Tag Archives: Games and Gaming

Games Torment me

This summer has been an enlightening one for me in terms of my career as a gamer. (1337 gamer that I am.) For this summer, I started playing Planescape – Torment.

Now I have trouble playing just about any other game. I blame it on WO’s quasi-experiment to determine what kind of gamer I am.

[tag]Wizardry 8[/tag], which I’d been playing since last fall (dear god, that’s a long game!), seemed boring and annoying after Torment. Turn-based combat doesn’t appeal to me, and never has, although I endured that annoyance for the sake of the character development (and decent plot) of Wizardry 8.

[tag]Diablo II[/tag]… well, honestly. WO and I started playing this cooperatively at the begininng of summer, and as much as I like some aspects of the game, it’s… well, it’s Diablo II. Click-click-clickclickclick! It doesn’t help that I’ve beat it quite a few times already, and that the game is lonely when playing single-player. (Mama always told me not to talk to strangers on the Internet.) What I do love about Diablo II, though, are the character skill trees. Wizardry 8 was the only other game I’ve played that could match or surpass Diablo II in character customization in that way, although Torment is fine in this regard.

[tag]Baldur’s Gate[/tag]… heh. Another one WO and I started playing this summer, and my first official [tag]D & D[/tag] game. First, I found the D & D races/jobs to be hard to pick from. None of them seemed very interesting. So I made a decent little fighter and got… 10 hit points. Whoo. Now don’t get in my way, ‘cuz here I come! No, really. Don’t get in my way, because I don’t wanna get hurt. *mutter* Ten damn hit points. And WO played a mage, and mages are just awful in D & D, evidently. Four hit points and one spell a day. It was shortly after the 10-ish hours of Baldur’s Gate that I started playing Planescape – Torment. Much more highly-powered.

Torment‘s got its flaws, though. I think your alignment should be a little more strongly affected by the things you choose to say and do. I’m having a hell of a time creating a lawful evil character in a second game I’ve started. Hell, I’m having a hard time getting my “real” game to become lawful (he’s already neutral good). The fighting system is better than any other RPG-ish game I’ve played, but still takes a while to get comfortable with.

Oh, and I just about give up on [tag]interactive fiction[/tag] (IF). It’s just not fun. It’s either written to show off the author’s puzzle-making abilities, or written to show off the author’s froo-froo literary skills. The former are boring and both usually include “guess the verb” puzzles, even to someone who knows their Inform verbs. Neither are fun. If I want a puzzle, I’ll play chess, and if I want literature, I’ll pick up a novel. I know how to progress the plot in a novel, and it doesn’t involve guessing any verbs or going through all available conversation options. If I want “pacing” (a magic word in IF), I’ll get up and go for a walk, not solve some poorly-clued puzzle put there just to make the game long enough for the IF Comp of the year.

…Sorry. I live with an IF writer. Sometimes I want to scream.

So I like higher-powered games. I like party-based games. I like games with plot. I like characters with backstory. I like games where my character development choices actually affect the progression and outcome of the game–like intelligence and wisdom factoring into conversation in Torment. I like games with choices, although I prefer that the pacing be rather under my control (which was my problem with [tag]The Sims 2[/tag]–I don’t like timers). I loathe meaningless puzzles. I like long games; I mean, hell, up until a couple of years ago, my favorite game was [tag]Sim City 2000[/tag]. Really.

So what am I left with now? [tag]Planescape – Torment[/tag] and chess. Yes, [tag]chess[/tag].


On podcasts

Ah, podcasts. These things have saved my sanity throughout the summer. Some of these are worthy of linkage and sharing.

Not all–luckily, since I listen to entirely too many–but some.

First, the [tag]Performance Poetry[/tag] podcast I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Amazing stuff.

Another favorite of mine is Next Big Hit. The announcer kills me and the music played probably won’t be the next big hit. That doesn’t make it bad, though, really. It tends to be pop [tag]music[/tag] (and there’s plenty of that new rock stuff I can’t stand), but has recently increased the number of R & B and rap artists played. A fun trick is to try to identify why the songs won’t likely hit the Top 40 charts. Sometimes it’s a singing style that’s out of favor right now; sometimes it’s a too-1990s beat.

The Gadgettes. Silly-ass, borderline sexist name, amazing podcast. Not a condescending, “Oh, girls like [tag]gadgets[/tag], too” podcast, but a podcast about gadgets done by women. And they’re funny. Very funny.

[tag]Bollywood[/tag]’s Best. The hosts act like two twelve-year olds with crushes on each other. So f’ing annoying. But it’s very worth it for the music, for I do love me some Bollywood hits.

[tag]NPR[/tag] Technology and Health and Science. Dude, it’s NPR. ‘Nuff said.

For the best in [tag]sci-fi[/tag] shorts, there’s Escape Pod. Through [tag]Escape Pod[/tag], I was introduced to [tag]Jennifer Pelland[/tag], one of the funniest short story authors I’ve read. (I mentioned her here about a year ago.)

Finally, I suppose I should mention that WO now runs a [tag]podcast[/tag] over at Ludus Novus. I think it’s hot, and I think there’s real potential for discussions on gaming that could transcend even what The Escapist is putting out weekly. At least WO isn’t likely to do series after series on female gamers.

Anyone know of podcast aggregators that play podcasts, track read/unread podcasts (at least as well as iTunes does), and is stable?

Feed a starving child

Oh, look! For only 160 hours out of my life, I’ll do at least 19 more damage on every spell I cast. I just got two percent better.

For 160 hours?

That’s a month of full-time work.

