Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Red Alert 3 Unit - The Mecha Tengu

Obviously inspired the likes of Robotech, Transformers and other mecha anime, the Empire of the Rising Sun in Red Alert 3 will have transformable jet fighters called Tengu (named after the mythical Japanese creature). Apparently the unit is very versatile since it's considered a land and air unit (depending on which mode it's in). The only question I have is what on Earth are the arms for? In Robotech at least the arms/hands were used to hold rifles - but not so with this unit, so they're merely decoration :S.

Monday, September 29, 2008

First game of Colo = humbling experience!

Well somehow playing on easiest difficulty (Pilgrim) as George Washington resulted in me losing my first game D: - I feel like such a n00b. Granted I haven't played the game for about 12 years and this game is slightly different to the original, I still thought that I'd least finish Pilgrim difficulty without any problems.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I thought George Washington would be the best match for my strategy and while I *did* manage to get an army the same size as the Royal Expeditionary Force (and this is excluding the 1000+ guns and horses I had prepared for more militia if need be) - their guns didn't fire once because I couldn't declare independence! Unfortunately, even though I noticed I had 100 turns left and I was trying to focus all my efforts on liberty bell production, it was too late - I could only get 25% Rebel sentiment and the game was over.

I've now decided to play again except with John Adams to see if I fare any better.

Hinterland goes gold!

According to the official Hinterland website, apparently the game has just gone gold and is to be available sometime this week.

It should be available off Steam for $19.99. Hopefully a demo comes out soon so we can check out what the game is like!

In the meantime, these trailers will have to suffice.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lawsuit filed against EA's choice of DRM for Spore

And speaking of lawsuits, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against EA over Spore's DRM (SecuROM). Seems like the DRM issue has angered people enough to fight about it in court. This is even after EA, noticing how unpopular their choice of DRM was, loosened restrictions on Spore, increasing activations from 3 to 5 plus some other measures.

I doubt that EA will be found guilty of this (since they would probably claim that everyone in the industry does this and it's just to protect their profits, etc.) however it will hopefully at the very least show that some gamers dislike SecuROM enough to go to court about it - which goes to show to what degree people hate this form of DRM.

Jack Thompson has been disbarred

Welcome news to many hardcore gamers out there but Jack Thompson, that attorney from Florida that kept filing lawsuits against violent computer games, has finally been disbarred due to his aggressive behaviour. Check the news out here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Red Alert 3 Empire of the Rising Sun Trailer

A new trailer for the Empire of the Rising Sun has featured on Gamespot and is now on YouTube. Check it out (a must if you're a George Takei fan :)):

Also there's new unit profiles on the Mirage Tank and Japanese engineer.

It appears that the Mirage Tank operates like the RA2 one except it now has a Spectrum Cannon which can do splash damage to other units nearby and it also comes with a mobile gap generator!

The Japanese engineer you may be pleased to hear, isn't just a direct copy of the engineer from other sides. Unlike the Soviet engineer, the Japanese ones aren't armed, however they have an ability that allows them to sprint for a brief period of time (useful for a last minute dash into buildings).

Civ IV: Colonization Leader Traits

Just stumbled across a Colonization fan site that has a Colonizopedia containing some information about the leaders. Check it out.

I think I might be going English first time I play (to follow my ancestral roots) and I might choose George Washington since he gets a -50% unit equipping cost bonus. While John Adams gets a nice +25% Liberty Bell production the only problem I have with this is (1) assuming Liberty Bell production is still the way you increase rebel sentiment = quicker way to get independence, who wants to become independent if you're not ready to fight? and (2) considering the English get an immigration bonus, there's probably a higher chance of getting Elder Statesman compared to other nations anyway - still we shall find out if this theory works in practice :).

Of course if playing a multiplayer game and friends picked George Washington I'd need to have a list made up for other choices - I'm guessing it'll be like this:

1. George Washington (English)

2. John Adams (English)

3. Adrian Van der Doeck (Dutch) - 100% time between tax increase = more time to prepare for war and more money made

4. Peter Stuyvesant (Dutch)

5. Samuel de Chaplain (French) - Increased conversion rate from missions means more colonists

6. Louis de Buade de Frontenac (French)

7. Simon Bolivar (Spain) - 100% effect of liberty bells on rebel strength means it should be easier to fight the war of indepdendence (provided you have enough rebel sentiment!)

