Tag Archives: Portal

Of Steam and Trains and Portal 2 and Being Scared

So far I have managed to avoid buying much in the Steam Summer Sale.  I was out of the gate on day one with Portal 2, which was 75% off, and Harvest: Massive Encounter.  That pair added up to a total of $7.49.

Since then I have managed to restrain myself, even when games on my wish list made the front page deals.  In part because the deals were not sweet enough, but mostly because I am not sure when I would find the time to get involved with something as epic as Skyrim.

And the fact that there will always be another Steam sale in the future helps take the pressure off.

Still, I did break down when faced with a 90% off sale on Railworks 3: Train Simulator 2012.

As far as I can tell, it is essentially the train version of Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Literally.  The people that make it originally made Microsoft Train Simulator for Microsoft.  And then Microsoft decided that trains were perhaps a bit too niche and dropped it, so the software studio went off on their own path, which eventually lead to this.

I kicked in a couple of bucks for this primarily because of the huge long list of DLC that is available for it.  There is about $1,000 worth of DLC for this game on Steam.  Wait, no, it is all marked down 50% for the Steam Summer Sale.   So there is over $2,000 worth of DLC available for the game on Steam.

It isn’t that I don’t think trains are neat… I have the same little boy fascination with big machines that many men carry with them… but I really wanted to know what sort of direct-to-the-vein heroin this game is to be able to support that much DLC.

I guess I will find out.

Of course, one of the problems with Steam is then I have to wait a day for things to download through the soda straw sized pipe that is our DSL connection to the internet.  But it is literally the best speed I can get without buying into AT&T’s U-verse package or the Comcast version thereof.  Ah well, it is fine for day to day stuff, it is just when it comes time to download things measured in gigabytes that it feels slow.

And it probably cuts down on impulse buying.  There are few things on Steam I can buy and play “right now!”

Anyway, pending research into rail-based drug habits, Portal 2 has been a big win in my opinion.  I have now invested more time into it than I did in the original Portal, and I have not made it out of the main storyline yet.

Portal 2 carries on with your character from the original.

You got out, but you didn’t escape

You are back at Aperture Science Laboratories, but clearly some time has elapsed.  Things have changed.

I don’t remember so many… plants

But your goal is still the same, to get the hell out of the place.  I have to say I am very impressed by the game.  One of the recurring sensations I get is not knowing if I am going the right way, feeling like I might have taken a wrong turn, only to end up at what is clearly the next stage of the story.  Having that happen more than once in a game is pretty unique.

Of course, part of the reason I think it works well is that they do not over use it.  A lot of the time you are clearly guided to the next point of the story.  And at other times they throw in a bit of reverse psychology.

Obviously I need to go here

Clearly I will be falling down the elevator shaft at some point

Seeing as Portal 2 was so cheap, I offered to get a copy for my daughter.  She was, after all, the person who started talking about Portal back in May that got me to finally play my copy of the original game.  And she seems to know all about it in that osmosis way that kids just absorb information.

She declined.

Which, honestly, is unusual for her.

I pressed her on why, and she said the game was too scary.  I chuckled a bit and said that I didn’t think it was scary at all.  But she said it was creepy and scary and she wasn’t sure she wanted to play it, even when I pointed out that there is a co-op mode which would allow us to play together.

That last bit tempted her, but she still declined.

Which made me think about the game again.  It really isn’t scary to me.  It is more humorous, really.  But I am a jaded old man who has sat through more than my share of horror movies and the like.  It takes something unusual or unexpected to make my heart race or pump up my adrenaline in a game these days.

It used to be that a blinking red ship in my overview in EVE Online would make me start and drive up my pulse rate.  Now that seems pretty normal… so much so as to lead to casual stupidity.

But my daughter, at age 10, is susceptible to game created fear and anxiety.  She gets immersed in the game whether she wants to or not, which I envy to a certain extent.  It isn’t that I do not feel anything.  I certainly get that butterflies in my stomach vertigo sensation whenever I have to jump off something really high in Portal 2, or even sometimes when just looking down.  The game does a great job of feeling real in those moments.

But that is still not a major reaction.  And things that scare my daughter, like an enraged GladOS, just seem like humor layered over a physics puzzle.  I enjoy the puzzle.  I enjoy the humor.  But it is tough for me to take seriously.

So now when I play Portal 2, I have to take off my headset and turn on my speakers so my daughter can stand behind my office chair and watch me play.  She is fascinated with the game, but still anxious enough that she wants to be able to run away, or at least hide behind me if things get scary. (Though she has not done either to this point… she just wants the option.)

We basically have our own version of co-op.  And it really is co-op, since she often tells me where I should go or gives me things to try, and she is very proud of herself when she figures out the puzzle before I do.

But she still doesn’t want her own copy.  Instead she is asking for Minecraft, because she got to play with it at a friends house.

And so the world turns.

Steam Summer Sale – Time For Damage Control

Oh, it is that time of temptation again.  It is the dread Summer Sale at Steam.

For 10 days Valve will tempt us with incredible discounts on a wide variety of game titles.

This will lead many of us to buy titles we might not otherwise consider… and, often enough in my case, games that I certainly should not have considered.

