated, Steve Jobs also announced an iPhone/iPod Touch SDK, so they can finally get proper 3rd party applications without going through the "jailbreak" rigmarole. That's not coming until February 2008, though; maybe the next generation or two of Apple tablets will finally nail my perfect hand-held.

In the meantime, about the only potential sticking point left for the N810 is the price. The N800 managed to turn a US price of $380 to nearly £300; the N810's been announced at $480, heaven knows what that'll work out to in the UK. Under £300 I'll go for it, more than £350 is pushing it, between the two... Well, let's see...

Tuesday 16 October 2007

When the time is right to strike

Our villainous posse had a good old crack at the first City of Villains Strike Force last night, kicking arse and taking names (only having lost our notepads, and chewed the ends of our biros so all the ink leaked everywhere). My previous fevered ramblings seemed to act as a kind of catharsis, and I managed to keep the AoE attacks down to a sensible level. I spent a while preparing, buying up cheap, unpopular, high level invention recipes and selling them on to make a bit of infamy (I could've just transferred some from a higher level villain, but that would be a rather un-villainous act of charity), and picked up a couple of invention sets with handy bonuses like +Recovery, and an assortment of other Single, Dual and Invention Origin enhancements to beef up my powers, particularly the recharge rates on the Kinetic buff/debuffs. This was a great help in reducing the temptation to let fly with every attack, almost removing the downtime while waiting for something useful to recharge, when a wandering Corruptor's thoughts could all-too-easily turn to FROST BREATH! ICE STORM! FREEZING AoE DOOOOOM, MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!1!

I wasn't the lone support-type this time either (though "support" is a somewhat relative term in CoV, where the archetypes tend to be more DPS-who-can-hide, DPS-that's-slightly-less-squishy, DPS-with-a-bit-of-support, DPS-with-holds and DPS-through-pets), with Bob's Dark/Dark Corruptor dishing out the... dark. Dark Miasma, like Kinetics, has a heal that needs to hit a target, so if one of us missed, the other would usually land (though naturally when really, *really* needed, they'd both miss, demonstrating Murphy's law laughs in the face of cumulative probabilities). Between our fearsome powers of hero-smiting, and the occasionally slightly more circumspect technique of getting an invisible person to find the boss we needed to defeat and teleporting the rest of the group there, nothing could stand in our way... except Real Life(tm). When it comes to stopping evildoing, The Assembled Crimefighting League Of Avenging Justice have nothing on having to get up for work the next day, so we didn't quite get to defeat Bat'Zul himself. Next week, Bat'Zul, next week! (So long as no more important commitments take priority, that is...)

Thursday 11 October 2007

I need something to support me

A little while back, there was an interesting post on Keen & Graev's splendid blog, "Why do players prefer a DPS role?". As I said in the comments at the time, it's not so much DPS that I like, it's "enemy focused combat" (as inspired by the episode of People Like Us that goes into the difference between "pupil centred teaching" and "teacher centred learning"). I hate hanging around, seeing what happens, reacting appropriately...

Perhaps it's something ingrained from years of single player gaming prior to getting into MMOs, where the idea of a "support role" doesn't really exist, it's just you, and a whole bunch o' the enemy (or some pegs, if you're playing Peggle). The only way to play is to focus on the enemy (usually in order to inflict large amounts of damage somehow). Starting with City of Heroes as my first MMO meant I didn't get exposed to the "holy trinity" of mandatory tank/healer/DPS. Almost any combination of classes worked together; instead of a healer, you could bring along a force-field defender to throw up a shield so you didn't get hit in the first place; instead of a tank taunting and soaking up damage, you could have a controller holding and immobilising mobs to stop them getting near you. It's like they didn't *quite* trust themselves to break away completely, though, so you still had tanks (you can tell, 'cos the archetype is called "Tanker"), and you still had healers. Sort of. You actually have "Empathy defenders", whose initial powers are heals, but they also get a bunch of nifty buffs later, and a whole secondary powerset of attacks.

Anyway, after trying a few different characters, I never really liked the ones who helped out fellow heroes, or stood around getting punched a lot. Raining flaming death upon all and sundry? Much more like it, so I continued down the "never mind the team-mates, here's a fireball" path, and again into World of Warcraft with a Rogue (though more swords than fireballs in that case). I'm not sure if I went with those classes as they suit the way I play, or after playing those classes my playstyle has adapted to suit them (nature vs nurture, hmm...) Whatever it is, I've tried to diversify into support characters now and again, most recently with an Ice/Kinetics Corruptor in City of Villains. Corruptors have access to a set of ranged attacks (Ice, in this case), and a support powerset; Kinetics is quite interesting, generally debuffing an opponent to buff your team, so there's a power that slows a mob while boosting your own speed etc.

