Friday, April 27, 2012

GOG has sale on some EA titles

And some of you will probably remember some of these titles fondly. Unfortunately, I didn't really play any of these except for Syndicate and a bit of Lands of Lore - so there was only one that I was interested in purchasing and that ended up being Syndicate (seriously, it's a classic - if only they could have remade this instead of what turned out to be an FPS).

Anyway a list of the titles with 50% off are as follows:

  1. Crusader No Regret
  2. Crusader No Remorse
  3. Lands of Lore 1+2
  4. Magic Carpet
  5. NOX
  6. Syndicate

Thursday, April 26, 2012

America backwards in Mass Effect

Just replaying Mass Effect as I wanted to create a character that happened to have Ashley as a romantic interest (my two main characters I've played through all three had Liara and Kaidan before he became bi). Anyway, doing the Luna mission I decided to take a closer look at the Earth and realised that America is actually inverted.

Wonder if this was a mistake or intentional?

KLM uses Sims Medieval music in radio ad

Not sure what EA thinks about this but KLM probably thought there wasn't anyone nerdy enough to notice when VGM is used in ads.

Anyway, unfortunately I can't find a sample online of the ad itself but it's an advertising campaign called "European Splendour" by the Dutch airline, KLM.

While the woman in the ad talks about the awesome sale on airfares to Europe, fans of the Sims Medieval will notice a certain track playing in the background which is in fact used as menu music in the game!

Anyone else ever noticed VGM being used in other media? This is probably the fifth time for me. I've heard the following used in other media:

1. Red Alert's Hell March in Top Gear
2. Quake II's Descent into Cerberon to advertise an action TV series
3. Tiberian Sun's Dusk Hour used for a montage of the Second Gulf War for the TV news
4. TV Series Criminal Minds - C&C Generals

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A week to go for Leisure Suit Larry remake to reach funding target

As you probably now know, Replay Games has managed to bring Al Lowe out of retirement to work on a remake of the first Leisure Suit Larry game. Actually, this will be the second time the 1987 original was remade, as it was remade in VGA back in 1991 too.

Even though I wasn't as big a fan of the Larry games when compared to maybe some of the other Sierra franchises (like Quest for Glory) it's still an awesome series with great adult humour and an awesome soundtrack (I dare you to not start whistling after listening the Main Theme). That's why I've contributed $25 to the project as I get the game when it is released and a soundtrack CD as well. I think it's a worthwhile initiative, and here are five reasons I just pulled out of nowhere:

  1. Al Lowe has come out of retirement; A veteran Sierra developer! This is an opportunity to restore Al's faith in the gaming industry (or at least gaming fans).
  2. This will be the first Leisure Suit Larry game with Al Lowe's input since 1996. Al was quite bitter that the mediocre games released after his involvement in the series has just helped to ruin the franchise's reputation
  3. You can get an awesome soundtrack especially if you pick the $25 option for backing
  4. Funding the project means you may entice other legendary adventure game developers to come out of retirement. Jane Jensen (of Gabriel Knight fame) and her husband Robert Holmes are already starting their own Kickstarter project too.
  5. You are funding a relatively easy product to make. Adventure games are quite easy to develop nowadays, the hardest part being the graphics and animations. Also this project is based on an existing game meaning the groundwork for game design has already been done.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I'm back online

That's right, I'm finally back online! After waiting for about a month to get an Internet connection in my new house, it's finally happened. So what exactly happened? Well, on the 26th March I applied to get a new Internet connection established. I also wanted to bundle it with a phone line. So as I was quite happy with Internode when I was in Canberra I decided to give them another go. So I used their online system to create the order. The system automatically placed a 2 week wait time on having a telco technician come and inspect and do the necessary things in order to establish a phone line.

Our house already has phone lines installed and wired throughout the house, but that doesn't mean they're active (apparently). So a couple of weeks after I processed the request I was expecting to get a technician to visit our house. It turns out however that we weren't going to get the technician on the 9th April, but in fact another week later on the 16th - 3 weeks to get a Telstra tech to check our phone line! Awesome (not)!

