Delta Force – A Memory of Voxels August 7, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: Delta Force, NovaLogic, Starsiege: Tribes, Steam, Voxels
I wish I could have seen the expression on my own face when, at the EverQuest Next reveal, they first said the word “Voxels.”
I am pretty sure it would have been a dubious frown, that serious look I get when things do not add up. My lips disappear as my mouth forms a tight, inverted U.
And that is all related to a game called Delta Force.
NovaLogic brought out Delta Force back in the late 90s and it was something of the pinnacle of pre-3D accelerated shooters. It had a single player campaign, not terrible computer AI, and offered online mulitplayer matches that we have come to expect from shooters. But its big bragging point was terrain.
It launched at around the same time as Starsiege: Tribes, another game I loved, and which became something of a cult classic that got played for years beyond what one might expect. Tribes, building on the ideas of Quake, attempted to create an outdoor multiplayer shooter using the 3D technology of the time, which was giant polygons with textures that looked like you laid bad linoleum in the forest.
So its world was often a lot of flat planes laid out. And, of course, you needed a 3D accelerated video card of some sort… probably a 3dfx model if you were like most people… in order to play. And such cards were reasonably rare at that point.
Meanwhile Delta Force used a voxel based engine that used all those volumetric pixels, from which the word “voxel” is derived, to create an ugly (by today’s standards) but much more realistic terrain. There were all sorts of places to hide, shallow depressions, rises, outcrops and such which, when combined with the positional abilities of the game… you could stand, crouch, or go prone, which was also somewhat uncommon at the time… allowed all sorts of tactical flexibility. Plus the environments were huge compared to other games.
But the key to the whole package was that NovaLogic’s engine gave you all of this without requiring a 3D accelerated video card. Absolutely the right move in 1998 when the game shipped and undoubtedly one of the factors leading to its popularity.
One of out IT guys brought a copy into work to show us and I am pretty sure that most of us bought a copy of the game on the way home that night. There were some attempts to play as a group from home, which lead to my first voice coms experience when we tried using Roger Wilco. That went okay. But it was when we all brought a copy into the office and found that it played well enough on the standard 200MHz Pentium Pros that were common at the time that the real fun began. Over the local network, using the phone system for coms, battles ranged.
NovaLogic followed success with more success, bringing out Delta Force 2 and so forth, creating a whole series of games.
But time was not on their side.
While ignoring 3D video cards was a good plan in 1998, by 2000 things had changed. The introduction of nVidia’s TNT2 chipset, made reasonably priced and performing accelerated 3D video card readily available. This alone pretty much killed 3dfx, marginalized Matrox and S3 in the consumer market, and could be said to have started the trend that eventually sent ATi into the arms of AMD. It also made 3D configurations so common that the NovaLogic forums were often full of questions and complaints about why somebody’s brand new TNT2 card did not improve Delta Force‘s performance. No 3D support became a burden.
That was the end of NovaLogic’s dominance. They did okay with Joint Operations, which continued their traditions of lots of players on big battlegrounds, but other franchises did better. MODs on Battlefield 1942 made it more exciting. And other titles stepped in, so that every year we hear about another Call of Duty when it comes to shooters, but nobody mentions NovaLogic.
Then there was the EverQuest Next reveal this past weekend, and the word “voxel” and a flood of memories. Included in that was “voxels = bad,” which was entirely built on my distant memories of the Delta Force franchise aging badly. Voxels are good, or good if you want to create landscapes that are not made up of polygons. It was NovaLogic’s engine that did not stand the test of time. Or such is my memory. As usual, the freshness, accuracy, and reliability of all memories older than 30 seconds on this blog are not guaranteed.
So I decided to see if NovaLogic was even around still. First I looked at Steam. There I found that not only did NovaLogic appear to still exist, but all of the Delta Force games were apparently up for sale on Steam. Delta Force alone was listed for $19.99, which was too much for me to spend on nostalgia, but it made me go check out NovaLogic’s site. There I found I could get Delta Force for just $4.99.
That was a nostalgia compatible price, so I bought a copy, downloaded it, installed it, and much to my surprise, it actually ran.
