Tomer Gabel's annoying spot on the 'net RSS 2.0
# Wednesday, 16 January 2008

I take pride in being one of the few people I know who actually buy their media: I have a sizable collection of CDs, DVDs, computer games and software that I've bought over the years, and I always feel good about having paid the people responsible for these efforts.

Until recently, that is.

It is commonly said that one of the most obvious traits of Israelis is that they hate to be screwed, and this is as true for me as it is for everyone else. It seems the media companies have taken upon themselves to screw me in every conceivable way, and paying for media is fast becoming an exercise in frustration for me. A most recent example of this is Valve's not-so-new-and-shiny content delivery network which goes by the name of Steam. I don't even know where to begin recounting what's wrong with this thing:

  1. Content delivery speeds are abysmal. I recently downloaded Half Life 2 Episode Two and got 200K/sec maximum transfer rate (more common rates hovering around 50K/sec) on a dedicated line with 5Mb downstream. I consistently get 300K+ rates to even the most busy content delivery servers (Akamai, Microsoft etc.) and it's not like I can use a download manager to better tune the download to my connection.
  2. The download manager is shit. Even ignoring the fact that the only controls it exposes are "pause" and "resume" doesn't help the fact that the error detection code is buggy as all hell: the first time I tried downloading the game it got stuck on 99% without any type of diagnostic or error message, and wouldn't resume. Reading piles of angry forum threads led me to the conclusion that the downloaded content files are simply corrupt; deleting and re-downloading the game solved the problem.
  3. Terminology is all screwed up: telling the game manager not to automatically download updates for a certain game will pause any pending download for that game, including the game content itself.
  4. Although there is no apparent reason for this, playing a game pauses the downloads for all other games. That, at least, has been my observation (Episode Two was downloading when I started on Episode One, and hasn't progressed a single per cent when I quit the game).
  5. The application itself is completely opaque. At no point does it give any indication of what it's doing; you can start the client, nothing happens for two minutes until it finally shows you an "updating Steam client" window. There are no visible clues when it's attempting to access a server (e.g. when clicking on Show News) or when a downloaded upgrade is being installed.
  6. I don't want to connect to a server to play a locally installed, legally bought game. That's just unforgivable, even if it didn't mean I sometimes have to wait for several minutes before the server actually logs me in instead of timing out.
  7. It might shock you, but I still play old games. Sometimes very old games (think Master of Magic). Will Half Life 2 be playable in five- or ten-year's time when the Steam servers have long been cold? I doubt it.

I know Steam probably works well for a lot of people, but for me it's a god-damned affront: I'm a paying customer, there's no reason why I should have so little control over a game that takes up gigabytes on my hard drive. To add insult to injury, the pirated versions often work better: the pirated version of Half Life 2 itself had considerably lower loading times, didn't suffer from the audio stuttering issues that plagued the original, and didn't waste hours of your CPU time on decrypting the game content once it was finally downloaded. If Valve wants to keep my business, here's what they should do:

  1. Switch to an open distribution model (HTTP or, preferably, BitTorrent) so I can use my own software to download their games if I so wish;
  2. Get rid of the dependency on Steam for their games. When I click on the HL2E2 icon I want the game to come up, and I don't give a rat's ass about Steam;
  3. Move to an asynchronous, transparent update mechanism for their games, preferably one that allows me to download game updates and install them on my own.

With the original versions becoming increasingly irritating and pirated versions becoming better than the originals (not to mention less costly), does paying for media still make sense? Remember, that's just one example, I could give a great many more.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008 12:24:04 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming | Personal | Software
# Wednesday, 05 September 2007

Check it out. I don't even know how to explain it.

Wednesday, 05 September 2007 15:42:40 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Monday, 04 June 2007

Oh man, this had me laughing my ass off. Badly.

The "random link every now and then" corner is brought to you by lack of caffeine.
Oh, and thanks for the link, Mickey.

Monday, 04 June 2007 00:56:31 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Thursday, 15 March 2007

I've mentioned System Shock 2 before; to make a long story short, it's one of the finest computer games ever made.

