Posts Tagged "pc-gaming"

Exploration in Gaming

Published on October 10, 2013

For a little while now, I’ve been playing and enjoying Terraria, a side-scrolling exploration game (somewhat similar, from what I hear, to Minecraft). Its 16-bit vibe really hits the nostalgia button for me, not to mention that it’s just plain fun.

That said, I think the single most attractive feature of this game is that you get to really explore a computer-generated world (no two of which are alike!). It’s the exploration factor that attracts me most. Once I hit the “hard mode” portion of the game, it starts to feel like a grind to me. The discovery of brand new places and items is my carrot on the stick; once I’ve fully uncovered the map, the game loses its luster.

I think the same thing can be said for a number of other games I have enjoyed in the past, including ones like Skyrim. The expansive world is just plain fun to explore; there’s always a new cave, or city, or ruin to find and explore. Quests can keep things interesting, but it’s seeing new places that really gets me excited.

Are there any games out there that are, to some degree, solely about the exploration? I’m pretty sure that Dear Esther fits that bill (and I have yet to play it), but I’m wondering if there are others I’ve missed. I have to believe that purely exploration-based games have a market (see Beyond Eyes, for example). If anyone can provide recommendations for titles in this space, I’d love to hear them.

Torchlight 2 Review

Published on October 9, 2012

Back in 2009, I reviewed the original Torchlight. Now that the sequel is out, I thought I’d post a few brief thoughts on it as well. Note that I’ve only played the single-player aspect of this game so far (oddly enough, that’s the kind of gaming I prefer). In short, not only does this game blow the original out of the water, it comes close (in my opinion) to doing the same to Diablo 2, which is my favorite action-RPG of all time.

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Online Single Player Gaming

Published on May 15, 2012

At midnight Pacific time last night, the highly anticipated Diablo 3 was released. Judging by all the negative tweets I woke up to this morning, I’m glad I didn’t buy in to the hype. It seems as though virtually everyone failed to connect to the Blizzard servers last night, something you’re required to do even for single player games.

This point really gnaws at me. On one hand, I’m disgusted that you have to connect to a remote server to enjoy a single-player experience. I’ve seen some claims that this was done to prevent cheating, but we all know that this policy is about software piracy. Who really cares if I cheat while playing by myself? No one, that’s who.

On the other hand, I use Steam all the time, which is an (albeit loose) analogy to Blizzard’s Diablo 3 strategy. I typically connect to the Steam servers before I play, though for virtually all of the games I own, it’s not a requirement. Perhaps it’s the fact that you’re required to connect that bothers me. It’s one more online account that I’d rather not deal with.

A few journalists in the gaming world have predicted that this is the future of single player gaming. Only time will tell whether or not that’s true. Maybe this launch will sour people’s opinions enough that mandatory online gaming will be deferred for a little longer. As a single-player gaming enthusiast, I certainly hope so.

Skyrim Review

Published on November 21, 2011

For those who live under a rock, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released ten days ago. I’m already nearly 70 hours into this game, and there’s still a ton of stuff I haven’t done. That said, I figured I’d post a few quick thoughts about this game. In short, this is easily one of the best games I’ve ever played.

There is simply too much to do in this game. You could spend all day making potions, crafting items, enchanting items, or simply exploring the world, all without ever starting a single quest. I found myself completing many of the “miscellaneous” quests long before I joined any particular faction, or started along the main quest line. There are still giant chunks of the map that I have yet to visit, which is incredible given that I’m so far in.

The game’s graphics are outstanding; head and shoulders above Oblivion’s engine. I’m really impressed with the draw distance, and every dungeon, cave, and mine has a unique feel (fixing one of Oblivion’s few failings). It’s also silky smooth on my system, running on the “High” detail level. Story lines have been interesting so far (though the Thieves’ Guild seemed a little weak), and I’m loving the Dragon Shout abilities. Blasting an enemy off the top of a mountain is so incredibly fun.