Of course, I was immediately reminded of how far we have come. The game wanted to play at 640×480, which on my 1600×1200 monitor ends up being very blocky in full screen or a very small in windowed mode.
And there were even tinier settings.
I recall there being a school of thought for the game that had you play at the minimum setting with the minimum color because your responsiveness was greatly improved. You ended up just shooting at what amounted to single pixels when sniping, but it worked for some.
So I loaded up the game and played a bit. And it played quite well. I had to go fix the controls. I have raged in the past about EverQuest at launch having not grasped the WASD movement standard, something the went back as least as far as Lode Runner. But here was Delta Force thinking I would use the arrow keys for movement. I had to swap that over to WASD first thing. But after that it was fun.
I ran some missions, which were harder than I recalled. The AI did well enough to make me keep my head down. I have memories of completely broken AI, but I think that came in with later installments of the series.
Then I downloaded and installed the latest patch for Delta Force, which promptly broke the game so that it would no longer let me play single player. And the likelihood of playing multiplayer seemed faint at best. As much as I would like another such opportunity, I don’t think there are any more internet hosted games out there.
So I uninstalled the game, cleared out the folder, and then installed it again and was off and shooting.
The default weapon is fun, the M4 with a scope. But the real good times come with the big sniper rifle, the Barrett Light .50.
The game itself holds up pretty well after all these years. Graphics, not so much. What was described as sacrificing “looks for game play” makes the screen hard to look at some times. And playing sniper at long ranges, even with the video cranked up to 800×600, you still end up shooting at stacks of pixels. But it gave me an evening of fun and I might go finish out the campaign just for kicks.
And I found that, while the individual game price on Steam is pretty outrageous, they do have a bundle that seems reasonable if I feel like a full round of nostalgia.
Save $260 on that bundle! Such a deal!
If you are interested in pictures of the game in action, there are more after the cut.
Unless you have a tiny monitor, they will all show as full size in the gallery viewer.
Included are some of the game screens and me using a few of the different weapons. You will see the scope mode over and over, which is interesting in this day and age. They tried to combine the scope view while keeping your wider vision available. The “two eyes open” scope method. It can be confusing at time to have two aim points.
Also, in a few of the pictures, you can see the tracers. Red tracers are the bad guys, blue tracers are friendly. Though they all hit just the same. In open multiplayer a lot of people favored games with tracers turned off, as they were very obvious pointers right at your position as soon as you opened fire.
And the terrain itself. It looks blocky. In fact, it looks like I am playing on oatmeal world when full screen on my monitor. But it works as advertised, being huge with lots of varied features in and around which to hide and shoot. We shall see how EQN fares with its voxel based engine.
Brave New World Brings Back Old Civilization Features July 10, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: Civilization II, Civilization V, Steam
I had it pre-ordered on Steam and downloaded the update as soon as I got home last night. MMO gaming was out the window as I tried out the new expansion.
There was the usual spate of items included in the expansion. New civilizations are included, though I cannot see that as a big thrill unless you are looking for some more “Win a game as…” achievements or want to see what the city names are. Some new scenarios were added on, though I must admit I rarely play those, preferring the traditional long game. And, of course, there were some new wonders thrown in.
As always, you must remember I look at this through the lens of Civilization II, which remains one of my favorite games ever. So I used to create new civilizations by editing the game data, which was stored in a text file. Notepad is ever the most basic tool in software development. Achievements were barely a thing, and only if you count the high score list. Wonders were much less numerous, and many of those that were there had a much bigger impact on the game. And…well… I still preferred the long game back then as opposed to scenarios.
But it is that bias towards Civ II that made this expansion a must have for me, as the Firaxis team brought back two aspects of early versions of the game and integrated them into Civ V; ideology and trade routes. Eager to see those in action, I started a standard game on a big map. I played as Morocco, which I only noted was one of the new civilizations a ways into the game, showing how much I pay attention to those sorts of things.
