Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thank You Posts On Developer Boards Are Rare and to be Commended

While sifting through dozens of complaints and suggestion threads at the official forums for Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers I came across a rare find on any game developers forums: a thank you post. Not only was the poster saying thanks, but also providing valuable feedback. For this, I commend the poster. Below is a sample of what was posted:
First of all, thank you for making M:TG Duels of the Planeswalkers. This game really brought back the joy of M:TG for me and my friends.

What we love about it:
  • (Xbox specific) The friend chatter while playing the game (even being 1800 miles apart)
  • Being able to play again, without investing a lot of money and time rebuilding digital collections
  • Ease of logging in, picking a deck and getting playing
  • The smoothness of the game; in my opinion overall it runs very well
  • The decks being relatively balanced against each other
  • Every player, for the most part, has access to the exact same pool of cards

Saturday, May 29, 2010

5 Years of Blogging

Five wonderful and insightful years ago I started this blog.  I had planned a larger post talking about the "future", but like this five year milestone time has gone by faster than I could ever had imagined.  Five years ago I was single and without a care in the world outside of whether my Internet connection worked at home.  Today, I'm married, a father, a belated college graduate, and newly promoted at a company I would never have imagined working for.  Change, as they say, comes whether we wish it or not.

Yet, one thing has remained constant over the past five years: this blog and my gaming.  In retrospect there are a lot of things  I would have done differently, but looking back there isn't a single thing I would want changed. 

Without rambling any further (the kid has gotta be put to bed at some point), I present to you a repost of my first post.

The date: 29 May, 2005. The time: 20:24 or 8:24 PM EST for those of you in the civilian world.

This blog has officially started. It has been a process of thought pulling at my mind for a while. I play these games we call MMORPGs, but I don't even know if "play" is the correct word to describe it anymore. I live and breath these games. They are more than an escape from my mediocre life. Fun is no longer the driving factor. Social interaction with like minded nerds and geeks; people whom live through their in game characters as though it was version 2.0 of themselves.

I don't want to hear these gamers speak in foreign Orcish or Elvish tongues. I want them to speak English and call me newb, l33t, or dude. I want role playing that is a real person, embodying a real in-game character. I don't want to know how much you can pretend. I want to see who, what, and how you can do things in game with the class, race, or skills you have chosen in our game of choice.

Ah, the game of choice! Room for debate among the flooded market of MMORPGs and the denizens that inhabit them. From baseless flame fests on the far reaches of the most bizarre gaming message boards; to developer's beloved Customer Feedback Forms. Well known to players that have ever hit cancel on a B-rate MMORPG subscription.

That is what brings us here. The game of choice, or should I say games of choice! After all, it is entirely possible to enjoy the splendor of more than a single MMO at a time. While you risk the chance of losing that significant other, the admiration of your pet, and standing in your real life social circle, you obtain the chance to be the darling of your online world of choice.

Whether its a heroic conquest, a diabolic scheme, or simply a comical battle cry; overnight stardom is possible!

So friends, let us journey down this road. Unafraid of the naysayers! Fearful of the sun that will burn our skin! And most of all, damn proud of what we choose to do with our free time. We are the many, the proud, the MMO gamer!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers coming to PC via Steam

From Tobold's blog:
... Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers will be released via Steam to the PC. While DOTP is in a way a "Magic light" game, I am nevertheless highly interested in this.
Like Tobold, I am a long time MtG fan and former hardcore player. However, the days where I have the time to build and maintain competitive decks are gone. What I've needed to spark my interest in MtG again is a more casual approach that is PC based.  That is exactly what DotP delivers. I plan on giving it a try in June.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Frozen Synapse is Fucking Brilliant

Since my son was born I've tried to cut back on my cussing.  Generally, I reserve using the F bomb in post titles for only momentous occasions (like Spore's DRM debacle).  Today however, I will gladly drop it in praise of Frozen Synapse, a game you need to see to understand.

Frozen Synapse fell into my email box as part of their "buy 1, get 1 free for a friend" campaign.  I had originally became interested in the game in part because of this Rock, Paper, Shotgun post.  Now that I've had some time with the game I have only one thing to say: this game is bloody brilliant. 

