Tag Archives: Total Annihilation

Steam Holiday Sale – Even Valve Seems a Bit Bored

The Steam Holiday Sale went live on Tuesday with the usual sudden surge of excitement and the occasional error.

Best Deal Evah!

Best Deal Evah!

There were a few items discounted into negative territory.  The best I saw was Quake, which Steam was apparently prepared to pay you $9.85 if you would download it.

To borrow another Tweet, Van Hemlock had a good summary.

But once that settled down and prices got adjusted and discount math was correctly calculated, the sales event seemed to be happily under way.  Nearly everything on my wishlist is on sale, and I am once again tempted by Cities: Skylines and Project CARS.

Of course, all of those other unplayed, or underplayed, games in my Steam library are giving me baleful stares.  Their mere presence inhibits my ability to buy anything new.  And when combined with the knowledge that there will just be another Steam sale later if I don’t buy anything this time around, any sense of urgency is lost.  That one time emotional response of, “I’d better buy this now, I might want to play it some day!” has been replaced by the feeling that unless I want to play the game RIGHT NOW, I can wait until a later date.

So yeah, another “tired gamer in a malaise” story here at TAGN.

The odd bit is that even Valve seems a bit less into the whole Steam Sale too.

Gone are the events.  You get holiday Steam cards for just browsing games.  The daily deals and flash sales, ever the bane of the OCD in people obsessed with getting the best deal, are gone.  There is no need to keep checking back every few hours.  The price cut on the title you are interested in is going to be the same throughout the Holiday Sale.  That old flow chart about when to buy is history. (So many versions of it out there.)

So no rush.  You can sit an consider your purchase or make lists of games people should buy or otherwise reflect on the sale in peace, without anybody nudging you to get on with it because it all might be different in an hour or three.

All of which is something of a relief.  A new normal has emerged.  And though I kind of miss the special nature that a Steam sale used to have, you cannot recreate that forever.

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.

Continue reading

Looking to the Steam Summer Sale for the Next Game

Our game of Civilization V goes on.  I just posted the Week 8 update yesterday.  Things are going well enough and we remain interested, amazed, and enthusiastic to complete the epic journey to victory that this has become.  I am going to guess that we have a good four more weeks of play left in the game (not counting July 4th, which will probably be an off week for all of us) before somebody gets a corner on a peaceful victory condition and either wins or unleashes a nuclear holocaust that eventually ushers in a domination victory over a radioactive landscape.

Chuck Hestonia nuked and open

Remember Chuck Hestonia!

But, as Potshot noted the other night, as cool as this experiment with a multi-month game of Civ V has been, when we get to the eventual end point of the game, our immediate reaction is likely not going to be, “Let’s do this again!”  A certain amount of pig-headed stubbornness is carrying us along at this point, making us determined to see this through.  But when we are done, we will likely be ready for something new.

We have started the discussion about the next thing at what seems quite the opportune time, as we are in the midst of the Steam Summer Sale.  While some are down on the whole thing this year… and I admit that once you have been through one or two, the excitement of things being on sale does wear a bit thin… there is certainly no reason not to take advantage of period of favorable pricing.  So a list of possible candidates has started to coalesce, which I am going to trot out here.  Comments on the games so listed are welcome, especially any insight on how the game might play in a four person multiplayer situation.  And, of course, you can offer up alternatives as well.

But, before you comment to promote your favorite game of the moment, I want to bring up some parameters that will likely apply to the choice.

First, this is not the MMO group.  MMORPGs are probably not going to fly here, so piping in with WildStar isn’t going to make for a useful comment. (Given that I haven’t even used the 7 day key that Liore gave me a couple weeks back, “WildStar” probably isn’t a useful comment on any post here at the moment.)

The game should also be substantially playable in a single evening.  Clearly the Civ V experiment shows that we can play a game over several weeks, I am just not sure we want to jump back into that right away.

And I am going to come out generally against turn based games, as some of us become quite absorbed in the decision making process with others are not very patient.  Turn based isn’t a deal breaker in the right situation, but any scenario where three of us end up waiting on the fourth to make his move will either need to be a game that is generally fast in pace or a game that includes a turn clock.  So while Eador: Masters of the Broken World sounds interesting when SynCaine writes about it, I am not sure we can handle its depth and keep a game running.

With that in mind, here is what has been proposed so far. (Mostly by me.)

