Category Archives: Other PC Games

Jacked Up But Clearly Not Good to Go!

I played a lot of StarCraft back when it was new… which was back in early 1998.  My friends and I played it after work at the office and at home via Battle.net.  As so many have said, it was a very well balanced RTS with three distinctly different factions to learn.  Our interest in it kept going right through the Brood War expansion. (Though when I look at the dates, Brood War came out eight months after the main game, which might be some sort of Blizzard record for shipping an expansion.)

Anyway, I have written a bit about StarCraft before and it has come up now and again for our group as a possible game to go back to.  The primary arguments against it tend to be the fact that it runs at 640×480 resolution and that none of us are really into RTS games much any more.  It was a game from a specific point in my timeline, and that time may have passed.

But I still have strong memories of it.  Even my wife remembers the game.  Back when it was current my then wife-to-be and I shared an office in her condo so when I played video games I either had to put on headphones or share the audio experience with her, and the audio StarCraft left its mark.  To this day she will, every so often, as if I ever play “Jacked up and good to go!” any more, that being one of the more memorable Terran Marine quotes.

Since then StarCraft II has (finally) shown up, but while I have written about it a bit… mostly in the context of Blizzard as a whole… I have never gotten around to buying the game.  I have thought about it, but since I play MMOs now, and since those tend to consume all available gaming time, I am not sure when I would play.  Plus, for me, it was always a group game, so buying it myself would seem… odd.  The campaigns were never the high point, it was always about playing with friends.  (Though with playing at work a thing of the past due to IT policy, I am not sure I would miss LAN play.)

So I was a bit surprise/amused/happy to get a note from Blizzard letting me know I had been given access to the closed beta for the upcoming Legacy of the Void expansion for StarCraft II.

Why thanks!

Why thanks!

Blizzard had some details out about this back at BlizzCon last year, but it seems like things are really in motion if they are already sending invites to random opt-ins like me. They want feedback early according to the details.

For this reason, we decided to start the beta sooner than we normally would have in the past, providing ample time for feedback and iteration.

Though I gather from the Beta FAQ that my purchase of a virtual ticket to BlizzCon 2014 put me on the list.

I mentioned that I got the invite to my wife and she said the line, “Jacked up and good to go!” and told me I had to play… and that I had to have the audio run through my speakers so she could hear what the units were saying.  So it had to be done.

I downloaded the beta, though I first tried to do it through the “Download Now” button in the email, which only succeeded in downloading the StarCraft II starter edition.  Not that that was a bad thing.  I got that going and ran through the tutorial mission just to make sure I still knew the basics.  I slaughtered the CPU guided foe with ease following the tutorial instructions along with some vague memories of how to play from back in the day.

After that I went back to the Battle.net launcher and downloaded the Legacy of the Void beta directly and got that up and running.

That was what I wanted to see

That was what I wanted to see

I got in there and looked at what options I had.  They were limited to 1v1 multiplayer games over Battle.net, which was to be expected given the blurb in the invite.

This phase of the Legacy of the Void closed beta test focuses on the multiplayer aspects of the game, including the new cooperative Archon mode, so ramp up your APM and dive into the battle.

So multiplayer it was the option.  How bad could it be, right?

Actually, the more accurate question was, “How bad could I be?”

I played three games in quick succession… and they were quick because I ended up surrendering after being wrecked much earlier than expected.  I am not just bad at StarCraft II at this point, but I am apparently so much worse than the average player in the beta… who are much more likely to be self-selected individuals who are really into StarCraft II as opposed to happy memory dilettantes like myself… that after the third humiliation I closed down the game and went back to Azeroth to work on my second druid (mentioned last week) healing for random Dungeon Finder groups.  At least there when things are going bad I can at least tell why.

Hitting level 90

Hitting level 90!  Another garrison soon

It just isn’t worth my time simply because I do not care enough about StarCraft II to put in the effort to be more than a very small speed-bump on somebody’s road to victory.  Those days are gone.

