Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to skip Civilization V Intro

Although the Civ V intro is pretty awesome, that doesn't mean you have to watch it every time you boot the game up. Thanks to the fellow on this site, here's a simple way of doing it:

  1. Go to \My Documents\My Games\Sid Meier's Civilization 5
  2. Find out UserSettings.ini, and edit it with notepad.
  3. Add SkipIntroVideo = 1 in the section named GameSettings.

Civilization AI: Playing to Lose

Civilization Designer Soren Johnson has a long one hour talk about the AI in the Civ series and games in general. It turns out to be a very interesting discussion and I learnt quite a few things about the AI in Civ and another way to perceive AI in games.


Interesting points I gathered from the talk:
  • Soren mentions that in the Civ games they were targeting for three types of players: ones seeking a challenge (i.e. the powergamer I guess), Sandbox players (i.e. the kind that comes from playing SimCity or The Sims) and the ones looking for a Narrative (they go for the roleplaying, looking for a history they can recollect). I have to say I probably fall in the latter category.
  • Game difficulty was added to cater for the aforementioned three types of players (principally the Powergamers and Sandbox players). Settler difficulty is so easy that it is effectively like playing in a sandbox and the harder difficulties were for powergamers
  • Soren even mentions Puzzle Quest in his talk when discussing how some perceive the AI to cheat. He refers to the fact that during the AI turn it appears that they get lucky chains (i.e. 4-of-a-kinds, 5-of-a-kinds etc.) but it doesn't seem to be the case during the player's turn, when in fact the player has the same chance as the AI. Soren believes that the Infinite Interactive developers could have toned down the difficulty somewhat - and adopt the same mantra of "playing to lose" with the AI (since Puzzle Quest is after all a casual game).
  • Even though "Noble" difficulty is meant to be the level where the AI is on the same playing field as you (i.e. no advantages/disadvantages) it in fact still "cheats". The AI gets a bonus against barbarians, doesn't pay the same amount for unit support, unit upgrades, inflation and war weariness doesn't affect the AI as much. So it looks like all those years of accusing the AI of cheating was true! Apparently the reason the AI got these "cheats" was because it needed "help" in these areas as it couldn't do it as effectively as a human.
  • In Civ I and II, there was actually code to give the AI "free wonders" every so often, which seems pretty unfair!
  • In Civ I and II, there was actually code that instructed the AI to gang up on the human player if the human player was winning and it was past 1900!
  • In Civ III there was a funny exploit to use against the AI when it came to amphibious landings. The code basically instructed the computer player to land units in the city with the least number of units. Humans would counter this by leaving units out of a city until the last second and then place a unit back inside. They would then proceed to remove a unit from a city on the other side of their empire. Ultimately by repeating this behaviour you could get the AI's fleet of transports into an infinite loop!
  • AI code only accounts for about 2-3% of the entire codebase of a Civ game
  • Usually 1.5 years is spent on testing AI during a closed beta as it is deemed to difficult to test any other way.

Thanks to Danno for the heads-up!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Coming up in October



Hi all,

Not quite dead yet even though I haven't posted for a few days, as I was over in Launceston, Tasmania for a break - although it was a geek holiday as I was at the Game On 2.0 Exhibition which details the history of video games, so expect to see an article or two on that once I get everything organised :).

Also I will be wrapping up my top 10 PC gaming heroes as I'm already half-way through them. I shall not leave you in suspense any longer! :)

And finally, I should be able to get some reviews up. Puzzle Quest 2 is almost finished, Worms Reloaded will follow shortly after and Civ V is occupying my time too.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Civilization V Collector's Edition has arrived!

Woohoo! It's finally here! My collector's edition of Civ V :). Yes it was very expensive but I just had to grab the soundtrack! Plus it comes with a behind-the-scenes DVD, an art book and 5 figurines (some barbarian dude, a swordsman, longbowman, rifleman and a mech).

Check out the photos! :)




And the most impressive aspect for me? It comes in a box the same size as those that were sold in the 80s and 90s... ah the nostalgia...

