Archive for June, 2008

22
Jun
08

Dante: Today in Garry’s Mod – Part Two… At Last

I recently realised that I never got around to posting more of our Garry’s Mod madness, despite talking about it some time ago, I assume you’ve all  been waiting with baited breath, so here it comes, part two!

Project 2: Hot Air Balloon

During one of our earlier, less successful adventures in crackpot inventing my associate Ludo endeavoured to construct a ‘Death Train’ using on extremely heavy metal cylinder as the base. Of course the thing barely crawled along, so to lighten the load he attached a bevy of balloons to one end. The resulting monstrosity was significantly more mobile, not to mention festive and it was then that the idea spawned. To build a hot air balloon, one that would rise majestically to the heavens, to soar, to touch the skybox!

This would be our noble vehicle.

Okay, I admit, it’s not the most inspiring or elegant transport, but it was spacious, roomy and most importantly didn’t need me to spend half and hour assembling it. Note the thrusters on the bottom, these are to be used to give it a kick start if necessary and to bring it down to earth once it’s mission was complete. And who would be our pilot for this historic occasion? Who would have the honour of riding this heavenly conveyance? What man was brave enough to face this danger?  Me? God no, I sent Ludo:

After all, if he dies in the attempt at least I’ll be left to engineer the dumpstercruiser mk 2. With some handy boxes inside to stand on, he can peer out from the top, seeing the progress of the mission while keeping me in complete safety. Unfortunately the dullard was too awestruck to take any pictures, so those magnificent vistas cannot be shared here.

Soon it was time for launch, as Ludo climbed aboard his iron steed I released my hold upon it, gave it a minor nudge with the thrusters and watched it soar!

Look at it go! It flew steadily yet majestically into the clouds, cruising elegantly upward.

Until it was just a speck in the distance.

Hearing the mission complete from our intrepid pilot,  I gave the order to fire retro rockets and return her to earth.

Hmnnn, she seems to be coming down rather faster than she went up. Still if it crashes it’ll only hurt Ludo, and he’s expendable.

Yep, I’m safe down here on the ground.

Bugger

Dante, battered and bruised, bidding you farewell.

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21
Jun
08

Ludo – Spore!

I have a phobia of giant spiders. Not the big hosue spider variety, you understand, not even tarantulas or bird eaters especially, but any bastard bigger than a bike has me worried. It’s a brilliant phobia because giant spiders don’t actually exist, so I can go about my life in relative peace, knowing almost for certain that a gigantic hairy monstrosity won’t come charging at me across the ceiling, mandibles dribbling with spider saliva and wierd eyes glowing with hunger. That only happens in games.

Tomb Raider 2 is the first memorable encounter I had with the buggers, they were big, grey, and extremely disconcertingly fast. There was little I could do to get Lara out of the way, so I resorted to screaming and emptying clip after clip of pistol ammo into them as they chewed on my leg. Then there was Thief, which took an unexpected swerve into giant spider town when investigating some mines. The zombies sort of made sense, but the spiders, they were just unnecessary. I no longer had pistols either, I just had a bow and an ability to hide in the dark, but giant spiders don’t care about the dark. They like the dark.

So the first thing I did once I had loaded up Spore’s newly released creature creator was create my own large arachnid. Or Arachnoid, if you will.

It has two sets of mandibles, one within the other, giving it one hell of a bite. It’s also got spikes on its back so that when you wash it down the sinkhole it will catch on the inside of the drain, allowing it to crawl right back out. It also has twelve eyes. Because twelve is better than eight. And I hate it.

Which is perfect.

Because when Spore is released in September I will populate a planet with millions of these things, and devote significant amounts of time to wiping them out one by one until there are none left. I will use whatever weapons the game will allow me, wielded by the awesome creatures I will create. It will be cathartic.

So what I needed was a friendly race, a peaceful race, a lovable species of big red creatures with many legs, perfect for grinding giant spiders into dust. Enter the Amblosaur.

Note especially the huge brain cavity. The amblosaur is very clever. It can do simultaneous equations in its head. It’s the kind of brain you need when you have four legs, two sets of arms and a mouth that’s separate from your face. It also likes to dance, and it does so in an insane flailing way, with arms and legs tangling and untangling, a calamity of limbs. This technique bears significant similarities to my dancing style, so I like it immediately.