And the most disappointing bit in the whole thing… the Terran Marine units don’t even say, “Jacked up and good to go!” any more.  I had to check the list of quotes to be sure, and it isn’t there.

But I will always have memories of 1998.

A Sad Day for Sims

Upon seeing the news about Maxis yesterday, I realized that I had probably not sat down and really played a game from Maxis this century.

I bought a copy of SimCity 2000 from GoG.com for some tiny price back when EA/Maxis was busy shooting itself in the foot with the latest SimCity.  That was the last game in the series I could recall having played.  And I put SimCity 4 on my Steam wishlist and a reader actually bought it for me. (Thank you again!)  But I never managed to sit down and focus on playing either for any real length of time.  The crude graphics and the awkward interfaces of both chased me away pretty quickly.  Minecraft seems more palatable to me these days than either of those.  And I certainly wasn’t going to give EA any money for their latest version.

And without SimCity, what is there when it comes to Maxis?

Well, I guess there is The Sims, the best selling game series ever and probably the one reason that there is still a Maxis left to shut down in 2015.  EA seem dumb, evil, and heartless… often on the same day… but they do love the sound of money.  It’s just a good thing they haven’t figured out how to make money via malware or we would… oh, wait, I forgot about Origin.  Never mind.

However, I never played The Sims, aside from a brief dalliance with the Facebook version, back when that was how all game companies were going to get rich like Zynga, and we saw how that turned out.

And your father smelt of elderberries...

My usual interaction options with Tobold… we flirt shamelessly

And if I understand the history correctly, EA had already brought The Sims into their Redwood Shores lair, placing it directly under their control before letting it return to the Maxis logo, creating a taint that explained to some why The Sims 4 seemed like a step back from The Sims 3 in many ways.  So that wasn’t going to keep Maxis viable any more.  EA could just snatch The Sims back any time they felt like it.

Fun Created Here!

Fun Created Here!

And without The Sims, that left Maxis with… um… SimCity 2013 and… Spore maybe?  Talk about a couple of titles that failed to live up to expectations.  I didn’t even know that Spore had a follow-on game, which was even more poorly received.

So I suppose the real question is why it took EA so long to finally shut Maxis down and close their no doubt pricey digs across the bay in Emeryville. (I had a job interview right around the corner from Maxis back in 2010, with another company that is no longer around.)

Still, I feel some lingering nostalgia for Maxis.  I remember back when the original SimCity came out, when it was something new and different and people were struggling with the idea of it being a game because there was no obvious win condition.  Some were insisting we call it a computer “toy” or some other ambiguous title.

SimCity back in the day

SimCity back in the day

Back then I played many, many hours of SimCity.  Likewise with SimCity 2000 (which like a lot of games of its era, was much better on Mac OS).  I would let my city run while I was in the other room or at work (with disasters turned off naturally) to build up a tax base and then spend the evening expanding my domain and fighting off fires and alien invasions, all while trying to keep my ungrateful population happy enough to not flee the city.  I’ll tax you little bastards back to the stone age!  I remember the music especially, the jolly, bouncing, honky tonk tones of a happy thriving city or, more commonly, that trudging, day-to-day, we’re just getting by melody.  Is the SimCity 2000 sound track available on iTunes?

I am pretty sure I also bought SimCity 3000, but can only recall a mild sense of disappointment.  Plus it came out in 1999 when EverQuest pretty much owned my play time.

A bunch of other “Sim” games came from Maxis over the years, none of which really appealed to me.  Looking at the list of Maxis games, there are a lot of titles there that I let pass on by.  I think Maxis might have been ahead of their time in some ways.  SimFarm, as an example, was never a hit back in the day, but Farming Simulator has sold millions of copies on Steam.  Gaff can’t get enough of that one.  The simulation craze came too late for Maxis.

The only other Maxis titles I can muster much nostalgia for are RoboSport and Marble Drop.

