Archive for July, 2008


Dante – Bioware NPC Dream Team

We said we weren’t dead didn’t  we? Never say Dante doesn’t keep his promises, except when he’s promising that he’ll just play one last match of Football Manager, honest. So, to set the scene, I’ve been playing a lot of the excellent Mass Effect recently, and it set me to thinking:

I’m a big Bioware fan, not a fanboy of course, I’m not a mindless drone praising the tits off the next overindulgent Hideo Kojima wankfest… damn I’m going to get some angry comments for that aren’t I? Anyway, what I mean to say is that I’m well aware of their flaws (KOTOR – Framerate, Baldur’s Gate – Inaccessible etc etc) but I love their games and specifically I love their characters. As anyone who’s played more than a couple of Bioware games knows, a big part of why they’re good is the care with which they craft their NPCs. They’re not always perfect, there’s often one or two you don’t get on with (although sometimes it’s meant that way, I’m looking at you Anomen), more so in Baldur’s Gate than their later games, although that’s mostly because of sheer numbers. They aren’t all fully rounded and three dimensional either, they aren’t always meant to be, sometimes they’re meant to be funny, sometimes they’re meant to be just plain awesome.

So, all that pre-amble is leading up to one thing, my ‘Dream Team’ of Bioware NPC’s, put together in the standard Baldur’s gate formation of two tanks, a cleric, a rogue and a mage. Before we begin, a quick note on the rules, you have to be a joinable  NPC to qualify, and for obvious reasons you have to be in a game I’ve played, which means no Jade Empire inclusions, there also won’t be any Neverwinter Nights henchmen, as while they’re by no means bad characters, the multiplayer focus of the games means they’re below the usual standard. With that out of the way, click below to begin!

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Ludo – The Curse of the Low-res Door

Bizarre occurrences have been spotted in video game land. Mulder and Scully were called in, but all they could do was stare into middle distance with concerned eyes. The FBI had run out of ideas. It was time to call in the big guns. In a plume of exhaust and scattered dust a yellow ferrari screams over the horizon, the door opens and heavy cowboy boots crush a wandering scorpion. Ludo is on the case…

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Ludo – Wanted

From the director of Nightwatch and Daywatch, both confusing but visually spectacular urban Russian fantasies, comes a film about bullet bending master assassins duking it out among the glitzy skyscrapers of generic American metropolis 2B. We both sauntered down to the pictures to take a look.

One of the first rules when writing anything that you expect your viewers to care about is to not have your protaganist be an insufferable dick. Not even the charming and hitherto brilliant James MacAvoy can turn around this character, who opens as an irritating office drone with an anxiety disorder, riddled with apathy and an emo take on his existence, and closes as a heartless killer. On top of this the writer thought it would be a good idea to have MacAvoy repeatedly insult the audience to the extent that you actually just want to stick your fingers in his eye sockets and wiggle them around vigorously so his frontal lobe comes leaking out of his ears.

As Morgan Freeman explains, MacAvoy’s anxiety attacks turn out to be bullet-time inducing heart palpitations, a disorder that only belongs to a select few bloodlines. As Freeman continues to exposit with grave seriousness:”Your heart is beating over 400 times a minute, pumping extra adrenaline into your brain.” 400 times a minute!? At that rate I’m fairly sure your love muscle would simply explode forth from your ribcage, falling to the floor and vibrating loudly like a fat bloody dildo. Normally when Morgan Freeman says something I just accept it. It’s something about his voice, but not even his considerable pathos can force me to accept anything that happens in this film. Also, he swears. Morgan Freeman doesn’t swear. It’s an effect akin to the Pope dopping his robes and jiggling his wang around at Sunday Mass.

But it’s not really fair to try and take this film seriously, if you can get past some of the pretensions it has of being a critique of modern life then you might at least enjoy the action sequences, which are noisy and almost painfully ludicrous. Beyond these there’s always Angelina Jolie, who is by far the best part of the entire experience, playing the cool and determined badass so well it’s hard to imagine anyone bettering her. Aside from this, the experience plays out as a confused mashup of the Matrix and Fight Club, but without the character or imagination of either.

Ludo out.


Dante – The Unbearable Heaviness of Being

Well, it seems Ludo has called me out. Declaring me lazy and claiming I have stuff I’m going to post. Since I’ve left my dueling pistols back in the 19th century it seems my only option is to blow him away with the brilliance of my posting.

The moment Valve asked for help with the Heavy any blog with even a passing interest in TF2 immediately sprang up with half a dozen suggestions and a clever pun (I stared at the monitor for ten full minutes before settling on mine) as to how to adjust the heavy. These ranged from the simple (a mini-uber) to the crazy (roller skates) to the absurd (a giant sandwich). I, Dante, did not rush forward like this. Instead I waited, I watched and I considered. The Heavy does not have a glaring problem like the Pyro (underpowered) or the Medic (underplayed) did. In fact I play a Heavy a lot (I’m terrible at reflex aiming) so I’m understandably cautious. It’s a class which already has a strong identity and role, and not something I want to change too much.