Total War: Rome II

SGRome

Loghound put out Total War: Rome II as an option.  I know people who like the game.  Gaff has played through it.  I have played a couple of the past games in the series.  If this is like its predecessors, the tactical game is very much in the detailed RTS vein, so no turns or anything.  I am just not sure how multiplayer works or if it is suitable for a group of four.  Also, there are some minor concerns about how much processing power the game might take.  But after Civ V, we ought to be okay if we stick to machines from this decade.

Possible alternatives: Any of the Total War series, I think I bought them all in a past Steam sale

Company of Heroes 2

SGCompanyOfHeroes2

I tossed Company of Heroes 2 on the list as a more modern alternative to Total War: Rome II.  I actually own this via a past Steam sale and have played through the tutorial, but not much else.  As with Rome II, I am not sure how suitable it is to four player for a multiplayer match.  Also struck me as a bit “arcade-ish” in the tutorial, though that might just be the tutorial, and if it isn’t, it still might not necessarily be a bad thing.  And Gaff likes it.

Possible alternatives: The original Company of Heroes, the second Combat Mission series.

Driver: San Francisco

SGDriver

Driver: San Francisco was my suggestion in order to shake things up and try something that did not involve us throwing armies at each other.  Instead, we could throw moving vehicles at each other.  The game got good reviews, is pretty reasonably priced for the summer sale, the multiplayer options sound interesting, and it involves driving around San Francisco, an area we all know well enough to at least know when we’re lost or not.  Against all of that, I do not know anybody who has actually played it.

Possible alternatives: Need for Speed: World, a billion other driving games

Boarderlands 2

SGBorderlands2

Borderlands 2 is well reviewed, very popular, and has a four player co-op mode that I understand works very well.  Another game I already own thanks to a sale at Amazon for a Steam key.  And another game I haven’t played very much of as I stink.  But are we ready for a shooter?  And, more importantly, are we ready for a shooter where we don’t get to shoot each other?

Possible alternatives: Call of Duty series, or any other co-op shooter, some of which even include zombies.

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator

SGArtemis

No, not the card game… though that might be an idea… Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator is basically the game vehicle for playing out your Star Trek bridge fantasies.  This is a long shot, but I bring it up because a friend (and occasional reader BlueLineBasher) gave me a copy and I haven’t done anything with it.  This might be good for a single Friday lark, but we would have to pick somebody to be captain who would take it at least semi-seriously.  Alcohol might be required.

Possible alternatives: Urmm… are there any?

Ticket to Ride

SGTicketToRide

I didn’t even know Ticket to Ride was available on the PC until I saw it on the Steam Summer Sale list.  This is one of those awesome board game conversions that keeps all the great bits of the original game while removing the bad bits… like placing all those little train counters and then picking them up again when the cat attacks the game board.  It is one of my favorite games on the iPad.  But the game is easy enough that my past experience doesn’t give me any real advantage.  While it it turn based, it does tend to be fast paced, and against real people it can be a rage-inducing cut-throat experience.  So it has that going for it.  But are we up for board games?

Possible alternatives: Other digital version of board games such as Settlers of Catan or some Carcassonne variant.

StarCraft II

SGStarCraft2

As an alternative, we could just forget Steam and go for the update to the original perfectly balanced rock, paper, scissors RTS, StarCraft II.  While it did not make as big a splash as the original, that was in part because Blizzard tried very hard not to mess it up, so it ended up being mostly StarCraft brought forward to the current decade… which is a good thing.  It isn’t on sale, but Blizzard is in its own summer doldrums right now, so it is possible they might cut us a break before our Civ V game wraps up.

Possible alternatives: The original StarCraft, something from the Command & Conquer series

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

Potshot actually brought up Total Annihilation, my all-time favorite RTS, and I am using that as an excuse to list it.  The physic in it is great, the variety of units almost boggles the mind, it still looks damn good for a game from 1997, it is available for cheap (and DRM free) over at GoG.com, and because of its age it now runs great on just about anything… which probably includes Mattman’s antique coal fired Ye Olde ThinkePayde portable difference engine.  And, of course, it has simple victory conditions (kill the commander) and nuclear weapons.  The Achilles’ heel is that I love the game and my knowledge of it will give me an unfair advantage.

Possible alternatives: Speak not to me about Supreme Commander, it is but a pale shadow of Total Annihilation… but maybe Planetary Annihilation when it ships.

Summing Up

So those are the choices that come to my mind.  I would certainly be interested in hearing about multiplayer experiences with any of these games, especially involving four players.

And, because I haven’t had a poll in a while, I will put one up so you can indicate your favorite pick without having to much around with the whole comment thing.

 

 

Picking My 15 Most Influential Games

Jackie at Kitty Kitty Boom Boom, prompted by lvling life, put up a list of her top 15 video games.

