Sunday, January 29, 2006

Made a new gamer friend this week thanks to Neverwinter Nights. Runa's an interesting person. She's got a fun sense of humor and is hard to please when it comes to games. She demands tactical challenge from her games, and like me, is frustrated that NWN's combat is often so uninvolving.
To demonstrate her tactical prowess, she crushed me at online chess three times in a row. Ouch! Most interesting for any Battlefield 2 players out there, Runa's uncle on the development team of the F-35 jet fighter. :-O I wonder if I can get a discount on the retail price of the F-35 when it comes out....

After she stomped me at chess, we tried to find new games to play together. We tried Icewind Dale 2, but that didn't work for me, as I just couldn't get into the art style of the game. And the interface confused the heck outta me. Then she called me a "graphics whore". Boo! Then we played some America's Army, which I liken to a virtual chatroom, since when you are killed, you can be staring at the chat interface for 2-5 minutes before the next round starts up. Ugh, I hate round based gameplay. America's Army is completely free to download and play, but even with a price tag of $0, I can't recommend it. Why play that when you can play Counter-strike or Rainbow Six games? They seem superior to AA in pretty much every way.

In other news, I played some Gitaroo Man and Soul Calibur 3 for the PS2. Gitaroo Man is a funky music game, where you use the analog joystick and buttons to play a guitar. Oh and you're a strange guitar-playin' superhero robot dude with a robot dog. Really creative game, but also a bit too hard, even at the easiest settings.

Soul Calibur 3 is a "fighting" game, in the style of Streetfighter games. Except with big ass swords. Fun!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Howdy, folks! School's started up, so I've been using all my free time to play some games. The demo for the RTS Star Wars: Empire at War came out. It's not bad. It's made by some former Command and Conquer people, so if you liked those games you should dig SW: EAW. The space battles are pretty entertaining to play, and it's great hearing the pilot chatter audio. I found the gameplay kinda stale though, like the developers were just making sure it had all the standard RTS elements and nothing more or new.

Speaking of Star Wars...


Today's High Score is John Williams' Star Wars and The Revenge of the Sith.

John Williams is da man. Any self-respecting soundtrack appreciation blog would have to mention this guy. So here it is :-P

This part of the track plays during the opening sequence, with Anakin and Obi-wan flying their Jedi Starfighters into a huge space battle over Coruscant. The music kinda mixes the noble heroism tunes of the Jedi, usually seen as sword swinging monks, with the more militaristic and industrial nature of space warfare.

It's kinda hard to play this track with any game, though. First off, the space combat sim genre has pretty much died off, and with them, the whole "good vs evil.. in spaaaaace!" dynamic of those games. And you might have trouble connecting the heroic nature of the music with any flight sim that's set in modern or historical eras.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The following is a topic I posted on the Neverwinter Nights 2 forums. What do you think?
Ways to make melee/ranged combat more fun?

I haven't played a pure melee class in ages, and recently just played a Fighter in NWN1. Holy cow is that one boring class to play. As a big fan of games like Return of the King, Genji, Onimusha, God of War, and Forgotten Realms: Demonstone, I find the melee and ranged combat fighting of NWN to be pretty boring. So I almost always play spellcaster in NWN. At least with spells, I'm trying to decide which spells to apply on which target. With fighter types, the combat is just not very stimulating or demanding of the player. I heard that in 3.5, there should be some more feats for fighters to use, but I'm still under the impression that fighters will still be pretty uninvolving to play.

What are some ways to make non-magic combat more entertaining? Please feel free to throw in some of your ideas.

Mine are..
1) This is my dream idea, and I understand that it'll never be in NWN2. But I think it'd be great if Obsidian could team up with Stormfront Studios some day (creators of the very first Neverwinter Nights game, and also creator of the Forgotten Realms: Demonstone action fighting game). Stormfront could bring their fighting mechanics to the melee/ranged combat to the game, and with Obsidian's help, they could create a hybrid of Demonstone and NWN in one game. Casting spells would function the same as it does now, but fighting with bow or sword would involve combo attacks and quick moving like in Demonstone. Of course this would require a lot of balancing to work it in correctly, but I think it'd be possible and pretty darn awesome if it'd worked

And this wouldn't mean that your combat performance would be completely dependent on your personal skill as a player. In Demonstone, players could outfit their characters with different staple D&D items. Rings of Deflection, Natural Armor amulets, +1 swords, etc. Like most action "hack 'em up" games these days, you can decide how to power up your character so that your stats can help determine your fate, not just your button-pushing and reflex skills. Finally, it'd be great if there was a an option to toggle AI control of your player. That way, players who want to let the AI do the bulk of the fighting can do so. This would revert the game to the standard NWN "click and watch" combat style, where the player just targets enemies and clicks feats and potions. The AI would not be as effective as if the player was doing the fighting, but it'd be an option for those who are not into Onimusha-style play.

2) OK, this is my more reasonable idea and I really hope there's a way to implement this into NWN2 somehow. I'm hoping the content creators can design this system. The idea comes from the tank MMORPG called "Blitz 1941". In that game, when you attack a target with a click, a little guage/meter appears. This guage requires you to click a second time, when the needle in the guage is within the "will hit" portions of the guage. So there's a dark section of the guage meter, and a light section. A little needle rapidly goes back and forth in the meter. If you do the second click in the light section, stopping the needle there, your shot will hit. If you do the second click in the dark section, your shot will miss. Also, there's a small dark red section of the meter. If you manage to stop the needle on that red section, you get a critical hit on your target. I found this system to be pretty entertaining. Landing hits on your enemy is far more satisfying this way.