I do have a few complaints. The user interface on the PC is pretty terrible, though I’m hopeful that a mod will come along soon to fix that. Voice acting is good, but some of the voices are reused way too much for my liking. Perk points (a new way of leveling your character) are too rare. Give me 2 or 3 points per level, not just 1! Finally, as is usual with this type of game, there are still quite a few bugs. Another patch is coming after Thanksgiving, which should hopefully smooth out some of the rough spots.

If you like role playing games, and you enjoyed the previous Elder Scrolls titles, you’ll like this title. It’s an instant classic in my opinion, and has taken its rightful place in my “best games of all time” list. 5 stars

Portal 2 Review

Published on April 26, 2011

Having recently completed Portal 2, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the experience. As usual, I played it through on the PC, so my review comes from that vantage point. I have yet to try the co-op portion of the game, so my thoughts are limited to the single player experience.

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Smart Games

Published on February 2, 2011

Over the Christmas holiday, I purchased Dead Space on Steam (happily, for only $7). The game was a major letdown on a number of levels, but there’s one nit in particular that I’d like to pick. I was really struck by how dumb the game assumed I was. Often, direct audio cues (i.e. the spaceship’s computer) would tell you exactly what to do. Here’s a typical example:

The player enters a room filled with radioactive debris. Upon entering said room, the ship’s computer announces, out loud, that the room is locked down due to these dangerous conditions. In order to lift this lock down, all radioactive debris must be removed. To further complicate matters, the debris can only be removed when an airlock to outer space is opened (again, all of this is announced by the computer). A monitor in one corner of the room displays, in what would realistically be a 200-point font, the text “open airlock.” Using this computer opens the airlock, and the player is then free to remove the debris.

Sadly, a number of other games make this same assumption; namely, that I as the player am generally unable to figure out how to proceed on my own. I think this is what draws me to the games that Valve develops. Every Half-Life title ever released assumes from the outset that the player is smart. Clues are always provided as to how to proceed, but precious few hints are explicitly stated. Portal is another perfect example of this. The user is instructed (via the narrative itself) how the portal gun works. It’s then up to the player to figure out how to use it to proceed through the game.

As a gamer, I would much rather developers assume my intelligence, rather than my stupidity. It simply makes a game that much more fun to play.

E3 2010

Published on June 18, 2010

This year’s E3 has come and gone, and I thought I’d post a few thoughts on various things introduced at the event. To make things easy, I’ll organize things by platform.

PC Gaming

Portal 2
This may be the game I’m most excited about. Whereas the first Portal was an “experiment” of sorts, this second title looks to be a full-fledged game. The puzzles sound much more insidious (physics paint!), and the new milieu of the game looks incredible. Portions of the trailer I watched are very funny, as can be expected. And hey, it’s Valve we’re talking about here. This will definitely be a winner.
Rage
id Software’s new intellectual property looks incredible. Part racer, part first-person shooter, this game looks like a boat load of fun. It’s pretty, too, as expected with titles from id (humans still look a little too fake, however; they need to drop the ‘bloated’ look). I’ll probably pick this one up when it’s released.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
If this game is as fun (and as deep) as the first one was, I’ll definitely buy in. If it’s as lame as the second one was reported to be, I’ll skip it. Nevertheless, the trailer looks great.

Nintendo Wii

Lost in Shadow
This upcoming adventure game looks really impressive. You play as the shadow of a young boy, separated from him at the beginning of the game. The ultimate goal is to reach the top of a tower, where the boy is being held. But the twist here is that, as a shadow, you can only use other object’s shadows as platforms. Manipulating light in the environment looks like a large part of the puzzle mechanic. This is another very inventive title that looks promising.
Zelda: Skyward Sword
What’s not to like about a new Zelda title?
Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Kirby’s Epic Yarn has an incredibly unique art design. This time around, Kirby is an outline of yarn, and moves through a similarly designed environment. I’ve seen plenty of comments around the web poking fun at the seemingly “gay” presentation of the trailer; but this looks like an inventive, fun game to me.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
I was a big fan of the Donkey Kong Country games back on the SNES, so I’m really looking forward to this one. Some of the older games were ridiculously difficult; hopefully some of that difficulty will be ported over. The graphics in this one look fantastic.
Epic Mickey
Mickey Mouse goes on an epic adventure, using various paints and paint thinners to modify and navigate the world. The fact that this game includes a Steamboat Willie level, complete with the old artwork style, is epic in itself.