There was a methodology by which you were supposed to generate that list.  It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal.  You were not supposed to spend a lot of time with it.  And, of course, I tossed that aside.  Rather than a quick list of 15 special games, I ended up with my list of the 15 most influential video games in my gaming career so far.

And what do I mean by “influential?”

I mean that they opened up new idea, new genres, or new points of view for me when it came to video games.

Influential does not mean that they were my favorites, the games I played the most in a given genre, or even all that good in a few cases.  So, for example, I have played a LOT more World of Warcraft than EverQuest at this point in my life, and I am not really all that keen to go back to EverQuest.  But EverQuest is the more influential of the two.  Without it, there would be no WoW, and without me playing it in 1999, I might not have made it to WoW.

Anyway, on to the list.

1. Star Trek (1971) – many platforms

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek in vt52

I have covered this as the first computer video game I ever played.  While incredibly simple, this game showed me the way, let me know that computers were going to be an entertainment device

2. Tank (1974) – Arcade

Tank!

Tank! In Black and white!

This was the game AFTER Pong.  Not that Pong was bad.  Pong was new and fresh when it came out, but I must admit that it did become a little dull after the first pass or two.  And then Tank showed us that man need not entertain himself with virtual paddles alone.  I wouldn’t touch Pong after a while, but Tank was always good.  You just needed somebody to play with.

3. Adventure (1979)  – Atari 2600

This Castle is Timeless!

This Castle is Timeless!

Yes, I got that Atari 2600 for Christmas way back when, but then there was a matter of what to play.  It came with the Combat cartridge, which included Tank.  And I also had Air-Sea Battle and a few others. But the problem was that these games were all unfulfilling unless played with two people.  And then came Adventure.  Not only wasn’t it the usual 27 minor variations on three two-player themes, it was specifically, unashamedly single player only.  Here, loner, good luck storming the castle!  And it had odd behaviors and minor flaws.  I tried putting that magic bridge everywhere and ended up in some strange places.  It also had a random mode, that might just set you up with an unwinnable scenario.  And there was an Easter egg in it.

It was both different and a harbinger of things to come.

4. Castle Wolfenstein (1981) – Apple II

Graphics - 1981

Graphics – 1981

This was the first game that I saw that indicated that I really, really needed to get a computer.  An Apple II specifically, because that was what Gary had.  And he also had Castle Wolfenstein.

It was not an easy game.  You lost.  A lot.  The control system left something to be desired.  You really needed a joystick to play.  And there were so many quirks and strange behaviors that somebody created a utility program a couple years after it came out that basically “fixed” a lot of the worst annoyances.  I bought it gladly.

Achtung! Give me your uniform.

Achtung! Give me your uniform.

But this game was the prototype for many that followed.  You’re in a cell and you need to escape.  You need make your way through the castle, picking up guns, keys, ammunition, German uniforms, and grenades.   Oh, grenades were so much fun.  There were other, later games I considered for this list, but when I broke them down, I often found that Castle Wolfenstein had done it already, in its own primitive way.

5. Wizardry (1981) – Apple II

Apple ][+ The Upgrades Begin

Apple ][+ and Wizardry

Basically, the party based dungeon crawl in computer form.  Monsters, mazes, traps, treasure, combat, and death.  Oh, so much death.  NetHack was a potential for this list, but I realized that randomness and ASCII graphics aside, Wizardry had pretty much everything it did.

And I spent hours playing.  I mapped out the whole game on graph paper, including that one level with all the squares that would turn you around.  The one with the pits of insta-death.  It also taught me the word “apostate.”

6. Stellar Emperor (1985) – Apple II

The GEnie version of MegaWars III at its inception, it was my first foray into multiplayer online games.  I have written about the game, even about winning.

Emperor of the Galaxy

Emperor of the Galaxy

But it was the online, playing with other people, usually the same people, making friends and enemies and having ongoing relationships that sold the game.  Again, it was primitive, even in its day, with ASCII based terminal graphics.  But there was magic in the mixture.

7. Civilization (1991) – Mac/Windows

The flat world of original Civ

The flat world of original Civ

Sid Meier was already something of a star by the time Civilization came out, but this cemented things as far as I was concerned.  I was considering putting Civilization II on the list rather than this.  Once I got Civ II, I never went back and played the original.

But that wasn’t because the original was crap.  That was because the sequel built on what was great in the original.  It was purely an evolutionary move.  But it was the original that hooked me, so that has to get the nod for influential.