The first challenge to the support-mindset is, every two levels, you get to pick a new power. So at level 16, I'm sitting there, looking at what I can select... I should really be picking pre-requisite powers that will lead up to Stamina, as the endurance boost it gives makes life so much easier, but they're so terribly dull. I could pick Increase Density, a way of freeing allies from holds, very useful in teams, excellent support power. Or I could take Ice Storm, SHOWERING FROZEN DOOM UPON MY FOES, MUAHAHAHA! Guess which I took?

So then we're off on a jail break, me, a Brute and a Stalker. The Brute and Stalker are DPS archetypes, their raison d'etre is DPS. The most efficient course of action is for me to support them doing this damage, buff their damage output, heal them, generally be supportive. And I try. Honestly, I do try, I check they're standing near, fire off the damage buff, check their health bars, they're looking OK... pom de pom... damage buff recharging... tum te tum... single target ice blast to finish off the Brute's target... health bars still OK... what harm could be done by a quick FROST BREATH! ICE STORM! FREEZING AoE DOOOOOM, MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!1!

The answer is, of course, "plenty". And not just to the mobs, who (quite unreasonably, in my view) take a dim view of their frosty assault, and start hitting poor, squishy me, causing desperate popping of inspirations and flailing for the heal (which needs to hit a mob to take effect, fortunately doing so in this case).

Next lot of mobs... well, it's pretty similar. I know AoE attacks aren't a particularly bright idea, but there's all those guards, standing so close together, just a tiny little attack, sure n' they won't even notice, ah go on, just a quick FROST BREATH! ICE STORM! FREEZING AoE DOOOOOM, MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!1!

They do notice. And kill me (again, really quite an overreaction, if you ask me). After finishing them off, a team-mate passes over an Awaken inspiration so I can resurrect and carry on. And I really have learned by lesson now, no more ill-judged AoEs, certainly not! This resolve lasts a good couple of minutes, then the temptation just gets too much, and it's FROST BREATH! ICE STORM! FREEZING AoE DOOOOOM, MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!1!

It's not so much I feel I have to be doing damage, if I was a Dominator I'd be happy lofting holds at anything that moved. It's not entirely a "DPS" thing, it's more I need to be doing something, and while the buff/debuffs are recharging, attacking is all that's left. Yes, I have the attention span of a gnat, and not even a particularly attentHAI WHAT'S THAT OVER THERE??, though once again, m'lud, I blame society. Or games with a focus on MOVE! JUMP! SHOOT! RUN! TWITCH! Inaction is DEATH! CLICK! CLICK FOR YOUR LIFE!, reinforced by playing MMOs that same way as DPS-types. It's not that I can't spend hours contemplating minor adjustments to the tax rates of all my cities in Medieval: Total War, or carefully equipping a squad in UFO: Alien Invasion (a nifty open source XCom-alike I was playing last night); I was just whining about needing a pause option in RTS games, after all. MMOs have just got wired into the "twitch" part of my brain.

There were a few other challenges in the mission, like annoying enemy group proxomitiy that meant chasing a final mob from one group tended to aggro another, and Longbow flamethrowers, flaming AoE attacks being particularly damaging when we're all clustered together for my buffs to take effect, but we did make it through in the end (albeit losing 2 of the 3 NPCs we were supposed to rescue on the way, but hey, who cares about NPCs?). There were a few deaths, but fortunately my itchy trigger-finger (or icy-palm, or whatever is used to launch cold attacks) mostly just to lead to my own doom, except in a couple of cases where the lack of support from my twitching corpse led to the whole team getting overwhelmed.

I don't know if there's a cure. I suppose I could take my AoE attacks off the power bar, so I can't use them. Some sort of self-help hypnosis tape, involving taking deep breaths, perhaps... "Apply buffs, now breathe in... hold... 3, 4, 5... and out. And relax, while not launching attacks." Maybe there's a patch, or a chewing gum? "Feel like launching an AoE attack? Just chew a stick of IcyFresh gum! That same cool hit, but with no aggro drawn!" Or I could wire up the attack keys to a battery... FROST BRzzzzzzzzapOW! Aversion therapy, that ought to do it. Or! I could just be so poor that my team-mates get exasperated, roll a support character themselves, and play it properly. Decisions, decisions...

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Wii pointed out the way to go

I'd vaguely seen a few gadget-blog headlines around about using a Wii remote to control PC applications, but not paid too much attention. Then, you know how it goes, you're sitting around one evening with a USB bluetooth dongle, a Wii remote, a pot of marmalade and half a sliced loaf, and you think to yourself... "I really fancy some toast and marmalade. Oh, and I wonder how easy it is to actually get the Wii remote recognised by the PC."

Turns out, it's a piece of cake (getting the Wiimote working, that is. The toast and marmalade isn't a piece of cake, that would be weird. Unless you'd made bread and butter pudding with it, or something, but then that's more pudding than cake, surely?) Just follow this handy guide (though it seems to be in reverse order, start with 9 and work back), and the splendid WiinRemote and/or GlovePIE can translate your frantic waggling into PC input! I couldn't be bothered to drag the sensor bar over (or light a couple of candles on top of the PC monitor, despite that clearly being a flawless plan) so didn't try the IR sensor/pointer, but the motion sensors and nunchuck joystick certainly worked.

