Richard Jones' Log Richard Jones' Log: Games

Fri, 07 Dec 2007
Ray Hound and Warning Forever

It just took me a while to find these great games again, so here they are for the public memory: Ray Hound (scroll down, Japanese only) and Warning Forever (English).

Ray Hound can be fun to figure out - in short, you control things with the mouse. When you hit the mouse button you can grab the rays shot by the baddies, and throw them around, hopefully hitting the baddies to blow them up. If you move quickly enough into rays you have a chance of deflecting them.

Warning Forever has English instructions, yay :)

Sadly neither game works under the latest available Wine for Ubuntu (0.9.50)

Fri, 19 Oct 2007
The cake is a lie

Play Portal. I've previously been excited about games before their release, but never have I been so pleasantly surprised by an unknown game. Game of the year for me (narrowly beating out Team Fortress 2). You don't necessarily have to take my word for it - a lot has already been written, drawn and spoken (fast & loose language warning on that link) by others about the game.

It's certainly one of the funniest games I've ever played with superb writing and pacing.

I just can't seem to get it out of my head :)

category: Games | permanent link
Fri, 13 Jul 2007
Little Big Planet

I'm about as excited about this game as I've been about any game for a loong time. Not only does it look gorgeous, but the potential for emergent gameplay, sharing, collaborative fun, creativity, etc. etc. are enormous. Also, look how darned cute it is!!!

Almost everyone in the office wants to play it, right now, and that even goes for the couple of people who don't play video games :)

Tue, 22 Aug 2006
Cannon Fodder title theme, played on video game controllers

This is so cool and is by Press Play On Tape, a "Commodore 64 revival band".

Now I have "War! Never been so much fun!" stuck in my head :)

category: Games | permanent link
Sun, 23 Jul 2006
Recent Video Games

I've not posted much about video games here for a while. Recently I've had a chance to try out a few new games while I'm hanging out for Half-Life Episode 2, Spore, Team Fortress 2 and Portal (three of which arrive in the same package; no idea how I'm going to cope).

We Love Katamari
Have played it for about 5 hours so far. It's certainly a great little idea, I'm enjoying it heaps and it has more gameplay depth than I'd expected. In my opinion it's let down by what I see as a couple of big flaws.

It's really, really hard for anyone who isn't already a (seasoned?) video game player. Rachel (who doesn't normally play video games) has real trouble just trying to finish the first non-training level. The controls are the most bizzarely convolutely I've seen in all my video-gaming experience. Seriously, push both sticks forward to go forward. Both sticks left to turn left. Both sticks back to go back. In my universe we use a single stick to do those things. Having ... some experience with games under my belt I could adapt to the controls pretty quickly.

Also, the incessant rambling of the King harks back to Metal Gear Solid 2. So much inane, unnecessary monologue. In the middle of it some really important stuff is mentioned, like how to play a given level. Because you're sick of sitting through the King's (sometimes amusing) barking mad ravings, you just skip it. And then you have no idea why the level you're on seems to be finishing.

Narbacular Drop
Is a cool little game. Nowhere near as riddled with bugs as some people would have you believe (I made it through from start to finish in one sitting and witnessed only one bug). Makes me even more keen (if that was possible) to see Portal in action.

The Bub's Brothers
I wasn't a huge fan of Bubble Bobble but this multiplayer variant is really quite cool - and runs on a bazillion platforms to boot.

Wed, 05 Apr 2006

A little over a week ago, I started playing Oblivion. I've been consistently impressed since, and I've put in about 30 hours of play. I can see many, many hours of gameplay still to come. The developers have really opened up the whole idea of free play and roleplaying in computer games. Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is arguably one of the first games to introduce the idea of free play - that is, the idea that you can ignore what the game would like you to do and go off and do something else. My only real criticism of GTA was that it only let you play a criminal - you couldn't choose to be a cop, or even someone on the middle ground between the two. Most of your freedoms in the game tended towards criminal activity (with the notable exceptions of the stunts, fire fighting and ambulance missions - though even in the latter you had to steal the vehicles.)