8. Marathon (1994) – Mac

Spooky

Spooky

For me, this was the defining first person shooter.  There was a single player campaign.  There was a multiplayer deathmatch mode.  There were a variety of weapons.  There was a map editor and some mods and an online community that built up around it.  Everything after Marathon was just an incremental improvement for me.

Marathon on my iPad

Marathon on my iPad

There have been better graphics, better rendering engines, different weapons, plenty of variety on arena options, all sorts of updates on match making and connectivity, but in the end those are just updates to what Marathon already did.  To this day, I still sometimes say “I’ll gather” when creating a game or match for other people to join.  That was the terminology from 1994.  I wonder what Bungie has done since this?

9. TacOps  (1994) – Mac/Windows

Before video games I played a lot of Avalon Hill war games.  Those sorts of games made the natural transition to the computer, which was ideal for handling much of the housekeeping chores.  However, in the transition, some old conventions got dragged along as well, like hexes.  And I hate hexes.  Yes, on a board game you need to use that hexgrid for movement.  I could accept that for Tobruk set up on the kitchen table.  But a computer was fully capable of handling movement without such an arbitrary overlay.  A couple of games tried it, but they tended to fall into the more arcade-ish vein, which wasn’t what I wanted.

And then I picked up a copy of TacOps.

Giving orders on an open map

Giving orders on an open map

I bought it on a complete whim, picking up the very rare initial boxed version off the shelf at ComputerWare before it went completely to online sales.  And it was a revelation.  Hey, terrain governs movement.  And cover.  And visibility.  That plus simultaneous movement phases rather than turn based combat meant wonderful chaos on the field.  The game was good enough that the military of several countries contracted for special versions of the game to use as a training tool.

I originally had Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin on my list.  That is where Battlefront.com really came into their own with the Combat Mission series.  But aside from 3D graphics, TacOps had done it all already.

10. TorilMUD (1993) – various platforms

Have I not written enough about the last 20 years of TorilMUDPrecursor to the MMORPG genre for me.  Without it I might not have understood that camping mobs for hours at a stretch was “fun.”

11. Diablo (1996) – Windows

A simpler time... in HELL

A simpler time… in HELL

I have written quite a bit about my fondness for Diablo II, while I haven’t gone back to play the original Diablo since the sequel came out.  But I wouldn’t be still talking about Diablo II or comparing the merits of Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Path of Exile had the original not been something very, very special.

12. Total Annihilation (1997) – Windows

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation was not the first RTS game I played.  I am pretty sure I played Dune II and Warcraft before it.  It is not the RTS game I have played the most.  I am sure I have more hours in both StarCraft and Age of Kings.  But it was the first RTS game that showed me that the genre could be about something more than a very specific winning build order.  All the units, on ground, in the air, on the water, were amazing.  The player maps were amazing, and player created AIs were even better.  The 3D terrain and line of sight and all that was wonderful.  And new units kept getting released.  And you could nuke things.  I still find the game amazing.

13. EverQuest (1999) – Windows

Fifteen years later and nothing has made my mouth hang open like it did on the first day I logged into Norrath.  I can grouse about SOE and the decisions they have made and the state of the genre, but that day back in 1999 sunk the hook into me good and hard and it hasn’t worked itself loose since.  Pretty much what this whole blog is about.

Froon!

Froon!

14. Pokemon Diamond (2006) – Nintendo DS

Before we got my daughter a DS lite and a copy of Pokemon Diamond, Pokemon was pretty much just a cartoon on TV and a card game somebody’s kid at work played.  Sure, I knew who Pikachu was, but I had no real clue about the video game.

And then in watching my daughter play, I had to have my own DS and copy of the game.  Make no mistake, despite its reputation as a kids game, Pokemon can be deep and satisfying.  It tickles any number of gamer needs.  My peak was in HeartGold/SoulSilver, where I finally caught them all.

Back when 493 was all

Back when 493 was all

While I have stopped playing, that doesn’t mean I don’t think about buying a 3DS XL and a copy of Pokemon X or Y and diving back into the game.  It is that good.

15. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (2006) – many platforms

Filling this last slot… tough to do.  There are lots of potential games out there.  For example, I like tower defense games, but which one sold me on the idea?  But for a game that launched me into a lot of play time over a series of titles, I have to go with LEGO Star Wars II.

LEGO Star Wars II

LEGO Star Wars II

That is where Travelers Tales really hit their stride.  The original LEGO Star Wars tried to hard to be a serious and difficult game.  With this second entry, they realized the power of simply being fun and irreverent.  That was the magic.