I think it'd be great if we could get a custom system made for NWN2's non-magic combat, something that resembled the above system. Would it be possible to develop such a thing through scripting and then put it in a HAK? Please tell me yes

Here's an example of how it might work: You're a fighter with a greatsword. You click on an Ogre, and your character is now in melee combat with it. A meter appears on the screen, divided into 20 sections. This meter represents the d20 die. A small needle rapidly travels back and forth within the meter. It's up to the player to click the left-mouse button at the right moment, which stops the needle on one of the 20 sections. The goal is always to click when the needle is at the higher sections, and ideally on a critical number. From here, attack bonuses are thrown on top of your d20 result as usual, and the hit is calculated.

I think players should be only asked to perform this action once per round, not once per attack. At level 20, a Fighter has 4 attacks per round. Rounds last 6 seconds, so asking a player to do this little meter process 4 times every 6 seconds would be pretty frustrating! So instead, just once a round, and perhaps this only makes a difference on the very first attack of the round. Subsequent attacks in that round would be handled the standard way. Also, if the player does not click the button at all, the needle will simply land at wherever it stops like in Roulette.

I think it'd be a good idea to give the needle's speed a randomised behavior. Sometimes it will be a bit slower than usual, sometimes a bit faster. Something that keeps the player on his/her toes at all times.

I think such a system could really make non-magical combat much more involving and fun for the player. One problem that you might be thinking of is that some players will be have such good reflexes that they'll be able to get high results on the d20 meter all the time. This is true of Blitz 1941, but I haven't seen it to be a big deal.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Been playing lots of Warcraft 3. What a fun game! Released in 2002 to rave reviews, the game holds up great to today's standards, thanks to Blizzard's top notch sound, gameplay, and graphics. There's like 50,000 people playing it worldwide at anytime, too.

I kind of dislike the Town Portal mechanic of the game though, where armies are teleporting around the map to defend bases. I wish there was at least an optional game mode where Town Portal scrolls were disabled or somethin'. It just doesn't feel right to have armies warping into battle like that. This ain't Star Wars, dangit! :-P

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Video Games Live

What is Video Games Live?
The first major U.S. video game music concert tour is finally here! Think music concert, theatrical stage show, and interactive video game all wrapped into one!

Video Games Live will feature the best music and video clips from the most popular games from the beginning of video gaming to the present.
On March 24, VGL will have a concert in San Jose. I can't wait to go. :) I wonder if I'll get to see any big name video game designers there, like Will Wright.

Click the link for trailers and more info. I'm especially looking forward to hearing Metal Gear Solid, Zelda, and Medal of Honor.

Monday, January 9, 2006

High Score of the day: Trevor Jones' There Can Be No Deals from the film "Thirteen Days". The film is about the Cuban Missile Crisis, primarily seen from the point of view of the Kennedy White House.

The track plays as two F-8 Crusader jets, outfitted with photorecon equipment, fly into Cuban airspace to spot suspected nuclear missile sites. In order to avoid being spotted on radar, they fly at very a low altitude.. straight through some anti-aircraft gun fire. It's a pretty cool scene and the music can go great with some BF2 air combat :)

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Get Paid 2 Play Battlefield 2

Recently signed up for this. Basically, you play a total of 12 hours a month on any of the servers listed on the site, and you are entered in prize drawings. The chances of you winning these prizes is pretty slim, but the site is cool in that it helps empty servers get players. Server ops pay between $75-150/month to keep their servers running, but this money can go to waste if no one joins.

The site is simple to use. You simply load a list of servers in your web browser, click "join game" and BF2 launches you into the server from there.

I'm hoping the custom map scene can take advantage of this somehow. The BF2 ranked server system has really kept custom maps pretty non-existant, since those maps can't be played on ranked servers, and everyone is only interested in boosting their ranked stats. As a huge fan of custom maps for all games, this has been a pretty depressing aspect of BF2.

Sometimes I wonder if DICE/EA intentionally created the ranked server system in order to boost sales of their expansion packs. By making sure community content is un-ranked, it lowers demand for community content and increases demand for EA stuff. Argh!

Edit: :-O Some of the players on the site have already logged in more than 4 days worth of play time. 100 hours+ in January so far, and we're only on the 8th day of the month! Sweet lordy.

Saturday, January 7, 2006

CBS 60 Minutes - The Echo Boomers

Historian Neil Howe, along with co-author William Strauss, has made a career studying different generations. Howe says all the research on echo boomers [ed: those born between 1982 and 1995] always reflects the same thing: They are much different than their self-absorbed, egocentric baby boomer parents.

"Nothing could be more anti-boom than being a good team player, right? Fitting in. Worrying less about leadership than follower-ship," says Howe. "If you go into a public school today, teamwork is stressed everywhere. Team teaching, team grading, collaborative sports, community service, service learning, student juries. I mean, the list goes on and on."

Howe thinks they are more like their grandparents, the great World War II generation -- more interested in building things up than tearing them down.

"When you ask kids, 'What do you most hope to achieve there?' Where they used to say, 'I wanna be No. 1. I wanna be the best,' increasingly they're saying, 'I wanna be an effective member of the team. I wanna do everything that's required of me,'" says Howe.
Does this explain the rise and popularity of team-based FPSs and party-based MMOs? *Shrug* Deathmatch sure seems to have completely lost all popularity in the gaming world.