So we are clearly kindred spirits. The amblosaur will prove the perfect ally when the giant spider war comes. I will give them spaceships and nuclear weapons and bend their peaceful minds to destruction. Their future will know no love, only war. And if Spore sees fit to populate my universe with giant cocks then the amblosaur will slay them also. And when there is nothing left but their own species, only then I will allow them to return to their peaceful vegetarian ways.

This is fine, because the Amblosaurs are the good guys. As god of their universe, I’m backing them. But I also wanted to create a greater more calculating evil than the giant spiders. An evil that lurks in the background until the last five minutes, when it is reveled that the giant spiders had been their puppets all along, and it was they who had been the real menace! Then the amblosaurs would take them on in a final battle, and suffer great losses, but emerge victorious (obv).

So here it is.

Unfortunately it is very difficult to create something evil using the Spore creature editor. This is the Seated Reaper. The plan was to have it permanently seated imperiously on its small rear leg, so that it could gaze down upon its victims with arrogance. Giant hooves and big horns were attempts to emulate Dungeon Keeper’s own Horned Reaper. As things have turned out, I like it even more than the Amblosaur. I look into its eyes as it cocks its head and lets out a little chirp and cocks its head, and I think, I can’t committ genocide on that.

Thus it remains to be seen which species I will ultimately love the most. Will the amblosaurs ever gain galactic superiority? Or will the Seated Reapers take the prize? The only thing I know for sure is that the giant spiders are all going to get it in the eye.

Ludo out.

20
Jun
08

Dante – Hitman Blood Money

Hello noble readers! I apologise for my recent absence, but due to finishing university and moving house I’ve been unable to post lately. But I’m hoping to lay down a withering barrage of posts in the next few days.

First off, Hitman: Blood Money, a game that was recommended to me by our compatriot Ludo, however I finished it first, due to being significantly more unemployed than he is, so I get to blog about it first. Ha!

I’d never played a Hitman game before, although I understood the basic principle. It’s hard not to, when a game is called Hitman: Blood Money it’s pretty hard to take the wrong way. From the off I’m walked through a simple tutorial level, which wins atmosphere points for being set in a deserted funfair, but loses them for being incredibly linear which (in retrospect) isn’t exactly representative of the game. And from the off it’s clear that this doesn’t play much like other stealth games, Agent 47 doesn’t skulk in the shadows like Solid Snake or Garret, well you can, but it’s much easier to take the direct route of syringing some poor sap in the neck and stealing his clothes, allowing you to happily walk around in front of the guards without them giving you a second glance.

It gets better, you can carry any item the person whose clothes you stole would naturally carry, cooks can wield kitchen knifes, workers hammers, toolboxes (in which guns can be hidden) screwdrivers, and even nailguns, mwahahaha! The first time you sucessfully steal a guard’s clothes and wander around with a shotgun openly is a wonderful experience. Hiding in plain site like this enables you to subtly shadow your targets, patiently waiting for a moment when they’re alone and vulnerable to a poison syringe, a length of piano wire… most interestingly move into position for an ‘accident’.

It’s these accidents that make blood money the terrific fun it is, they range from simply shoving a person over a convenient balcony, to elaborate deathtraps including the ability to drop a piano on one unlucky mark, God bless you Warner Brothers for that one. Did I mention you can also poison food and drink? There’s nothing quite like being the other side of the level and getting a little message to tell you your mark has passed away, there’s a real glee to knowing no-one could possibly connect you to the crime.

The levels as well are wonderfully realised, they’re all full of character, intrigue and multiple ways to get to your victim. My favourite being ‘A New Life’ in which you infiltrate the home of a former gangster under witness protection there’s multiple entrances, including one involving a kid’s air rifle, some tranquiliser darts, a pool cleaner’s outfit and an unfaithful wife that brought a smile to even my cynical face. And that’s not even half of it it’s also his daughter’s birthday party, allowing you to knock out and dress up as the clown… and then brutally knife people to death.

And Hitman is brutal, if you want it to be, although most weapons will provide a clean kill some, like the kitchen knife or the hammer, are horrifically bloody. This, combined with the methodical planning that preceeds the killing makes it much more worthy of the title ‘murder simulator’ than anything Jack Thompson and the Daily Mail rant about. During one session I found myself muttering ‘I’d kill you, if I only had somewhere to hide the body’, GTA might be teaching kids to kill, but Hitman is teaching them to kill responsibly.