Ideology used to be an incredibly important aspect of the game in the Civ II days. Of course, it used to be a bit of an exploit as well. If you could research democracy early in the game and build the Statue of Liberty wonder, which was a mid-game wonder that gave you access to all of the various government ideologies, and then swapped to communism, you gained a pretty steep advantage. And it also eliminate the period of anarchy when changing ideologies.
In Civ V, ideology is now an aspect of the game, but it is limited to the modern age or after you build factories in a certain percentage of your cities. So you can not longer have a pre-industrial dictatorship of the proletariat. Unfortunately I did not make it to the modern age in my first game out with the expansion. Instead I got involved with a bloody little three-way war with the Celts and Portugal, who both came at me at once, with the Greeks weighing in now and again, in one corner of the map that left us all poking each other with spears and lances well into the 19th century. Of course, that was plenty of fun, despite not being a winning game, but I wasn’t building many universities in the middle of the war. So that aspect is left to be explored.
And then there was trade routes. I like what they did with this. In Civ II trade routes were pretty simple. You built a trade caravan unit that represented one of the items your city had to offer and, ideally, sent it off to a city that wanted that item and which, in turn, offered up something your city desired. When the caravan arrived, the trade route was established, and that was that pretty much. And even if neither city had the right items, some sort of trade would be established and would still be better than no trade at all.
In Brave New World, trade routes are also established by building a caravan or, for sea trade, a trading ship. Once built, you are given a pretty detailed list of the places with which you can trade and the benefits they will give. You select one and off your caravan goes. But once it arrives, the unit then returns and then goes back again, and so on, actually representing the trade route in game. And the unit is vulnerable to attack. If it is destroyed, the trade route is broken. So you have to actually protect your trade routes.
In my dirty little war with Portugal and the Celts, I had cavalry in their back field expressly going after their caravans as well as triremes afloat to intercept their trade on the high seas. And during a period of peace when I was trying to annex a captured city and was facing a lot of unrest due to unhappy citizens, the uprisings managed to destroy almost all of my own trade routes, putting me in the red on both happiness and finances.
There are also some enhancements to the cultural victory aspect of the game, including tourism and great works which, in the midst of a war, were largely left unexplored by me. But it looks interesting.
One of the downsides of the expansion is that Firaxis did not seem to spend much time on performance enhancements this time around. That was one of the things that the Gods & Kings expansion offered, a boots to performance. So as the game progressed, I again found myself spending a lot of time waiting for the game. Of course, it doesn’t help that I like big maps and the marathon pace, but I still contend that my system is beefy enough on the processing front that anything that bogs it down has to be pretty fearsome code-wise.
And the team did not appear to spend any time on some of the minor annoyances. The game still seems to delight in showing me messages out of order order. And it always seems to jump straight to the “Next Turn” button before allowing that, just maybe, I might still have some units that need orders. I suspect that the code has been written to show “Next Turn” right away because it is prone to getting stuck elsewhere and that button at least sends things on their way.
All in all though, I am happy with the expansion so far. It will no doubt keep me busy for some time and make it less likely that I will buy a bunch of games when the Steam Summer Sale finally shows up this year. Rumor has it that the sale starts tomorrow.
Waiting for Civilization May 13, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: Civilization II, Civilization Series, Civilization V, Performance Issues
Last week my focus was a huge game of Civilization V.
Early in the week I started a few games on the largest map size (going with the Lakes option, so lots of land warfare) with a dozen competing civilizations and the usual complement of city states until I got a situation that looked good. The first time out I was wedged in a corner between the Huns and the Mongols, which did not bode well. The next time I was the Huns, but I managed to get into a war of annihilation with three other civs very early in the game, and while I managed to get to peace while still holding on to my capital, I was set back so badly that any rematch was going to go badly for me.
The third time out I drew the Germans which helped me build up my military quickly and avoid getting penned in early. The Germans have a somewhat imbalanced attribute that allows them to recruit barbarians to their side a certain percentage of the time when they defeat a barbarian camp.
I actively went after barbarian camps, which allowed my city production to stay focused on buildings and wonders. You don’t get the best units that way, but you get a lot of them. My barbarian strategy actually ended up yielding too many units and some points, though I was able to gift them to city states in return for influence. The Germans also pay less for land unit maintenance, so that helped with the budget.
