Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's Over

Halloween has come and gone. For the most part, I stayed away from any in-game related Halloween madness. I was particularly burned out on World of Warcraft, so I never paid the headless horseman a visit (however, we did watch Sleepy Hollow tonight). I'm still in newbie mode in Dark Ages of Camelot, so nothing special there.

And here at the homestead, the witches, princesses, Jedi, mummies, Sponge Bobs, Supermans, Batmans, Spidermans, giant raisins, robots, and mutants are all gone. The candy dish is empty. Tomorrow, I'll pack up the skull candles, spiderwebs, and gravestones.

The good news? Halloween is only a year away!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Chuck Norris vs. The Dragon Raid

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New in Linux: Graphic Card Drivers

AMD has decided to start supporting their ATI line of graphics cards with Linux-based drivers.
Video card giant AMD announced the release of new Linux drivers for its popular line of video cards today. The new drivers, Linux Catalyst 7.10, provide updates and features for desktop effects and gaming.

The new drivers provide support for AIGLX and ATI GPUs, enabling performance improvements for OpenGL games including the Quake and Doom lines. The improvements also offer support for enhanced graphic effects for supported distributions.
This is one moderate step in the right direction for Linux gaming. Graphic card support is the sore spot and hurdle that Linux gaming needs to clear. Hopefully, other companies will follow suit and give Linux users even more hardware options.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lord of the Rings Online: Game of the Year?

Apparently Lord of the Rings Online has been voted Game of the Year.
(Drum roll). The PC Game of the Year 2007 - sponsored by PC Gamer, has been awarded to Turbine's Tolkien-powered MMO The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.

And the hobbits rejoiced.

Lord of the Rings Online beat off WoW, Football Manager 2007, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. to grab the gong. We've have a feeling this is going to generate some interesting and no doubt highly enlightening discussion in the comments below...
Funny thing is, LotRO didn't win the Online Game of the Year award. World of Warcraft won that award. I guess we can all figure out what category the LotRO fanboys voted in. In my opinion, the people that voted for WoW, did so in the correct category, instead of trying to cheese it to a win in an overall category. So, LotRO scrapes out a trophy to throw up on the wall next to their four million characters created plaque. I wonder who is getting fired over this one?

Back Into the Dark

I'm heading back into the dark; Dark Age of Camelot that is. While Team Fortress 2 has my action gaming covered, I need a new game to replace World of Warcraft for a bit. It is nothing that WoW has done, but I am just tired and can't force myself to login lately. It is probably my fault, because I really needed that fifth epic mount and the brewfest quests were fun. Well, fun for a day. But it doesn't matter, I have my epic Brewfest Riding Ram!

So, I reinstalled Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC) today and resubscribed my account. I decided that I'm going to give the Classic servers another shot. After all, the Classic server cluster fixes pretty much every complaint I've ever had about DAoC. No more buff bots. No more Trials of Atlantis, which means no Master Levels or Artifacts.

Of course, there is a couple expansion packs I need to catch up on. Darkness Rising and the Labyrinth of the Minotaur have both launched since I last played, and there appears to be a ton of stuff to do in both. For example, Darkness Rising has mounts, and we all know how much I love collecting my mounts!

For those interested, here are my plans:

Server: Gareth (Bossiney Cluster)
Realm: Midgard
Class: Skald or Warrior

If you play and want to hook up, just let me know and maybe we can get in on some newbie Realm vs. Realm. Oh, did I mention players can almost level completely from Realm vs. Realm now? Awesome. And, experience gain is doubled in the original world and dungeon zones! Leveling like this makes WoW look like a grind.

PS. Please give me plats.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Where's My Tin Foil?

It is very hard for me not to run out and buy some new tin foil to fashion a very stylish hat out of.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Call of Duty 4 Demo Impressions

I had a chance today to play the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare single-player demo and I was very impressed. The CoD4 demo is truly how all demos should be: fun, intense, and satisfying within itself. So many demos come out these days with a short, pitiful glimpse at what the game offers. Fortunately, this is not the case with CoD4's demo.

The entire Call of Duty series is noted as having some of the best single-player FPS action to date. So far, CoD4 is shaping up to be no different and it's not World War II this time around! CoD4 is set in modern times, hence the Modern Warfare subtitle.