8. Jose de San Martin (Spain)

Bruce Shelley comments on Ensemble Studios closure

Bruce Shelley, the boss over at Ensemble Studios has posted a blog entry about the studio's closure. To summarise:

- Didn't expect Ensemble Studios to be closing.

- Everyone at Ensemble Studios was shocked at the news as they thought their games were of high quality and most important of all, profitable.

- Executive from Microsoft Game Studios stated that Ensemble Studios was closed down since they: (1) Wanted to divert money into other projects, (2) employees at Ensemble Studios cost more per head than other studios (e.g. Lionhead), (3) Ensemble was planning to move to a new office and (4) Microsoft Game Studios forecast that the projects they were diverting funds to would be more profitable.

- All staff at Ensemble Studios are now working on Halo Wars.

- Studio head Tony Goodman plans to create a new studio hopefully enticing most of the former employees to join.

- Bruce Shelley is unlikely to join this new company.

I never got into Age of Empires III but the first two were most awesome games. I hope that this new studio ends up with a lot of the talent that went into making the Age of Empires series (although I'm not sure how many from the original teams are still with Ensemble Studios, but it's likely if Bruce Shelley's comment about a low-turnover of staff is true).

Colonization already out in Australia?

Apparently according to a couple of sources, Colonization has already been released in Australia and should be available today (that means it's two days early) - at least EB Games seems to have it in - so if you're desparate to get your hands on the game (after a 13-14 year wait, who could blame you?) check out your nearest games store now :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Monkey Island Theme Music

Just found some awesome videos on YouTube of this guy synching two (and even four) guitar parts to play themes from Monkey Island.

The first one is the intro theme

The second the Melee Island Map music

Ahhhh the memories!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

EA increases activations to 5 for Spore as well

Earlier on I posted some news indicating that RA3 would be shipped with SecuROM allowing 5 activations instead of 3. Now it seems EA is following suit with Spore, allowing you to have 5 activations instead of 3.

Doesn't seem like they're getting the message does it?

Interview with Bioware's Greg Zeschuk about Dragon Age: Origins

Well seems like Dragon Age is still plodding along and it seems like good news for Baldur's Gate fans (and any fan of Bioware's oldskool RPGs) - Dragon Age is a spritual successor of those games.

What's good to hear is that the game is being released on PC exclusively! It may be ported to other consoles later but apparently Bioware felt that Dragon Age was the kind of game that could only be truly experienced properly on the PC (not sure why their other games for the past few years couldn't be on PC first as well and I think the interviewer was trying to steer the conversation that way too).

Another thing I found interesting is the mentioning of not two but three archetypes. Usually Bioware games have an alignment system which basically map to a good/evil axis (e.g. Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire and Mass Effect) - however in Dragon Age apparently you'll have the usual "Hero" and "Tyrant" but you also have one called "Martyr" (perhaps a more neutral, introvertive, self-sacrificing path?). Shall be interesting to see how it turns out.

Check out the interview here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hell March 3

Not sure if this is the real deal, but definitely sounds authentic. Whilst trawling through YouTube managed to find Red Alert 3's Hell March 3, scored by none other than Frank Klepacki. Sounds like he's taken more inspiration from the original Hell March than HM2. Rock on! :D

New Red Alert 3 Unit Profile: Tanya

Looks like Tanya (besides going blonde) is essentially the same as previous versions of her in Red Alert 1 & 2. The only difference I can see is that now she can also use this "Time Belt" which allows her to quickly teleport back to a location and out of harm's way.

Check out the profile.

New Fallout 3 Trailer

A new trailer for Fallout 3 has been released - it doesn't reveal much about the game (besides a brief mentioning of the V.A.T.S.) but it does immerse you into the world of Fallout 3 (which as usual is heavily inspired by the 50s).

Hinterland to be released in the next couple of weeks!