RoboSport was a simultaneous move, multiplayer combat game, something of a precursor to the Combat Mission series of games, where both sides give their units instructions during the orders phase, then both sides act on those order at the same time during the combat phase.  For a season, when we were not playing Full Metal Mac or Bolo or NetTrek, it was the after work game of choice.

Then there was Marble Drop, which was probably the last Maxis game I purchased.  It apparently got poor reviews, but I recall it as being a fun little puzzle game that I played all the way through… though time may have fuzzed the edges of those memories.

A level in Marble Drop

A level in Marble Drop

And that is about it for the history of Maxis as viewed through the prism of my experience.  They mostly made games which I did not play.  Then they were acquired by EA which kept them around a lot longer than some other studios they have purchased.  But now Maxis has joined the list of the departed, along with Mythic, Origin, Kesmai, Westwood, Pandemic, and Bullfrog.

You can argue over whether Electronic Arts buys studios that were destined to die anyway or, if by buying them, EA destroys them on its own.  Either way, there does seem to be a pretty strong correlation between being bought by EA and being shut down by EA.

But the world of video games is volatile and it isn’t like the only studios that shut down are the ones owned by EA.  So we say farewell to Maxis and wish good luck to those who are now out there looking for a job.

I feel like I have been writing a lot of these nostalgic/memory/milestone/obituary posts lately.  What is up with 2015?

A Test Run Beyond Earth

The holidays and the flu and various other real life issues have kept both of my regular gaming groups from getting together to play very much over the last couple of months.  The instance group is just one instance into Warlords of Draenor and the strategy group managed to play a game of Age of Kings while talking about what we should dive into next.

Picking a game is a wide open discussion.  We tend towards strategy games, but more out of habit than a burning desire to remain pure to a given genre.  We could go anywhere, and even if we stuck with strategy the field is wide open.

But even as Potshot was bringing up Crusader Kings II (another on the list of games that have made me feel dumb) Steam stepped up and offered us an out.  There was a special demo/sale weekend a couple weeks back for Civilization: Beyond Earth.

Sid Meier strikes again

Sid Meier strikes again

The download was quick enough and the price was right, so while Loghound and I each gave it a quick try, we both ended up just buying it.  The following weekend it was just him and I online, so we decided to test drive it multiplayer.

That quick game, on a small map with options set pretty conservatively, pretty much all I had heard about the game was born out.

Setting up our game

Setting up our game

The Civilization: Beyond Earth feels more like an expansion to Civilization V than a whole new game, certainly when compared to the way Alpha Centauri felt after Civilization II.  When I first played Alpha Centauri way back when, I immediately wanted some of its new features ported back to Civ II.  I still do.  I still dream of a Civ 2.5.

Beyond Earth though, it pretty much feels like Civ VCiv V in space, as noted elsewhere.  It is like a stand-alone expansion.  And, given that Sid Meier is headed towards Civilization: Starships next, it might be the last hurrah of the Civ V era.

But being tied to Civ V is not necessarily bad I suppose.

Civ V is my second favorite flavor of Civilization, so it is hard to fault them making more of it.  While they have rearranged the UI some, there are no mystery buttons.  Just playing through a quick trial game settled everything for me.  The options for multiplayer pretty much map directly back to Civ V.  And it does look like Civ V… in space… which means it looks pretty darn good, even if it starts taxing all four cores of my processor pretty quickly.

A ways into a game...

A ways into a game…

There are some small differences that spice things up a bit.  There, for example, little “quest like” decision points that determine how resources will be handled or what production or units your cities will favor.  And then there are the alien life forms.  They are sort of barbarians, sort of not. (You cannot turn them off in the settings as in Civ V, as they are somewhat essential to the plot, such that it is.)

The downside for Beyond Earth is that while it did not carry the impact of Alpha Centauri when it launched, it is still saddled with some of the baggage that keeps Alpha Centauri down at the third position on my list of favorite Civilization games.