Oblivion, on the other hand, doesn't pre-cast any ethical values onto the player. Once you enter the world, it's entirely up to you whether you play a Fine Upstanding Citizen, or a Sewer Dwelling Creature Of The Night. Or someone kinda in the middle. I intend to try for all three with separate characters (my current character falls into the middle - mostly just very pragmatic.) Indeed, you can even try to redeem yourself if you start down one path and the character then tends towards another.

It's a game with freedom to just wander around and explore or follow your destiny and save the world. Or both. I believe one of the criticisms in the prequel (Morrowind) was that the freedom was over-emphasised. Right from the start of Oblivion there's a little arrow on the map that you can choose to follow if you wish to go down the "save the world" storyline. Or you can ignore it. You can choose to just click on the map to "fast travel" to the next quest location, if you choose. Or you can walk/run/ride a horse there through the gorgeous landscape.

And it's so very, very pretty. There seems to be room for optimisation - I just updated to some newer beta drivers for my NVidia graphics card and got a significant performance boost.

The other amazing feat they've accomplished with Oblivion is the modding. Many of the modding tools are similar or the same as they were in Morrowind. Right from the start players were turning out little tweaks (or large modifications) to the gameplay in Oblivion. Personally, I now have mods installed that remove annoying messages in the interface, expand the size of the map viewer, make animals like rats a little less rabid, make plants you harvest be removed from the play world, make far-off landscape look a little prettier, turn off the message popups in the initial tutorial... nothing that substantively changes the game as yet, though you can get mods that change the way character levelling happens, or adds in whole new buildings with new items and NPCs inside, or even modifies the very first room you're in so it has a whole new door that lets you skip the opening tutorial dungeon entirely.

category: Games | permanent link
Thu, 09 Mar 2006
This is getting a little crazy

I'm downloading a 904.7 MB demo for a computer game at the moment. I'm just glad I'm getting 250+ KB/s transferring it...


Thu, 11 Aug 2005
de_lab development process described

For the curious, I've written a short history of the development of de_lab. It's not particularly detailed, but includes some development artwork :)

Great indie RPG

Fate has a solid lineage of Diablo and Roguelike games, with some interesting ideas of its own. I can see it'll be a great game for just jumping into casually. Or wasting hours on ;)

Wed, 10 Aug 2005
Updated de_lab

I've had to update the de_lab release due to a couple of problems with the map as released. Turns out my custom glass material wasn't included automatically as I assumed it would be, so people saw white lines instead of frosted glass. Also, there were some warning messages in the console that I'd missed which I've cleaned up now.

category: Games | permanent link
Mon, 08 Aug 2005
What I've been up to lately

For the last month or so, I've been tooling around with creating maps for the Counter-Strike: Source mod for Half-Life 2. I enjoy playing the game a lot*, and figure creating a map couldn't be too hard.

Designing a map, that's easy. Creating the initial version, that's easy (really, it took me about an hour of planning and then an hour to create the structure and be testing it with bots). Putting in all the bells and whistles (props, sounds, bot nav hints, 3d skyboxes, ...) that's a lot of work.

But I made it! Yay me :)

*: I've found a good server with nice people on it who don't put up with the antisocial behaviour that's prevalent on most servers. That changes the whole online gaming experience.

Fri, 22 Jul 2005
Video Games Breed Violence?

Here's a piece titled The Truth About Violent Youth And Video Games. The conclusion?

The truth is that these are the most non-violent kids we have ever had, and they all own Playstations. The government is so desperate to find some youth crime to crack down on that they're strip-searching kids for 10 bucks while locking up 11 year-old girls for throwing rocks and eating french fries. The most peaceful generation of Americans in recorded history is being shoved through metal detectors, having their civil rights violated on a daily basis, are the victims of unreasonable search and seizure, and are treated with constant suspicion.