If you have a PC connected to a television, the Wii remote could be a handy wireless pointer, and it might be interesting trying PC games with it, but what really prompted me to give it a try was the closer-looming release of Guitar Hero 3 for the Wii (or the further-away-looming release for us Europeans, as various online stores release predictions move from the end of October to early, mid and/or late November). As the Wii remote slots into the guitar, hopefully the inputs can be picked up for Frets on Fire, for extra rocking-type fun! (I tried Frets on Fire a while back, after having to hand back Guitar Hero, but it turns out it's far easier to believe yourself to be the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix when standing, legs akimbo, pressing buttons on a small plastic guitar than sitting at a PC pressing F1-F5 on a keyboard...)

Monday 8 October 2007

... of Heroes

I had a fairly quiet weekend for once, so managed to get in a bit of gaming (between rugby world cup quarter finals). I'd picked up Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts when it was released, and finished off the German Market Garden campaign last night. Generally it was fun, though it did seem to be monstrously unfair attacking paratroops in Arnhem (heaviest armament: a PIAT, the anti-tank equivalent of launching baked bean tins with a spring) with massed armour. Accurate, perhaps, but not terribly sporting... Next up, the British campaign to take Caen, when at least I shouldn't feel quite so guilty about completing mission objectives. I also got to use the programmable-key functions of the G15 keyboard, even if it was only to put the pause key in a more convenient place for the left hand.

As widely reported there was a stress test for Pirates of the Burning Sea, covered by an NDA, but I would imagine such a test would prominently feature overcrowding, queues, collapsing servers and/or more lag than you experience on a Monday morning before drinking a lot of coffee (or is it just me who misses when trying to put a foot into a trouser leg, falls over backwards onto the bed and shouts "LAAAGGGG!"?) 'Cos, y'know, that's rather the point of a stress test. Still, I'm sure a bunch of people took the opportunity to have a bit of a peak, so it'll be interesting to see how that's going once the NDA is lifted.

I did actually get a bit of MMOGing in, in City of Heroes (just to keep up the theme of playing three word games, the second two being "of Heroes" and the first beginning with "C". Look out for Cheese of Heroes in the shops soon, unless Crinkle-cut Crisps of Heroes gets released first...) There's lots of shiny looking stuff coming in Issue 11, notably time-travelling to go back to content you have have missed, and weapon customisation. For a game with such amazing costume options, it's always been slightly ironic that everyone got issued the exact same katana/axe/so-called "assault rifle" that really resembles a super-soaker water pistol on Day 1 of hero school, and has never bothered changing it. Digging around my list of characters there was a distinct lack of weapon-wielders (not to worry, I'll doubtless roll up somebody with the new dual blade powerset in Issue 11), though I did turn up a Claws Scrapper in his mid-20s, and had some fun slicing up some villainy in preparation for slicing up more villainy, with slightly different slicing-things.

Finally the ever-splendid Rock, Paper, Shotgun had a link to a demo of Escape from Paradise City. I set off the download, then promptly forgot all about it until last thing last night, hastily installed it, and played for all of a couple of minutes, but it has me intrigued with the suggestion of Syndicate-meets-GTA-meets-XCom-meets-Baldur's Gate and Freedom Force and... stuff!

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Time! Got the time tick, tick, tickin' in my head.

Time, that fickle mistress, sometimes smothering you like giant flannel, other times flitting out of reach like an escaped pet hamster with a jet pack. Currently I'm experiencing the latter (lack of time, that is, not an escapee hamster with a jet pack, I don't think rodent technology has progressed that far). Not much time for playing, still less time for blogging, though that itself prompted this post... Time is money, as they say, and as another round of "RMT: alternative payment model, or satanic abomination from the lower reaches of Beelzebub's pit?" sweeps the blag-u-spore, I say to you this: a man doth have two sons, and to one son he gives land and geese and sugar and socks, and to the other he doth give but a tangled slinky... no, wait, wrong parable.

A man doth have two sons, and one son toils for forty hours in Lord of the Warquest to gather the materials he requires and creates a Helm Of Teh Uber. The other son toils for forty hours in a small newsagent or shoe shop, and with ten dollars from his paycheck he buys a Helm of the Uber. Which of these brothers truly earned his helm, hmm? Ahhhhhh! For bonus points, would any of the following affect the answer:
i) Buying items for real currency is forbidden in the EULA of Lord of the Warquest
ii) Items can be bought with real currency from the publishers of Lord of the Warquest
iii) The gathering of materials for the helm in-game is a long, involving quest sequence featuring much travel and fierce battles
iv) The gathering of materials for the helm in-game is a tedious, repetitive business that could be performed by a 'bot with five lines of BASIC programming (10 RUN UP TO MOB 20 KILL MOB 30 LOOT MOB 40 PRINT "LOLOLLOL" 50 GOTO 10), if such things weren't forbidden in the EULA