What may come as bit of a shock for most (considering there has been absolutely no demos, trailers or any marketing for that matter) is that Hinterland is being released in the next couple of weeks. In fact, it was scheduled for release today (apparently) but has been delayed to include some input from the community.

The graphics look a bit primitive at the moment and UI a bit cluttered but hopefully the gameplay itself is fun.

Age of Booty Open Beta now on FilePlanet

FilePlanet offered a closed beta a week ago only available to subscribers but a recent check of the sign-up page reveals that the Open Beta has now started and is now open to everyone, so get your key and download that client! :)


Diablo III won't have any old classes returning

Okay that's not entirely true since you've already got the Barbarian there but according to an interview that Gamespy links to, the reason the Barbarian class is still in the game is just because the class they were planning just seemed so similar to the Barbarian that they decided to keep the name. However, it was pointed out that even though Blizzard would not develop rehashes of old classes, the new ones would definitely find new fans and if they didn't there was the possibility of reintroducing the old classes in expansion packs.

Friday, September 19, 2008

daveunderscore joins Choicest Games

Would you please all welcome are most recent contributor to the blog, daveunderscore. Dave is a bit of guru when it comes to playing RTSs and FPSs (especially C&C Generals and Day of Defeat respectively, so you've probably heard of him if you've played either of these games :)) - so his insight into these genres and gaming in general will be of great benefit to the blog!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Civilization IV: Colonization Preview

Gamespot has a preview for us of Firaxis's upcoming game, Civilization IV: Colonization. Check it out.

Nothing really new here for a Colo fan except these couple of things I noticed:

1) The Civ IV Culture model seems to have been adopted by the new Colo. Production of liberty bells influences the rate at which your borders expand.

2) Not only can you have 4-player multiplayer, but 8, with 2 players able to play co-op per colony. Awesome!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Age of Booty Open Beta to commence on Talk like a Pirate Day?

A new website has just come online for the game Age of Booty which will be the first port-of-call for information about the upcoming pirate-themed casual game by Certain Affinity, YAARRGH!

And speaking of talking like a pirate, it seems that D.A.R.Y.L. over at Capcom has hinted that the Open Beta could be soon... very soon. If his hint indicates that it will commence on "Talk like a Pirate Day" that means we can see an Open beta as early as September the 19th (two days from now)! :)

Can't wait!

Obligatory Pirate-themed screenshot (god I loved that game!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mass Effect Review

Many apologies to those of you who have been patiently eyeing the Reviews box on the left hand side and wondering if the review for Mass Effect really was "coming soon". I'm happy to say I've played the game thoroughly enough (three times) to give a proper review. So without further ado, here it is:

Sound (4/5)
The sound effects used in this game are well suited to the sci-fi genre and used appropriately. The environmental ambience that you hear on different planets (e.g. howling wind on a frigid, icy world) helps with the immersion. The only reason it didn't get a perfect score is that occasionally there'd be sound glitches occurring that caused the volume levels of some sounds to drown out others (e.g. the engine hum of the Mako, the Armoured Personnel Carrier used to explore planets, can sometimes spike in volume so loud that you won't hear anything else). These were more annoying than debilitating problems since a quick reload of the game tended to fix the issue.

Voice acting is performed by professional voice actors and as a result is top notch with even some famous actors joining the fray, such as Lance Henriksen(Aliens, Millenium) as Admiral of the Human Navy, Seth Green(Austin Powers, Family Guy, Robot Chicken) as your ship's pilot and Marina Sirtis(Star Trek:TNG), as the evil right-hand to the game's antagonist.

Music (5/5)
For a computer game, Mass Effect has a soundtrack that is up there with the greatest and we wouldn't expect any less from Jack Wall, a veteran game composer (Jade Empire, Splinter Cell, Myst). With the help of Sam Hulick, Richard Jacques and David Kates, the soundtrack helps the player feel like (s)he's starring in some epic 80s sci-fi adventure (Wall was heavily inspired by the music of John Williams and Blade Runner in creating this soundtrack, and you can tell). Special mention must go to the excellent credits song by Canadian alternative group "The Faunts" which fits perfectly with the game's theme and the rest of the soundtrack.