So, my wife took the Monday off to ensure that someone was home whilst the Telstra tech did his business. After he did his business, our new phone line was setup. Hurrah! However, I received no word about the Internet. I called Internode and they told me that I had to wait another 2-4 weeks before the Internet was to be connected - that's almost 2 months without Internet! I told them this was unacceptable but all of them thought this was quite reasonable in this day and age and that they would send me an email update ... hello, I don't have Internet so the only way I'm going to get it is if I'm borrowing someone else's (e.g. Work, Maccas) or using my crappy Nokia N95. People just assume you have the Internet all the time it seems, even when your ISP isn't providing it to you.

People don't realise how dependent we are on the Internet nowadays. Over the month I remember going to Bunnings to ask for advice on how to fix a toilet in our new house. The young store attendants said they weren't sure and told us to "just Google it". Under normal circumstances, I would, but I had no Internet. When you want to search for opening times, phone numbers, locations and stock of stores, you do it all through the Internet nowadays. All businesses prefer using emails as a way of notifying you of status updates - even Internode who knew we didn't have Internet setup was sending us email updates. And this doesn't even take into account the gaming side when it comes to a lack of Internet.

Obviously, any multiplayer games, like Battlefield 3 cannot be played at all without an Internet connection. Even some single player games require you to be online for authentication and for those that don't some require you to be online in order to register achievements. And of course, most IT and gaming news never shows up in physical newspapers, but online.

Anyway, Internode came with a workaround which meant we had to sign up to a dearer plan and have only a 5GB quota per month instead of 30GB. This would reduce the waiting time to only a few extra days instead of weeks (something to do with which DSLAM/exchange you're using I suspect). So there you have it, there's my little rant. I can tell you I'm not too impressed with Internode at the moment - but there's not really much competition for the price you're paying, except maybe for iiNet. Amcom is comparable in price but requires a 24 month contract and Telstra's the same (with an even dearer internet plan).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Choicest VGM - VGM #59 - Jones in the Fast Lane - Main Theme

Now Choicest VGM moves on to another classic Sierra game, a game that took much inspiration from the board game, Game of Life. Jones in the Fast Lane allows up to four players to play hotseat against in each other in a game where you aim to max out things such as your happiness, money, career and education. Whoever makes it their first, wins the race.

The reason the game was called Jones in the Fast Lane was I believe for two reasons: (1) the name is a play on the well known saying "keeping up with the Joneses" as that is pretty much what you'll be spending most of the game doing and (2) the AI you play against is also called Jones (if you don't have any human players to play against).

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.

Skyrim Soundtrack Review

  • Name: Skyrim Soundtrack
  • Label: directsong
  • Composer(s): Jeremy Soule
  • Number of Tracks: 53

For those who regularly read my blog, you would know I ordered in the special physical edition of the Skyrim soundtrack from directsong. Since I ordered early too I actually managed to get Jeremy Soule's signature on it too (hopefully it'll be worth something someday :)).

I'm a big fan of Jeremy Soule's music. He's created classic soundtracks for games such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Guild Wars and of course the previous two Elder Scrolls games, Morrowind and Oblivion. No surprises that he was recruited again to do the soundtrack for Skyrim.

The physical soundtrack comes on a whopping 4 CDs and there's a lot of music here: 53 tracks, although one of the tracks is a 40 minute long track of ambient music/sound effects so I didn't really listen to the last disc. However, as always half of the tracks are combat and ambient music. This is appropriate when you want to build atmosphere while dungeon-crawling but not as entertaining when you're listening to the tracks by themselves.

When I first heard the main track Dragonborn, I wasn't actually impressed. It had a similar tempo to Oblivion which I didn't really like, and there it sounded like a bunch of drunken Vikings were belting out the tune. Of course, that's the whole point I guess but I still prefer the "original" Morrowind theme where it all started. However, after playing the game, and finding how they integrated it so well with the experience (e.g. bards actually sing the song, the music plays whenever a dragon attacks - although that track is actually called One They Fear etc.) it's now definitely one of my favourites on this album.