And I only have to look at the shelf of console games we have to see that LEGO games dominate as a result of this one title. They have evolved, and in some ways I think they have lost a bit of their charm by trying to do too much.  We got the LEGO Movie Game for the PS3 and it didn’t have the joy of LEGO Star Wars II.  Still, 8 years down the road, the influence of LEGO Star Wars II got us to try it.

Fools Errand?

Of course, putting limits like an arbitrary number on a list like this means it must ring false in some way.  And what does influential really mean?  I know what I said, but I can look back at that list and nitpick that, say, Castle Wolfenstein might not belong.  And what about genres I missed, like tower defense?  I could make the case that Defense Grid: The Awakening belongs on the list.  What about games like EVE Online?  Actually, I explained that one away to myself, seeing EVE as sort of the bastard child of Stellar Emperor and EverQuest or some such.  And while TorilMUD is so powerful in my consciousness, would I have played it had it not been for Gemstone? Where does NBA Jams fit?  And what other Apple II games did I miss?  Should Ultima III be on there?  Lode Runner Karateka?

And somehow this all ties into my post about platforms and connectivity options I have had over the years.

Anyway, there is my list, and I stand firm behind it today.  Tomorrow I might change my mind.  You are welcome to consider this a meme and take up the challenge of figuring out your 15 most influential games.

Others who have attempted to pick their 15, each with their own history:

Looking Back at 2010 – Highs and Lows

Yesterday I looked forward to figure out where I might be headed in the new year, at least for MMOs. (There are some single and multi-player games on my list, but that is another post.)

Today, it is time to look back at what came to pass in 2010, or at least what came to pass in my little corner of the gaming world.

Lord of the Rings Online

Highs:

  • The instance group had a great summer diversion from WoW into Middle-earth.  LOTRO gets better every time I go back to it.
  • I had more fun than I probably should have playing with the music system in LOTRO.
  • The transition to Free to Play seemed to be mostly a good thing for the game.  There were a lot more people playing.  And Turbine has been adjusting what is free and what you need to purchase from the LOTRO Store based on feedback.
  • I feel quite satisfied, as a Lifetime Subscriber, as to how I was treated as part of the transition to F2P.

Lows:

  • Only four of us hit Middle-earth, and since there is no mentoring or “buy a level” method in LOTRO, there seems little likelihood that we will be able to carry on past where we stand with the whole group involved.
  • Still haven’t seen Moria yet. (Only 8 levels away though!)  And Mirkwood?

EverQuest

Highs:

  • It still lives!  And look at how many servers it still has!  Not bad considering its age.
  • Now has housing in what looks to be an interesting mix of the EQII and LOTRO approaches.  It is really well done, given the architecture and interface that EQ has been carrying along with it for nearly 12 years.
  • Server merges, once I could find my characters, beefed up the visible population somewhat.

Lows:

  • Only focused sustaining the current population, though that is probably both the right and practical choice.  It just makes me a little sad to have to admit that there just isn’t going to be any significant new player base.
  • Server populations feel pretty small even post-merger.  I suspect we’ll see another round soon.
  • The game is really feeling its age.  Every time I go back the interface feels older and more cobbled together.

EverQuest II

Highs:

  • EverQuest II Extended is bringing in enough people to its single server to make the game feel more alive than it has in a long, long time.
  • New Halas is a good starting area and if you follow the quest line all the way through, you get a mount as a quest reward.  One more for the “why didn’t you do that sooner?” list.
  • The integrated quest guide functionality really helps out in New Halas.
  • The basic New Halas housing makes the old single room cells we got as housing in the racial ghettos at launch seem like… well… single room cells. (Though they are now two-room cells these days.)
  • The Revelry and Honor guild hall (on Guk) is still awe inspiring, and in a much less game-lagging sort of way.

Lows:

  • EverQuest II Extended has effectively ended any possible influx of new players for the old EverQuest II servers.  How soon until EverQuest II live is just the Antonia Bayle server?
  • On the server with my main characters (Crushbone), nobody on my friends list or in either of my guilds is still playing.
  • The integrated quest guide appears to be a work in progress, at least in some of the older zones.
  • The rest of the New Halas housing looks just like the basic from what I have seen, with a room added here or there.  I’ll just stick with the basic.
  • Eyesore marketing.  EQII deserves better.
  • The Freeblood Station Cash Grab.  $65 for the race and all the accessories.
  • The loss of Stargrace as a subscriber.

TorilMUD

Highs:

  • TorilMUD is still up and running.  I’ve only been logging into it since the Fall of 1993.
  • ZMud still works for me on Windows 7!  More than a decade of triggers, scripts, and macros preserved a while longer!