The basic premise is that players take turns moving soldiers around a battlefield. The catch is that its simultaneous turn-based: both players make their moves and then let the actions play out at the same time. This allows the game to be played over long periods of time or quickly in succession. Player A can make their move and submit it to the server whether Player B is online or not. Player B is free to return and make their move whenever they are free.

Once both players set their action (known as the planning stage) the outcome is played out. Various game modes determine the win conditions. Some are to destroy the enemy; while other modes focus on rescuing hostages or defending/attacking zones on the map.

As can be seen in the video above, the game is simplistic in it's graphical approach. This allows it to run on almost any set of hardware. My aging laptop that can barely play Torchlight in netbook mode can steam right through a match of Synapse.

My only gripe currently is the poor performance of the central server. However, that is due to over-popularity of the beta. Sometime this week a new server should be in place to help the issue.

This game is brilliant and I recommend it to anyone interested in the video. Oh, and just search Youtube for gameplay videos as beta testers can instantly upload games after they've been completed from the in-game menu. Pretty snazzy stuff.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lifehacker has impeccable timing

Lifehacker is one of my favorite websites.  Not because of the great writers, but because of their timing.  Everytime I need something, Lifehacker finds out and posts something useful.  I swear they are spying on me.  First it was a detailed Thunderbird tweak guide, then Dropbox hacks, both published within days of my installs of both.  The list goes on.

The newest example is a post today about GameSave Manager, a tool that backs up saved game files for over 400+ games. It was not a month ago that I gave up playing Bioshock after losing my save files during a reformat of Windows 7.  This was after already restarting the game one time because of poor planning.  Oh, and I was making backups the old fashioned way, but the one day the backup failed is the day I decided to reformat!

Also, recently I lost several hours of progress in my save game for Mass Effect.  After that incident, I implemented my backup scheme for saved games by syncing the folders to Dropbox.  That way I have saved files on all the computers I connect to Dropbox with.  It works wonders for Civilization 4 games since I am usually manually saving them. 

However, it is annoying to have to add other games by hand to my backup scheme.  Even more so when it takes five minutes on Bing to find out where the actual saved game is stored in Windows 7.  GameSave Manager takes care of all the prep work and then makes it easy to restore from the backups it makes.

Lifehacker, again, saves the day.  <3

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Linux Gamer's Rejoice! Steam coming to Linux!

With Valve's recent release of Steam for Mac, hints were found that an underlying Linux client was also in the works.  Phoronix has the news that an announcement is imminent from Valve about a native Linux version of Steam.
... Valve is preparing to officially release the Steam Linux client from where they will start to offer Linux native games available for sale. For all those doubting our reports that Source/Steam would be coming to Linux, you can find confirmation in the UK's Telegraph and other news sites. An announcement from Valve itself is imminent.
While this doesn't mean every game available on Steam will work with Linux, it does mean native Linux clients can easily be used for games such as Unreal Tournament 2004 and World of Goo. Also, this lays the groundwork for popular Valve titles such as Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 to head over to native Linux.

I've always been a proponent of gaming on Linux. I still feel Linux is by far the best operating system available for anyone that wishes to learn how to use a computer. Gamer's naturally fit the learner description, but far too often Linux gaming was over the head of even the most tech savvy gamers. Steam on Linux eliminates A LOT of the hassle and brings some great AAA games along with it. I am excited to see where this goes.

I may even be bothered enough to put Linux back on my main desktop with a dual boot with Windows 7.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Civilization 5 to use Steamworks

Quick post to note Civilization 5 is going to take advantage of Valve's Steamworks.  Slashdot has the article:
"2K Games today announced that Civilization V will be using Steamworks for online matchmaking, automated updates, downloadable content and DRM for the game. Steam's Civ V store page is also available now, revealing some new information about the game. There will be an 'In-Game Community Hub' for online matchmaking, communication and for sharing scenarios between players. While including Steamworks might put some people off, it might also indicate better online gameplay than in the previous Civilization games, where it was almost impossible to have a good game without playing with just friends."
Personally, I am more likely to buy a game that features Steamworks than those that try to use something like Gamespy. Steamworks, ironically, works and that is an important feature of any game for me.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Lack of updates

Real life is alive and kicking for me, so I apologize for the lack of updates.  I'll try to get my monthly "What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying" post up sometime soon.  Otherwise, expect a quiet May around here.