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #5 Sly Boots (Anachronox)


And now we come to another guy who starts out as an anti-hero. Meet Sly Boots, a down on his luck P.I. of the future. What starts out as a quest to get himself out of debt ends up as a crazy romp around the galaxy with a bunch of ridiculous, unlikely allies (try a yammering old man, a depressed super-hero and a miniaturised planet!).


The reason Sly gets in at #5 is that he is an amalgamation of my favourite characters from movies. He's like a mixture of Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly (heck he even looks like him, check out the photo) and Indiana Jones. Cocky, resolute, foolish yet when his life depends on it, he will often surprise you.

Due to Anachronox being a rather obscure game, Sly Boots doesn't get as much of the limelight as he probably deserves - so here you go Sly, lets hope others can now appreciate your status as a PC gaming hero!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good Old Games founders sorry to users



Good Old Games is dead. Long live Good Old Games!

This appears to be what has happened and as confirmed by many news sites including Kotaku. The closure of GOG.com was a publicity stunt, a bit of a "joke" with the users.

Good Old Games founders have released a video on the Good Old Games website with them dressed up as monks, apologising to the users for any confusion about the fate of the website and saying that they have "sinned". They also wanted to clarify a couple of the more outrageous rumours: Firstly, Good Old Games would still remain DRM-Free since it is indeed the reason that distinguishes them from any other store. Secondly, GOG hadn't been bought out by another digital distribution company and that in fact they've earnt quite a bit of money for their "monastery".

I'm sure it'll be a relief to most users knowing that GOG.com is still going to live on but the question is now, will the customers angered by this type of publicity stunt refuse to buy games from GOG.com anymore?

GOG.com has promised four more videos later today.

UPDATE: In the following videos, GOG.com have indicated the following key points:


  • Streamlined front page
  • A horizontal bar with information to help new users create accounts
  • New game mode filter when sorting through games (e.g. multiplayer)
  • Games that are part of series will now be indicated as such
  • GOG Mixes: Users can create "playlists" of game titles that fit a certain theme. These can then be judged by other users by votes. For example, you can have a "Most Successful Female Game Characters" Mix
  • The website is apparently 10x faster
  • Thanks to a deal being struck with Atari/Hasbro, GOG.com will be releasing Baldur's Gate and the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Civilization V Launch Trailer released


An awesome launch trailer has been released for Civilization V! I can't agree with Game Informer's comment more when they say "Games like this remind us why it is still good to be a PC Gamer".

It shall be coming out within the next couple of days for those of us in Australia :).

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #6 Jim Raynor (Starcraft)


And speaking of heroes who have redeemed themselves, here we have Jim Raynor, who starts out as a bit of an anti-hero in the original Starcraft and into a bona fide one.


Jim Raynor is your typical Wyatt Earp character - a lawman that dispenses out frontier justice. He is also very modest and loyal to his friends, although only to a point (SPOILERS AHEAD) as evidenced by when he decides to kill Tychus Findlay. The question is, why did he kill Tychus? Was it because he was so in love with Kerrigan that noone would get in his way or was he listening to the logic of an old friend, Zeratul, by realising Kerrigan was the only hope for the galaxy? Or maybe a bit of both?

Even though Raynor doesn't show it, I'm sure he feels some regret in taking his old friend Tychus out but regardless, isn't this what defines a true hero? It is if you go by utilitarian ethics as Jim is sacrificing the life of his friend for the greater good of the galaxy. But then wouldn't that also make Arcturus Mengsk a hero as well?

The fact that these questions are raised, that Raynor is a complicated character, is probably the major reason, more than anything else, that Raynor gets in at #6. He is the fallible, imperfect hero, an anti-hero of sorts, that has to make some unpopular decisions in order to get things done. There is also irony in that he has to kill one friend to ensure the return of another, one he left behind on Tarsonis, many years before.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mass Effect to be used as teaching material

Mass Effect is to be used on a school's reading list thanks to Darren Wershler of Concordia University. He was able to get Mass Effect on the Contemporary Canadian Fiction reading list due to it satisfying the criteria of being contemporary (2007), Canadian (developed by Bioware) and fiction. Identifying a video game as fiction is sure to raise a few eyebrows - only recently film critic Roger Ebert got into a row with gamers thanks to him refusing to believe games could be a form of art.