Although the soundtrack only rated above average in my soundtrack review, one must keep in mind that the review was considering the soundtrack as a standalone piece of work. When listened in the game though, it is nothing short of sensational.

Graphics (4/5)
For a role-playing game, the graphics are the best we've seen in a Bioware game yet and is up there with the graphics seen in "The Witcher" and "Oblivion" (the game uses a modified Unreal 3 engine). Characters now have more realistic shadows, lighting is used to great effect and the faces of characters and aliens are well done. You can even customise your character's facial features "Sims 2" style.

However, there are occasional glitches that do break the immersion: Textures on the clothing for your characters even on High settings seem a little blocky, sometimes shadows appear to be generated incorrectly (which I notice occurs on other games, including "Battlefield 2") and the lens flare effect often clips and can be seen in the foreground rather than the background (it seems quite silly when a spaceship flies in front of the sun only for the lens flare to superimpose itself in front of it).

Another noticeable love-it-or-hate-it feature in Mass Effect is the Film Grain Effect. Personally, I actually like it, since the whole idea behind it is to make you feel like you're acting out a sci-fi movie - however, I can understand that it can be quite annoying to some (and it apparently increases FPS slightly too). Fortunately, there is an option to turn this off from the menu.

Character Creation Demo

Plot (5/5)
If this game was a movie, the plot would seem rather ho-hum. It's your typical space opera fare: bold adventurer in a galaxy full of aliens goes about trying to save the universe from destruction by the forces of evil. However being a sci-fi fan, I know that seeing a game (or a movie for that matter) that has this kind of storyline and executes it so well is a rarity. Not since the original "Knights of the Old Republic" has Bioware ventured into this genre and it's good to see that they have succeeded in offering a competent and adult storyline for us gamers to sink our teeth into. There are even a couple of interesting twists in the plot where you have to make life-or-death decisions, but I won't spoil the plot anymore - you'll just have to play it to find out!

Let me say from the start that overall Mass Effect is a fun game to play from start to finish, at least as far as the main plot is concerned. The cutscenes and ethical debates (if you like that sort of thing) are choreographed well - the locations, exotic - the bits in between though can become a bit tedious.

A lot of the game (especially if you do all the side quests) will involve you scouting planets in the Mako, a futuristic APC. This vehicle is able to scale 80 degree inclines it seems which is very unrealistic but sometimes useful. Unfortunately, even though the Mako can defy the gravity most of the time, it can't all the time and some mountains steeper than 80 degrees are quite impossible to scale - so it can be quite frustrating getting to points of interest sometimes. Usually you have to resort to either (1) spending 10 minutes driving around the mountain looking for a less than 80 degree incline you can scale up or (2) spending 10 minutes perservering with the incline in front of you and having to restart the map everytime you accidentally fall in a crater.

Once you actually get inside the buildings that contain the side quest you may get the notion that each of them must be built by the same company which happens to specialise in galactic pre-fab housing: Each of the bases/mines look the same, save for some re-arranged furniture so even though the side quests give you that bit of extra XP the scenery can be dull at times.

Conversation Demo

Replayability (4/5)
Unlike previous Bioware games where they have an alignment system, in "Mass Effect" there is no real sense of good or evil. Now you just do things the honourable, by-the-book way (Paragon) or doing things the ruthless, anything goes way (Renegade). Going along either path will change the story slightly and open up different options as you progress. As usual, this system offers some replayability to the game as the decisions you make will alter the outcome of the story at every turn and ultimately decide the fate of the galaxy.

Mass Effect, like many games these days (and we probably have the Xbox360 to thank for this) has an Achievements system where achieving certain miletones (e.g. earning 1 million credits, using the pistol to get 250 kills, etc.) offers special perks the next time you play the game. This will be where Mass Effect loses a point for this section since yes it's nice to get a couple of the perks (the one that unlocks elite Spectre weapons is probably the most useful) but some of the others are quite hard to attain (I played three times and was unable to acquire even 75% of the achievements) and won't offer the benefits unless you decide to play the game again with the same characters.