The random Gnome's random Lair published an article on how to run System Shock 2 on modern PCs, plus links to the various (extremely mature) mods that improve the sound, texture and mesh quality in-game; one of these mods also subtly balances the game, making certain items more powerful while normalizing others.

I've been playing System Shock 2 once a year or so since 2003 (four years after it came out!) and I can tell you that it's an experience not easily topped. Go, play!

Thursday, 15 March 2007 12:17:47 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Sunday, 17 December 2006

Word Shoot is reminiscent of Crimsonland's typing mode. Enemies advance at you and, in order to shoot them down, you have the type in the wordsthat show up below them. It's an excellent exercise for fast typing, not to mention a great way to get RSI.

Something's really screwed up with the high score system though; I scored 69,700 on my second game (hard difficulty, 9 missed words - at least 3 of which were because of overlapping enemies). I'm a fairly fast typist, and while I have no problem accepting the concept of people typing faster and/or more accurately than I do, still - 358,620 does not seem to me like an attainable score. I'll give it a couple more tries before I get back to work (we have a regularly scheduled flame throwing every Sunday. And no, I can't remember where that joke comes from).

Sunday, 17 December 2006 15:30:24 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Thursday, 22 June 2006

Remember Nuclear War? If not, slap yourself on the wrist and go download it. Right now, like.

One night a couple months ago (before my laptop hard drive woes, which are nay over by the way) I found myself unable to sleep at 5 in the morning. I figured a couple of rounds of Nuclear War would do well to alleviate my sleeplessness; I fired the game up and after 10 minutes was hit by a sudden inspiration. The game is turn-based, and the controls are exceedingly simple: mouse cursor and left click. Since I was still looking for something useful to do with my newly acquired PDA it struck me that the game would work extremelly well on a stylus-equipped PDA or phone, and I was wondering if someone made a version for Pocket PC devices. A quick search through Google assured me that this is not the case, and since I had the next day off I fired up Visual Studio and started working.

At that point I figured that a simple rewrite wouldn't do. I wanted an identical version of the original game. Since New World Computing is no more, I figured the chances of getting the source for a 1988 game are a little on the slim side. At a whim, I fired up IDA Pro and started working. A couple of days later I managed to disassemble most of the graphics code and image decompression (LZ78-derivative) and wrote a utility to help me extract the game assets. It features picture and palette display, histogram and font parsing:

 

Interesting technical footnote: the palettes were embedded in the data segment; I wrote a regex-based parser for IDA's assembler output for this purpose. The palettes were in the VGA 0..63 scale, but some values are also higher and have to be clamped, which gave me quite a bit of grief until I noticed this.

With the game assets ripped I could proceed to write some actual code, however this posed an interesting dilemma: I want the game to be completely faithful to the original, but disassembling the game logic and AI is a huge task. I originally estimated it would take a month to complete the reverse engineering, but given that it's already been two or so months (discounting my laptop's downtime) it seems my guesstimate was woefully inadequate. This is where I turn to you for feedback: should I keep going in this direction (meaning the alpha version will probably take another several months to be released), or should I just write my own game logic and AI code, get a release out and then proceed with reverse engineering?

Let me know your thoughts. Also, if you want to create better (higher quality, different) graphics and music for the game get in touch -- I'm aiming for a very spartan first release (to keep it in a reasonable timeframe), but once I'm done with this baby the sky's the limit.

Thursday, 22 June 2006 18:28:35 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Personal | Gaming
# Saturday, 03 June 2006

It's been a while since I've posted anything gaming-related, and I'll make it short and sweet: stop whatever it is you're doing. Buy Dreamfall. Play it. Relish it. It would be better if you played The Longest Journey first, but it's not an absolute must (you'll enjoy the sequel a lot more though).

Suffice to say that this game looks amazing, plays amazing, sounds amazing... the voice acting is top-notch, the story and settings are magnificent. It's... bloody awesome. Along with Psychonauts it must be the best game I've played in years.

Saturday, 03 June 2006 05:22:30 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Sunday, 16 April 2006

Check this out, then stop wasting our collective time and send a supportive e-mail to alexness at toysforbob dot com.