Call me biased but I tend to fall into the camp that does think games can be art or proper fiction. Sure a game with a good plot is in the minority but bad plots don't exist only in the realm of video games - you can get trashy films and books too...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #7 Revan (Knights of the Old Republic)


Ah Revan, from Knights of the Old Republic - this character is introduced in one of the biggest plot twists in gaming history (if you haven't played Knights of the Old Republic, spoilers are ahead - and shame on you for not playing it)!


As you're playing Knights of the Old Republic you learn of this evil Revan chap (or chick) who has set into motion a plan to take over the galaxy. Thanks to him/her, his/her apprentice Malak is running amok wreaking havoc on the Old Republic. It's only half-way through the game that you discover that Revan is actually you and thanks to amnesia, you forgot who you really were.

Sure, you get a choice to finally let go and give in to your Dark Side once you discover your true identity but I find it more interesting and rewarding playing as a Light Jedi since it's the traditional story of redemption.

The fact that Revan is an evil character that is able to redeem himself/herself and become a champion of good is a great story and a reason Revan is at #7 in my list of PC Gaming Heroes. Oh, and being a Jedi with a nifty light saber helps too!

Good Old Games shutting down?


Anyone who has visited Good Old Games or GOG.com recently would've noticed the above message. The message states that they are "closing down the service" and "putting the era behind [them] as a new challenge awaits." They also mentioned that they were putting "in place a solution to allow everyone to re-download their games".

At first there was a lot of specualation going around that perhaps GOG.com was sued, worse that DRM-free games is probably not a profitable strategy after all, despite the popularity of the site.

However, it has been suggested by Kotaku that the message is in fact a marketing ploy (one in very poor taste I might add) and the Facebook group mentions that there will be an update on what is in store for the "new" GOG tomorrow.

Indeed if you re-read the message it does hint towards a new and better GOG.com - hopefully they'll fix the broken game suggestions voting applet!

UPDATE (21/09/2010): A new message has been put up saying that everyone will know more from management on Wednesday. Apparently the site has been closed due to "business and technical reasons".




UPDATE (22/09/2010): GOG are apparently going to release an official statement later today. They also posted the above video on YouTube.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #8 The Avatar (Ultima series)


I actually got introduced to the Ultima series quite late in the show, acquiring a free copy of Ultima 6 with the purchase of a new computer. In this longstanding series (9 games overall) you got to play as a hero to the world of Britannia known simply as The Avatar. The Avatar is intended to be the embodiment of several virtues, namely Honesty, Compassion, Valour, Justice, Sacrifice, Honour, Spirituality and Humility.


The Avatar is a traditional hero of old, a chivalrous knight that faithfully serves his regent, Lord British (although many players have tried to kill him in every iteration of the series). What I found interesting about the Avatar though, is that in our reality he is just an ordinary bloke, an everyman.

It's every teenage boy's fantasy I guess, to really be important, to be a hero instead of a helpless kid having no impact on this earth. Ultima takes this to the next level by suggesting there's a link between our world and Britannia, that one can traverse there through the use of Moongates (portals).

The fact that the Avatar becomes a traditional hero from humble beginnings makes him my #8 pick for PC Gaming Hero.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #9 The Vault Dweller (Fallout)



The post-apocalyptic world of Fallout - a dog-eat-dog world to the extreme where everyone is out for themselves, or are they?

Enter your character, known as the Vault Dweller from Vault 13. Unlike the many looking out for numero uno, you're actually trying to *help* people! Sure, it helps you were brought up in the relative safety and prosperity of the vault, so it's a tad easier to be altruistic, but the Vault Dweller manages to pull off some pretty impressive feats.



Not only does the Vault Dweller manage to save his Vault from dying of thirst, but he also stops an entire Super-Mutant Army to boot. If you're a bona fide good two-shoes, you can also help to empower just about every town and village that you encounter as well.

What does the Vault Dweller get in return for all these good deeds you ask?