Mass Effect wouldn't be a Bioware game if it didn't have romance sub-plots and you'll get two choices for each sex (one of the choices is actually common to both sexes - her race can actually mate with both sexes from other races) . As always I think the romance sub-plot is a nice touch to this genre since it helps you with the immersion even more knowing that having your character invest time in relationships within the game alters the storyline even more (and ultimately once again offers more replayability).

Even though RPGs of this nature usually are restrictive in terms of replayability, Bioware ensures that the player is offered with as much choice as possible. What I'm saying is that it's no "Oblivion", but that's like comparing apples and oranges.

Combat Demo

RPGs are often released unpolished and with several bugs, but this time it wasn't gameplay related bugs that mired the game. Mainly the UI and choice of DRM (Digital Rights Management) by EA were the big offenders.

Firstly, let's talk about the UI. The UI for the PC version of the game was done by Demiurge Studios (who were responsible for porting the game from the console version). While they've done what could be described as a functional UI, it can be a bit tedious at times and takes some getting used to. For starters, like most Bioware RPGs, pausing the game can be achieved by pressing the Spacebar so you can setup skills. Unlike previous Bioware RPGs, you actually have to hold the Spacebar down in order to do it . It can sometimes feel a bit awkward and takes some getting used to but eventually I got used to using this mechanic. This seemed obviously a legacy of pressing buttons on the side of the Xbox360 controller so I thought it was rather lazy not to alter it slightly for the PC RPG-playing audience.

Another annoyance is the conversion of items into Omni-Gel. In Mass Effect, if you ever fail decryption/hacking puzzles or need to repair things, you usually use an amount of this miracle substance called Omni-Gel. You can acquire Omni-Gel by salvaging items and usually you'd want to do this with obsolete weapons and modifications. However, there isn't any easy way to do this (as far as I can tell) except (1) click on item to salvage, (2) click on "Salvage Item", (3) Click "yes" to the warning prompt, (4) Repeat. Fine for a few items but since you're going to be collecting a lot of items in Mass Effect this can become tedious if you've got 100 items to salvage. There's usually an option to "Salvage All" when you pick up items in the first place so it's a bit bewildering to me why they don't have a similar option once you've already got the items in your inventory.

Secondly, the choice of DRM is a bit dubious and sounds like a money grab by EA. Basically you're only allowed 3 activations of the game with the new SecuROM copyright protection measure that EA uses. What is an activation you might ask? Anytime you install the game on a different computer or you reinstall on the same computer but with different hardware, this counts as an activation - not good news for those who like to upgrade their computers frequently!

Okay, you might be saying "Who cares about the DRM, that's got nothing to do with the gameplay itself so why bother altering a review's score based on that?" - well the thing is, it does in this case. For one, I've had problems running the game with SecuROM. Initially I was running the game on Windows Vista and if I decided to run the game too soon after startup (I can only assume because SecuROM hadn't performed its security check yet) the game would throw up a prompt giving an authentication error. Only after waiting for a minute or so was I able to run the game (and yes I did setup "Run as Administrator" and Win XP SP2 compatibility mode on too). Eventually I reinstalled the game on XP since I was having trouble running other games on Vista. I then was unable to play the game after an update to AVG Anti-Virus was installed. Reinstalling AVG however allowed me to play the game again - bottom line, SecuROM doesn't play nice with other applications installed on your system.

The other reason EA's choice of SecuROM would alter the rating of this game is issues of longevity. In ye olde days of computing, purchasing a game meant you usually owned it for life. You could install and play the game on a whim for the next 10 or even 20 years with a little help from DosBox or the like and not worry that you won't be able to play it. Not so with the latest SecuROM. If you upgrade your computer three times your copy of Mass Effect won't work anymore untill you contact EA tech support (which is an expensive $2.48/minute phone call or an e-mail where a reply could take weeks) and appeal to them to renew your activations. Thanks for treating legitimate buyers like pirates EA!

In terms of the usual bugs, there were a couple of instances of that - most noticeable was one battle where anytime a biotic skill was used on you, you pretty much had to reload your game and try your best to avoid them being used on you. As mentioned before though, overall there are little gameplay related bugs (although being released on Xbox360 first may have helped Bioware iron out any outstanding ones).