The game sticks to the conventions of the series, even when they do not make a lot of sense.  The map is blacked out despite the fact that I just landed from space?  I flew in a spaceship, but I need to do research on how to make a space buggy to ride around in… or allow certain agreements to be made with other factions?  And I care about these caricatures of factions and their inflexible philosophies why?

Then there is the tech web itself.

remember, webs are traps!

remember, webs are traps!

I realize that we are in the future for Beyond Earth, so we have to deal with future tech and rather than a tree forming at a single root it is more realistic to have a lot of choices to make.  The problem is that, as choices, they are only mildly interesting.

Part of what makes the historical Civilization games compelling is that journey from spearmen to modern mechanized infantry.  That is an epic journey through time that involves technologies that we know and understand.  High tech space soldier to slightly improved high tech space soldier can never capture that same sense of progress.

I will temper this by saying that, at this point, I have not played a lot of Beyond Earth.  Those are initial impressions.  Since it looks like Beyond Earth will be our next weekly game, we shall see if my opinion changes over that time.

And, if nothing else, it keeps us the hell away from a comical quagmire in Crusader Kings II for a few more weeks.

Starting the New Year in the Age of Kings

The so-called Strategy group finally came back from its nearly three month hiatus and actually played a game together last Friday night.  Well, at least three of us did, but that was still two more than most of our attempts to play since mid-October.

In something of a step back to our roots of nearly a year ago, Loghound, Potshot, and I got out Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings again.  It was a nice return back to a good old game that we had not played for many months.

AoK450I actually had to install it right then, but even the HD edition isn’t that big, relative to modern titles at least.  And then we had to remember how to get a game started.  Of course, once in the lobby, everybody seemed to remember the number for the “Start the game already!” taunt. (14)

We set up a game of four random civs, the three of us and a computer opponent.  In this case we set the cpu to hard and used what was billed as the “Conquerors AI,” which I guessed was the slightly smarter AI from the expansion.  We also set ourselves on different teams and locked that so there would be no alliances, and off we went.

Back to sheep again

Back to sheep again

Then we all had our moment of “What do I do?”  Fortunately, years of playing the game has at least instilled the first few steps permanently in my brain.  I think, on my death bed, if somebody asks me for my Age of Kings build order, my final words in life will be, “queue villages, build house, gather sheep… arrrgh…” followed by the machine making that flat line noise.

Anyway, I started down the path towards an economy of some sort as my scout began poking about.  In a classic AoK situation, I didn’t managed to locate all of my own sheep until the very end of the game, but I managed to steal a few of Loghound’s sheep.  Must be some of my Scots ancestry showing through.  I also managed to kill his scout.

The map, which we had set to full random, turned out to be a good one for us.  I think it was the “Rivers” map, where each player ends up on their own island of sorts with rivers dividing up the map and a limited number of crossings for choke points.

The game itself shook out into two parallel battles for a while, with Potshot and Loghound laying into each other while the computer AI, which had drawn the Mongols, came after me.

That turned out to be fortuitous, as I managed to get walls up at the crossings and the AI did not feel like an amphibious assault.  So the AI spent a long time going after my walls in its obsessive compulsive way, where it keeps attacking them even after it has a path through, while I was able to build up a small army and some defenses.  A strategically placed castle and a host of pikemen and skirmishers proved deadly to the Mongol horse archers.

Carnage before the castle

Carnage before the castle

Once I had slaughtered the attacking forces, it was time to go on the offense myself.  I pushed the computer back a ways and took out some of his buildings while breaching his wall, during which time I restored the walls at the crossing between us.  However, the cpu was also coming around via the crossing to Loghound’s island.  So after my frontier with the Mongols was momentarily secured, I pushed my force across into Loghound’s territory to clear out any buildings the CPU might have established.

While I was there I took a quick detour to kill a bunch of Loghound’s villages, destroy some of his buildings, and generally mess up his economy a bit.  Then I turned north to confront the Mongols again.

