Friday, December 30, 2005

Finally broke 600!

With the help of a wonderful, generous wife, I finally broke the 600 barrier over at Gamerspouch. I received not one, not two, but three new PC games from her for Christmas, and one from my little boy.

First off, the game that has sucked away all of my free time since Christmas morning: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (review here). This game has kept my interest like nothing else has recently, and if I weren't on here writing about it, I would probably be playing it.

Next: The Longest Journey, which is supposed to be one of the best graphical adventure games published in the last few years.

Third: Sentinel: Descendants in Time, one I admittedly hadn't heard much of until I received it, but the reviews in general seem to be positive.

And from my son: Knightmare, an action game that seems to be descended on one side from the old Lode-Runner games.

All in all, it was a loot-filled Christmas for my collection, and it pushed me over the top of my 600-game goal over at Gamerspouch.

And one other thing I should mention, even thought it's not strictly a game -- my brother evidently found just the right after-Thanksgiving sale this year, because I came home Christmas day the proud owner of a new Robosapien. My army of robot servants continues to grow! Bwahahahahah!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A sign you may have picked the wrong character class in your new RPG

How do you know that the character class you chose may be unsuited to your play style? Try this on for size: When you leave town for the first time, you get killed by the first creature you encounter --

a rabbit.

My wife swears it was a kung-fu rabbit shooting arrows, but still... if it isn't a Monty Python skit, getting your butt kicked by a bunny is just a little embarrasing.

Still, it hasn't deterred her. She's bound and determined to make her Sacred mage perform up to snuff, and she hasn't given up.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The end of the world as we know it

What happens when when an online world is faced with its own armageddon?

Not With a Bang but a Whimper.

(via fark)

Grow Ornament

Eyezmaze has produced another addictive flash-based Grow game -- Grow Ornament. Try it out, and if you get stuck, highlight the following line for the solution:

SPOILER*Gift, Heart, Cloud, Lights, Ribbon, Star*SPOILER

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Free gaming goodies

I just ran across the BinaryZoo website, and found two new games to suck away my precious little free time: Mono and Duo. Gorgeous colors, fast action, and simple controls all add up to keep me well entertained, at least for short bursts of play. These games have an addictive, infectious quality to them that has already led me to proselytize them around the office. The downloads are aroun 5 MB each, and appear to be completely free - no nag screens, no shareware pitches, just rapid-fire gaming. Go give them a try, and don't blame me if they take over your life.

I'm gonna be dreaming in color tonight.

(found via Joystiq)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Video game history redux

I just ran across a nifty flash-based timeline on PBS's website that offers an even earlier example of computer gaming than in my last history post: A. S. Douglas's Noughts and Crosses, from 1952.

The site where this animation is hosted, PBS's The Video Game Revolution, is mostly about arcade and console gaming, but it still has plenty of interesting articles, so browse around and see what you can find.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tiny movies

Game creation revisited

Thanks to a recent copy of Computer Gaming World, I had the opportunity to try out the demo version of a new utility that assists gamers in creating their own first-person-shooters -- the aptly-named FPS Creator.

Using a simple mouse-driven interface, any gamer can now drag-and-drop game elements (rooms or portions thereof, scenery, weapons, enemies, etc) onto a blank slate and create a new game in a matter of minutes. There's no need to know much about scripting, but each item has its own attributes which can be modified to your heart's content. Want to change the hit points on an enemy, or the weapon that it carries? Simply right-click and choose the appropriate option on the menu to the left. Did you place the table too close to the door? Pick it up and move it. Want to set up a multiplayer frag-fest? Just choose 'Multi-player' from the game preferences menu, place some starting points, and you're ready to go. The customization options seem pretty deep, but from what I saw are set to work fine with the default choices.

The game even comes with a couple of default graphics styles, so you don't have to be an artist to make things look good. Choose from the (sometimes-cliched) genres of sci-fi or WWII, and all of the textures are taken care of for you. Hang things on wall, add a few blood spatters, and you're ready to go. Supposedly, you can add in your own textures if you're so inclined, but my art skills are limited to basic geometric shapes and patterns. I was happy to stick with the basics the game provides, as everything looks much better out-of-the-box than I could do on my own with years of work.

When you're done creating the world you've always wanted to shoot up, save it and compile it into an executable file to share with your friends, and even set up a LAN or internet game. What could be better than setting up a deathmatch game with your buddies, where you already know all the secrets of the map? Sure, it might be a lame way to get kills, but oh well...

Playing through the demo, though, only allows access to certain items. A few standard rooms, weapons, and scenery devices are available, with the full library unlocked in the paid version. I also wasn't able to find much by way of online tutorials, but the basics are easy enough to pick up on your own, and the official website hosts a discussion forum for more complicated issues.