But the price… the games can be so cheap!  I have seen things marked down 80% or more off of retail.  For example, the first day’s featured deals.

But look at the mark downs!

This is how I ended up owning the entire PopCap library despite the fact that I really only wanted Peggle Nights.  And no, it was not cheaper to buy the whole library.  I was just swept up in the moment and 90% discount.

This year I am going to stick to things on my Steam wishlist.  That is a reasonably well vetted list of games I am actively interested in, though I do see a couple of games I left on it back when Valve had a contest that would win you the top 10 games on your wishlist, but only if you had at least 10 games.  I will have to drop those, as my wishlist is now big enough not to need padding.

And, on day one, right out of the gate, two items from my wishlist came up.

The first was Portal 2.  Having played through the original Portal at last, I put the sequel on my wish list.

Also popping up on day one was Harvest: Massive Encounter, a little game that looked interesting, but not quite interesting enough until it was marked down.  I put it there as park of my search to find more tower defense games, though honestly nothing has stacked up to Defense Grid: The Awakening so far.

Total cost for the pair, $7.49.

I haven’t had a chance to look at Portal 2 yet, as it was a sizable download.  But Harvest was small, so I was able to launch it almost right away.

It appears to be a mix of RTS and tower defense with a few game mode and level choices, but otherwise very simple in design.  It is kind of what I hoped Gratuitous Space and/or Tank Battles would more like. (Neither of those titles quite clicked with me.)

Anyway, worth the $2.50 it was list at.

Now what will Valve throw at me next?  And can I stick to my plan?

I am kind of hoping that Endless Space will make the cut for a discount, because I really need yet another game like that to distract me. (Isn’t the updated Civ V enough? No?)  I have seen a bit posted about it.  However, it just launched, so it might be too soon.

What is on your list for the Steam Summer Sale?

May in Review

The Site

What Alexa says about my readership. (Emphasis is theirs.)

Based on internet averages, tagn.wordpress.com is visited more frequently by males who are in the age range 18-24, have no children, have no college education and browse this site from home.

At least they didn’t specifically mention your mother’s basement.  Still, I cannot say that is a winning endorsement.  I am just glad there isn’t a feature that attempts to describe the owner of the site based on readership!

I suppose I should be happy that Alexa has anything to say about my site.  It has nothing to say about my other blog.

In general, Alexa says the following about the site:

tagn.wordpress.com is ranked #1,087,910 in the world according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings. Approximately 68% of visits to the site consist of only one pageview (i.e., are bounces). We estimate that 21% of visitors to the site come from the US, where it has attained a traffic rank of 541,171. Visitors to it spend roughly 78 seconds on each pageview and a total of two minutes on the site during each visit. The fraction of visits to Tagn.wordpress.com referred by search engines is about 14%.

Wasn’t that interesting?  68% of you arrive here and immediately leave, having discovered your mistake.  About par for the course I imagine.  I am surprised that it only pegs the number of US visitors as 21% of the total traffic, as the flag counter on the side bar puts the number just over 50%.

Flag Counter Tally as of May 2012

And when two such sources disagree, how do we decide who is right?  Probably neither, but somebody is probably closer.

And that is our site discussion of the month.

One Year Ago

May 2011 was the time of the great Sony outage, with the Playstation Network down for 24 days and Sony Online Entertainment down for 13 days.  It was a communication fiasco from start to finish, with bad updates almost daily.  About all they could do was promise us all goodies for when they finally came back up.

CCP was starting the build up to the Incarna fiasco with the introduction of Aurum.

On the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, there was agitation to vote NO on unlocking the Kunark expansion.  Such agitation shows up with each unlock vote.  But no vote failed until Gates of Discord came along.

The instance group was in EverQuest II… when it was up… and trying to get the hell out of the starter area.  We managed it, but it took a lot more time than I would have thought.  We started in on some dungeons and got ourselves a guild hall.

World of Warcraft subscriptions started to decline, while Trion started offering free server transfers in Rift.

And finally, as hot as things seemed to be around here, there was no rapture.  You just couldn’t buy a break that month.

Five Years Ago

The usual discussions were going around, what made WoW so successful and what games might contend with WoW?  Some of the so called “contenders” were pretty silly picks.

The instance group was focused on LOTRO for the first time.  I had things to complain about, especially the state of the economy.  And, only a month in we spotted a level 50 player.  That must have been some hard work, as the game sort of petered out at about level 35 back then.  Still, Middle-earth was a pretty place.  It even had rainbows.

Vanguard was heavily in the news.  Sigil fell and SOE stepped in to pick up the pieces, though I wondered how long before the many problems with the game became attached to SOE.  I was also wondering about the impact of the game’s system requirements.

I was wondering how many more expansions EverQuest would have, while pointing out that you could get the game and all the expansions for only $15.

The owners of Allakhazam, long a staple of EQ knowledge, sold off their gold selling RMT wing, thus removing that taint and a host of gold selling ads from the site.

SOE officially announced the Rise of Kunark expansion for EverQuest II, keeping the game firmly on the nostalgia train.  Meanwhile, I had a suggestion for the new Arasai race.

