A few thoughts about Elder Scrolls Online… except not really

Elder Scrolls Online is the next big MMOG… and I don’t see the point of writing anything review-like about it. It’s good, but it doesn’t have the same “wow, they changed everything!” effect that Guild Wars 2 had when it came out.

Here’s Benzaie’s 5-second take on it. There’s nothing I can add to it. Maybe I’ll have something when I’ve made it deeper into the game, but for now I’m content to just enjoy it.

But playing it made me finally understand something I really miss in modern RPGs, and MMOGs especially. Another piece of the puzzle clicking into place. Not the final one. Never the final one. That way lies enlightenment. And this piece of the puzzle, I’ll gladly share.  Read More »

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Weekly report: 9th of March, 2014

Here’s another game I don’t get at all: Sid Meier’s Railroads!. You’d think it’s simple and intuitive after OpenTTD. Laying down track is as simple as clicking the two points you want to connect, cargoes are counted in wagon-loads — so you’d think it’d be a purely strategic game where you decide what to connect and what kind of trains to run, but no. Despite the simpler construction, individual trains are still simulated, and while they cannot crash, they cannot go through one another (lower difficulties allow them to, after a while and a greatly reduced speed), either. So you do need to build some junctions manually, but the focus is clearly on the strategy and not that.

It plays weird, is what I mean. Like a boardgame — like Ticket to Ride, in fact — but like a grossly overcomplicated Ticket to Ride where you’re trying to concentrate on the gameplay, but are constantly interrupted by complaints that your little trains are crooked.

More boardgame-like elements include auctions for early access to upgrades or ownership of industries. It can be quite fun if you look past its shortcomings, actually — as I said, like a boardgame, and also like playing with toy trains.

Starseed Pilgrim from the last bundle is an art game I don’t mind so much. There’s gameplay! And I really like the way it’s presented! There is a tutorial, but it doesn’t explain much beyond moving around. After that, things happen, but there’s no obvious goal or explanation what any of it means. So you experiment and see how you can interact with your surroundings. And then there’s the realisation that this is the entire game. I had to check a guide — it really is that small. But I don’t mind it. It’s pleasant.

Also, I’ve been playing OpenTTD a lot. Have a junction:

Stanleigh Transport, 1945-12-24

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A few thoughts on OpenTTD: FIRS and cargodist

I’d like to talk a bit about OpenTTD, and more specifically, two modifications for it: Cargo Distribution (commonly abbreviated as cargodist) and FIRS Industry Replacement Set.  Read More »

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Weekly report, 23rd of February, 2014

Well, that game of Mush I was tricked into has ended. I was, however, a little too optimistic in estimating the game’s length at a week. It’s more like a month, unless half the players are inactive. But it is a decent game, whose biggest problems are pay-to-win elements — which may be a little alleviated as premium players cannot play with the rest. I’m not sure, because it doesn’t tell anywhere, and the documentation is awful: the in-game tutorial is downright wrong about things, and very little information is given about anything, really. Given the game’s sluggish pace and limited AP, the price of an error is huge! You can’t just make intuitive guesses most of the time and need precise knowledge of the rules to make informed decisions. So it’s a wiki game, too.

In this particular match, the ship’s captain tried to play obstructively, which is funny, but he picked a much too responsible role for that. So he got killed by the (human) astronomer, who later went on to assault one of the few players trying to organise everyone and do something and the only confirmed human on-board. Meanwhile, I ended up as the captain, broke that fight up, saved the ship for another cycle, and then we all died because I was too tired to wait 3 more hours and went to bad.

I honestly wouldn’t mind another go, if I could play with people I know. Unfortunately, even if I could gather fifteen more volunteers, it’d be impossible: there are tools for that on the way, but those apparently require 32 players. I don’t understand.

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A few thoughts on Loadout

As an experiment, screenshots for this post are ripped from Shadowplay recordings.

Loadout pinged everyone’s radars over a year ago, teasing with old-school shooter action and infinite opportunities for weapon customisation. It then promptly moved on to a pay-to-enter closed beta, and went back under until its final release (which means dropping the pay-to-enter closed part) on the 31st of January this year. 