My foray into Loghound’s empire appeared to take some pressure off of Potshot.  As I was rampaging into the Mongols’ base with trebs and rams and a host of pikemen and skirmishers, with a few villages and priests in tow to repair and heal, I actually ran into a force Potshot sent in to attack the Mongols as well.  Between us the Mongols withered and ceased to be a force on the map, surrendering soon after.

There I was facing Potshot who had mounted his expedition using what I might generously call “economy of force.”  I outnumbered him heavily and started pushing into his lands.  Getting a ram up to his gate at the crossing, with my troops crowding the ford, was my most immediate problem, and soon I was into the midst of his economy.

Burning him out there, I returned to Loghound’s lands.  He had rebuilt quite a bit and had a force of Samurai, maybe the best melee unit in the game, waiting to oppose me.  But my mass of cheap pikemen and skirmishers, fully upgraded by this point, were able to defeat his force with minimal losses.  Then it was time for the siege engines to come up and to chase down the villagers.  I also caught up with Potshot’s last little outpost as well.  So I was the only force in being.

Timeline of the conflict

Timeline of the conflict

All good fun.

Well, probably more fun for me thanks to a couple of lucky breaks.  If the CPU had been set to hardest or if Potshot and Loghound hadn’t decided to go after each other things might have ended up differently.  But still, a good set of pitched battles and it was fun to get back together and play again.

But while AoK was fun, and will likely remain so for a couple more sessions, it does have a limited shelf life before it starts to feel repetitive.  Patterns will begin to develop and we will start looking for another game.

Recognizing that, we started the “next game” discussion immediately, but have not yet come up with a title.  We could always go back to Total War: Rome II, which was where we left off back in October.  There is probably a little life left in that, though it was starting to get a bit repetitive itself.  I am also concerned that, after the great Thanksgiving power supply blow-out, that my video card might not be up to the task.  With my last video card dead, I had to go back to the 2010 vintage backup card, an nVidia GTS 450, to achieve stability.  It was a modest but capable card back then, and hasn’t gotten any faster sitting on a shelf for a while.

Though if we really wanted to repeat history, we could go for another epic, multi-week Civilization V conflict while we wait for the expansion that will make Civilization: Beyond Earth worth picking up.  My video card could handle that, and my new CPU is a generation or two better than the old one.  Maybe we could beat Mattman this time around.  He won the previous two games.  And I am sure we would have a very different set of views on what options we would select. (Raging barbarians? I think not.)

Anyway, we are sort of where we were last summer, when we were looking for a new game for the group during the Steam Summer Sale.  I suppose the options I listed out in that post are still on the table, but has anything new come out since then that might be worth considering?

Rome – Ambushed

I was late to the Roman slaughter on Friday night as the Reaver extraction operation from Insmother took longer than expected… which is pretty much how every op in EVE Online works.  What will happen if we deploy somewhere even further away?

Anyway, I showed up to find matches in progress, with Mattman and Loghound facing Potshot and an AI in a variation on the city assault scenario.

SGRome

They finished out that match and then changed things up so I could join in for the next round.  I landed on Potshot’s team and we were set to be the attackers.  I used the forces I had saved from last week’s city assault, which included an expensive oneger attachment.

Deployed for action

Deployed for action

However, they did not seem to be much help this time around, as we were facing an unfortified city.  My siege detachment launched round shot and diseased corpses onto Loghound’s forces, who were positioned against me, to seeming little effect.  Burning shot was grayed out on the menu and I was soon out of anything else, so I sent in the troops.  Since I had spent so much on siege, I did not hold any quantitative advantage.  Meanwhile, the route I had chosen into the city was constrained, so Loghound and I ended up in a face to face shoving match that slowly ground down both of our forces.

Engaged with Loghound

Engaged with Loghound

It was enough, however, to keep Loghound fully occupied, as Potshot managed to get through Mattman’s defenses and roll him up.  At that point Loghound had to pull troops away from grappling with me to try and shore up his rear area, leading to their whole defense cascading to defeat.