Finally, there were some podcasts I thought people should listen to again.  I am not sure you can get most of them any more.

New Linking Blogs

After having to dip into the recycle pile to reuse some past linking sites last month, this month there are three new sites to mention!

Please take a moment to visit them.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Diablo III vs. Torchlight II – A Matter of Details
  2. And Then I Missed Out on the Error 37 Party
  3. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  4. Impressions of Diablo in the Age of World of Warcraft
  5. Clearly Diablo III is not Out of the Woods Yet…
  6. Claiming Victory in Jita!
  7. Hulkageddon V – Reaping the Whirlwind
  8. How to Catch Zorua and Zoroark
  9. Diablo III – Installer Trouble Already
  10. Hulkageddon, Technetium, and the Circle of Life
  11. CCP Clearly Victorious in “Burn Jita” Event
  12. Destroying the CSAA at YVSL-2

Search Terms of the Month

error 37
[Brought more traffic here during May than all other search terms combined]

p-51 bomb-aiming stripes sight lines for dive bombing
[A few of these… this has to be a World of Warplanes related search]

fiesta outspark atlas sword
[There is an Ayn Rand reference in there somewhere]

Diablo III

As expected, Diablo III was the focus of about half of the month.  I have had a good time with it, having gotten through normal mode with my barbarian.  I am currently in Act II with him in nightmare mode.  This second run through is going slower both because it is actually harder… they throw a lot more blue elite monsters at you… and because it is the same thing I just did, so the drive to advance the story is gone.  I know how the story goes, where the surprise twist is, and so on.  And the randomization is pretty minimal, killing another aspect of change between plays, as the anchor points of the story pretty much force things into place.  So while I am still playing, I am concentrating more on playing with friends.

EVE Online

Things in New Eden were a bit quiet mid-month.  I did managed to get out on one strategic operation, so I am at least on the kill boards for May.  Who I might be flying with in these ops is interesting.  And, of course, there is skill training, always skill training.  I should be able to fly a heavy interdictor in about a week with all skills at IV or V.  Now will I actually buy one and fly one?  That is another story.

Portal

I Finished Portal.  I got half the achievements.  It was fun, though pretty short.  I am glad I got it for free.  It was probably $10 worth of cool… and met that $2/hour threshold for games… but I probably wouldn’t have bought it.  Portal 2 is on my Steam wish list now, waiting for a sale.

Rift

After the instance group finished up King’s Breach, we haven’t really been back to Telara.  As a group we have to get a couple of levels before we can hit the next dungeon, and we can get about a level a week if we focus as a group.  Instead of focusing we’ve been on vacation or playing Diablo III.  I am not sure if this means any change to our future plans or not at this time.

World of Warcraft

Since I paid for Diablo III by signing up for a years worth of WoW, I have felt compelled to at least log on once in a while.  I have one character at 85 and have settled into a pattern of logging on for Darkmoon Faire every month, specifically for the tradeskill related quests, since they boost your skill by 5 each time.  This is part of my plan to have at least one character max’d out on all skills when PandaVille arrives.  And then I log in to do whatever event happens to be going on, but only if I still have some achievements left to get.  So I was on for Children’s Week.  That got me the last of the companion pets and two achievements, though I still do not have the meta achievement.  I am just not going to do those battleground achievements.

Coming Up

Summer, and the expectation of warm weather.  It has been unseasonably chilly out here for much of the month.

And gaming… hrmm… I am out of immediate goals after Diablo III.

Something will turn up, I am sure of it.  It always does.

What is Richard Garriott de Cayeux up to these days?

Seeking The Origin of Cake Myths

Yesterday I decided to pull a game out of the unplayed pile… the virtual unplayed pile, since Steam is the prime holder of unplayed games for me thanks to their Summer sale.  Why did I buy all those games?

Anyway, I picked one that has not only been talked to death, but has had a sequel that has also been just about talked out.  So now at least I am not as far behind the curve as before.

Oh, I see where this line came from now

You see, I hadn’t actually played Portal up until yesterday.  Valve was giving it away for free on Steam a while back, so I grabbed it.  But it has just sat on my hard drive ever since.

In an odd twist, the reason I started the game was because my daughter brought it up while we were driving around yesterday.  Somebody in her class has been playing it recently and talking about it, so she started asking me about it.  So I broke it out and we played through some of it together.

One of the amusing asides is that, despite not playing Portal before, I was already familiar with the GLaDOS AI personality as she also appears in some of the DLC levels for Defense Grid: The Awakening. (Still my favorite tower defense game.)

The game itself is good simple fun.  My daughter found GLaDOS a bit creepy, especially when it was announced that once testing was over, we would be “minced.”

We played through until it was time for her to get ready for bed.  And then I stopped when I reached a level that required more manual dexterity than I was able to muster at the end of the day.  But we got fairly far into the game.  I think we will be able to finish it up, especially since when you die, you just go back to your last save point.

Though we had better finish it up tonight.  Tomorrow I will be playing something else.

And since I am now part of the “club,” I feel fully justified throwing in my two cents worth of repetition.

Take that, internet!

I am only about five years behind.