I ended up playing all the way into Sunday evening in sessions of an hour or more. In the end it was down to five civs, all of whom feared my military might and all but one of which, the Carthaginians, who were my game-long ally, I was chipping away at, declaring war, taking a city, getting another city as part of a peace settlement, and then turning to the next in line.
However, my enthusiasm for conquest was starting to wain, so I decided at around turn 1,100 to just go for the cultural victory and end it about 30 turns later. I saved before I started, so I could go back and continue the military victory… or the political victory… or the religious victory. All were still viable. But I was tired of waiting.
I was tired of waiting because, in the last 500 or so turns, that was what I was doing most of the time; waiting. I would make my moves, update production, tweak some improvements, then end my turn only to wait and wait while the computer handled each of the other civilizations, the city states, and finally the barbarians. Then the game would come back to me.
It is a truism of the Civilization series that each version is launched at a time when they really need the next generation of CPUs to run them effectively. I remember getting a new computer and seeing the time it took to play a game of Civ II drop dramatically. I recall writing a note to Firaxis about the slow performance of Civ IV back when it launched, at a time when I had a pretty high end machine in terms of processing power. Their response was quite snotty in my opinion and could be summed up as “play smaller campaigns if performance matters to you, there is nothing wrong with our game.”
So I am left wondering when we will reach the point where average CPUs will be up to the task of speedy turns in Civ V and where the bottlenecks really lay. The game appears to at least be multi-core aware. Looking at Task Manager, at least four of the eight cores in my CPU look like they are in use, though none of them are capped out or even showing usage beyond 50%. So the game doesn’t seem CPU bound. RAM appears to be available, so it isn’t like the game is paging out constantly… or it shouldn’t be in any case. And while there appears to be some issue with I/O… the game takes me four long minutes from launch before I can resume a game already in progress… and four minutes might not seem like much time, but try sitting in front of your screen waiting, clicking to skip through any video possible, and listening to the required speech about your civ and its leader, then it is the “watched pot” scenario… I cannot imagine that they are doing much of that for each turn.
So when will we be set on this front?
I hope that the next Civ V expansion, Brave New World, will include performance improvements like those that came with the Gods & Kings expansion… yes, performance was even worse at launch… because CPUs not only are not getting faster in the ways they used to back in the day, but the CPU doesn’t seem to be the limiting factor at the moment. A long campaign like last week’s, where the last third of the game was mostly me waiting on the computer, puts me off the game.
But it does make me want to dig out my Civ II disk, which is still lost somewhere in my office. The game isn’t as sophisticated as Civ V, though there is some appeal to its sometimes crude simplicity.
But the game itself runs like a dream, the AI zips along, and most of any match is spent doing rather than waiting. There are many reasons I always go back to that game, and speed is certainly one. Yes, you can get mired into epic stalemates, but at least the turns move quickly.
Tags: Age of Empires II, Age of Kings, Hidden Path Entertainment, Steam
The Age of Empires II – HD Edition went live on Steam yesterday, and is a perfect example of what I meant when I wrote about games I would like to see revamped.
It offers up what I would call “quality of life” improvements such as:
- Re-mastered for high resolution displays 1080p+.
- Enhanced visual engine with improved terrain textures, water, fire and ambient lighting effects.
- New Steamworks features: Achievements, Leaderboards, Matchmaking and Cloud support.
- Share user created content with Steam Workshop support.
without changing the core game play. I have been anxious to try it out since it was announced last month. And given its position on the Steam Top Sellers list, I am not alone.
Granted, it is modestly prices compared to a lot of that list… just $20… and this is a mid-week reading, but that still shows there is some support for the game. And it has actually been on that list for more than a week now, with people grabbing the pre-order version which offered a $2 discount.
So last night I was able to download the game and take it out for a run. And it was good.
The graphic updates are small but effective. It looked good full screen on my 1600×1200 20″ monitor. And one of the first things I saw in the Steamworks mod library were replacement icons for the resources, to change them back to the old ones people are probably used to at this point. I must admit, I looked at those and kept thinking, “Is that gold?”