So, how to summarise, well it’s surprisingly hard to, despite my love for the game, the reason being is that it doesn’t fit into any established genre. It’s billed as a stealth game, but the mechanics are far from what the average Metal Gear, Thief or Splinter Cell player might be expecting, with the emphasis on disguise rather than sneaking, and killing/knocking out as few people as possible. And although you could run in guns blazing it’s certainly not a shooter of any stripe. In fact ‘murder simulator’ is probably the best way to but it, but if you’re interesting in bumping people off in a way to undetectable and efficient it’d make Sam Fisher weep then this is the game for you. And for the rest of you, don’t tell me you weren’t interested in the piano thing.
This is Dante signing off, but hopefully not for long.

14
Jun
08

Ludo – Fucking PC Gaming

I have undertaken the very dangerous task of buying a new PC. Somewhere even now it is being built to a carefully researched spec, a design that should run pretty much anything on the market. What follows is first a warning to those wishing to create an SLI PC, or any PC, and secondly a short indictment of much of what being a PC gamer entails. There will be bile.

Buying a PC is like falling down a waterfall of endless numbers and letters. It’s a fact of PC gaming that once every couple of years you’ll have to go take a bath in alphabet soup when you’d much rather be drinking beer, with people, not sitting in a darkened room glaring over steepled fingers at your planned spec cackling quietly to yourself about running Crysis at 60fps with AA on, or some other nonsense.

The graphics card I have selected is a reliable Nvidia Geforce 8800GT, because magazines told me it was good (this is one of the reasons there will always be a market for PC magazines). Now pay careful attention, as it’s the Nvidia bit which will ultimately screw me over.

Now, a motherboard, the bit to which everything is in some way connected, the hub of the entire device, has PCI-e slots, and PCI-e x16 slots that you put cards in. The PCI-e x16 slot is what modern graphics cards use and I wanted two of them. This would allow me to put another identical graphics card in at a later point and link them together to create some sort of humming silicon monster, keeping my PC ahead of ever increasing systems specs a little longer than it otherwise might. Connecting graphics cards in this manner is known as putting them in SLI formation, except for when it’s not, if you want to do this with Radeon cards it’s called Crossfire. Fucking PC Gaming.

I bought a motherboard with two PCI-e x16 slots, and felt very clever about knowing what those things were. But now I have discovered that my Asus PK5SE motherboard doesn’t have an Nvidia chipset, and what I actually wanted was the completely different Asus P5ND, because it has an ATI chipset, see, not an Nvidia one, obvious I know. I am such a noob, how could I not tell from that meaningless jumble of letters? Of course the chipset on the motherboard has nothing to do with the processor, which is an Intel Core 2 Q6600. which is 4 Core 2 chips in arrangement, at 2.4ghz each. What do you mean you’re lost, How could you possibly be confused? It’s child’s play, ie: hardware manufacturers actually use children and fridge magnets to name their products. Fact.

Let’s just summarise the difference here. PK5SE bad, P5ND good. So can I use Crossfire on this thing instead? I don’t care anymore! I’m finished with it. Clearly if I’ve picked the wrong motherboard I’m not capable of going through the madness of downloading SLI drivers and getting it to work with Vista and getting round the inevitable bugs and crashes and wondering whether the Power Supply Unit I have can run two GPU’s at once and all that endless, endless madness that awaits.

Fucking. PC. Gaming.

In the perfect world I am about to envisage none of this would be a problem. What I want is this: I will have a motherboard, and there shall be no numbers or letters attached. It will have slots and a processor and that’s it, and anything I choose to plug into it will work with the right software. Then I want my graphics card to be clearly labelled according to its quality. So I would have a Geforce: Awesome, which is better than the Geforce: Average, and would be a big upgrade to my current Radeon: I Hope You’re Not Thinking of Actually Playing Games on This. The processor would be an Intel: Very Fast, which would be faster than the AMD: Quite Fast, and the same speed as the AMD: Very Fast. With all parts assembled my PC would then be granted an overall classification of Gold, Silver or Bronze, and every PC game on the market will be labelled Gold, Silver or Bronze based on their system requirements. And pigs will fly, I will be Prime Minister of Great Britain, Aston Villa will win the premiership and the Buffalo Bills will win the Superbowl.