Then we swapped sides and Potshot and I were on the defense.  I chose to go with fewer, higher quality troops backed up by a few archers this time around.  I ended up facing Mattman, who had gone heavy on archers, and so was able to stand out of range and wear down my lead units.  I really needed some cavalry then, to send the archers on their was as they were somewhat distant from their infantry support.  So I tried using some of my own infantry in the cavalry role.  But infantry cannot run fast enough.  I ran a unit towards the flanks of the archers, only to have Mattman move two units to defend.  That clash went badly for me and my guys had to turn and run.

In the end I was whittled down to one unit I had held in reserve and my general.  I pulled them back to the capture point to link up with Potshot for a final defense.  However, Potshot seemed to be falling apart as well, and by the time I got there his last unit had melted away.  My guys stood alone.

Gold trimmed banners are mine

Gold trimmed banners are mine

I was hoping that my reserve troop, still fresh and at full strength, would be able to hold on against multiple worn down attackers, and things started off okay.  But when my general went down things started to look very grim.  I managed to pull that last unit of legionnaires away from the melee and set them with their backs to a wall with one flank covered by a building.  They were still nearly full strength, still fresh, and were positioned for their last stand.

And then they lost their nerve and ran away.

So the attackers seemed to be able to carry the day when it came to unfortified cities, the reverse of last weeks results.

We were getting deep into the evening, but there was a call for Loghound and I to do an ambush battle.  This is a two player only scenario which Potshot and Mattman had tried earlier.  We had to reconfigure the game settings, opening up observer positions for Mattman and Potshot so they could watch.  I went with the Iceni, the Britannic horde, as I figured masses of troops would be advantageous.

I was first up as the ambusher, and the setup seemed simple enough.  There was a clear route down which Loghound would be marching, so I just massed troops on either side of the path.  When the scenario started, I rushed in from both sides and pretty much swamped him.

Iceni attack!

Iceni attack!

Things were going well.  As you can see in the picture, all of Loghound’s units, save his general, have banners flashing to white, which means they are about to break and run.  I was about to clinch a major victory… when Loghound’s client crashed.  I saved the replay, which flagged it as a decisive victory, but at the time it was just a game that ended incomplete.

Once we all got back together in the staging room, Loghound and I swapped roles.  I kept my same set of troops, as their mass seemed like a good thing to have.  Loghound changed out his roster and then we started.

Which was a bit disorienting.

When you are the ambushee, your screen just goes black until the game starts.  There is no setup, you just sit and do nothing.  Then, when the game actually kicks off, you can just see your troops marching in formation.  You have no control over them until the enemy appears.

Marching through the woods

Marching through the woods

Then Loghound appeared, up a hill from me, and let lose the war dogs.

Incoming dogs!

Incoming dogs!

The most charitable thing I can say about the Roman war dogs is that they are a unit we clearly do not know how to use correctly.  They have come up in a couple of our battles and have almost always been slaughtered when sent on the attack.  So it was a bit disappointing that Loghound went with what is essentially the “joke” unit in the mix for his turn as the ambusher, as they once again went down hard.

I turned my units to charge straight into the enemy, who was on both sides of the road, but was mostly concentrated up the hill.  I ended up chasing Romans all over the map on the one flank, while driving them back to retreat up the hill on the other.

Ambushers running away

Ambushers running away

It was a costly defense.  I ended up earning a “close victory,” on points, as I lost a lot of blue painted spearmen.  But the Romans were sent on their way and I was left in possession of the field, the Roman general thrown down.

And that was it for the night.  The ambush scenario was fun.  It is just a pity that it, like the full campaign, is only a two player option.

Going forward, we still have other armies to explore and we have yet to try any of the scenarios requiring the use of boats.  Still some things to do.