All is not perfect in the world though.
The launcher does not draw correctly on my system.
There is actually a link at the bottom of the of the launcher that says, “My launcher looks funky?” which actually shouldn’t be a question because my launcher clearly looks funky. (Might I suggest “Does your launcher look funky?”)
Clicking on that link brings up a page… explicitly in Internet Explorer because Microsoft is involved with this.. that say that if you have your desktop text size set to anything besides 100%, the launcher gets screwed up. I have mine set to 110% because I need the text just a little bit bigger on my monitor to be able to read things comfortably without getting out the reading glasses. And, frankly, I am not going to change that… it requires a reboot if I recall right… just for a game.
Fortunately, it is just the launcher than has this issue, and I only see that for a brief time. But this is not the first time the desktop DPI setting has caused problems with a game. I got into the End of Nations beta at one point and the game threw an error and would not launch if your setting was anything but 100%. That made it “end of beta” for me. Damn young engineers and their good eyesight.
Also on the iffy list are achievements. They do not appear to be hooked up correctly. I played through a couple of quick games last night which, if I read the achievements right, should have netted me a couple. But none were awarded. Plenty of time for that later I suppose.
The game also seemed to be confused as to whether it should use the name I entered in the game, Wilhelm IV, or my Steam user name, Wilhelm Arcturus, when playing the game. It seemed to use one or the other at various points. I might not have noticed this except for the fact that the in-game name field won’t accept a name as long as Wilhelm Arcturus.
And, not really going out on a limb here, I am going to guess that unless you already have an account, that this being a Steam only game is probably an issue for some.
Still, for me, none of those got in the way of playing the game. Now I have to get Potshot to get a copy.
I do wonder what the impact of this game will be. For example, there was a group that created an unofficial expansion for the game back in December. Will they forge ahead separately or will they embrace Steam and move what they can into the Steam Workshop?
And what about Game Ranger, the service that basically picked up the slack for Microsoft on the internet game play aspect of things. Age of Empires II and its variations look to be the most popular game played on their service. Will this hurt them?
And what will success on this front mean in the gaming industry? The current fad is to remake old games in a new image, something that has not been wholly satisfactory. The people who played the original often balk at changes. Would we better served with efforts like this that leave the core game play alone and merely polish things up so that the game plays and looks good on current systems?
And do game developers even want to do that sort of thing?
I recall being in college back in the 80s, back when the Japanese were going to take over our tech industry. They had conquered manufacturing and were producing software engineers at such a rate that they would clearly destroy the US software industry next. A professor, who wast gamely trying to teach us Pascal, stated that this would never happen.
His evidence was a then recent survey of computer science grads and what sort of projects they hoped to work on in their career. The survey showed that a vast majority of the Japanese respondents wanted to go on to established projects and help maintain and improve them over time. The US respondents went completely the other way and mostly wanted to work on new projects. That desire to strike out into uncharted territory, he said, was they key to ongoing success.
Now, I do not know if that actually played into things, but the Japanese clearly did not take over US software development regardless of how many Japanese cars there are in Silicon Valley. However, that survey remained in the back of my mind for all of these years because the desire to work on something new and interesting seems to be quite a common thread where ever I ended up.
And reworking old games to bring them up to current standards doesn’t seem to fall into that category.
Does that have any influence on how often these sorts of revamps get done?
What do you think?
Age of Empires II – HD Edition March 8, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: Age of Empires II, Age of Kings, Hidden Path Entertainment, Steam
The game will include both the original content as well as The Conquerors expansions and will add the following features:
- Re-mastered for high resolution displays 1080p+.
- Enhanced visual engine with improved terrain textures, water, fire and ambient lighting effects.
- New Steamworks features: Achievements, Leaderboards, Matchmaking and Cloud support.
- Share user created content with Steam Workshop support.
All of which is curious timing because just last week I posted about Age of Kings getting an unofficial expansion. It will be interesting to see if the team at Forgotten Empires will be able to (or even want to) include some of the changes they have done to the game via the Steamworks user content option.