Exile: He's told that his extensive knowledge of the outside world would corrupt the minds of Vault 13's citizens so he has no choice but to leave and wander into the desert on his own. The huge personal sacrifice that the Vault Dweller makes for the greater good of his Vault means he fits in quite comfortably as one of my top 10 PC Gaming Heroes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes - #10 Devon Aidendale (Quest for Glory Series)

I thought it would be a good idea to kickstart some features, like the Top 10 of stuff - considering everybody likes a top 10 list right? ;D

Anyway, the recent release of Starcraft 2 has given me the inspiration for the very first top 10 list I'm going to do: Top 10 PC Gaming Heroes. The following are the gaming protagonists/heroes/anti-heroes that stick most in my mind when asked the question "Who are your top 10 PC Gaming Heroes?" Note that I include the caveat of "PC" since this is a PC gaming blog after all - so anyone who whines "but what about Mario?" or "what about Solid Snake?" will get a curt RTFM (where "M" means message in this case :))!



How could you talk about heroes in games without mentioning the hero from a game about heroes? I'm talking about the Quest for Glory series (the first game originally being called Hero's Quest but being changed later due to Sierra failing to trademark the name.)



Like a certain contemporary PC gaming hero, Gordon Freeman (which didn't make it on my list but was a close contender), Devon Aidendale is a silent protagonist and I think this helps with some of his charm since you don't need to worry about an annoyingly bad voice ruining your impression of him.

What I like best about the hero from Quest for Glory is his brash nature and the number of humourous deaths that he can succumb to (e.g. type "pick nose" in the first game and you'll see what I mean...). He also has a cocky Indiana Jones nature about him, often thinking he has the upper hand but things instead spectacularly backfire as a result.

Also since you have three classes to pick your hero from (four in later games), each hero has a slightly different approach in solving problems. Because of this when you're playing as the Warrior, you tend to use brawn over brains while the Mage has to use his knowledge of spells to overcome obstacles. The Thief tends to avoid conflict altogether and uses his thieving abilities to give him the upper hand. Not the most heroic behaviour you might say, but in the end, even the Thief, like the Warrior and Mage, ends up saving the day, just like a true hero should...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Video Game Music in the media

I don't know if I'm the only sad sack to ever notice, but does anyone else ever notice clips of their favourite game music playing whenever they watch TV or listen to the radio? I don't even watch TV or listen to the radio much and even then I've managed to notice three separate occasions over the past few years where I've heard game music used... obviously the guys that create montages or ads are gamers and hope nobody would notice!

Exhibit #1 - Gulf War II montage = C&C Tiberian Sun



Yes the first time I heard game music used was actually for a montage on a TV news station after the Second Gulf War had broken out. The sombre, serious tone of the music actually fitted the montage quite well... although I didn't see any Mammoth Mk IIs amongst the footage...



Exhibit #2 - Action TV Series = Quake II



I vividly recall an Action series ad on TV showing some guys in Hawaiian shirts driving a speedboat, all played to Quake II's "Quad Damage"



Exhibit #3 - TV series 'Criminal Minds' radio ad = C&C: Generals



You heard right. Just yesterday I was tuned into morning commercial radio and sure enough there was yet another sampling of VGM made for an ad, for the TV series 'Criminal Minds'. It was none other than the C&C: Generals music by composer Bill Brown who incidentally does do music for TV as well, just not this particular series...

Anyone else heard clips of VGM in a non-video game setting?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Test Drive Unlimited 2 to use its own proprietary multiplayer platform



You've heard it. Instead of using Gamespy as its multiplayer platform as was the case in Test Drive Unlimited 1 (which apparently worked fine for many except for those of us living in Australia), an Atari rep has confirmed that they are working on a proprietary multiplayer platform which is great news!

Of course, things might change up to release but fingers crossed this means a better multiplayer experience for Australians!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Starcraft 2 Review


Starcraft II, probably the most anticipated game this year (well at least for 4.5 million Koreans). Thanks to Dave I snagged this one as a wedding gift (Choice!) and for awhile I was worried since if the game ended up as a big disappointment, I couldn't exactly criticise a gift I received from a best mate, surely? Thankfully, those fears were abated once I played the game.