All because of a media lie. If nothing else can incite them to violence, maybe that will.
category: Games | permanent link
Tue, 01 Mar 2005
Computer games still for kids

According to Sumea:

"Attorney-General Rob Hulls said yesterday all states, territories and the Commonwealth had, for the first time, agreed to a uniform classification system for films and computer games.

Under the changes, computer games will now be rated G, PG, M, MA 15+ or RC (refused classification).

"Computer games will adopt the system used by films to make it easier for consumers, especially parents, to make informed choices about computer games and films their children are viewing," Mr Hulls said."

So where's the R rating? Or is that being dropped for film? Or have I just imagined the R rated films I've seen?

category: Games | permanent link
Mon, 27 Dec 2004
Half-Life 2, more fun

I've been playing Half-Life 2 on and off since it was released. I've played it through twice, and have revisited several of the chapters numerous times. I particularly like going through (links go to walkthrough) Point Insertion, Water Hazard (so pretty), Highway 17 and Follow Freeman sections. Oh, and Our Benefactors, Nova Prospekt, Entanglement, Anticitizen One (Dog is so cool :), We Don't Go To Ravenholm, etc. :)

Xander got me Half-Life 2: Raising The Bar, which I had great fun reading.

The experience hasn't been perfect though - I've been occasionally hit with the "stuttering" problem reported early on. It manifests on my system as an occasional hit on the frame rate - a pause of about half a second, or sometimes several in a row. It was pretty obvious that there was some problems with disk access, loading new sounds to be played. A number of solutions were offered, and Valve have been working on making their code better (apparently in some cases removing a bajillion open() failures while opening some sound files -- I've been hit with that type of bug before myself :). Their latest fix helped my system a fair bit, but I still got the occasional "stuttering" in the trainstation opening sequence, when disembarking the train (one of the most common places, as there's a lengthy speech by Dr. Breen).

I'm on holidays at the moment, so I've had some time to really look into the problem. I poked around the various HL2 forums and found some clues as to the possibilities. I installed the latest beta nVidia drivers for my card, which helped a little. I installed the latest mobo drivers (I have on-board sound), which didn't seem to change anything. The main culprit turned out to be my slow disks (slow ATA-66) in combination with a fragmented filesystem. Once I defragmented* the filesystem, things sped up considerably, and I haven't noticed any "stuttering" since.

*: does the default Windows XP disk defrag program blow chunks or what? I looked around for a third-party tool, but they all appear to be "enterprise" level, hence expensive. In the end, I had to practically hand-hold (ie. run and re-run defrag, move some files around, re-run, move files off the disk and back on again) it so it would actually defrag some of the larger HL2 data files. Sigh.

Tue, 16 Nov 2004

It unlocked at 7pm last night. It was worth all that waiting. OMFG

Update: this Penny Arcade comic had me laughing for some time, though you probably won't appreciate it without playing the game ;)

category: Games | permanent link
Fri, 16 Jul 2004
L0rd of the Ringz0r

Boromir: "OH FFS, TEAMS!!". I laughed. It hurt.

Yes, I've played too much CS and other online games ;)

It's doing the rounds. I tried to find an original reference, but no-one seems interested in naming the author. Google is full of copies.

category: Games | permanent link
Tue, 20 Apr 2004
Great cartoons about gaming
category: Games | permanent link
Mon, 15 Mar 2004
More Video Game Than Meets The Eye

Melbourne House is producing a Transformers video game, and it looks very promising. The Transformers appeared on TV after all I'd already had my fill of Macross and Star Blazers and it just seemed like so much of a cheap US ripoff. But I digress. The game sounds like it's going to be quite fun, and quite a technical achievement as well:

From the five (of the eight) levels I've played so far, it's certainly one of the most exciting console games in prospect for the entire year. Control-wise, it's instantly accessible, with a solid, convincing feel - so important in a game that could have so easily become yet another clunky, dull mechalike.
the combat department ... conveys an immensely satisfying sense of fierce, futuristic battle, with enemies always providing a harsh but fair contest - forcing you to go to war with intelligence and tactics rather than merely all guns blazing.
But all this would mean very little if it weren't for the impressive power of Melbourne House's game engine which seems capable of rendering an almost impossible degree of scenic detail at vast distances, not to mention immensely impressive character models - some of which truly have to be seen to be believed.