Anyway, I have no doubt that Hidden Path, who made one of my favorite tower defense games, will do a good job bringing this classic into the 21st century. But we will find out in about a month, as it is slated to ship on Steam (and only Steam I gather) on April 9, 2013.
Backwards in Time to Forgotten Realms March 7, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, Neverwinter Nights 2, Other PC Games.
Tags: Dungeons & Dragons, Forgotten Realms, Star Trek References
As I mentioned at the end of the last month in review, the more pen and paper focused wing of our Saturday night group, Potshot, was looking into more small party adventure-centric options for our group.
And so he headed to GOG.com to grab Neverwinter Nights 2, a game first published in 2006. It is the Obsidian Entertainment second version of the BioWare original. For $20, you get the whole package including expansions all wrapped up, updated, and ready to download and install.
The download is 6GB, so that part was an over-nighter for me, but otherwise things went smoothly.
NWN2 is based on Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, which pretty much means nothing to me at this point. I still think of 2nd Edition, with its THAC0 and such, as “the new stuff,” so anything after that is strange. But it is also based in Forgotten Realms, which is the D&D setting nearest and dearest to my heart.
Potshot has grand designs for NWN2. It comes with a tool set that lets you be the dungeon master and design adventures through which your friends can play.
But before you can run, you have to walk. And before you can walk, crawling is often advisable.
And so this past weekend was spent trying to get the basics going.
I had downloaded the game and run through the tutorial, most of the information from which I promptly forgot once I left the game, when Potshot and I started to work on playing together in the same game.
Which is where there were some issues. A meandering narrative after the cut.
Age of Kings Gets an Unofficial Expansion February 26, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: Age of Empires II, Age of Kings, Forgotten Empires
Age of Kings took what was good about the original Age of Empires game and refined it to what I feel what really the optimum state of the series. It was good to the point that a lot of features in Age of Kings were eventually back ported into Age of Empires.
But I still drag out the disks for Age of Kings now and again to play it. It is one of the games I wish somebody would update and put on GoG.com or Steam. It has been out since 1999 and feels its age in many ways, not the least of which is how out of date the official web site for the game is. Check out this classic ad from the site.
I guess I should be more surprised that there still is an official web site.
Anyway, I would like a version that didn’t need the CD, supported higher screen resolutions, and worked with an online game connection service out of the box. I have written about it and some of its problems a decade and more down the road previously. While I like and encourage Game Ranger, the only method I know of playing Age of Kings with remote parties at this point, I wish it was a little more tightly integrated.
And while I am wishing for things that I am unlikely to get, I might as well wish for a new expansion for this 20th century RTS.
And, as unlikely as it seems, I might be getting that last bit.
A team got together and created Age of Empires II: Forgotten Empires, an unofficial expansion for Age of Kings, complete with trailer, because if it isn’t on YouTube, it isn’t really a thing, right?
Actually, you need the Age of Kings: The Conquerors expansion, so it is sort of an expansion of the one official expansion to the game.
It adds the Italians, Incas, Indians, Slavs, and Magyars to the game, along with new map types, a new campaign, and new AI types.
That last piece seems especially interesting. I will have to take a closer look at this.
Anyway, it is nice to see another old-ish game I still enjoy getting some attention.
Find the expansion and related information here.
Defense Grid Kickstarter Success January 29, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games.
Tags: Containment, Defense Grid: The Awakening, Kickstarter, O.G.R.E., Planetary Annihilation, Steve Jackson Games
The buzz around Kickstarter seems to ebb and flow.
When there is a Kickstarter going around something that gets you excited, it can seem like a great way for supports to get involved in a way that helps the development process.
And then there is the reality.
There was an article a couple months back (that I wish I could find) which reported the results of a study of Kickstarter projects and found that not only do most projects not get funded (which one would expect given the quality of a lot of the pitches), but that a large percentage of those that do fund subsequently fail to deliver anything (call it “take the money and run”), fail to get even close to their projected timeline (everything takes longer than you think), or deliver something that does not match what was promised in the initial pitch.