Sound (4/5)
The audio is as good as the original where heaps of hilarious pop culture references abound. The voice acting in general is pretty good too with a couple of the old crew returning (Robert Clotworthy as Jim Raynor and James Harper as Arcturus Mengsk) along with some new ones (Neil Kaplan, Ali Hillis, Tricia Helfer, Fred Tatasciore and Michael Dorn to name a few) but sometimes the voice acting does sound a bit lazy (e.g. the Vultures don't sound as "in-your-face" as the old ones and some cut-scenes with Jim Raynor sound like he and his compatriots are half-asleep).

Music (5/5)
I'll go out on a limb to say that the music in Starcraft 2 is probably my favourite video game music for the year. Sure Mass Effect 2 has got a pretty awesome soundtrack but the Country 'n' Western/Rock style pioneered in the first game has been expanded upon in this one and, dare I say it, improved. The music feels right at home for what genre the game represents which is a Space Western (well at least as far as the Terrans are involved). Glen Stafford, a Blizzard vetern has done an excellent job and the only thing that annoys me is that I can't find a way of acquiring it without having to go through iTunes :(.


Starcraft 2 Singleplayer Gameplay Video 1

Graphics (3/5)
If there are any major areas to fault in Starcraft 2, it would have to be the graphics. You wouldn't really be able to tell that this is a 2010 RTS just by looking at it, since you don't have the ability to rotate the camera, there are low polygon counts with the units and it looks almost the same as the original. Yes, the game is now in 3D and yes the graphics are sharper at the very least but it doesn't seem that too much work was done. Mind you, to Blizzard's defence this was obviously an intentional move to win over hardcore fans of the original plus it does make the game more accessible to the masses since you don't need as high-end a video card as you do for some other games.


Starcraft 2 Singleplayer Gameplay Video 2

Plot (5/5)
The game has an excellent plot - but then again maybe I'm biased since, as I've mentioned before, I love sci-fi - especially Space Westerns! The game is a big tribute to the fans of Starcraft since you have many returning characters plus it develops on the backstory of the original. Basically, Wings of Liberty tells the story of Jim Raynor, an ex-Marshal of a backwater planet known as Mar Sara, a few years after a huge war that was fought between the Terrans (human exiles from Earth), Zerg (a nightmarish swarm of aliens with a hive mentality) and the Protoss (an honourable alien race with advanced technology). Jim Raynor is at a low point in his revolution against Arcturus Mengsk of the Terran Dominion but it quickly becomes clear that Raynor's plans of revenge are not the only thing the Koprulu Sector have to worry about.


Starcraft 2 Singleplayer Hyperion Video

Gameplay(4/5)
If you've played the original Starcraft, you'll know what to expect here. The gameplay is pretty much identical except for the addition/removal of some units. It's your typical RTS where you build a base, gather minerals, build an army and then attack your enemy's base. Last man (or team) standing is the winner.

The biggest changes to gameplay are actually to be found in the singleplayer. Blizzard have decided to incorporate some point 'n' click adventure or role-playing elements to the game in-between missions. Now you can wander around your spaceship to the bar, listen to the jukebox, watch the news, play an arcade game or just chat with the crew. If you visit the Armoury or Research Lab, you can upgrade your units by spending any rewards you gained by completing missions. This means you can tailor an army to suit your playing style, which is a nice touch. Also, at a few points in the game you're able to side with one person or another which will result in you playing an entirely different mission. These role-playing elements, the ability to make different choices should be encouraged in traditionally linear games.

I guess the only criticism of the game is that since the gameplay hasn't changed much the game suffers from the same cons as the RTSs of yesteryear, namely rushes. Other contemporary RTSs (e.g. Company of Heroes) have found ways to discourage early rushes. Mind you, I was a tank rusher at heart back in the day since I was brought up on C&C RTSs so it's not exactly a deal breaker to me.