I wonder whether they'll have a Mini Cooper r50 playable? :)

Sat, 17 Jan 2004
Destruction Derby Arenas (PS2)

I've been a fan of the Destruction Derby franchise since the first effort on the PS1 (which I still own, and ... boy is it dated :)

The latest effort, Destruction Derby Arenas (DDA) is a bit of a mixed bag. DD2, the second PS1 outing, improved on the first game by introducing longer tracks for racing, jumps, more interesting arenas and new play modes. DDA introduces new races / arenas, much prettier graphics, car upgrades, and more ways to get points from tricks and crashes.

Points in DD games are everything, as the most points wins a round. In this new version, points are achieved through spinning opponents just like the old times. Now though, you also get points for style - controlled skids, driving on two wheels and spins, flips and barrel rolls in the air. Additionally, aggresive driving is recognised and rewarded, so forcing opponents into the barrier, or landing on them also nets points. Points are also awarded for destroying parts of the environment.

Some of the new race environments are interesting - mostly in their prettiness. The new arenas are very nice. Some have bits of floor that flip cars into the air (quite fun ;) and another has a drop-off edge around the arena that encroaches as the round progresses (also fun to push the other cars over the edge - lots of points awarded for that too ;)

The crashing is damn fun :) The damage system is improved, as bits of the cars fall off (or are forcibly rammed off) ... doors with busted latches swing out as you take corners, and so on. Nice little touches like that.

In all other respects though, DDA seems to be a step backwards from DD2 - the races are shorter and there's less play modes. Racing and arenas are the only modes if you're not online - I guess the uptake of the online service isn't going well. One of the more fun DD2 modes was a "survival" game in the arena where all the other cars aim at you and you see how long you last. It was a hoot, as generally it was over in a minute or two, and friends could pass the controller around to see who could last the longest. This mode is now online-only. A damn shame.

In terms of the racing, I admit I might be a little influenced here by the awesome length and breadth of the racing tracks in SSX3. The races in DDA just seem bland and a little boring. The tracks are short (often just a simple figure-8) and with the exception of one track, there's no shortcuts or alternative paths to take.

The car upgrades could've been left out - they're completely linear, with no choice by the player as to what to upgrade. Bleah.

Another potential peeve: I've played the game through three times as different "characters", and have yet to unlock one of the arenas and one of the race tracks. Doesn't look like these are available in single-player mode. I'm going to keep at it though - and see whether an FAQ appears with the answer to unlocking them...

The verdict? The crashing is damn fun :) If DDA was a snowboarding game, it'd get 3 uber tricks out of 5.

Mon, 03 Nov 2003
New game: SSX3

I got SSX3 on Saturday. What a great game! I reckon I played it for about 16 hours over the remaining weekend (Rachel was roleplaying, so I didn't feel so bad not socialising :)

It's got the same elements that made the original game so much fun: interesting courses, incredible tricks to perform, and relatively easy to just pick up and play - but requires dedication to really master. This release of SSX makes the second version ("SSX Tricky") seem like a minor advancement on the gameplay of the original. Having played SSX through as all characters, I borrrowed and finished SSX Tricky in a single day's play (ie. about 10 hours) so didn't bother to buy it. SSX3 on the other hand has me still going having not finished the major challenge elements (ie. winning gold medals in all competitions) and I've barely scratched the surface of the game's extra challenges and secret areas.

Then there's the challenge of keeping a combo going for an entire run. That one will take me a very long time to master :)

Biggest gripe: one challenge requires me to do an Indy 360 over a particular jump. I have no idea what an Indy 360 is -- I'd have to load up the old SSX and look through its trick help screen to find out :( This SSX Tricky trick list will probably help. I've also just noticed in another FAQ that an Indy is just a board grab, so an Indy 360 is actually quite trivial :)