My partner in crime on Man vs Horse, Dante, has been carefully observing my progress, waiting for me to slip up so that the machine he buys in a month or two will be flawless. His cunning knows no limits. That bastard.

My machine arrives this week. If it goes wrong When it goes wrong, expect more posts. After all, venting prevents explosion.

Ludo out.

09
Jun
08

Ludo vs Dwarf Fortress

The latest PC Gamer UK (June issue), had a rather large feature on free games. On the top of one of the pages a stark screen shot greeted me, and I was suddenly reminded of the existence of Dwarf Fortress. I had never encountered the game in any form, and had only gained by osmosis a vague sussurus of impressions. It was hard, it was deep, it was ugly. But it was also on the disk, and I had all of Sunday afternoon stretching out before me.

So, with some considerable trepidation, I loaded up Dwarf Fortress. This is what happened:

I watch in fascination as the game renders an entire world from scratch. Budding mountain ranges spring into life. Rivers and lakes appear, etching out valleys as they flow from newborn mountain peaks. Real water dynamics and aeons of time shape the terrain, creating a balanced and realistic world. Occasionally the program discards whole half created but imperfect lands, and it starts again, evolving a new planet to better match its mysterious expectations. Ten minutes and 17 worlds later, everything is set. I am ready to go, so I press enter and wince as a stark three-column stream of text and lurid punctuation barges its way into my eyeballs, shimmying up my optic nerves to kick me repeatedly in the frontal cortex. Soon I recover, and begin to see how the scattered array of colons and plus signs represent terrain. The world coheres before me.

My dwarves, indicated by small bearded blobs, dash about the place, apparently doing things to the commas and speech marks that surround my hashed out yellow rectangle, which the game optimistically labels a wagon. A list of things that I can apparently do are laid out in the central column. There is a shortcut to pretty much every key on the keyboard. Foolish FPS instincts find me trying to navigate with the wasd keys. It takes me several minutes to find my way out of the menus I accidentally open.

A few minutes later, and Fisherdwarf Cog Sholidkol runs into difficulty.

Damn, is the werewolf that small grey letter ‘c’ that’s been dashing around the place so exuberantly? It’s impossible to say. All I know is a few minutes later that heartless red text informs me that Cog Sholidkol has bled to death. Disaster! The ability to ‘cancel fish’ was presumably a necessary one.

Another few minutes pass. I mistakenly break down the dwarves’ only shelter, the wagon, into a pile of logs, and accidentally conscript all of my remaining dwarfs into a makeshift army. I am bad at this game. On the positive side of things, I have found out how to access each dwarf’s personal profile, and even more importantly, discovered the command that enables me to change their name and title. Moments later and I look with pride upon the new leader of my band of cold and hungry adventurers. Enter Chief Shinkicker Frizbane McHenry Drunkard. It’s a she.

It should be pointed out that the game decides on the Dwarf’s personality by itself, providing an in depth character description of each member of the party, including their current mood, likes, dislikes and religious beliefs. I favour Frizbane because of her casual approach to Idor the Rites of Zeal, and for the fact that she doesn’t have a severe aversion to inclement weather. Exposure is something my Dwarves are going to have to learn to live with under my rule. Like all of my party, Frizbane is an alcoholic, possibly because booze is the best way to stay warm when your wagon has been dismantled by an incompetent idiot.

It is in these character descriptions that I find that Cog’s gory demise is having more than economic effects on my party. Cog was a very close friend to the Jeweller, who is now extremely distressed because, as the game informs me, he has witnessed the death of a dear friend, and then also witnessed said friend’s body slowly decay on the doorstep of his home, because I have no idea how to bury dead dwarfs and cannot be arsed to find the menu that will instruct someone to do it for me.

For the first time, though, I taste the game’s potential. Those little beardy fellas begin to mean something to me. I am starting to actually like the little blobs scampering around (or in the case of Cog, staying very, very still). There’s story there, they have relationships, fairly warped and distressing ones given the circumstances, but relationships nevertheless. This alone is enough to tempt me back in

Having said that, there is a reason that I have called this post ‘Ludo vs Dwarf Fortress’. The graphical interface is utterly hideous, and a game has never tried so hard to alienate me with obscure menu navigation and an interface based on nonsensical keyboard shortcuts that change from screen to screen. There are so many processes involved that I have found it impossible to even build a bed, let alone construct a place for my Dwarves to live, and the in game help is pretty much useless.