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A few thoughts on Mush

A couple of days ago an acquaintance suggested a webgame we could try: Mush. Essentially a Mafia or Werewolf variant, or maybe a version of Space Station 13 with less butts: sixteen players looking for alien infiltrators among them, while the aliens (randomly assigned, of course) have to sabotage their efforts and kill everyone else. What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything.  Read More »

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Shadowplay first impressions

I am now a proud owner of a graphics card with Shadowplay! Let’s test it!

Here’s the kind of video it produces. Neither is interesting for its gameplay, these are just for video quality testing and comparison.

Shadowplay looks nice and useful, but far from the end-all be-all solution to screen capture I was hoping it’d be. Compared to Open Broadcaster Software, which is what I normally use, it has quite a few limitations. Here’s a list.

It only works with true fullscreen, which is not how I play most games. And it means I won’t be able to use it with games that insist on a 16:9 resolution unless I replace my perfectly fine monitor. But it looks like I won’t be able to, anyway, unless I find a way to work around the other limitations.

It always compresses its video. It does so at a reasonably high quality, but the compression is stillnoticeable, and it still eats up around 1.5 GB per 10 minutes of a 1280*960 video. And for some reason, there’s no option to disable compression completely.

It doesn’t seem to grab video exclusively from the game being recorded, either: you’ll have to disable your Steam friends pop-ups and other similar things if you don’t want them in your video.

There don’t seem to be separate volume controls for the microphone input and the game’s own recorded audio. That can make any kind of running commentary problematic.

But here’s what’s really, really awesome about Shadowplay: shadow mode. Essentially it keeps a record of up to 20 last minutes of your gameplay, and allows you to dump that footage into a file at the press of a button. It’s like a screenshot, only with video! So now, if you agree to work with all these limitations, you will never need wish you were recording that time you made that really impressive shot, or saw a highly amusing glitch.

So my preliminary verdict is: really great for most gamers who just play their games and want to share some of it, but for any kind of serious video work, you’ll still have to look into dedicated hardware and software. It’ll probably be a great help for video reviews where you want exactly what it makes: bits of gameplay to run in the background or illustrate your points.

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Weekly report, 16th of February, 2014

Ha! Twenty years after the original Transport Tycoon‘s release, I discover that OpenTTD has an addition called “cargodist”. What it does is make passengers (and other cargo, if you so desire) try to reach a specific available destination instead of getting off at the first opportunity. That was always the one thing that prevented me from fully enjoying the game.

It’s impressive that it’s still played and developed twenty years later.


That’s it for now. Hopefully, back to making stuff within the week.

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Weekly report: 2nd of February, 2014.

Two new shooters this week! Oh yeah!

Loadout has been around for a while, but it only went out of early access this past Friday. There’s a lot that can be said about the game, but most of it only evokes whhhh. Yeah, it’s okay, I guess. It’s trying really really hard to be exceptional, but it’s not quite there yet.

It’s a third-person shooter that boasts highly customisable weapons, allowing you to make whatever gun you like — and kill people with it! And that’s true, to an extent. But the customisation options really aren’t as deep as I have been led to believe. Most guns I’ve seen feel like “I’ve seen that in Unreal”, ”I’ve seen that in Unreal”, ”Wow, that’s crazy, but why would I use it?”, and “I’ve seen that in Unreal”. I’m beginning to suspect that Unreal might’ve been a major inspiration for Loadout. Or maybe Unreal has the best selection of weapons.

But let’s talk about the good stuff first. The basic movement and gunplay are quite solid. There’s nothing new, but nothing stands out as being bad or wrong. Graphics and decent, and most of the game’s humour is of a graphical nature. Mostly over-the-top ultraviolence and gross-out stuff, and a fascination with middle fingers. It’s certainly crass and immature, but it’s not trying to take itself serious at all, so unless you’re put off by that sort of thing, it works fine. Shots can leave characters missing their head save for a (tiny) brain and a pair of eyeballs or gaping wounds so large you can see straight through to the other side. Fire damage can burn off one’s hair and leave them a charred mess running around. Death animations can also look very painful… and then the corpse sticks its middle finger up. It’s quite graphic is what I’m saying — but doesn’t come off as overly cruel or mean-spirited.