Lows:

  • Oy, you think EverQuest or EverQuest II Live have population problems?

Star Trek Online

Highs-

  • It shipped!  A Star Trek MMO at last!
  • My classic NCC-1701 ship model looks great!  I love it!  I make original series sound effects whey I fly it!
  • Seems to be getting all sorts of of new episodic updates.

Lows –

  • Apparently it wasn’t the game I wanted.  If you ask me, I’ll tell you I like the game, and I’ll mean it when I say it, but I obviously can’t be trusted to speak the truth.  It is installed.  I keep it patched.  I never play. Damn.
  • Then there is the whole C-Store thing…

Civilization V

Highs-

  • Gets back to the series roots and what made my most favorite Civ game, Civ II, great.
  • Actually runs well on my new machine.

Lows-

  • Gets just as laborious to manage as you get closer to the end game (unless you’re losing badly) as Civ II
  • Ghandi the Terrible! (Supposed to be fixed with the latest patch)
  • Didn’t run at all on my old machine for no reason I could divine.
  • Individual Civs and tiny scenarios as for-pay downloadable content?  I’ll wait for a big Steam sale.  And then I’ll wait some more.

Total Annihilation

Highs-

Lows-

  • I still don’t have anybody to play against. (Same for Age of Kings, and I am so out of practice with StarCraft I get slaughtered by the sharks on BNet so fast it is scary.)

Pokemon

Highs:

Lows:

  • I still need 325,217 steps to max out the Pokewalker.  I wear the damn thing everywhere.  Obviously I need to walk more or rebuild the Pokewalker LEGO machine… and then hide it from the cats.
  • We didn’t get all of the download events they got in Japan. (Where is my special Celebi?)
  • WiFi co-op play in HeartGold and SoulSilver limited to battles.   I miss the underground from Diamond and Pearl.
  • Pokemon Ranch was no help at all.

Wii

Highs:

Lows:

  • The Wii, on the other hand, seems extremely taxed playing LEGO Harry Potter.  At first I thought there was something wrong with the game, but it is the Wii huffing and puffing trying to keep up. The LEGO games look much better on the XBox 360 or PS3.  It is time for some better hardware from Nintendo.
  • Netflix Streaming selection is still too small… and too random.  How do you make season 2 of a series available on streaming, but season 1 not?  I know, it is all in the licensing details, but they need to get those details worked out.
  • I totally suck at Super Mario Bros. Wii.  My daughter and her little pals play, and I am the one always in the bubble.

World of Warcraft

Highs-

  • The instance group is back together in Azeroth
  • I can fly in old Azeroth! OMFG that is so worth it!  Especially with my druid.
  • An all new race to play, redone level 1-60 content to go through, including updated instances, plus guilds have levels and achievements that give access to interesting things.
  • With only five levels to cap out, I am taking it easy and enjoying the new content.
  • The game is still smooth and polished and a lot of fun to play with my friends and family.

Lows-

  • Once the instance group hits 60, there are 20 levels of unchanged content between us and the next new thing.
  • Level 85 seems to come awfully quick for most.  Nobody else seems to be taking it easy.
  • Can’t fly in some parts of meso and neo Azeroth.
  • Guild levels come very slowly for small guilds.  I think we’re 25% of the way to level 2.  Achievements are also easier for bigger guilds.
  • More reputation grinds… including one with your own damn guild!  I helped found the guild five years ago, and now I’m neutral with it?
  • Gear inflation – my best welfare epics: Gearscore 245.  My first green drop at Mt. Hyjal: Gearscore 272.  My hunter gained a base 100 DPS rating by trading in his blue gun for the first green quest reward gun.
  • Wintergrasp is dead… and when it isn’t, I end up getting owned by level 85s with gearscores that seem to be an order of magnitude above my own.

Blizzard in General

Highs:

  • Still the brightest star in the PC games sales chart, with booming sales of StarCraft II and Cataclysm.
  • Hasn’t been completely destroyed by Bobby Kotick yet.
  • Tenacious D – Completely uncensored at BlizzCon.  Told my daughter she could watch until the first swear word.  She barely got to watch a minute.
  • Gave Red Shirt guy his due.

Lows:

  • Didn’t ship Diablo III… or give us a release date.
  • Didn’t tell us a damn thing at BlizzCon.  We had to find stuff out this way.
  • Forcing RealID on users who want to post to the forums?  That didn’t piss anybody off
  • RealID and Facebook integration plans in general.
  • I still hate the new BNet Parental Controls window.  Firefox doesn’t seem to like it either.  There may be a correlation.
  • It is starting to get easier to count the people I know who play WoW and who HAVEN’T had their accounts hacked.
  • Still no cast list for the Warcraft movie.