However, there is a wiki in existence, and I am told there are graphical overlays that could make the experience all the more paletable. All I can say for sure is that this won’t be the last post on Dwarf Fortress, and I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I may have stumbled onto something great. Grab it here if you fancy a go yourself, if you figure out what’s going on, let me know.

Ludo out.

05
Jun
08

Man vs Horse – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Shockingly both I and Dante saw this in at the same time, in the same country, in the same building no less, so we bring you a mutual opinion, man and horse working in tandem, as it was always meant to be.

We had our insults carefully prepared. We had pitfalls carefully mapped out, places we knew that the film would fail. It was going to be another poor remake of a franchise that should have just stayed dead, another Rocky, another Rambo. Ford was past it, Spielberg was past it. Case closed.

Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.

Cate Blanchett hams it up perfectly and her gleaming ethereal features befit the role of stoic Russian leader of psychic weapons division. Her penchant for unnecessary swordplay and her ability to summon entire platoons of Russian mooks at any time, even in the depths of an unmapped jungle, proves both useful and entertaining. I actually lost track during the movie of what it was she had done wrong beyond dressing in a restrictive Russian uniform and sporting a curt and angry haircut, but whatever, she’s bad, Indie’s good. We’re all on the same page.

As for Harrison Ford – there were worries, though it pains me to say it, the man is getting on. Early posters saw him posing in the Indie get up, and there were concerns that maybe it just wasn’t going to work anymore.

The first confrontation. Blanchett glares intently at Indie, nobody says anything, a minute passes and she keeps staring. You realise then she’s actually trying to read his mind. Ford flashes his famous sardonic lopsided smile and makes a crack, and you know then that he’s still got it. As he telegraphs metre wide hooks, wading through whole platoons of uniformed evildoers you’ll still cheer for him. For all his years he can still deliver. Turns out Harrison Ford is the one treasure in Indiana Jones that doesn’t belong in a museum (finally! – Ed).

The plot is, well, it’s just nonsense. But do you remember the whole thing in the first film with the Ark of the Covenent? Remember when the guy’s face melts? Remember when Indie gets Hitler’s autograph? Indiana Jones has always been completely out of its tree, and the fourth film merrily carries on with this tradition, probably taking it to its farthest extremes yet. There are several occasions where it simply goes too far, and you can feel the audience around you wincing as this happens. A couple of grumpy sighs and raised eyebrows later and everyone can get back to watching the action, which is brilliantly frantic, explosive, and many other positive adjectives besides. It’s old school gung ho adventure with some great actors enjoying themselves immensely.

To everyone’s relief, Mud, Indie’s adolescent sidekick, manages to not be too annoying at any point, and rides a motorcycle more convincingly than perhaps Indie would. He’s for the most part silent, and singlehandedly kickstarts most of the action scenes by force of sheer impetuousness. Karen Allen’s in it too, and she doesn’t do anything except get herself into mild peril, but she’s there. Kudos, I guess.

You can feel free to check off the tropes as you watch, themetune – check, snakes skit – check, plane montage with red line travelling over sandy map – check. It’s good fanservice, and good fun besides. Spielberg’s direction is busily choreographed, inventive and colourful, the locales are lush, the explosions are big, the natives fierce. What more do you want, people? Something deep and challenging? Because the greatest revelation this film will bring you is that blowpipes work both ways, anything more and it wouldn’t be Indiana Jones. Now I’m going to get me a sweet hat and a whip and raid me some temples.

Ludo out.

01
Jun
08

Ludo – Life is a Fetch Quest

You are awake. Energy levels are low.

Use coffee.

Energy +10, Existential Awareness of Self + 3.

Leave House.

You cannot leave house, you must put some clothes on.

Equip jeans and Atari T-Shirt.

You are now dressed. Comb Hair yes/no?

No.

Your status has changed to tramp.

Leave house.

You have left the house. Mild drizzle greets you.

Go north.

You are approaching the local high street. A dog menaces you.

Kill dog.

You have no weapon.

Kill dog with bare hands.

You are not manly enough for that.

Adopt dog as loyal friend and personal protector.

‘Adopt dog’ is not a recognised action.

This game is stupid and you are stupid and I am stupid for playing it.

‘this game’ is not a recognised object.

How very profound.

You are approaching the local high street. A dog menace- You have selected Quit Game. Would you like to -?

*Window Closed*




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