GET ON WITH IT!

Sunday, 16 April 2006 00:45:50 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Sunday, 30 October 2005
I haven't had much time on my hands lately, what with buying a car, moving into a new place (a nice large flat in Haifa), work and starting university (at the Technion). Coupled with the fact that I've stopped working full-time and that I'm eagerly awaiting the new Visual Studio 2005 (due to come out on November 7th), the direct result is a very low rate of posting lately.

Despite all of the above, I've managed to snag a few hours of gameplay and have a few comments to make:

  • The F.E.A.R demo was absolutely terrific. Admittedly my (now two year-old) machine is no match for the souped up 3D engine, but it still managed perfectly playable (>40) framerates at 800x600 at very high detail levels. This will not do so I expect to buy a new console/machine pretty soon (probably the latter, I'm not very fond of consoles), but regardless the hour or so of gameplay featured in the demo was very satisfying indeed. The graphics are absolutely top-notch and the bullet-time effect is finally something to write home about (although it seems more like a last-minute addition than a feature based in solid design) and the gameplay is very good indeed.
  • I also played the Serious Sam 2 demo and enjoyed it quite a bit. It's not as slick and tongue-in-cheek as the first game was, but the 30-minute-odd level was very fun indeed. This time, however, the 3D engine is anything but revolutionary; it's decent enough, but not quite as fast and not quite as good looking as some of its competition (F.E.A.R, Doom 3, Half-Life 2 come to mind). My laptop (Dothan 1.7GHz, Radeon 9700 Mobility) couldn't handle more than medium detail at 1024x768; considering that the game isn't really visually groundbreaking (the laptop handles HL2/Doom 3 fluently) this isn't very encouraging.
  • Half Life 2: Lost Coast is out and kicks a lot of ass. Aside from the top-notch map design (which isn't annoying, stupid or frustrating like some parts of HL2 itself), the new HDR mode is absolutely stunning. On my gaming machine (same one that couldn't handle F.E.A.R...), as long as I don't run with AA everything is very smooth and looks beautiful. There is also a nifty commentary feature which allows you to hear (on demand) audio commentary by the team responsible for the game. On the negative side, Source is still a horrible mess as they haven't fixed the millions of caching and sound issues, and the loading times are dreadful to boot. Plus, 350MB for a demo based on pre-existing resources seems a bit much.
  • I had amazingly high expectations from Indigo Prophecy considering all the hype. To make a very long story short, it got uninstalled about 5 minutes into the tutorial. The controls are horrible, horrible to the point where I couldn't figure for the life of me what the hell the tutorial wants with me. Aside from the already convoluted interface, the tutorial at some point wants to "test your reflexes"; it does this by showing you a sketch of a D-pad controller (I guess the game was originally devised for consoles...), and at the opportune moment one of the controller buttons lights up and you have to press the same button on your actual controller as fast as possible. As the reigning deathmatch king in the vicinity I think I can safely say that my reflexes were NOT the issue here, not after about 20 attempts by myself about about 20 more by my brother. Either the tutorial does a terrible job at conveying what it is you're supposed to do, or the game is simply badly programmed. Either way, removed, gone, zip, zilch. Unless some future patch seriously alters the control scheme I'm not touching this game with a 60-foot pole. This only goes to prove my theory that consoles are directly responsible for the lower quality of PC titles today; not because of technology, not because of cost, but simply because of shitty controls originating in consoles and badly ported to the PC. Want a counter-example? Psychonauts has absolutely perfect controls, even on the PC.
  • I spent about 25 minutes watching my brother play Shadow Of The Colossus on the PlayStation 2. Graphically the game is very impressive, however it tries to do a lot more than the aging PS2 platform can really handle; I've seen framerates in the 10-15 range, which for a straightforward console title is simply not cool. I haven't actually played the game, but from watching my brother I can safely say that the controls are either poor or difficult to get a handle of, but a couple of days later my brother said that the real problem is simply an ineffective tutorial and "it's really quite alright once you get the hang of it." Gameplay-wise it didn't seem overly exciting, but I may yet give it a shot at some point.
  • After a couple of hours playing Five Magical Amulets I believe I can safely conclude that, while I appreciate that it is a labour of love and a lot of work went into making it, it's simply not a good game. The plot is very simple and uninspired; some of the dialogs are very poorly written; the quests are either too simple and easy to figure out or simply make very little sense (minor spoiler: combining the fly and the pitch made some sense, but the bag?!) and the graphics are very amateur. The whole game is Kyrandia-esque but without the high production values, although in its defense the music is actually quite good. Bottom line: there are better independent games for sure. The White Chamber is one.
Sunday, 30 October 2005 19:47:48 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Sunday, 16 October 2005
About a month ago I invited a bunch of people to an impromptu LAN party to be held at my parent's house (as they were out of the country at the time). Despite some organizational hurdles (primarily the lack of a network switch with enough ports) we eventually managed to overcome the party was sweet, short and to the point.