The demo starts the player off in a Middle-eastern setting on a mission to secure a damaged tank. Along for the ride is an entire squad of U.S. Marines. The action starts immediately, and when I say immediately, I mean it. There is literally no time for a player to check their weapon load-out or control schemes before the squad leader is barking out orders to move forward and suppress the enemy's fire.

It doesn't take long to realize that CoD4 emphasizes action and fast game-play over complicated strategy. This forces the player into a "don't think, just react" mode, and that can be uncomfortable at first. My best advice: learn how to duck for cover, because the intense action is what makes this game so fucking great. There is no shame in hiding for a minute to assess and advance on the situation presented.

As the mission progresses, players get a taste for some of the tools available in the full version, such as night vision, vehicles, and a gadzillion different weapons (yes, gadzillion is a made-up word, but it sounds fitting). It is very refreshing to play a demo where I didn't feel the available weapons were restricted in anyway. Every few steps, there was another new weapon to be found.

And the best part of the demo is the fact that it has a verifiable conclusion. Players definitely reach a point at which they can say; "I did something here and I'm glad its finished." I can not wait for the full version of this game, and all of this based on the single-player alone. We haven't even touched the multiplayer yet!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sorry Hellgate

It wasn't bad enough that the recently released Hellgate: London demo sucked, but EA has once again gone and tried to make a buck off of unsuspecting gamers.
...people installing the newly released Hellgate: London demo have noticed that the game includes adware, advertising that is integrated into software. Here's the pertinent section of the license you have to agree to abide by once Hellgate is installed onto your system:

The Software incorporates technology of Massive Incorporated ("Massive") that enables in-game advertising, and the display of other similar in-game objects, which are uploaded temporarily to your personal computer or game console and replaced during online game play. As part of this process, Massive may collect your Internet protocol address and other basic anonymous information, and will use this information for the general purposes of transmitting and measuring in-game advertising.
This is the exact reason I did not buy Battlefield 2142 from EA. This is another reason I will never buy, own, or care about Hellgate: London. Don't get me wrong, the recent Hellgate demo didn't exactly win me over, but it didn't completely kill my interest in the game either. However, the coffin is closed now.

Vote with your wallet gamers, say no to Hellgate: London.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mythos Update

The beta for Mythos, Flagship Studio's free-to-play sudo-MMORPG, has a massive update incoming today.
As many of you already know, we'll be taking down the servers at 1:30 to install a new build. You will automatically patch when you log in, so don't worry about re-downloading or anything. This patch fixes many of the inevitable little bugs that cropped up with the huge update. Changelists are posted in the forums so check it out if you're curious as to what's changed. Our downtime should be short - under an hour.
Included in the update is an entirely new hub town and adventure zone, essentially doubling the size of the current Mythos universe. With this comes new levels, a revamped skill system, and tons of new items. I should have some updated impressions within the next few days.

My initial impressions of Mythos can be found here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Team Fortress 2 Initial Impressions - Part III

Part I
Part II

It is ironic to me that Team Fortress came from a primarily "non-team" oriented period of game development. Plus, it came in the form of a non-commercial mod. Now, Team Fortress 2 comes in with a storm of other professionally developed team-based shooters such as Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. It really shows how the FPS market has changed. Team-based games are far more accessible, as previously shown in my impressions, and that accessibility leads to a great game.

One of the key factors in accessibility is feedback to a player. Any game needs to be able to clearly and efficiently inform a player of what is, has, and will be occuring. After playing the Enemy Territory: Quake Wars demo for a while, I had to bring it's accessibility into question. In ET:QW, it was never very obvious what needed to be done or how players were supposed to go about doing it. Not so in TF2.

Every goal is clearly identified in TF2, and while it may take some players a few tries to learn the maps, it is never tough to understand what the goal is. This is all layered into as few game modes as possible, with as few paths to victory as needed. To put it bluntly; TF2 is simple to understand.

My biggest complaint with ET:QW was the state of confusion I was always in and it is fairly apparent which team-based shooter I am currently playing. TF2 and ET:QW both do many things right, but where TF2 really sells itself is in its communication to the player.

