Midianian's Blog / Tags / “games”
August 12, 2009, 03:36 AM
Well, I was somewhat right about my musical taste being incompatible with Audiosurf, with the majority being either constant uphill (slow and boring) or downhill (fast with no room for strategy). Some, however, produced a more interesting ride.
I initially though the different "characters" were too similar, but after playing I've found that they require rather different approaches. I usually played with Vegas (for ease of recovering from screw ups) or Pro Pointman (for the advantage it gives when you have time to plan).
There are several minor issues with the game; it takes a long time to load and quit, there's no way to change key bindings, the only way you can find out that there are keyboard alternatives to "left click" and "right click" are through the hints...
Then there's the user interface. It looks like some sort of combination of a normal game interface and a fancy desktop app (you know, the skinnable type).
last.fm support is definitely a plus, as is ogg vorbis support (the majority of my music files are oggs).
The best use for Audiosurf I've found is as a visual and low-level mental distraction while listening to audio books. For this purpose, it Rocks!, but as a game it's pretty Meh.
The absolute, autonomous, freewheeling, grassroots, nonaligned, nonpartisan, sovereign, unconstrained, uncontrolled, unregimented games packAugust 9, 2009, 01:43 AM
Damn Steam and their sales. Again they managed to get me to buy a pack of games. From the ten, I already owned The Path (through Steam) and Braid (through Impulse). Interestingly, for Braid it recognized that I had completed the game (normal and speed run) and gave all the achievements. I'm not sure, but I think this is the only game on Steam where I do have all of them.
I already completed Blueberry Garden (took an hour), and played about half (I think) of Crayon Physics Deluxe and World of Goo. Everyday Shooter was rather interesting, though difficult. I'd say Audiosurf is somewhat incompatible with my musical taste, but I have to admit that including last.fm support was more than I expected. Mr. Robot seemed quite horrible, but I'll have to play some more to form a proper opinion. I had played Gish's and Darwinia's demos earlier, so I didn't play them yet.
August 5, 2009, 11:22 PM
The following is an e-mail I sent to Gabe Newell about HL2 some time ago (he keeps asking for it in the commentaries). No response has been forthcoming, which means he has been blinded by my genious and cannot use e-mail at the moment. This is as close as I'll get to reviewing them.
2009-09-20: I was right. He was blinded by my genius, and as such, forwarded my mail to Marc Laidlaw, who took two months to comprehend my genius before he could manage a short, awestruck reply.
Some time ago I bought the Orange Box from Steam when it was on sale. I liked Portal and TF2 but I don't have much to say about them (other than that they rock), so I'll comment on Half Life 2 and its episodes.
First, notes about all the games.
My main problem with Half Life 2 and the episodes is that they're extremely linear. It could've been anyone else playing the game, and pretty much the only differences would be in the amount of ammo and health at different points in the game. Sometimes it's possible to make the killing more efficent (most often by using physics) and sometimes it's possible to choose between different tactics when advancing, but a large part of the time it's impossible to do either.
There are several types of non-linearity, but this game has effectively none of them. There's story non-linearity, which is generally a bad idea (though great for replayability if done right). There's spatial non-linearity, which most of the time is a basic necessity in order not to feel like walking in a tube. Most of the time it also gives you more tactical choices. There's a little of this, but not much. Most of the time there's only one way to go forward, and it's a usually just a corridor, meaning that your chices are to go by the left side, right side, or the middle. Not much of a choice. Then there's non-linearity in problem solving. This is what I'd most want. I realize the game's a shooter, but sometimes it'd be interesting to get the possibility of bypassing combat by solving a puzzle, or finding an alternate route.
By making sure that most players get the same experience, you also pretty much guarantee that every playthrough is the same. While the pretty good AI does make things a bit more interesting, most of the time it makes the same choices in the space it is provided. There's little replay-value in Half Life 2.
My second problem is with the NPCs who fight with you but are too important to get killed. With infinite ammo and no real effect from damage (other than a flinch), it just feels like they're cheating. It's a waste of resources to try and protect them, and at several points you're very short on ammo when you're with one of them, making it all the more obvious. The only reason to protect them is to prevent them from being swamped, and you end up supporting the NPC instead of having the NPC support you. I can think of a solution that at least partially fixes both "cheats" while still keeping the character alive. I realize this most likely won't be changed for Episode 3, but maybe you can think on it more for future games? I can hope.
Now, Half Life 2 specifically.