Omer playing StarCraft

During the course of about 20 hours we played loads of Call of Duty, some StarCraft: Brood War, a bit of WarCraft III and a whole lot of my personal favourite: UT2k4. UT flavours included regular deathmatch, quite a bit of Onslaught (not my favourite of gaming modes, but nevermind that), a little bombing match and what I consider the best gaming-mode: instagib deathmatch. It's hillarious, and you can't beat the andrenaline rush (well, except maybe Q3 DM17 with 5 bots at hardcore).


Myself, concentrating on a round of UT

As usual we saved StarCraft for the wee hours of the night. The two games I played prove that I can still hold my own; my personal preference is for team melee where I control base contruction and expansion at first and combat later, with a second player supporting me on construction and exploration at first and maintenance later. I find that I'm extremely capable when it comes to fast micromanagement but am terrible when I have to do more than one big task at once (for example managing combat while micromanaging fleet construction). Playing with my brother that way was an extremely effective combination and we took the game by a large margin, which was very satisfying.


Oren next to Call of Duty

My personal forté is first person shooters though, so it's no surprise that's what I played the most (I couldn't be bothered joining in on WarCraft III). We played Call of Duty and UT2k4 for several hours each; Call of Duty proved to be an excellent multiplayer game, but only if there are a lot of players in the game. 8 players are enough for a good game, but say 5 or less simply aren't enough to keep the action up and the game becomes very dull indeed.

I wish I could convince the others to give Tron 2.0 a multiplayer spin, but other than that I don't even know where to start in looking for good multiplayer games. Halo proved to be a big disappointment for me (way too slow - not in performance but in gameplay - and too much emphasis on vehicles) and trying Counter Strike: Source for a bit only strengthened my resolve not to play tactical shooters.

Sunday, 16 October 2005 18:29:16 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming | Personal
# Sunday, 02 October 2005
Damned if I know why, but the Call of Duty 2 demo sucks. Oh, I can describe the symptoms alright, but there's a fundamental problem there that eludes me. Why would a sequel that's seemingly based off of the same (extremely good) codebase as its predecessor not be able to compete in visuals and performance with two year-old games?

Now don't get me wrong, I'm as big a sucker for visuals as the next guy (if not more so), but although the CoD2 screenshots look pretty sweet there's nothing there to take the visual acuity crown from either of the games I mentioned above. There's certainly nothing to justify a former hi-end machine - AthlonXP 2800+, 1GB RAM, Radeon 9800XT - grinding to unplayable framerates at low resolutions (about 20 frame per second at 640x480 with most everything turned either off or low) or having decimal-point framerates at high resolutions (0.2-0.5 frames per second at 1024x768 with medium-high details and no antialiasing). The same machine plays Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 at 1024x768 with x4 AA and crunches frames like there's no tomorrow. To reiterate, both games look considerably better than CoD2.

On a radically different note, I managed to miss the fact that the Serious Sam II demo is out. I'm downloading it and will report when I get the chance to play it. Indigo Prophecy is out too, so I guess my current playlist reads something like:

Guess I gotta get some spare time on my hands...