All in all, this seems to be a great program, especially for non-programmers. Home-brewed game-design made easy and approachable, with plenty of room for growth as your experience increases -- exactly what's needed to get more gamers interested in the craft of creation. I'll be playing around with this one for a while.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Video-game history

The Brookhaven National Laboratory has an interesting article on what is most likely the first video game ever developed. Now according to, Spacewar came about in 1962, and a commercial versin of Pong was available in 1972. Brookhaven's article claims that then-Instrumentation Department head William Higinbotham developed a tennis game that played on an oscilloscope in 1958, and so far no claims have come about to predate that. Reading through the article gives a good idea of just what sort of efforts went into making that little ball bounce around the screen using the technology of the day.

(via Fark)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Old school is in da house!

Thanks to a wonderful ebayer by the name of soul2spare, I have some prized vintage games to add to my collection. These are some of the first PC games I remember playing, and I am absolutely thrilled to finally be able to own them.

First up: Duke Nukem II. Before the days of Duke Nukem 3D and Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project, there was this little side-scrolling gem (and its predecessor, Duke Nukem) published by Apogee. Filled with hidden areas to explore (if you could time your jumps just right) and plenty of that well-known Duke Nukem attitude, I used to love playing through them when I needed a quick destruction fix. Satisfying explosions, quests to collect the letters of Duke's name, and destructible health-powerups added nice little tweaks to keep it all from getting boring.

Possibly the first enjoyable and easily approachable minigolf-game, I coveted my best friend's copy of Zany Golf. Well, no longer. I can now putt around the windmills and bouncing hamburgers to my heart's content. Well, if I can find a working 5.25" floppy drive, that is. Creatively-designed obstacles kept the game interesting without making it frustrating, which is more than I can say for some of the flash-based mini-golf games I've played lately.

My early love in computer gaming was role-playing. The early Wizardry and Phantasie games were part of my regular playing cycle, and Ultima 6 was the masterpiece that hooked me. Around the same time, my brother bought a copy of Might and Magic. I wasn't lucky enough to score a copy of it, but soul2spare was able to provide me with a copy of its sequel, Might and Magic 2: Gates to Another World. An early tile-based, first-person view allowed you to explore a map of twenty quadrants (plus cities and dungeons); each quadrant was 15 x 15 tiles. Since this was before the days of such handy things as automap features, New World Computing included a custom-sized pad of graph paper for keeping track of your progress. Many a night were spent sitting beside my father, pencil and graph paper in hand, as he played through these first two Might and Magic games. I had as much fun mapping as he did playing. My wife undoubtedly thought I was had lost my mind when I opened up the packeage tonight and gazed longingly at the map and graph paper, both in pristine condition.

Also among my new acquisitions was a slightly newer game: Darkstone. Released after Diablo, it improved on that groundbreaking game in several ways: full control of two separate characters, true 3-d environtments, movable and zoomable camera, and more character class options. I had a ball playing through my brother's copy, and I'm really looking forward to loading it up again now that I own it, even if it is 6 years old.

I'm keeping my eye on soul2spare. Plenty of gaming gems to be had at great prices, all backed up by a friendly seller. Can't beat that.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

New acquisition

I just received a copy of a game I have been wanting for quite a few years: LucasArts' Afterlife. Thanks to softgear_inc for a smooth transaction.

Why I haven't posted in over a week.

I freaking HATE Colorado.

Or at least Denver. But I'm willing to spread the hate around to the full state.

Sunday afternoon we left my in-laws' place (near Grand Junction, on the west side of the state) heading for home (Kansas City). After about 3 1/2 hours or so, we pull into Denver, where they had closed I-70 eastbound -- all the way to Kansas. Some crap about high winds and blizzard-like conditions. It's about 6 PM so we eat dinner, but the freeway still isn't open, so we get a room for the night.

Monday we get up and put up with a 2-yr-old and a 5-yr-old in the cramped confines of a motel room until around noon. Then we try to go to the local public library to read some stories and stuff -- but of course the library in that neighborhood is closed on Mondays. So we go to the mall and let the kids run around the play area for an hour or so. We spend another hour-and-a-half at McDonald's, and by around 4 PM they still haven't opened the road, so we get another motel room.

About an hour or two later, my son (5) starts puking. At least he's old enough to head to the toilet on his own now. We put him to bed with some cartoons on, and put the girl (2) in the bath. Cue a bathtub full of puke. Greasy, slimy, Slim-Jim-laden puke. Rinse, put her to bed, and repeat. With both of them.

Then, sometime after the middle of the night, I decide to join the party. But I add a new twist to the dance. My previous day's meals are coming out liquefied not just from one orifice, but from two.

Tuesday, I spend the day in bed. Regardless of the fact that the bloody roads are finally open, I can't move. I have a fever most of the day, and when it finally breaks it's too late to go anywhere. I'm too worn out anyway. So we stay another night and leave Wednesday morning.

We get home Wednedsay night (last night) around 8:30 and fall into bed. Sometime in the middle of the night, my wife starts puking. I wake up this morning (Thursday) in no shape to go to work -- I can barely walk a straight line, I'm so exhausted. So I give the kids something to eat and something to watch on TV, and fall back into bed.

I tell you, if this is how trips to Colorado turn out, I'm never setting foot in that state again.