Facebook

Highs:

  • Family Feud – Comes in great, bite-sized doses and you can help your friends score more… or embarrass yourself in front of them.  The answers piss you off, but in a good way.  You feel smarter than your fellow man and woman.
  • Warzone Tower Defense – In the MindJolt section, it isn’t really a Facebook game, you can play it other places, but I first found it on Facebook.  It is fun.

Lows:

Other Semi-Related Items

Highs:

  • Scott Hartsman’s back and looking like all win with Rift
  • Duke Nukem (and 2K Games) might have the last laugh after all.  Hail to the chief, baby!
  • The MMO market in general looks like it is in for an uptick in the coming year.
  • EALouse get’s it all off his chest.  I’m not sure any of it was a surprise though.

Lows:

  • APB… I blinked and missed it.
  • MassiveBlips, gone… and probably forgotten.  Who will continue to decide who runs the #1 WoW blog?
  • For what seemed like forever this past Spring and Summer, Derek Smart and David Allen just could not shut up.  Well, at least until somebody got paid off and went away quietly.  (Okay, it was like Jerry Springer, we decried it, but we couldn’t look away.)
  • The EALouse comment thread makes Derek and David look like the pinnacle politeness and restraint.

The Blog

Highs:

  • Lots of great comments from the regular readership.  Tobold has a point, being less popular generally begets better quality.  There is probably a lesson in that which applies outside of blogging.
  • Very little trollish behavior aside from SynCaine… and he can’t help it, he just foams at the mouth when somebody says “World of Warcraft.”
  • Still writing regularly after more than four years.
  • Writing and recording stuff that I enjoy going back and looking at years later, which was my main goal for the site.  This is my gaming memory.
  • A very high complement and honor paid to me in the form of a mention from Massively.  Thank you so very much.

Low:

  • I have a backlog of things I want to write about, much of which I fear I will never get to or, worse, that I’ll simply forget.
  • I never got to a bunch of things that were somewhat topical and have since lost some meaning, but which I should have recorded at the time, if only for context.
  • My most popular posts this year involved a World Cup predicting octopus, Talking Cats Playing Patty Cake, and Blood Elf Porn.  Now you know the secret to popularity.
  • I still cannot find another WordPress.com theme that I like better than Regulus.  Not that I need to change, but something in my keeps looking. (Something in that probably explains men.)
  • I looked at my site the other day without being logged in and saw the ads that WordPress.com slips in for the readers.  Gold seller ads.  I swear, I didn’t know.

And that was about it for 2010, wasn’t it?  Thank you all for being involved!

Now what highs or lows did I miss in my myopia?

It Is Total Annihilation!

After getting Civilization V through Steam, I had started digging around through their store to see what else they might have on hand.  There were some older games, a few that I thought I might like to go back and revisit.  As SynCaine mentioned the other day, the game has changed.

Still, there is a lot to plow through on Steam, so I sat down and made a short list of games I’d like to find there.

At the top of the list was Total Annihilation, probably my favorite RTS of all time.

Of course, I actually own the game already.  I have the main CD and the two expansions, all of which are over 10 years old.  And because they are that old, they are a bit of a pain to install.

You have to install the base game first, then the two expansions.  But you have to install the expansions in the right order or everything gets mucked up, and I can never remember which is the right order.

Then there are patches to go find and units released by Cavedog as post GA downloadable content to track down in order to get the full package.  There used to be a great site that had everything centrally located, but it has been down for a few years.

So I would have gladly dropped some cash to get a Steam installed version that put the whole thing together for me.

However, it was not on Steam.  Frankly none of my list was on Steam, but I’ll get to that in another post.

In digging around though, I did find Total Annihilation over at Stardock.

They too have a Steam-like service and a small library of games, including TA for just $9.99.

$10 was a no-brainer.  I would have paid more.  And I don’t even have to pop the CD in the drive to play.


I gather from the logo and what I have read that Atari ended up in possession of the rights to the game.

And, true to my expectations, the install did lay down all of the content, patches, and what not.

I am not exactly thrilled to have to have installed another Steam-like client on my system.  Stardock’s client, Impulse, isn’t quite as intrusive as Steam, but it also isn’t as polished.  I suppose one pays for the other.

I was also able to dig out my old Stardock account information, so I actually have access to Galactic Civilizations I and II again now as well.

Now I just have to find a site for maps.  There used to be some great maps for the game.