Sunday, 02 October 2005 13:23:04 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Tuesday, 09 August 2005
Or to quote Penny Arcade from a while back:
Quit whatever you're doing, it's not important. Maybe you're performing a surgery. Put the scalpel down. Maybe you're holding a runaway car back from rolling over a carriage which contains an infant. There's no baby shortage, and even if there were, they're apparently a lot of fun to make. Run over the roof of the car, go home, and open up a browser.

It's rare that I encounter something which I can't find the proper amount of superlatives to describe. That something is Charly and the Chocolate Factory, the latest Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie based on the famous novel by Roald Dahl (which I admit not to have read). I will not bother you with the list of superlatives I did manage to come up with, but trust me: you owe it to yourself to watch this movie. Just stop whatever it is you're doing and go.

Another recommendation that's bound to steal a few days of your life (and repay you by making the remaining days worth living) is the fantastic Psychonauts. It hardly matters what you're playing now, it can't compare. Remember Monkey Island? Day of the Tentacle? Grim Fandango? Same guy, and Psychonauts just might be his best work ever. You owe it to yourself to play this game. Just stop whatever it is you're doing and go.

Tuesday, 09 August 2005 08:30:11 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming | Movies | Personal
# Monday, 25 July 2005
I find that I keep reverting to MobyGames for game-related links, searches etc. Trixter's baby project is an awesome resource for the sort of info I often look for, and I figured that it would be really great if I could do a MobyGames search directly from Firefox (much like I constantly do with eBay, Amazon etc.). I spent a couple of minutes looking through MobyGames' prominent navigation links for a solution with none to be found, so I figured I'll just add it to Firefox myself.

The browser linked me to Firefox's "add engines" web page, but as luck would have it, the Mozilla servers were down at that exact moment. I figured that since I can't do it myself at the moment I might as well have a look if someone else'd already done it - which apparently they did; if you click through the Friends of Moby page in MobyGames you'd get a very improperly-positioned link to their Firefox search button. I happily clicked it, it works like a charm and dead useful.

This only goes to show that even the most useful tool, application or whatever will be completely ignored if it's not prominently showcased! I'll be sending an e-mail to the great guys at MobyGames about this.

Monday, 25 July 2005 13:23:05 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming | Personal
# Monday, 20 June 2005
Doom 3 owns.

I also got around for an hour or so of Resurrection of Evil; unfortunately I was left less than satisfied. The Grabber weapon is more useful than Half-Life 2's Gravity Gun, but also far less interesting or cool. The physics engine is adequate, but nothing like HL2's Havoc engine, which also detracts from the weapon's cool factor; the whole thing just basically feels like a ripoff of HL2 (which is something id Software should not feel compelled to do). I'll give it a fresh attempt tomorrow.

Finally, of note is the Classic Doom 3 project, which is sort of a must-have for any Doom fan.

Monday, 20 June 2005 23:18:10 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
Brian Moriarty (creator of Loom) speaks! Besides explaining how Loom was originally meant to be a trilogy, he adds an insight on the reason its sequels never came out:
Contrary to popular belief, the LOOM sequels were not abandoned because LOOM didn't sell well. LOOM has sold more than half a million copies in various formats since it was published in 1990. The reason the sequels weren't made is because I decided I wanted to work on other things, and nobody else wanted to do them, either.

As a huge fan of Loom I'm not sure which saddens me more: the original theory that Loom did not sell well (aside from being an astoundingly good game, Loom had an Israeli version - in native Hebrew no less! - and sold extremely well here), or the fact that the trilogy was simply... neglected.

Another interesting bit of trivia: a Japenese re-arrangement of the soundtrack was made but never released. Moriarty sold one of the only existing copies on eBay last April. I contacted the buyer and hope to get the music available on the internet.