Replayability (5/5)
Starcraft 2 is probably the most replayable RTS out there at the moment. Thanks to you being able to make some choices during the singleplayer campaign, you actually have more missions to play with than the twenty-six on offer (and one of them is a secret mission) and then there is multiplayer. There are huge number of multiplayer modes to choose from. Amongst the ranked match options there are 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4 and Free-for-Alls. You're also placed in a league depending on how well you play and apparently you'll always be matched with someone as close as possible to your skill level. Amongst the unranked options you've got your usual Custom games and compstomps (i.e. Cooperative games versus the computer). There is even a practice league for players new to competitive multiplayer.

Stacraft 2 wouldn't be a game of the noughties if it didn't have achievements and there are literally hundreds of achievements you can hunt for (I wouldn't be surprised if there's a thousand of them to be honest); so for those who love achievements, this is another way the game's replayability is enhanced.



Polish(3/5)
Unfortunately this is probably the least polished Blizzard game to date, which is shameful really considering (a) the formula for the game hasn't exactly changed by leaps and bounds, (b) they took over 10 years to develop it and (c) there was some thorough beta testing involved. One serious example is when it was reported that on some video cards, Starcraft II was actually responsible for frying them thanks to some screens overtaxing the cards. This was because they didn't decide to cap the framerate on these screens.

Also another niggling problem for me, in a game that is quite heavily story-driven, is that you're capable of skipping some cutscenes but you can't review them. Yes the major cutscenes you can replay but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the little ones after missions. I found myself in one situation accidentally skipping the menu since I actually wanted to pause it. Consequently I missed out on some potentially crucial info to the plot. Thankfully though, this is a relatively minor problem.

Overall - 9/10
Blizzard have taken the usual "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach and even though the graphics and gameplay haven't changed much, the epic and immersive sci-fi story more than makes up for it. Bring on the expansions (hopefully at a decent price)!

Duke Nukem Forever is coming soon... well at least it's more likely it exists now




Gearbox Software has announced recently that Duke Nukem Forever is coming soon, and they're quite serious about it! Admitting that the game was "originally announced during the tail end of the Clinton Administration" and considering the game has often been the butt of many jokes, the press release had to mention quite a few times that they're no longer joking and that "seriously flying pigs [were] spotted heading towards [the] Penny Arcade Expo".

The game is slated for release next year.

I was actually never a fan of the game myself, but I know of several friends that spent a good portion of their youth playing this game so it'll be welcome news to them. To commemorate the good news here's a Ventrilo Harassment prank video :D:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Back to the Future to become an episodic game




Great Scott! It seems that Telltale are going to be producing a Back to the Future game and it's going to apparently follow the same format as other Telltale games (i.e. five monthly episodes). They've even managed to get Christopher Lloyd back to do the voice acting for Doc Brown, now if only they could get Michael J. Fox back for Marty McFly!

The game is set to be released sometime after October 26th which commemorates the 25th Anniversary of the trilogy.

Starcraft 2 sells 3 million copies in first month


Awesome MS Paint skillz

Yep it seems like Stacraft 2 is selling like hotcakes, but I don't think there was any doubt it was going to be a huge cash cow for Blizzard, I mean you've already got 4.5 million guaranteed sales from South Korea anyway! ;) There have been 11 million copies of the original Starcraft sold, so expect it to at the very least reach that mark.

With the expansion packs coming down the track as well, that'll just triple the number of sales Blizzard will be getting!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Monty Python meets TF2

It was probably only a matter of time before we got another fan remake of Monty Python's famous Knights of the Round Table scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We've seen it done with Lego, but have you seen it done in Team Fortress 2? Well, here it is and it's a labour of love - the producers have gone to great lengths in keeping it as authentic as possible :)!

Many thanks to Luke for the heads-up on this one!


The original


The Lego version...


... and now the TF2 version!

ATI to cease as a brand name by Q4 2010



Seems like ATI will cease to exist as a brand name come Q4 2010 since AMD has found that according to surveys, people think of AMD as the "stronger brand" - I'm not too sure if that's entirely true (at least for me it isn't), but perhaps with the younger generation of gamers that is the case.

Personally I guess this isn't a big deal since provided there is still competition against NVIDIA, it'll keep both of the graphics card manufacturers honest (well that's the theory anyway, isn't it? :P)