When a player dies in TF2, the feedback is immediate. A quick and clear death camera zooms in and displays the player who took them out. The player instantly receives feedback, that hey, a Sniper can shoot them when they run out into the open. Or that going toe to toe with a Heavy, healed by a Medic, may not be and advisable move in the future.

Another form of feedback in TF2 plays right into the graphical style of the various classes. It is very easy, at first glance, to identify what class a player is and take the appropriate actions. A common example; "Hey that's a Heavy, I better find some cover." It is no different than playing Super Mario Bros and deciding a course of action when confronted by a simple Turtle or an incarnation of Bowser himself. Due to the significant difference in appearance, the reaction is immediate.

Part IV
Final Thoughts

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Team Fortress 2 Initial Impressions - Part II

Part I

I left off my initial impressions of Team Fortress 2 stating how there is a class for every type of gamer. However, good players are good players, and can succeed with almost any class. It comes down to learning what advantages a class has and then leveraging them against the weaknesses of an opponent. Overall, twitch skill is important, but isn't going to make a single player unstoppable.

The reason twitch skill will never be top dog in TF2 is for the simple reason that certain classes just won't beat other classes on the grounds of gun play alone. A fast-moving scout is not going to outrun or out gun a properly placed engineer turret. No matter how slow the engineer's reflexes are, the turret takes over the shooting, and that allows a strategic thinker to thrive as an engineer. There are plenty of other examples, but I'll let everyone discover them on their own while playing.

The maps in TF2 are wonderfully imagined and share the same feel as the characters. Like the graphical style, the maps tend to poke fun at the FPS genre in whole. There are massive neon signs with huge arrows pointing towards the next control point. Huge stop signs mark doors that are inaccessible during the current round. A large floating red or blue marker clearly defines a control points status.

So far, the maps have felt very balanced. I have never gone into a game dreading the map I was playing on. Some players in the community are disappointed with the number of maps, but if all the maps remain balanced it is a win in my book. I would much prefer a smaller number of balanced, fun maps.

Certain strategies work well on some maps, like an all-out Scout rush on cp_granary, but for every strategy there is a counter. Being on the receiving end of a scout rush can be maddening, as the match is often over before players begin fighting, but that is where team play comes in. If your team doesn't want to work together, then coordinated tactics like a scout rush will win the day.

Unfortunately, a scout rush is a lot easier to coordinate than a defense against it, which can cause problems for players just looking for fun on a public server. So, the developers do need to take care that some tactics don't become too effective or too easily employed. Just to note, a good engineer or pyro can be a nightmare for a scout rush. Well, that is, until the rest of the scout's team shows up.

Part III
Part IV
Final Thoughts

Monday, October 15, 2007

Linux Updates

Trying to keep up with relevant Linux news is tough, as most of it is just a dog and pony show for the top distributions. Most of that news turns out to be a battle between which camp can come up with a more retarded name for their Linux package (Ubuntu I'm looking at you).

However, we have a very positive Linux gaming tidbit to cover today. BeyondUnreal has a short e-mail confirming Linux client and server files for the already-in-demo-stage Unreal Tournament 3.
Heh, thanks. The dedicated server should be along very soon, but the Linux client won't be here tonight, for those waiting for it. I have set up a mailing list for UT3 linux and mac discussion, and I'll be announcing things there when they become available. Send a blank email to ut3-subscribe@icculus.org to join the list. Thanks, --ryan.
I love this sort of news!

On the non-gaming front, Linux and the Mac OS may both be susceptible to a flaw that Windows is currently in the process of patching. Instead of trying to do the tech dance, I'll just quote the relevant information:
In fact, Nathan McFeters, one of the researchers who has been studying the problem most closely says he hopes to present more details on how other Unix-based operating systems like Linux and Mac OS X may also be susceptible to what are known as URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) protocol handler flaws at the Toorcon hacking conference, being held next week in San Diego.
Well that is all I have for right now, so please enjoy.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Team Fortress 2 Initial Impressions

I normally try to post my initial impressions of a game as soon as I am done playing it for the first few times. I am pretty good about getting into a play, post, play, post rhythm.