Last but not least, you know you've played way too much Loom when not only do you recognize the source of the following passage, but you can actually hear Cygna's voice in your head when you read it:

Destiny shall draw the Lightning
Down from Heaven; roll its Thunder
Far across the Sea, to where I
Wait upon the Shore of Wonder
On the Day the Sky is oepened,
And the Tree is split asunder.
Monday, 20 June 2005 11:01:11 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Saturday, 18 June 2005
I somehow managed to miss the release of The Ur-Quan Masters alpha 0.4. Just so you understand, alpha 0.3 was quite stable and I was able to complete a game successfully. Alpha 0.4 is even more stable and adds some more features (PC intro/ending sequences, "triscan" filter to name two). It is the best free PC game you will ever play.

Also, the Precursors' remix project contains some pretty kick-ass remixes and covers of the various SC2 tunes. I've made an addon for Ur-Quan Masters which contains what I perceive as the best version for each tune; I'll post a link when I can find some web-space for that (the package currently weighs in at about 90mb) - alternatively I'll do some reading about the new trackerless BitTorrent and see if I can use it instead.

One thing I do wish UQM had is the ability to select a tune at random from a selection (for example, there are two or three very good versions of the Thraddash theme I would like to be able to put in the remix pack). I'll see if I can file a feature requests or maybe even add it to the source code myself.

Saturday, 18 June 2005 16:23:38 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Wednesday, 01 June 2005

One of the features carried over from my first website (amazingly still available) is a digital rendition of the ingame music from the Amiga version of Defender of the Crown. Back in the year 2000 I had this to say:

Defender of the Crown

Defender of the Crown is a computer game by Cinemaware, originally released in 1986 for the Commodore Amiga and later ported to every major platform (including the PC, C64, ZX80, NES and Atari ST). The game is branded an "interactive movie" and was one of the earliest Amiga games released. It was used by many Amiga enthusiasts to demonstrate the abilities of the computer, and with good reason: the game had beautifully drawn graphics by James D. Sachs and never-before experienced atmosphere.

One of the most prominent aspects of the game is its music. I've heard the game's music throughout my childhood as I went to a neighbouring Amiga owner and played this and many other wonderful Amiga games. The music was composed by Jim Cuomo, who now pursues a career as a musician.

The music here is recorded from the Amiga version via an Amiga emulator, specifically Fellow 0.3.3. Due to an emulator handicap the WAV files produced had some bugs which I fixed using Sound Forge 4.0. The tunes are now almost identical to the original Amiga ones (as verified using my A500+), depsite a somewhat shoddy MP3 conversion using MusicMatch 4.0.

The tunes provided are distributed with permission from Jim Cuomo, who was also gracious enough to send me one of his CDs entitled Gameplay, which contains excellent revisited tunes from several computer games he had composed music for. He also permitted me to post the Defender of the Crown tunes from the same CD - they will be added in a few days.

I am still, unfortunately, missing the Love theme (rescuing the princess) and the victory/loss themes, the latter of which will be posted as soon as I finish working on them.

At the time free hosts were usually limited to 5 or 10mb per user, and my having no desire to pay for storage meant it took more than a few days to post the Gameplay sound snippets - more like 5 years. Also, scratch the comments about Fellow 0.3.3 and MusicMatch 4.0; I've re-recorded some of the tunes from my A500+ (softkick'ed to 1.3) and re-encoded everything with OGG Vorbis (which means stereo [in the new recordings] and much higher quality for just slightly larger files - well worth it in my opinion). When I find the time, all themes will be re-recorded from a proper A1000 (512k, kick 1.0) through a more modern soundcard with lower SNR. I also pledge to re-rip and re-encode the GamePlay tracks properly.

Avast! Files off ye starboard bow!

In-game recordings:

GamePlay CD tracks:

Wednesday, 01 June 2005 22:10:49 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
Gaming
# Tuesday, 31 May 2005
First, if you're up for a decent laugh, go ahead and read A Gamers' Manifesto. You may have noticed the odd discrepency between this post's title and that article's; it's intentional - I do not presume to represent the gamer crowd as a whole, and for several very good reasons:
  1. I'm about as mainstream as the guy next door who never seems to shave, or shower, or do anything other than moan and occasionally groan something that sounds oddly like "braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains." I certainly enjoy an occasional hit as much as the next guy (UT2k4 anyone?), but other than that I'm definitely not your run-of-the-mill Israeli gamer. For one, I actually buy my games, which appears to be a particular oddity that even my absolutely closest friends can't fathom. Second, I often play older games (sometimes on their native platforms) because I enjoy them and do not mind their being old or technically outdated. Third, I consistently despise games heralded as breakthroughs by many of my peers; and lastly, I find myself playing less and less games and wondering why, exactly, that is. I used to play practically every game out there; there are few games from the '90s I haven't played extensively or at least taken for a spin.
  2. Gamers, even intelligent ones, look for different things in different games. I openly declare the original Doom to be one of the greatest games I've ever played. It's certainly mindless, quite repetitive and lacks any manner of story or plot. It doesn't matter. I've spent countless hours (must be about over a month in total) playing this particular title because it was so thoroughly satisfying. In recent years, however, I've heard people blaming Doom for starting a "dangerous trend in computer gaming" of mindless action games with no plot. Hate to break this to you: mindless action games were out there way before Doom (the arguably first computer game ever, Space War, was one). Besides, mindless action is definitely good for the soul. Still, it doesn't stop me from enjoying the more thought-inducing genres, which only goes to prove my point: people (especially gamers) enjoy things differently.
That said, I have several comments about A Gamers' Manifesto. Let's go by the numbers:
  1. I agree with the gist of the thing (tough, smart AI), but not with the particular example. Doom III was meant to retain Doom's simple, mind-numbing but gratifying gameplay, and does so extremely well. Playing Doom III was a religious experience for me: everything I loved about Doom - the suspense, the heaps of enemies, the challenging gameplay, the gameplay mechanics - is there. Giving the Lost Souls a proper AI would be like giving George W. Bush brains; it's great in theory, but it probably won't make the world a better place.
  2. With this I cannot possibly diagree. Games have been getting less and less diverse for years, and the studios that create the few exceptions usually get financially whacked: where are Bullfrog and Lionhead Studios these days? Do you recall the financial fiasco that befell DreamWorks' completely revolutionary The Neverhood, or the lackluster sales of the completely original Loom?
    Customers are obviously responsible, but it's also a result of the astounding costs involved in creating a top title these days. Twenty years ago you could've been a 15-year old mashing on his C64 and be pretty well off, but nowadays you need heaps of people and money to create even an astoundingly bad title like Chrome. I firmly believe, however, that tools will get progressively better, allowing less people to make more detailed, more immersive games in less time and effort; it's just a question of time. When that happens, the ball will be in our (the gamers') hand again: will we buy the creative titles? Will we reward creative persons and game studios? Time will tell.
  3. This is an interesting throwback to the time when the in-game graphics were so bad you had to tantalize your customers' imagination with interesting background stories, or beautifully drawn imagery on the packaging (recall Defender for the Atari 2600?). I think concept art has its place, but it's not good enough. Screenshots don't cut it nowadays either; I distinctly recall being thoroughly unimpressed with the Doom 3 screenshots and mesmerized by Half Life 2's, and Doom 3 turned out to be the more graphically impressive of the two (HL2 is no slouch, though!).
  4. The image made me laugh my ass off, and though I do not play adult games I find myself more than a little disturbed by the analogy (which is closer to reality than I originally thought.)
  5. It should come as no surprise that men do not know how to cater to women. I'm a guy, I do not presume to understand women, and wouldn't know the first thing about what they'd be looking for in a computer game. My immediate thoughts are "something cute," which is the exact stereotype and which only goes to show that game designers are probably equally in the dark.
  6. I couldn't possibly agree more. Save points are OUT, quicksave is IN. Still, I'd like to add that having quicksave/load available is no excuse for poor gameplay, and actually having to use it every few minutes equals shitty gameplay (Half Life again).