One thing of note were the two (I think it was two) levels inside the Citadel where you just sat in the transporter thingy. Partly I was awed by the scene, but part of me was just pissed that you spent that much time on something I couldn't play and which didn't even advance the plot.
The boosted version of the gravity gun taught me to use it more in combat situations, something I hadn't really done so far. It would've been nice to learn that eariler.
Episode One was unstable for me. It's curious as all the other games in the Orange Box work just fine.
I liked getting the boost to the gravity gun again, but I found the rest of the game (escaping City 17) a bit tedious. I guess it's because there was already a lot of the same in HL2.
In Episode Two, I almost immediately noticed the real-time shadows from the flashlight. This made the dark look much more realistic. In the preceding games the flashlight felt like watching through a mask or something, but this made it feel like a flashlight.
I really enjoyed the commentary. The comments from Alyx's voice actor were also a refreshing change from all the "this level was designed..." comments by the developers. Though I have to say I was a bit disappointed in some of the other comments in Episode Two as they appeared unfinished, the captions containing [TODO-like notes in brackets].
Another problem with Episode Two was the achievements. They really broke the immersion. It was like a notification popping up saying "Hey, you're playing a game!". I now realize I probably could've disabled them with a variety of means, but meh, the damage is done. I enjoy achievements in games like TF2, but I think a game with a strong story such as HL2 suffers from them. I don't want to switch them on and off, I think there should be game-specific settings for the steam overlay thing. I guess this is more a Steam issue than Half Life issue, but anyway.
June 13, 2009, 03:05 AM
Even though the games are marketed as first-person survival horror, I think it'd be more accurate to say they're first-person horror adventure games. Well, except Requiem, which is more a horror puzzle game (and not very "horror" at that).
The first thing you notice is the control system, which is rather interesting. Left click is used for interacting and right click for looking at things. Interacting functions in a realistic way, meaning that you essentially just grab things and then do what you'd do in real life. Levers need to be pushed or pulled with the mouse, wheel-operated valves need to be rotated and so on. This is especially interesting with doors, as most of the time I ended up opening them very slowly for fear of something waiting on the other side. For me this greatly helped immersion. There's also an alternative interaction-mode, where the mouse control is transferred to a cursor. This was mostly useful for rummaging through drawers and so on.
Combat also works with the realistic control method which makes it somewhat cumbersome. That isn't exactly a bad thing, as combat is only limited to the first game and even in the first there isn't much of it. In Black Plague you can be only on the receiving end of direct combat. Most of the time running away is the only option, though sometimes you can trap or kill the enemies with the environment. Requiem doesn't have enemies and you can only die from the environment.
The best part of the games is the atmosphere, built by the vulnerability, darkness, and the eerie soundscape. Being unable to defend myself made Black Plague one of the best horror games I've ever played (though I haven't played that many horror-games as they're mostly limited to consoles).
Now onto the downsides. The biggest problem with the series is that the graphics quality is fairly low. Low detail 3D models, low quality animation and a somewhat unpolished look. For me this wasn't that big of a problem as I get used to such things quite fast. I don't know if it's the fact that I was playing games before graphics of this quality were even possible, or if it's just the way my brain works. Could be both.
The games also had problems (graphical glitches) with newer ATI cards (mostly HD 2XXX and 3XXX), but a beta hotfix which fixed them for me was released before I even got to playing Black Plague. Now I'm just waiting for them to put it into Steam's system so I can backup the games properly. Other than that the games were largely bug-free.
Then there's the length of the games. Or lack of. Overture took me somewhere around 8 hours to complete, Black Plague 5 hours and Requiem took about 3 hours. 16 hours total. As individual games these would be quite short, but if you consider the whole series as a one game it's an acceptable length. The price also favours thinking of them as a one game.
All in all, these are (with the exception of Requiem) at the top of the horror games I've played, so the series definitely Rocks!
June 11, 2009, 11:22 PM
The following is a comment on a piece about combat in horror games on Frictional Games' (makers of the Penumbra series, which I recently bought on Steam, again on sale) blog on their next game.
I belive that killing an enemy simply can't be scary. A kill essentially proves that the enemy isn't a threat, and if they're not a threat, what's there to be afraid of? Ugly enemies can scare you only to a certain extent. Combat itself can be scary, but winning the fight usually isn't.
In most games dying isn't scary either. It's the possibility of dying that's scary, not death itself. When you die, you just drop into the safety net of the previous saved game. It's even less scary if you've got quick saves and loads. I really didn't like the worm-parts in Overture since I had to reload several times to get past them. It just breaks the immersion. One-hit-kills mostly just annoy me.