However, for Team Fortress 2 I have been fairly silent with my initial impressions. Why? Because it is such a great game that I don't want to waste a single second blogging instead of playing! I do have a few minutes now, so without further ado, my first impressions of Team Fortress 2.

The first thing any player will note about TF2 is the graphical styling. It is stylized and cartoonish in nature, but that is what makes it so great. In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun (a curiously refreshing gaming opinion site), Valve developer Charlie Brown stated:
Funny stuff just happens. So when we started, we knew what kind of weapons we wanted, we knew the physics, we knew we had really fast movements speeds and not all our weapons were realistic, and so it was pretty easy to see during testing that these funny moments happened way more frequently than they did in our other games. That was one of the reasons we chose this art style in the first place. We said, let’s just embrace the exaggerated funny things that happen. We used that to our advantage.
With over the top graphical stylings, comes over to top gameplay. Gameplay is definitely where TF2 shines. At the base, it is a class based shooter that attempts to meld several unique play styles into a team setting. Every class has a job to perform and in most cases, when that job isn't performed, the team knows it.

The best part of the class system is that there is a class for every level of gamer. Players do not need to be twitch gaming superstars to have fun or be competitive in TF2. I have friends from every corner of the gaming universe playing this game and they all are finding a class that fits them.

Not being able to shoot straight makes a player find other avenues for success and in TF2 that often leads to a better team player. This is a refreshing change of pace from the pinpoint click fests found in other FPS games. The point I want to emphasis is that TF2 is not a shooter for shooters, it is a shooter for everyone.

Part II
Part III
Part IV
Final Thoughts

Thursday, October 11, 2007

EA Purchases Bioware

Holy fuck, EA To Acquire BioWare Corp. and Pandemic Studios.
REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) today announced an agreement with Elevation Partners to acquire VG Holding Corp. -- the owner of both BioWare Corp. and Pandemic Studios. This acquisition gives EA a strong competitive position in key genres in interactive entertainment: action, adventure and role-playing games. The two studios have been recognized for creating some of the highest-quality games in the industry.

BioWare Corp. and Pandemic Studios have ten franchises under development, including six wholly owned games. BioWare Corp. is currently developing the highly anticipated Mass Effect, which will be published by Microsoft in November, and is in the early development stages of a massively multiplayer online game. Pandemic Studios is redefining open-world games with its upcoming Mercenaries 2: World in Flames™ and Saboteur™, in addition to several unannounced projects.
This one is completely out of left field. This really makes me want to run and grab that tinfoil hat I tossed in the closet. The main question I have, did EA buy them for their upcoming online games or for their ass-kicking single-player games?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Orange Box

The Orange Box, from Valve, deserves all the 10/10 reviews that Halo 3 paid to get. IGN only gave it a 9.5/10.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Team Fortress 2 Tomorrow

Valve has confirmed that the Orange Box will be available tomorrow in stores and that pre-purchasers through Steam will have the game unlocked "shortly after midnight" Pacific Time on October 10.

The most interesting part of this package for me is Team Fortress 2 (TF2). The game is already receiving rave reviews. The pre-order beta was so successful that it flat-out crashed Steam, Valve's digital distribution and community software. The gaming news industry may still be ogling over Halo 3, but Team Fortress 2 is where the real multiplayer FPS action will be found this year.

FPS games are just better on the PC. Period. No discussion needed. If you want proof, plug the best Xbox Halo players into a PC through a Microsoft Xbox Controller and watch an average PC gamer, with keyboard and mouse, wipe the floor with them. Computers gave birth to the FPS, and console gamers damn well better remember to respect their elders.

Anyways, I will hopefully be playing tomorrow with my pre-order. If you will be getting the game, lets hook up and frag out.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I Hate People

I absolutely hate people that try and argue that World of Warcraft's Player vs. Player (PvP) is balanced. It is not, will never be, and can never be. Why can it never be? Gear, levels, and most of all because it is a class based system revolving around the heal, damage, and tank trinity.

It is inevitable anytime that I have a bad day in World of Warcraft that I get into an argument about its PvP balance. The conversations almost always end in the infamous quote: "lrn2play". Translated, it means "Learn to play your class better."