Rome – City Assaults are Difficult

We formed up again on Friday night for another round of Roman mayhem.  We had done a couple weeks of river crossing battles and it seemed like time to try something new.  I opted not to form the game up so somebody else could decide which skirmish scenario we were going to try.  Loghound was up to lead, so he formed the game and we all joined in.

SGRome

We dropped in and the teams became Loghound and Mattman versus Potshot and I, while the choice of scenario was ambush.

But, for some reason, we couldn’t play an ambush scenario.  Loghound reported that an error came up when he tried to when he selected that option.  So it wasn’t going to be an ambush evening.

The next choices was for a city siege.  Potshot and I were assigned the role of defenders while Mattman would be on the attack.

Of course, I think only I out of the bunch may have tried a city siege in the game, and I failed miserably at it, failing to take Carthage even on the easiest setting.  So this was going to be interesting for at least half of us.

We started with a low walled city on a hill.  I went with the Iceni, the Britannic barbarians, because we had had a side discussion about the Romans being something of the easiest mode of play, while the less civilized tribes were more difficult to handle.  I figured I could play with them in this scenario because I figured that the defenders were going to have things mostly their way.  Whether that was doing the attackers a favor or just adding insult to injury should they lose is up for debate I suppose.

Potshot, my ally, went with the Macedonians again, as did Mattman outside the walls.  Why?  I don’t know.  Alexander maybe?  I figured after the discussion about Romans being the most solid troops everybody would go with Rome.  But maybe Macedonia has become like home for them.

And finally, Loghound stuck with the Romans.

We got ourselves set up around the city, both inside and out and pressed the “Start Battle” button to see how we all chosen.

More after the cut.

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Planetary Annihilation Goes Round and Round

The biggest mistake the devil ever made was agreeing to play God, one on one, on an eight player Total Annihilation map.

-Commander Söze

Origins

In the beginning there was Total Annihilation.

This was not the first RTS game I played, but it was the first of what I consider the three great games of the RTS genre.

The other two are StarCraft and Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings.

There have been other good… even very good… titles in the genre.  But for me, these are the crown jewels that defined the genre.

StarCraft showed that very different factions could be brought together to form an almost zen-like rock/paper/scissors balance that required serious unit management skills to excel at.

Age of Kings brought that sort of balance to medieval armies, advancing at a slower pace.  It reflected the real world aspect of cavalry vs. infantry vs. ranged, with siege engines in tow, forcing players to adopt a combined arms strategy to survive and win.

But before those two there was Total Annihilation, which brought chaos and mass slaughter.

TA wasn’t balance.  The ARM ruled the early game with the Flash tank and the Peewee rush.  Cavedog eventually had to give the CORE a unit whose only purpose was to kill Flash tanks and Peewee kbots.

It had a pretty bad, or at least not a very creative, single player campaign.  Resources were simplistic, just power and metal.  The UI was somewhat primitive compared to its contemporaries.

It was a resource hog that needed a couple of generations of CPU upgrades before it would run smoothly.  The music was literally in the standard CD format, you could pop the game disk into your boom box and listed to the sound track.

And yet it was wonderful, a synthesis of a number of ideas put together in just such a way as to make a great game.  Probably one of the greatest things the game did was make terrain matter in new and interesting way.  Maps were 3D and heights could give you range in shooting or something to hide behind when fire was incoming.  And then there was the whole modability aspect of the game.

Probably the greatest testament to TA is the fact that, while Cavedog Entertainment has been dead and gone for nearly a decade and a half, Total Annihilation still has a pretty strong and dedicated community still supporting it.  You can still buy a copy over at GoG.com, and it runs great on today’s machines.

Total Annihilation

The Atari logo is a recent addition

Its main problem is that it was designed when multiplayer meant friends on a LAN, so being able to play over the internet requires effort.  You need some network know-how or something like Game Ranger to help you out.  So the idea of bringing the game into the 21st century is a compelling one.

More after the cut because of wordiness.

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