Nintendo DS

Nintendo 3DS
The next iteration of Nintendo’s hand-held looks interesting. I’d have to see the 3D effect in person to get a good feel for it, but all the press I’ve read has sounded promising. There are some neat sounding titles coming for this new platform and, if they’re fun enough, I may just have to upgrade.

XBox 360

Kinect (AKA Project Natal)
I’m not exactly sure what to think about this. I’ve read in several places that Microsoft really butchered the unveiling of this tech, opting for ‘family-friendly’ titles similar to what’s already on the Wii. That being said, Child of Eden looks like a phenomenal title that makes terrific use of the new technology. Only time will tell how this stuff works out. I think it’s funny, however, that Sony and Microsoft are just now trying to catch up to Nintendo in motion control. Nintendo gets a lot of hate from the hard-core gaming community (a small portion of which is justified), but they’re obviously doing something right; otherwise these companies wouldn’t be entering this space.

I’m sure there are a few items I’ve missed in this rundown, but these are the ones that really caught my eye. For those of you who followed this year’s event, what are you looking forward to?

Auto-Saving in Games

Published on January 22, 2010

Earlier this week, I picked up a copy of the 2004 title Thief: Deadly Shadows from Steam. Last night, I found out the hard way that the game doesn’t auto-save your progress; my character fell from a lofty spot, died, and I lost a couple of hours of progress. This got me thinking about the state of auto-saving in video games today, something that I now clearly take for granted.

Back in the day, games never auto-saved your progress. One of the earliest titles I recall using an auto-save feature was the original Far Cry, which (in actuality) used a checkpoint saving system. I’m sure there were titles before that which used an auto-save mechanism (the first Serious Sam might have used one back in 2001). Since that time, nearly every game I’ve played has had some form of an auto-game saving mechanism.

Take one of my current favorite games, Torchlight. With regards to saving your progress, it lies at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from most old games: you cannot, at any point, manually save your progress! In essence, it only auto-saves, nothing more. What a change from having to consciously remember to save every so often.

Going forward in Thief: Deadly Shadows, I’ll have to remind myself to save every so often. Otherwise, I’ll end up wasting more time like I did last night. Live and learn.

Steam Super Sale

Published on December 31, 2009

Steam is hosting a holiday sale through January 3rd, with some titles discounted as much as 80% off! I picked up a couple of indie games during this sale (and might grab a few more at these prices). The first title I picked up was Samorost 2, and it only cost $2.49. That’s still a little steep in my opinion, seeing as over half of the game is available for free on the web. But the title is a fun, cute adventure style game set in a very imaginative world.

The second title I picked up is by the same crew, and is called Machinarium. This game is much more substantial, and has a number of very difficult puzzles (I’m currently stumped on a few of them). The artwork is fantastic, the soundtrack is highly enjoyable, and the characters are adorable. There’s no dialog; each character speaks using a thought bubble. But the stories they tell are amusing. It’s hard not to fall in love with these characters, much in the same way I did with the Pixar movie WALL-E.

Be sure to check out the Steam store before January 3rd. There are some terrific discounts on some great games, so now’s the time to pick them up!

Torchlight Achievements

Published on December 19, 2009

A recent update to Torchlight has added achievements to the game. There’s no way to see them in game (which is a bummer), and I wish they had progress bars that gave you an idea of where you were in the midst of collecting each one. Those nits aside, this is a great addition to an already great game. As of this writing, I’m only 15% complete, but I look forward to trying to grab as many as I can. Some of them look awfully difficult! It’s a shame they didn’t have this in the game from the get go…

Update: Here’s the global achievement list for your perusal.