Now I think I have an idea of what to go for, but rather than simply tell you my idea I’ve laid out the thought process, lest you think I’ve jumped to this conclusion, if you read the 1fort comments you might have seen this already, this is the extended ‘directors cut’ if you will.

NB: First off, if you’re not familiar with the goals and restrictions here, I refer you to this excellent 1fort post on the matter. Secondly I’ve only really considered the minigun, because a Heavy without a mingun isn’t really a Heavy, is he?

Idea 1 – The Slowgun (I know, I suck at names. Feel free to suggest better ones in the comments thread)

A mingigun that slows down people it hits bringing them down to the Heavy’s level. Making him (relatively) more manouverable.

Pros -Makes fleeing an option for the medicless Heavy, allowing him to retreat to the nearest dispenser or pickup more easily. Plays into the Heavy’s style (ie: spray and pray) as you’re looking to hit everyone nearby with it. You don’t think about using it, but it encourages more thoughtful/cautious play in general.

Cons – Not much fun for people who are slowed, violating the unspoken commandment, thou shalt not make things less fun for everyone else.

Verdict – Miss. Wrecking everyone else’s good time is a massive downside.

Idea 2 – The Knockbackgun

An evolution of the slowgun idea, a minigun with increased knockback, pushing people away from the Heavy, enabling him to better hold a position, or once again making it easier to flee.

Pros – Similar effect to the slowgun, but less irritating. We’ve all gotten used to knockback from other classes already.

Cons – The minigun already has a little knockback, so this is a very minor effect. It might require sustained fire to keep them back, in which case they’re dead anyway. Someone on 1fort suggested boxing gloves/knuckle dusters with knockback, which I think is a much better idea.

Verdict – Miss. Doesn’t do enough, it’s merely a subtle enhancement of an existing ability, and nothing that’s going to exite players.

Idea 3 – The Interceptor

A minigun that can hit rockets and grenades in mid air, making them explode prematurely.

Pros -The quick, hard impact of a rocket is the easiest way to die in TF2, this makes it hard for anyone to hit the Heavy with indirect fire from the front. It also carries on the depowering of splash projectiles started by the Pyro, as a lot of experienced TF2 players go that route. It meshes neatly with the spray and pray style of the heavy, allowing him to blanket the area the rockets are coming from. And it’d look pretty damn cool.

Cons – Soldiers and Demos will complain. At least during the first week when everyone’s a Heavy (but hell, it was hard for spies when the Pyro update rolled out too. Someone pointed out that a Soldier would be a little peeved if he couldn’t fire back when a Heavy concentrates fire on him, but I say “learn to rocket jump” also a Heavy is firing at you that much, you’re already dead.

Verdict – Cautious optimism. This could really work, it’s a subtle approach, but it gives the Heavy a little extra defence against rockets and grenades. He’s still vulnerable to snipers, but then he is with a medic too. he’s supposed to be. Plus, once again, it’s got to be cool looking.

Disadvantages – I generally think it’s better if these are sorted out in playtesting, when the effectiveness of the weapons can be analysed properly. But, in keeping with the idea of not giving extra advantages to a medic accompanied Heavy, I think perhaps he shouldn’t be able to be healed when he’s firing. This might seem alarming to some, but it makes players who chose the interceptor more tactical, and also encourages good medicing. What do I mean by good medicing? Well I could fill a whole article with this, but sufficed to say there are a fair few medics who just stick to one Heavy and heal him constantly, which is fine if you’re that guy, but less fine if you’re standing next to that guy whilst on fire.

So that’s that, my suggestions for the Minigun, please feel free to comment and justify the time I’ve spent here.


Man vs Horse: Not Dead or Undead

All has been quiet here for a couple of weeks.

One of us has been abroad/working 60 hours a week, the other is just fucking lazy, but fear not, for soon we will discover what happens when Ludo activates the fusion cores of his mighty new PC and then forces it to run Dwarf Fortress. Company of Heroes and Mass Effect are also in play, which means Man vs. Horse will be bringing you explosions and dialogue trees from both the past and the future.

Dante has plans for the Heavy, hopefully the spies scurrying about the depths of the Valve-o-plex will take note and immediately begin implementing his sordid mechanics. ‘Dante ruins TF2 omfg gtfo wtf’, you heard it here first.

We also watched Wanted, and then really wished we hadn’t.

Until then I leave you with a song that I discovered on James. It is awesome, and the video is insane.

I’m giving up politics for a while.

Ludo out.

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