Now some of projects in the study seemed to be stuck in a category without considering mitigating factors. The Steve Jackson Games O.G.R.E. Designer’s Edition project has been delayed because they asked for $20,000 and ended up with nearly a million, so they actually expanded the scope of the project so that the end result will be even better that they had initially planned. But that has pushed out the timeline, so it appears on the “failure due to missed dates” list despite keeping backers fully appraised of the project status with regular updates.
(And I cannot emphasize how important updates are for such projects.)
In my own case, of the four projects I supported that actually made their funding goal (out of eight total) two appear to be stuck in the failed project timeline dimension.
Now, in one case, I know what is going on. The Jason Scott documentary three pack, which I first mentioned way back in September of 2011, has been delayed because of his Internet Archive work and because he got paid to do another documentary ahead of the ones funded on Kickstarter. I cannot say that the latter makes me very happy, but the documentary is being made available for free, so if you squint your eyes and look at things with your head turned sideways, it seems like maybe we’re getting a fourth documentary as part of the deal. Plus the other three are under way and I consider them getting made to be more important than me getting my copies in a timely manner.
On the flip side, there is a book I helped fund that has gone to the editors and hasn’t been heard from since. Such is life.
And then there is Planetary Annihilation, which I pitched in on because they invoked the name of Total Annihilation, one of two RTS games I still drag out and play to this day. (The other is Age of Empires: The Age of Kings, which I wish would get a screen resolution update and appear on Steam or GOG.com.) But this project has no real set timeline and, frankly, I have been burned before by people invoking the TA lineage. Supreme Commander was not at all satisfying to me, and so I stand ready to be disappointed again.
But amidst all of this “someday” level of hope, the fourth Kickstarter on my list delivered. The new content for Defense Grid: The Awakening arrived last week. As a supporter I already had my key and had access to pre-release versions of the new content, though I did not spend much time with them. I wanted to experience them as finished product.
The product is now finished.
It showed up a little late. The target was initially December. But progress updates were frequent and if you entered the Steam key you got as a supporter, you could see the new levels evolving from raw layouts to fully formed encounters. And once it was done, Steam updated you to the final version.
So I now have what I really wanted; more levels for my favorite tower defense game.
Appropriately enough, here is the first achievement for the Containment DLC for Defense Grid: The Awakening:
I am off to conquer the new levels in their various modes.
Now if Hidden Path can just get funding for their Defense Grid 2 project. They did not reach that level of funding as part of their Kickstarter and so must seek the money via more traditional channels.
Path of Exile Opens Up January 22, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Diablo III, entertainment, Other PC Games, Path of Exile, Torchlight II.
It looked, for a while, to be the third horse in the “Heir to Diablo II” race last year, but then never quite got there, leaving the field to Diablo III and Torchlight II.
Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It might have gotten a little more attention going up against one of those at launch, but it likely would have suffered for it as well. So the other two have had their launches and… have gone somewhat quiet since. Diablo III shipped without any post-launch follow up plan it seems, while the team at Runic that did both Torchlight and Torchlight II is reportedly tired of working on that franchise and want to do something different. (Where is my Mac OS version of the game?)
So it is a quiet time in the click-click-click RPG niche, which might be just the right time for Path of Exile to go… well… a little more public with their game. And so open beta has been announced.
According to their latest press release, open beta starts… tomorrow. Not that the previous year of closed beta was tough to get into. You just had to sign up and wait for a few days or a week and eventually you got an invite.
Now though… or tomorrow… you should be able to go to their site, sign up, and get access to the game right away.
This will also be the last wipe of the player base. Or so say the developers. This effectively means that the game launches tomorrow, as any progress you make with your character after that point is yours to keep.
And since this is a free to play, cash shop supported game, the transition from “open beta” to “live” seems to me to be more philosophical than anything; very much in line with every Facebook game being flagged as “beta” for most of their success.
And a year later, after playing Diablo III and Torchlight II, that clip still “feels” a lot more like Diablo II than either of those other games. It might be time to patch up and give Path of Exile another look and see what has changed in the last year.