Galaxy Map and Mako Demo

Overall - 78%
If you're a fan of Bioware RPGs and especially if you're into sci-fi, you won't be disappointed by this most recent release if you overlook the few minor UI quirks - however, those against draconian DRMs, who like to feel that they actually own the game or tend to like a bit of variety in their side quests, may have to look elsewhere.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Religious Anti-Spore Fans get /rickrolled

Gamespy reports that a supposed religious Anti-Spore blog is nothing other than another attempt at /rickrolling the poor suckers who take it seriously. What is /rickrolling you may ask? Well it involves misleading people into clicking a link only to have them redirected to a video/lyrics of the 80s hit by Rick Astley, "Never Gonna Give You Up".

Go here to see the clip in all its 80s "goodness":


Spore Owners limited to one account per copy

To be honest, I don't find this very surprising but Gamespy is reporting that in response to a post on the official EA forums by one of their representatives, it seems that you are only allowed to have one online account per copy of Spore. i.e. if you wanted to create multiple online accounts for different members of the family, you wouldn't be able to do so. Frankly, I don't see this as too much of an issue since you do have 6 game slots/planets you can use anyway from the start. The only problem is (1) you'd be limited to 1 or 2 civilizations and (2) if you don't trust the rest of your family to stuff up your civ :).

Nevertheless, it's another controversy to spark outrage with Spore. Tends to happen when a game is so heavily anticipated and you get a draconian publisher like EA on board... and there I was thinking they were finally changing for the better!

Friday, September 12, 2008

A blog entry on Spore's DRM

Stumbled across a blog entry (amongst the myriad of other blog entries, news articles and petitions) discussing about Spore's DRM. I think he brings up a lot of good points to the argument and I especially love this paragraph.

"Now this [Spore's DRM] was included with the game as part of a ‘protection’ against piracy. Spore was released in Australia on September 3rd, and in the United States on September 7th. A pirated version was available on September 4th meaning that a pirated version was available, WITHOUT the DRM before it was officially released here in the States. I would say this protection was an absolute and complete failure. (Epic Fail)"

EPIC FAIL indeed!

Left 4 Dead Demo to be released

No news on exactly when, but Valve's Gabe Newell has stated that there will be a Left 4 Dead demo released most likely featuring "The Hospital" level.

Hopefully it'll come out before the game is released :). Still from what I've heard the game is going to be pretty good.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Three Cards to Midnight

From the creators of the Tex Murphy games like Under A Killing Moon comes word of a new adventure game that they're working on that should be completed in November this year. Apparently Three Cards to Midnight is going to have a film-noir feel to it and it involves tarot cards and regaining your memory. Screenshots a new trailer are promised this month and a demo, next month. Definitely a game to look out for since (1) I love adventure games and (2) it's made by veteran adventure game developers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Game Copyright Protection Database

Here's a useful database provided by the guys at Daemon Tools that shows you which copyright protection schemes are used by particular games. From the looks of it, it seems SecuROM 7.37 is the evil one (the most recent version of SecuROM) - at least when the activations feature is turned on (I wonder if you can turn it off?).

Oh and check out what this guy says - I totally agree with him. It seems that EA is just being greedy in trying to get us poor helpless saps to buy the same game multiple times if we run out of activations.

Age of Empires Developer to be shut down by Microsoft

Ah the Age of Empires series - how I fondly remember the original and the second one wasn't too bad either - but maybe the third one in the series was the death knell for Ensemble Studios? It has recently been announced that Ensemble Studios would be disbanded as soon as the game Halo Wars is finished.

My best wishes goes to the developers in finding new employment. The talent they have should not go to waste.

EA adds a whopping 2 extra installations for Red Alert 3

The upcoming Red Alert 3 is as most people know being published by EA and therefore it's going to be using SecuROM (just like Mass Effect and Spore before it). This means that there will be online activation of the game and a limit on how many times you can install it. Apparently there is some "good" news regarding the number of installations allowed and EA has increased it by a whopping two extra installations to bring the total number of times you're allowed to install the game to five. Wow! EA are truly patronising to the gaming public - they obviously don't realise that the issue is why is there a limit on the number of installations at all?