Another thing that isn't scary: knowledge. Knowing that an area is clear of enemies isn't scary. If you know how enemies will behave, you can easily use it against them. Both the dogs and the infected acted in a very predictable manner. They patrol the same route over and over, and they all behave largely the same in a fight. There's no suspense in a fight if you know how it's going to end, and an encounter isn't scary if you know you can get away unhurt.
So, what does this leave? First, I don't think you should be able to kill enemies (except spiders and other enemies of that size and appearing in as large numbers). Second, enemies shouldn't be too strong, and you should have a chance of escaping them. Third, enemies should be unpredictable and combat uncertain. Most encounters with an enemy should leave you hurt.
I'd just give the player punches and kicks, so that you could stun or kick an enemy down (they shouldn't always be successful, though). However, getting close would give the enemy an opportunity to attack you as well. (Most) enemies should be faster or as fast as you so that you can't always just run away. You'd have to attack them if you wanted to get away, putting yourself at risk. Also, the kick should kill anything spider-sized :).
May 17, 2009, 10:11 PM
Another "On Sale" purchase from Steam (hmm... all my purchases on steam have been on sale). I originally installed episode 4 which is available for free. Based on that (I liked it) I bought the whole season. The whole thing would've been way too expensive if it wasn't on sale. There's not much more than two hours of gameplay in each episode and there's only 6 episodes in the season. And for this they want 30 euros. Even 15 is a little steep.
Now, onto the review. This has been said elsewhere but the sound quality was bad. The compression artifacts were painfully obvious every time a character said something containing the letter ‘s’. The music on the other hand was excellent.
The gameplay was maybe too simple, literally just point and click. Maybe it's just the oldschool adventure gamer in me, but I want to know beforehand whether I'm going to do something to the object I'm interacting with or just look at it. Simplifying the gameplay this far puts the game pretty close to being simply an interactive animation. I think I would've enjoyed this more as an animated series. At least they could've used more time on making the plot less repetitive across episodes.
One of the problems with the whole season was that the episodes were rather formulaic. In all episodes you had to somehow get money to buy some object from Bosco, then figure out how to use it to advance the plot. Sybil Pandemik also had to be involved in every episode.
I'm going to have to give this a Meh, since this didn't convince me to buy the second season, even though it too was on sale.
April 25, 2009, 07:18 PM
It'd be so much easier to hate you if your games sucked and were ridiculously expensive. I'd been downloading the Portal demo because I wanted to play it again. It took a long time, but eventually it was downloaded. I then played through the demo.
When I reluctantly quit the game, the sneaky bastards directed me to Portal's page, where the Orange Box was also listed. On sale. 66% off. 10 €. So I broke down and bought the thing. I'll take comfort in the fact that they didn't get much money out of me, but my boycott on Valve is pretty much pointless now since I own most of their new games.
April 23, 2009, 01:43 PM
Well, first up, the game is very pretty. The animation is smooth and the backgrounds are gorgeous. Stills simply do not do the graphics justice. The music and sounds are also excellent.
The rewind mechanic is much, much better than, say, Prince of Persia for the simple fact that it's effectively infinite. You can rewind to the start of a level if you want to. It's also tied into the gameplay (ie. puzzle solving) in much more interesting ways than just press-this-button-if-you-screw-up.
The puzzles are interesting and challenging, and most involve inventive and perverse use of the time mechanics. The best thing, though, is that you're not going to get stuck on any of them. If you can't figure one out, you can just continue onwards and come back later.
Unlike what the marketing at both Steam and Impulse say, the game does force you to replay some tricky jumping, and it's not entirely forgiving. Yes, it's much less tricky and more forgiving than most platformers, but when you do encounter the trickier or less forgiving parts, it's like a slap in the face since you didn't have to care about that earlier. In short; it's definitely not bad, it just feels like it. Interpret that how you want.
The story is interesting, but rather vague and very much disconnected from the game itself (except for the pure Awesome final level).
The speedruns feel a little tacked on, but in a way they provide another puzzle. I finished them all (even the full game) and would've appreciated some sort of prize for completing them (I guess some versions have achievements for this).
I give the game 8 stars (that means it Rocks!).
April 18, 2009, 01:53 PM
April 16, 2009, 02:21 PM
They stopped dealing with Davenport Lyons about four months ago, apparently. It's difficult to follow up on these kind of things.
But anyway, this means that now I can buy The Witcher, yay!
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