Another track that is a favourite is the Jerall Mountains. Like the track Dragonborn, it too is based off previous Elder Scrolls music by Jeremy Soule. The melody found in Jerall Mountains is based off Silt Sunrise in Morrowind and Through the Valleys in Oblivion. It's a very calming, peaceful and nostalgic tune.

Finally, one of the best original tracks on the album (i.e. one not based off previous themes) would have to be Ancient Stones. This one quickly became a favourite as I wondered through the charming towns and hamlets of Skyrim during the day. It just fits the majestic nature of the province so well. Still not quite sure what the main instrument played in the track is though.. sounds a bit like a harp, harpsichord and a lute all in one...

Other tracks of note are the adventurous and grand Far Horizons and a combat song that is actually worth listening to, Death or Sovngarde.

So there's quite a lot of good tracks on this album, about half of the 53 are worth listening to, the rest however is the combat and ambient music so just be aware of that when deciding to buy the album.

Score - 5/10

You can grab the album off directsong for $30 (plus shipping and handling).

Top 10 Game Publishers of All Time - #2 Sierra

Coming in at #2 for top publisher is Sierra.

Sierra was founded in 1979 as On-Line Systems in California by Ken and Roberta Williams (of King’s Quest fame). Roberta was apparently an avid text adventure fan but she saw potential for the introduction of graphical adventure games. Ken and Roberta worked on their first game called Mystery House for three months and released in 1980. It was the first adventure game to have graphics and it sold approximately 15,000 copies for a total of $167,000 of earnings (not bad in the 1980s). Sierra became known as Sierra On-Line in 1982.

Sierra continued to develop graphic adventure games well into the late 90s which is when the entire genre started to decline. From the late 90s until it ceased to exist around 2008.

Sierra will always be remembered by me as a pioneer in the graphic adventure game genre. Sierra games can basically be split up into two groups, its Quest adventure games of the 80s and 90s which they developed, and then the more recent games where it primarily acted as a publisher in the 90s and 2000s.

The earliest Sierra game I ever played was most likely Space Quest II which was released in 1987 (although Police Quest I would’ve been a close contender, considering it was released the same year). The game was based on the primitive Adventure Game Interpreter (AGI) engine which was actually used to develop the famous King’s Quest I (1984). Basically you typed in commands at the bottom of the screen like “look at broom” or “open door” while you navigated your character across the screen using the arrow keys. Space Quest II, like a lot of Sierra’s adventure games, was infamously difficult and unforgiving. For example, at one point in the game you could be kissed by an alien (that actually looks like it’s from the movie Alien). You actually can continue to play the game after the encounter only to be shocked later in the game when a baby alien bursts out of your chest! As you can see, dying was quite common in Sierra adventure games and also the ability to get stuck later on in the game due to past action or inaction. In fact, it became a joke in Lucasarts’s 1990 adventure, the Secret of Monkey Island when falling of a cliff. A box appears telling the player Guybrush has died with buttons to Restore, Restart or Quit (a common message box in Sierra adventure games). However, being a Lucasarts adventure, Guybrush miraculously bounces back up and explains that he was saved by a rubber tree. Nice to see a bit of friendly rivalry between the two graphic adventure giants of the day!