Check out the news article on IGN for more info.

Fallout 3 changed globally thanks to Australia's OFLC

It seems that not only Australia is getting the modified version of Fallout 3 (thanks to them banning the original version since it allowed the player to use Morphine) - now all versions worldwide will get the modified version where the real-world drugs have been renamed with fictional ones!

Check out the Gamespy article on it here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

EA's choice of SecuROM comes under fire... again

I remember the good ol' days when copyright protection involved looking for particular words in the manual or spinning a code-wheel... nowadays it seems that game publishers want to punish legitimate buyers by making games not only very hard to pirate (although let's face it, all you do is delay the inevitable) but also impossible to run with your system configuration. Copyright protection schemes (like SecuROM) does not play nice with other applications installed on your system - in fact quite recently I couldn't play Mass Effect until I'd uninstalled my Anti-Virus software and re-installed it (then everything was miraculously fine and dandy! Funny that!). Not to mention that the version of SecuROM that EA has decided to apply to its recent games (i.e. Mass Effect and now Spore) limits you to install the game a grand total of 3 times on different hardware configurations. That means if you're the sort to upgrade computers frequently, you're going to lose the right to a game you legitimately purchased very quickly.

The most recent complaints about EA and SecuROM have come in the form of a protest on Amazon.com's user comments list for the game. Apparently more than 700 1-star ratings for Spore have been made just because EA has decided to use the SecuROM copyright protection scheme. Check out the Gamespy article on it here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Spore launch not so smooth sailing

According to this news article, Spore's launch wasn't so smooth sailing. I must admit I didn't have that much trouble with it (although as mentioned in the article, I did have trouble logging on the first day). Another problem I'm experiencing recently is that I'm not able to add my friends to the "Buddy List" since they don't appear in the search results - anyone else receiving this problem?

Red Alert 3 Allies Trailer

A trailer has just been released showcasing the Allies and their major characters. Check it out on YouTube:

Good to see that once again, that a Red Alert game doesn't take itself too seriously.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Diablo Timeline

Blizzard has provided a Diablo timeline so you can recap the events leading up to Diablo III. Interesting to note that the events of Diablo I and II occurred in the same year!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Battlefield Heroes Trailer #3

A new Battlefield Heroes trailer has surfaced and it's interesting to see what are the possibilities available when you start customising your character. What this video showcases in particular (or so it seems) is what happens when you and a bunch of mates decides to customise - you can then start making wacky uniforms for yourselves, which is a pretty awesome way of distinguishing clans from one another! :)

Spore released in Australia today!

That's right folks, the official Australian release date for Spore is now upon us so the game should be in stores anytime now! In fact, I think Choona's already grabbed his copy. I'll be heading off to JB around lunchtime to see what I can find...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Review: Space Siege

Mark asked me to write a review on Space Siege by Gas Powered Games when I've completed the game. Now that I've completed the game, I thought I'd share with you my experience with Space Siege.

For those of you who have experienced Dungeon Siege, this game may appear to be totally different on the surface, with the nicer graphics in Space Siege, and have the setting on a huge colonisation space ship. However, the game is still very much another Diablo clone, with the click-a-thon method of control. Granted, you now also have a skill bar and using the 1-0 keys to activate the skills, it still doesn't seem to make much difference to the gameplay. The skills you can pick up and utilize are too few and simplistic in my opinion. It would be more interesting if you had a larger variety of skills available, but then limited you to use only 10 of the skills. Thus, making you be more careful in terms of how you want to set your character up.

The storyline behind Space Siege, is set in the future, where an alien race, called Keraks, has invaded Earth and sought to destroy all humanity, hence humans set off in huge colonisation spaceships to escape and secure the safety of humans. Unfortunately an alien vessel, called a "pod", had attached itself to your ship, which you discover once you woke from cold sleep.

Although in the game, you can have different endings, the storyline still feels very rigid and linear. You end up running around completing the quests/missions... and most of the areas are all corridors, in the most linear fashion. The decision on what ending you will have depends on how much humanity your character has remaining, since you sacrifice your humanity by replacing body parts with cybernetic enhanced components. However, the storyline seems to be a little too short, as the ending seemed rather abrupt.