That and an updated AI.

There used to be a vicious AI that would start dropping nukes on you at about the 15 minute mark in a skirmish.

More stuff to find.  Who has a good Total Annihilation site up their sleeve?

Retro Imperialism

After getting StarCraft out the other week and giving it a run, Potshot and I started discussing one of our more favored RTS games, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.

Not to diminish StarCraft, which is an incredibly polished and well balanced game, but to me there was always a greater sense of depth and immersion when playing Age of Kings. And the variety of different empires represented lent themselves to different strategies.

So after a bit of searching on Friday evening, I came up with the CDs for both Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings and the expansion, Age of Empires II: The Conquerors. They installed smoothly.  Getting them patched to the latest version was not hard either.  Looking a the Microsoft sites for Age of Kings and The Conquerors, you can tell that they have not done much with the games over the last seven years of so. You especially have to love the banner ads on the Age of Kings site.

xbox2001

Both the game and the expansion installed and ran fine, neither taking up too much space or resources. System requirements have come a long way since the game shipped.

  • Multimedia PC with Pentium 166MHz or higher processor.
  • Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 5 operating system.
  • 32 MB of RAM
  • 200 MB of hard disk space; additional 100 MB of hard disk space for swap file.
  • Super VGA monitor supporting 800×600 resolution.
  • Local bus video card that supports 800×600, 256 color resolution and 2 MB of VRAM
  • Quad-speed CD-ROM drive.
  • Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device.
  • 28.8Kbps modem (or higher recommended) for internet or head-to-head play.
  • Audio board with speakers or headphones.
  • To access the MSN Gaming Zone you need Internet Explorer 3.02 or later software or Netscape Communicator 4.0 or later.
  •  

     

I like that they felt the need to specify a mouse in the system requirements. It reminds me of a Windows 95 class taught at one of the local Community Colleges back in the day. The class was to be taught on machines with no mouse attached. The instructor was a bit old school and was not convinced of the long term viability of the mouse as a computer input device, so he wanted to make sure his class was prepared for the day when we got over this mouse thing and got back to the only input device that really mattered; the keyboard.  But I digress.

A test run against the AI showed that the game itself ran very well on my current machine.  And, unlike StarCraft or Diablo II, Age of Kings actually supports a game resolution of 1280×1024.  I actually have an LCD monitor in a closet with a native resolution of 1280×1024.  So the graphics are less pixellated that the other two games.

Later in the evening, Potshot caught me online and we started trying to coordinate a game, and then the fun began.

Blizzard has run Battle.net for the last 12 years to facilitate the connectivity of their games over the internet despite the fact that they haven’t shipped a game that has required that service for the last six years.  So when the retro urge hits, you can get out Diablo, Diablo II, StarCraft, etc. and get connect with your friends in an environment that simulates all the lag and issues you remember from the good old days.  But at least the option exists.

By comparison, Microsoft has been less resolute.  The so-called MSN Gaming Zone referred to in the requirements, and which has had a variety of names, ceased supporting connectivity for games like Age of Kings about three years ago.  So unless you are on the same LAN as the person you are playing, getting connected for a match can be a challenge.

Still, there are a couple of services that have attempted to pick up the ball dropped by Microsoft.  The first one we tried was International Gaming Zones.

That did not go so well.  Their client didn’t seem to like that I installed the game somewhere other than the default directory.  There was a good deal of tinkering with routers required.  And when that was done, there was some sort of problem with the Age of Kings client application.  To their credit IGZones had a write up and a patch regarding that last problem, but even with the patch applied and verified we could not get a game going.  After an hour of that we moved on.

We then spent some time trying to establish a direct connection between our machines.  That involved a lot more fruitless tinkering with routers and putting machines into the DMZ and generally not getting anywhere.  After enough of that I grabbed the next site that promised to support multiplayer Age of Kings game play, GameRanger.

GameRanger seems to have focused on simplicity of function because we were able to download it, create accounts, and get it to work in about five minutes.  We were actually playing.

Again, I almost remember build order...

Again, I almost remember my build order...

Then, after about 10 minutes of play, when we were poised to get stuck into each other, we got disconnected.

Overall, an uncanny recreation of the original Age of Kings “over the internet” play experience.

At that point it was after midnight.  We declared limited success and vowed that our empires would clash again at some future date.

So now I have had out, on successive weekends, two of my three favorite RTS games of all time.  The only one that remains is Total Annihilation.

But even getting Total Annihilation installed is a challenge in and of itself, assuming you can get your hands on the various patches and updates.  A task for another weekend I think.