Torchlight Review

Published on December 11, 2009

Having played through it a few times now, I thought I’d post a few thoughts on Torchlight, the action role-playing game I’ve talked about a time or two here on the site. For those who don’t already know, the game is essentially a Diablo 2 clone (with, what I would argue, are terrific updates). Read on for my take on this title.

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Serious Sam HD

Published on November 23, 2009

The “high definition” remake of Serious Sam: The First Encounter is being released tomorrow on Steam! Watching the trailer for this game should bring back some fond memories for anyone familiar with this title. I’ll probably pick it up very soon, as I remember having a blast with the original. At only $20, what is there to lose?

Speaking of $20 games, I still highly recommend Torchlight. I have yet to beat it, simply because I did a terrible job of creating my original character, therefore making her too weak to defeat the final boss (as embarrassing as that is to say). Oh, and the “Hard” difficulty is just that. It was a breeze early in the game, but the final levels are murder! Anyways, I created a new character and have pumped her up with all the right stats (she’s now a death-bringing tank). The other character classes are just as fun to play, and I look forward to spending more time with them.

Hopefully other equally great games will come out at this price point. With the price of most games today eclipsing $50 or $60, it’s hard to justify not picking up a cheap, fun title to play for the upcoming holidays.

Pets in Torchlight

Published on November 12, 2009

Last night, I purchased Torchlight on Steam, based on the positive reviews I’ve been reading about the game. At only $19.99, it’s a definite bargain. I’ve only played about two hours worth so far, but man is this game fun! Torchlight is an action-style RPG, much in the vein of Diablo (in fact, it’s made by a bunch of old Diablo developers). The graphics are beautiful and cartoony, spell effects are fun to watch, and the voice acting is pretty decent. But what I want to focus on in this post are the pets your character can have.

When you start a new game, you get to choose a pet (either a dog or a lynx-style cat), which you can then name. Your pet travels around with you and can aid you in battle. It will attack enemies if you put it into an aggressive stance, it can carry loot for you, and it can even wield items: a couple of rings, two spells, and an amulet. You can even send the pet around to gather up loot on the dungeon floor!

By far the best ability, however, is that your pet can travel back to town to sell items for you! Can you believe that? No longer do you have to teleport back to town to sell your unwanted loot. Just load up your pet with the stuff to sell, tell it to go back to town, and it will. The obvious downside to this is that you lose your pet’s abilities and assistance for a while, but it’s oh-so-worth it in the long run.

I’m having a blast so far with this game, and I’d much rather be at home playing it right now than at work. I definitely recommend checking it out. For only $20, it’s a great value!

A Gamer’s Memory

Published on September 25, 2009

A few days ago, I installed “Serious Sam: The Second Encounter,” a game I haven’t played for many years. Released back in 2002, SS:TSE is an incredibly fun first person shooter. Though the graphics are dated, the gameplay is as fresh and exciting as ever. If anything, playing this game makes me even more excited for the Serious Sam HD remake that’s coming soon.

What really surprises me, however, is how much I remember about the game. It’s astonishing how, after all these years of having not played Serious Sam, I remember the location of nearly every secret area. I can remember areas where enemies pop up unexpectedly (so I know to be on my guard), and I remember most of the various ammo and health drop locations.

If I were to load up Wolfenstein 3D, I could probably take you to 80% of the secrets in the first chapter of that game. The same thing holds true for Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, and countless other titles that I spent time with when I was younger. Have I really wasted that many brain cells to remember stupid things like this?

Valve and Deaf Gamers

Published on August 13, 2009

Gabe Newell, from Valve software, recently conducted a focus group session with deaf gamers. Three videos are available of this event: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. Note that the audio quality is, ironically, pretty bad in each video.

One of the most interesting tidbits from these videos involves Valve’s desire to introduce a deaf character into a future game (possibly in the Half Life universe). An idea is floated where Alyx has taught Dog sign language, based on a past crush she had with a deaf individual. In essence, it would be an excuse for Valve to develop the necessary technology for characters to sign. Pretty cool.