That’s an approximate economic value of $16,000 dollars at contractor’s wages.

That’s 44 years of feeding a starving child somewhere in the world, every day of his life. (From The Sword of Courteous Debate‘s “I like gaming“, courtesy of Elf.)

I wonder about this sort of thing every time I hear someone start talking about World of Warcraft, and particularly when the discussion lasts more than about 30 seconds. That’s the sign that you’re talking to a player, not just someone that’s heard about the game and shies away from it, like me.

World of Warcraft is an amazing addiction. I’ve never hung around many hardcore gamers, and I’m certainly not much of a gamer myself, but I’ve never seen a game take people’s lives time the way this one does. This game has usurped the evenings, weekends, and classtimes of many of my peers and some of my staff/faculty acquaintances.

I tend to want to stay away from things that garner such fanaticism from people (although I feel free to exhibit fanaticism of my own, of course… Oh, shit! It’s Dr. Tran!), and I kind of wonder if they realize or care how much time is being dropped into the game. How much time they’re missing with in-the-vicintity friends and family to play.

I’ve heard a couple go into a long, pissed rant together because the couple that they usually do weekend activities with didn’t want to play World of Warcraft on a particular weekend. The other couple wanted a break from playing, apparently, to which their response is, “Yeah, they thplay a lot, but they don’t play a lot with us. I guess we’ll see if there’s a movie out that’s not too dumb and go watch it.”

My opinion of World of Warcraft aside, the above article is excellently written and worth a read, even if you don’t think World of Warcraft takes your life.

Zork, Half-life, and Deus Ex

So I mentioned on Tuesday that I’d finished Elite Force and was looking for something new to play.

That night (or the next; the days blur), I installed Zork: Grand Inquisitor and Half-Life on my machine.

Zork is a standard adventure game, in my mind, and it took me two tries to enjoy it enough to play more. I beat it on Saturday, and was impressed–much like I was with Elite Force–with how short the game was. There were a few places where the “trick” seemed to be something kind of arbitrary, but overall, the game was pretty fun and made me lust a little for some interactive fiction. Anyone got any recommendations on that front?

WO and I wanted to play Zork in the special “Linked Play” mode, in which I would control the character’s actions and he would be able to point at crap and say, “Look over here!” (Undoubtedly in an annoying manner, like that green guy from the GameCube version of Zelda.) Alas, despite the installation of IPX on both of our machines, attempts to start with Linked Play simply crashed the game. Oh, well.

Half-Life… Yeah. I rapidly discovered that I can’t handle shit jumping out at me any better for having pwned Elite Force. Too much adrenaline. WO, however, was more than willing to let me play video game voyeur and watch him play for many an hour over the next several days (until even he was burnt out). Pretty game, seems awesome, not my style.

Later in the week, I installed Deus Ex, but by then I’d watched too many hours of Half-Life and just sort of putzed around in the training level before moving on to other activities.

Best thing about the training level? Movable houseplants, free to be arranged, thrown, and shot. WO muttered something about women liking construction in games, at which point I ordered him to “construct” me a cup of tea.

No, actually I didn’t. I just threw another houseplant into a corner.

I didn’t have much interest in the game itself, but then again, break was drawing to a close and I was restless as hell. I might play a little more as time permits; I haven’t uninstalled it yet.

Elite Force – Finished

I finished my first-ever first-person shooter (FPS) on Sunday. Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force is a shoot-em-up where you’re the second in command of a special task force formed on Voyager to handle problem situations (like, ya know, the ones they encounter in two out of three episodes). You run around with the awesomest of weapons and kill some sweet baddies, including Borg, Klingons, silly Humans, and some races not yet invented by Paramount.

I love this game. This is the first FPS that I’ve been able to comfortably play since Doom II, especially control-wise. (I’m hoping that this will help me branch into other games that require jumping and crouching.) The gameplay is very, very linear, so even my directionless ass could find my way through the ships and puzzles without much trouble.

It also ramps up difficulty very nicely. Early in the game, it’s very, very hard to die. The final boss, though, I had to try about three or four times to kill while WO stood over my shoulder and offered helpful advice like, “Don’t just stand still!”

For most of the game, you travel with a decently helpful team of folks also on the Elite Force squad. They, like many non-player characters (NPCs) in these sorts of games, suffer from a limited set of things to say. There was always someone inclined to ask, “How many of them are there?!” when attacked by a decent-sized bunch. My reply during one fight prompted WO to make a little post and giggle for the rest of the day.

Overall, though, the game was awesome and took me three days to beat (meaning it’s really short). The weapons were sweet (personal photon torpedo launcher! …Because every FPS must have a rocket launcher.), the plot was strong, the baddies were cool, and all main characters other than Seven of Nine were voice-acted by the real actors. (Maybe she wasn’t down for the video game thing.)

Another awesome thing about this game: the Holomatch feature. Holomatch is essentially deathmatch (including team deathmatch and capture the flag), except there are built in bots if you want to play by yourself.

I remember, back in the day, begging my parents to play Doom II with me when I wanted to deathmatch and didn’t have anyone around who could or would play. No longer! Now games come with bots that can whoop your ass.

…Actually, their AI-foo is weak, at least up to the “Lieutenant” ranking of difficulty. WO and I easily wiped the deck with four of them, and he could have done it alone. (One tip: play on levels with ladders–they kind of get stuck. It’s fun!) It’s fun anyway, though.

I’m trying to determine what my next game will be… I’ve got a stack of things from WO that include Deus Ex, Half-Life, and Zork Grand Inquisitor (…yeah, hell if I know). I’ve also still got Alice, which I didn’t care for the first time around.