  7. Finally someone put it into words. Loading screens are bad, however I'll add that while I would definitely prefer not having to wait at all, as long as I'm kept waiting at least make it worthwhile. Half Life 2 had 30+ second loading times per 2-10 minutes of gameplay (reminiscent of the first game), while Doom 3 would take the same time to load an area you would play anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes, which is much more acceptable.
  8. Woah, I'm glad I'm not a football fan.
  9. If I had a nickle for every time a bug in a game forced me out of the "obvious" game space and into an invisible barrier, I would be one rich monkey. Too bad I don't.
  10. YES! This is the one thing that's been driving me insane these last few years. Artifically linear gameplay was one of the things that annoyed me most about both Max Payne, Half Life 2 and even Painkiller; it drives me insane not to be able to walk into a room or a corridor "just because." Half Life 2's electronic barriers were better in that respect, but certainly not the solution. God damnit, if you want to trap me in a long corridor, at least don't pretend there are locked rooms and find some more reasonable way to make it plausible.
  11. The voice acting and cinematics comments are spot-on. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a classic example of this; it could've been one of the best games of 2003 had it not been for astoundingly bad voice acting ("I saw my father turn to sand!") and horrible camera controls.
  12. While I agree with the authors' frustration, I can't see any other solution. Some of their comments are certinaly acceptable (particularly the RPG triggers), but for example I consider ammo starvation much less an issue than most of my fellow gamers: although I haven't played Resident Evil for the GameCube, many single-player first person shooters - Doom 3 and Serious Sam for example - require (at least in their higher difficult settings) careful expenditure of ammunition. I consider this part of the challenge, not an artificial way to inflate difficulty. That I reserve to just throwing 50% or 100% more monsters at you in the higher difficulty setting, as is done in most games. I think it's a lot more challenging to have to use the lesser weaponry where possible against tougher monsters so you have enough ammo for the big guys. As for instant-faliure levels, I have two words for you: Half, and Life.
  13. I completely disagree. There should be the option to unlock everything, but starting with low-class weaponry is part of the FPS tradition (as well as a direct cause-and-effect for gameplay), and unlocking content (or upgrading your car) is a huge part of the fun for certain types of games. Remedy's excellent Death Rally, or the astounding 2D shooter Tyrian, would be a great deal less fun if you could just start with the toughest ship.
  14. Oh, I don't know. I love crates.
  15. I'm increasingly worried about intellectual property issues, in particular software and concept-based patents. I was not aware of the effect patents have on gaming, so this is something of an eye-opener for me. I'll be sure to keep updated on this subject.
  16. For that matter, stop with the multiplayer bullshit. I don't particularly like multiplayer, and would definitely prefer to pay less for most games and just not get the multiplayer capabilities.
  17. Again, I'm not sure I agree. As long as you have a DVD drive and MPEG-decoding capabilities, since the console is stuck in your living room connected to your TV anyway it might as well play DVDs. Or audio CDs. But I'd rather the other, nonnatural features (PC-oriented features) be left out of the initial product, and either added later or just left to 3rd parties. It's obvious that Microsoft and Sony want their respective platforms to be the centerpiece of the living room, but I'm not interested in paying for it since I'm not going to be using it.
  18. I don't play any massively multiplayer games, so I'm not very familiar with the subject - but I don't like the sound of it.
  19. Unlike most people I don't have issues with jumping puzzles in first person shooters, providing the controls are adequate. That is part of the problem, a lot of games did that really, very badly (again Half Life comes to mind) but a lot of others did it just fine - proof of that is that I do not recall jumping puzzles that did not suck, and I've played a lot more FPSs than I can recall jumping puzzles. (Did that make any sense?)
  20. Buggre that for a larke. (tm)
That said, I much prefer PC gaming to console gaming; I do not get along well with the incresingly complicated controllers (still stuck in the D-pad+A/B buttons era), I hate the low resolution and crappy displays (good televisions are getting cheaper, but still prohibitively expensive) and the whole set up doesn't work for me. However, I must face the harsh reality: I spent the equaivalent of $1500 on my last machine (sans monitor!), and after 1.5 years I can already feel the hardware getting dated. Gaming PCs are ridiculously expensive and short-lived. I'll probably spend the money for my next two PCs on a next-gen platform and a really great HDTV-capable display and be done with it.
Tuesday, 31 May 2005 10:17:15 (Jerusalem Standard Time, UTC+02:00)  #    -
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