I think it’s great that Valve is doing this. In the accessibility world, blind people get nearly all of the focus. For a gaming company to branch out into this realm is really quite remarkable. I’m looking forward to see how Valve implements this new technology, and I’m excited to see where the Half Life story goes with this (assuming, of course, that Half Life is the intended universe for this work).

Far Cry 2 Review

Published on July 12, 2009

I recently purchased a copy of Far Cry 2 on Steam. Oddly enough, Far Cry 2 has nothing to do with the first Far Cry, save for the name. Crytek, the original game’s developer, wasn’t involved in the development of Far Cry 2, so I’m confused as to why this game is billed as the true sequel. Other than the standard first person shooter tropes, the two have very little (if anything) in common.

To me, Far Cry 2 resembles the Grand Theft Auto series more than any traditional first person shooter. The mission design feels similar, as do many of the game mechanics. But in the long run, how does the game fare? Here’s my review.

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3D Realms Kicks the Bucket

Published on May 7, 2009

The rather humorously titled Slashdot article Duke Nukem For Never, reports that 3D Realms, once among the brightest computer game developers, has closed for good. This is pretty sad for me, as I was once a major fan of the company’s games. So big a fan, in fact, that I maintained a little Map Editing FAQ for the Build game engine. In essence, that document and those games are what got me publishing on the web in the first place. It’s hard to believe that was 13 years ago.

I can’t say I’m surprised that the company has gone out of business, however. They’ve made a bunch of poor choices over the past few years, and have essentially released no new self-developed titles since 1997’s Shadow Warrior (which was a great game). It will be interesting to see what happens to whatever actually exists of Duke Nukem Forever.

RIP Train Sim 2

Published on January 28, 2009

As a part of its recent layoffs, Microsoft closed Aces Studio, the team behind Microsoft’s stalwart Flight Simulator line of games, and the upcoming Train Simulator 2. According to the report, Train Simulator 2 is officially dead, and will not be revived. The Flight Simulator counterpart may be brought back at some point, but even its fate is undetermined at the moment.

I know I’m one of the only people on the planet who cares about it, but I was looking forward to Train Sim 2. The graphics looked great, and I was really looking forward to the migration to the Flight-Sim game engine. But, alas, it’s not to be.

Onward and upward, I suppose.

DHTML Arkanoid

Published on December 16, 2008

I recently ran across an interesting implementation of the classic Arkanoid game. The game is coded completely in object-oriented JavaScript / DHTML. I’m really impressed with what the author was able to do. The game has all kinds of features: a level editor, power ups, decent sound effects, and more.

I found this via a handy list of other JavaScript Games. What a good way to waste some time!

Blast From the Past

Published on September 22, 2008

I’ve recently been looking for a few new computer games to play. Seeing as there’s nothing on the immediate horizon that suits my fancy, I decided to dig into my existing computer game collection for something I hadn’t played in a while. The first title that popped up was Microsoft’s Rise of Nations, the one and only real-time strategy (RTS) game that I own. I’m not a big fan of the RTS genre, mostly because I’m really terrible at those types of games, and the only reason I own one is because my dad got it for free at a Microsoft conference. Surprisingly to me, it’s a fun little game. As I’ve already said, I stink at RTS games, so even playing on the 2nd (of 7) difficulty levels still presents quite a challenge. But I have fun playing the game, and that’s what matters.

As much fun as I was having, there was still an itch that I couldn’t scratch. Thanks to some recent Diablo III screenshots I found via a news posting on Blue’s News, it occurred to me: I needed a good-ol’ role-playing game (RPG) to play. So I dug through my still-boxed computer games (which I never unpacked), and found my old copy of Sacred. It’s a Diablo-like RPG and was just what I was looking for. While perusing the Wikipedia article on the game, I noted that an expansion pack had been released, something that I originally had not picked up. A ‘gold’ edition of the game had later been released, including the original game along with the expansion. I saw it for sale on Amazon for $25.99, which seemed a little high, considering I already owned the base game. Thankfully, the game is also available on Steam for a paltry $9.99. I was sold, immediately bought the game, and I’m already having a blast (and I’m looking forward to all the new content).

Score another win for the Steam platform.

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