The multi-player mode, tested with Luke, seem to be half decent. You slowly build up your character with the upgrade parts you collect along the way. However, you skip past the storyline, and just enter instances. Also, in multi-player mode, it is a shame that your character does not have access to your robotic sidekick, HR-V, from the storyline.

I think overall, Space Siege is a rather mediocre game. I was fairly disappointed since the developer, Gas Powered Games, also developed Dungeon Siege, which although is quite old now, was a fairly fun game to play. The only saving grace with Space Siege, is the multi-player option, but not by much.

Rating: 4/10

Choona joins Choicest Games

Hooray! I now have someone else to help me write reviews and post random bits of gaming info. Would you all please welcome my friend and fellow guildie, Choona. He'll hopefully have a review for Space Siege in the near future.

If you want to check out my impressions of the Space Siege demo, go here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

C&C Ringtones Pack available for download

Funnily enough, I was just trying to figure out how to get Hell March as my mobile ringtone last night and now I read that it's available as a ringtone in this ringtone pack! Seems that my prayers (and the prayers of any other Frank Klepacki aficionados out there have been answered) :).

Go here to download!

Age of Booty Release Date

Some more news/confirmations on Age of Booty:

- The game will be $10 for PC, that seems to be final. Of course, that's probably $10 US which means at the time of this article it is $12. However depending on distributor (more on that below) they may give us "special" increased Australian prices.

- No further details on who is distributing yet, although apparently they're going for a large number of them.

- It appears that so far the game is going to be download only (bummer) but I guess that's why they can offer such a cheap price (I'm oldskool though and like actually holding something tangible to indicate I own the game :)).

- A closed beta is about to occur and an open beta will follow shortly after. Depending on the progress of the betas, this will determine when the game is released.

- My personal opinion is that this game will probably be released sometime in November - that gives two months to beta test a game that shouldn't be too complex (at least not as complex as an RPG for example where you have thousands of dialog trees to test).


I've received a very prompt reply to this post from D.A.R.Y.L. over at Capcom. It seems the beta may be over much sooner than I thought and the price of the game will universally be $10. Check out D.A.R.Y.L.'s blog post.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Gamespy Left 4 Dead Preview lifts lid on matchmaking and achievements

The Gamespy Team has released another preview on the upcoming zombie shooting co-op game, Left 4 Dead. Here's a summary of it below:

- Game will feature built-in friends list making it easier to team up with buddies
- Apparently if there's a free slot in a game, you can jump in anytime - replacing whichever character is bot-controlled.
- There are four difficulty levels: Easy, Normal, Hard and Impossible.
- There are also four distinct campaigns.
- Left 4 Dead is a homage to the zombie movies by George Romero.
- The bot AI is very intelligent.
- Most gameplay occurs in the dark.
- The spawning of zombies and items will be randomised each time you play thanks to a "virtual director" feature.

Dragon Age to contain user-content tools

It's probably no big surprise but good to know all the same that Dragon Age will be released with tools to create user-content - just like a certain previous Bioware title it seems (i.e. Neverwinter Nights). Good news for the modders out there!

Download Red Alert for free!

Those good folks at EALA have once again given people an opportunity to download the original Red Alert for free (I think the last time I had that opportunity was on a coverdisc for PC Powerplay, so technically I guess it wasn't "free" but it was pretty damn cheap).

Also if you decide to pre-order Red Alert 3, you can get Red Alert 2 for free.

New Battlefield Heroes wallpapers - Set 1

The Battlefield Heroes website has released 4 new images that can be used as wallpapers. Check them out here.

I particularly like this one with the Germ- I mean National Army soldier throwing a stick grenade :).

Michael Phelps recieves Call of Duty 5 as gift

Well you learn something new every day: Apparently Michael Phelps, the famous American swimmer and Olympic athlete is a big fan of the Call of Duty series. Recently on television, he was given an "I.O.U. card" saying that he will receive a new copy of Call of Duty 5: World at War as soon as it comes out.

Check the news here.