Unfortunately, this is not supported at all by the game’s sound design. There’s a loud theme playing in the menus, but the game itself is oddly quiet. Gun sounds are your usual “pew-pew-pew” and “boom” and “dakka dakka dakka” and “bzzzzzzzzzz”, but it all sounds subdued compared to the over the top action going on. The characters are mostly quiet, making little more noise than a generic-sounding death scream (while falling off the map inexplicably produces a Goofy yell, and it’s hilarious), and the announcer is a disinterested-sounding female voice who may be going for disembodied AI feel. Where’s my muh-muh-MONSTER KILL?

The maps are mostly fairly small and open, game modes are team deathmatch, king of the hill, capture the flag with a few twists, and a fairly unique thing where one player has to collect blue rocks scattered all over the map and deliver them to gridners, while the rest of the team does their best to cover him and prevent the other team from doing the same. It’s fun.

Now, the problems. As I said, all the gun customisation is undermined by the game’s other elements. Firstly, you’re limited to carrying two guns. You’ll probably want something more versatile to occupy one slot all the time, and probably something to complement it in the other. This already limits the more outlandish designs you can use. All the game modes are played in 4 vs. 4, which isn’t really enough to use the healing and buffing guns. Plus, you’ll be aiming down sights a lot to increase accuracy, somewhat limiting the game’s twitch gameplay. Even being able to pick up weapons other players made, it’s very limiting. Seriously, 8 players is not enough, this kind of game needs a bigger crowd!

And for all that customisation, you really can’t bring that much versatility to the game. While every single firing mode from the Unreal games can be replicated (what did I say about it being an inspiration?), most weapons do just that: replicate a single firing mode from Unreal. Remember the supremely versatile rocket launcher? Yeah, that’s four different weapons in Loadout. And you can only carry two!

Oh, and since everybody starts with both their weapons and have unlimited ammo, snipers are more annoying than ever.

Also, where’s my deathmatch? Why is there no deathmatch?

On the exact opposite of the spectrum is Insurgency. There’s really not a lot I can say about it. Either treat it as Red Orchestra, but set in modern times, or how Counter-Strike should have been. No crosshairs, one bullet is usually enough to kill you, cooperation is required to get absolutely anywhere — it’s a military simulator!

In fact, since almost everyone carries an automatic weapon, I’d say cooperation is even more important than it is in RO!

And of course, everyone plays it like Counter-Strike. Running through smoke, even if it was set defensively! Sprinting into danger! Following the trail of friendly corpses because there must be enemies at the end! Accuse everyone else of camping! Make monkey sounds at the end of a round! I haven’t raged at a game so hard for quite a while.

But that’s more of a community problem, and it’ll probably clear itself somewhat after the game’s been out for a while longer and those kind of players have gone back to their counterstrikes and battlefields and calls of duties and whatever it is they play these days. Or possibly learnt some tactics.

The only non-technical complaint I have is that voice call-outs seem to be arbitrarily missing. You can request backup or covering fire using the quick chat, but you’ll have to enable your microphone to let everyone know you’re throwing a grenade. It’s odd.

Here’s an example of stupidity I simply must share: someone said that tracer rounds are used so you know how many shots you have left before reloading (magazines are loaded so that tracers come out more often as it empties), and light machine guns don’t run out of ammo, therefore LMGs don’t need tracer rounds.

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Weekly report: 26th of January, 2014

I just can’t get this year started, can I? Now it’s personal issues (hopefully resolved by now) leaving me with no desire to play anything more violent than, well, kerbals. So I played a lot of kerbals. Now I can dock things together, so a proper munar landing is not so far away, and work is already underway on the Kerbal Space Station.

I wanted to write a thing about Gnomoria, but kept forgetting about it. There is one kind of madness that DF doesn’t have! When attacked, gnomes will pick up and fight with whatever they can get their hands on to defend themselves. A wheelbarrow, a block of stone, their own severed foot, anything seems to work.

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