Other Sierra adventure games I’ve played through the years included:
  • Leisure Suit Larry (1987) – every teenage boy’s wet dream
  • Police Quest I (1987) – the only game series I know of where you can “die” from not checking your tyres or running a red light.
  • Police Quest II (1988) – Unlike its predecessor, Police Quest II had a more well developed (and very 80s) soundtrack
  • Quest for Glory (1989) – One of my favourite games of all time. An awesome adventure/RPG hybrid
  • Space Quest III (1989) – SQIII had substantially better graphics than the previous two games and a soundtrack made by a professional live musician
  • King’s Quest V (1990) – the first King’s Quest game I played and the first games I played on CD
  • Quest for Glory II (1990) – Quest for Glory’s sequel had an Arabian Nights theme and also introduced the concept “honour” which would result in a fourth class being introduced to the series: the paladin
  • Rise of the Dragon (1990) – developed by Dynamix, this cyberpunk adventure wasn’t a “Quest” adventure game per se but it was fun. A lot of the visuals and backdrops remind me of the movie Fifth Element.
  • Police Quest III (1991) – First Police Quest to have VGA graphics and even had Jan Hammer (of Miami Vice fame) working on the soundtrack.
  • Space Quest I VGA (1991) – I actually played the VGA version of Space Quest instead of the original EGA version. It was probably much easier than the original too.
  • Space Quest IV (1991) – This Space Quest was a lot of fun as you got to time travel between different Space Quest games! I fondly remember it parodying games of the time such as Sim Sim (Maxis’s SimCity) and Boom! (Lucasarts’s Loom).
  • King’s Quest VI (1992) – Will be forever remembered for the cheesy duet “Girl in the Tower”, similar to many duets found in Disney cartoons.
  • Quest for Glory III (1992) – the third Quest for Glory was set in an African/Egyptian fantasy setting
  • Police Quest IV (1993) – the first of the Police Quests to not have Sonny Bonds as the protagonist. Also used photo captured images to create the sprites and backgrounds.
  • Gabriel Knight (1993) – This supernatural thriller is one of the best adventure games to be released by Sierra. It was fun to cruise around New Orleans too.
  • Quest for Glory IV (1993) – This was to be the last Quest for Glory game although Sierra caved in to the demands of fans and made a sequel.
  • Space Quest V (1993) – one of my favourite Space Quests – mainly because it takes a lot of material from Star Trek
  • Space Quest VI (1995) – the first Space Quest to be in high-resolution colour. Sadly, also the last official Space Quest
  • Quest for Glory V (1999) – the final Quest for Glory game and you actually got multiple romantic choices (a precursor to the romantic options in Bioware RPGs perhaps?)
  • Gabriel Knight 3 (1999) – The last Sierra adventure game I played. Actually had a couple of really difficult puzzles!

Sierra also developed other games on the side and in later years was mainly involved in publishing. Here is a list of their non-Quest games that I played:

  • Silpheed (1988) – I never actually got that far in this game. Still remember the game’s theme song to this day though…
  • Jones in the Fast Lane (1990) – Basically Sierra’s take on the board game, Game of Life. It even had four player hot-seat!
  • Oil’s Well (1990) – a game similar to Pacman where you had to collect points by directing a pipe underground, although you had to watch out for bugs!
  • Betrayal at Krondor (1993) – an RPG co-developed with fantasy author Raymond E. Feist
  • Lords of Magic (1997)
  • Half-Life (1998) – Revolutionary adventure FPS that introduced the world to Gordon Freeman
  • Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999) – Half-Life expansion where you played Commander Shep… I mean Adrian Shephard.
  • Team Fortress Classic (1999) – don’t be fooled by the name. This is not the original Team Fortress!
  • Arcanum (2001) – Buggy Troika RPG but much respect for the amazing Steampunk fantasy world they created
  • Half-Life: Blue Shift (2001) – Expansion to Half-Life where you got to play as Barney the security guard!
  • Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom (2002) – Fondly remembered for the extremely bad voice acting.
  • SWAT 4 (2005) – a really fun co-op police FPS. Definitely a LAN favourite!

In terms of the future for Sierra franchises, it’s up to Activision as they apparently now own the I.P. Nothing seems to be happening on the Police Quest front and the creators of Quest for Glory are now retired. There are many Space Quest fan games but nothing official seems to be in the pipeline. Jane Jensen is still in the business of making games, having released Gray Matter recently, although it’s not Gabriel Knight.

So the only two series with a future at the moment are Leisure Suit Larry and King’s Quest. Leisure Suit Larry IP is currently owned by Replay Games and apparently they’re asking Al Lowe for input on any future releases – which is a good thing as Al wasn’t too happy what was done in recent Leisure Suit Larry games. The biggest news though is Telltale rebooting the King’s Quest series. If King’s Quest is successful, who knows, maybe it will open the doors to rebooting other classic “Quest” games as well!