Well, I play a Shaman and have played one since the late stages of WoW's beta. I play my shaman better than most and have continually topped DPS and kill charts in game to the amazement of supposed "top DPS" classes. I do all of this without conforming to the "flavor of the month" Shaman builds or gear setups. I do it because I know what works for me as a player and build accordingly.

Today, the "lrn2play" phrase was thrown out by someone claiming to have a level 70 Shaman. According to them, shamans are a good class and shamans like me just need to "lrn2play". To top it off, the player was actually playing a Mage at the time, and said that anytime I want a lesson about Shamans just let them know.

This threw me over the edge, because I have more time on my Shaman than most people have playing World of Warcraft. I played a Shaman before this certain player even knew World of Warcraft existed. Sure, I'm not level 70, but that is because I don't chase expansions and levels on a hardcore pace anymore. However, level should NEVER be taken as an indication of a player's skill.

Getting back to WoW's PvP balance, I just want to state that I fully feel that WoW has turned into the most unbalanced PvP game on the market. There is no game that has worse class balance. No, not even Dark Ages of Camelot was/is this bad. DAoC had a single major class imbalance and only for a brief period. WoW has had a class balance issue since day one and has done nothing to improve it, and Blizzard couldn't improve it even if they wanted too.

WoW is a gear driven game at max level. It is a level driven game until that point. Thrown into the mix is the fact that it is a class based game. So, WoW's issues start to appear as certain classes scale better with gear (Warriors) and other classes have almost no reliance on gear at all (Warlocks). Warriors, for example, are powder puffs until they are sufficiently geared. On the other hand, warlocks are a terror regardless of their gear level and just become more insane the farther they climb.

These are very base examples, but this is a rant and I don't feel like going deeper. Anyone that plays WoW knows these two examples are spot on and the only people that argue otherwise are Warriors and Warlocks.

This is getting long, so let me sum it up. By observing the results of Arena matches, any player can determine which classes are overpowered. On top of this, any player and most definitely Blizzard should be able to realize the overpowered combination of classes and skills. But all of this is mute data, because World of Warcraft will never change from a gear centric game and therefore can never hope for a semblance of PvP class balance. Without an "end" to gear levels there can never be a point to start balancing.

Blizzard will continue to tweak classes here and there. Sometimes it will improve a class. Sometimes it will not. Eventually, it will lead to a class becoming overpowered and maybe that is the best thing that can happen to World of Warcraft. Instead of having a few dominating classes and skills, WoW can have a 100% insanely overpowered epeen fest that ends fights even faster than the current average of 30 seconds.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Turbine Fires Jeff Anderson?

News from Warcry:
Turbine has undergone a corporate shake-up, according to sources within the company and some quiet edits to their own website. The official company page now lists Jim Crowley as President and CEO, removing all mention of Jeff Anderson.
I guess that is what Mr. Anderson gets for basically lying about Lord of the Rings Online's massive subscription numbers and LotRO's complete and utter dominance over that other MMORPG. I don't know much about Jeff Anderson and I don't care too. Turbine was blessed to work with two of the most important fantasy IPs in history, Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings. Having played both games, it is my opinion that they failed and someone has to pay.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Steam Community Group Formed

I have gone ahead and created a Steam Community Group entitled Heartless Gamer. If you have a Steam account feel free to go over and join up so we can keep tabs on each other.

This is mainly a test to evaluate the value and functionality of a Steam Community Group. I have bigger ideas than just this group, but I need to start somewhere.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tabula Rasa Delayed

Bad news for any Tabula Rasa fans, it is being delayed; again. The plan now is to launch Tabula Rasa at the end of October to pre-order customers and a live launch on November 2.

The development team wants some more time to test a recent overhaul of the crafting system and give beta testers the chance to test out the new high level areas. In any case, it means another delay added onto a long list of delays that have kept Tabula Rasa out of gamer's hands.

Personally, this kills any chance I would be interested in playing the title. Team Fortress 2 is almost officially here (it is in pre-order beta atm) and if a certain other beta invitation ever goes through I will have another MMOG to play around in. Sorry, Tabula Rasa. Wrong place, wrong time, and a complete failure to turn me on.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Media Does Not Understand Gaming

The mainstream media does not understand gaming and it is truly sad when they try. Click here or view below for proof.


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