Transistor

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Imagine if you took an isometric action RPG with a smattering of Robotron, changed the action to be mostly like V.A.T.S. from e.g. Fallout 4, added great Art Deco parallax graphics, a sword with staccato comments, and atmospheric music that often have singing on top as well – and you basically have Transistor.

It took me about 6 hours to complete this one but I was seriously considering abandoning it after an hour or two. The combat was innovative and polished but was still problematic for me. The gist of the game is a turn-based part where you stack “functions” (abilities) in a limited queue and them fire them off with super speed, making you feel like The Flash. Then comes the sour part. The queue needs some time to recharge itself and you are extremely vulnerable as things are now real-time. Because of the huddling nature of the confined combat areas, it’s easy to get pummeled left and right, even when zapping around with a teleport ability I earned early in the game. This goes back to me wanting to kill as many off fast as possible, and if my queue doesn’t deliver enough damage, I may take too much damage in the real-time part. Emptying the health bar temporarily burns out an ability slot, forcing me to use other means of attacking. Burning out all attacks of course means death.

For most of the game, this system just didn’t click with me.

Diary Games: Outcast

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This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the many games I played from 2000 and onwards, translated and adapted from Danish.

All images are courtesy of MobyGames and shows the best 512×384 resolution.

April 19, 2001

I’ve had the original CD-ROM of Outcast for a while, but my DVD drive wouldn’t acknowledge it. Now I had a plan. First I installed a 317 MB alternative version from a “collection” and ran it. It started without problems but was very limited – no speech, no movies, no CD audio music. Then I renamed the folder and installed the original CD version. As usual it wouldn’t recognize my DVD drive. I then copied the executable file over from the limited version and hey presto; I now had an original that worked with my DVD drive with all music, movies and speech intact. Then I deleted the limited version.

Played a little bit of the game. I managed to get through the training level in the beginning where I had to sneak past my teacher Jan. The game had to be run in the penultimate resolution of 400×300. The best, which was 512×384 or something like that, was stuttering too much. Somewhat disappointing on a 1,2 GHz PC, but at least it ran reasonably well in 400×300 with all graphical details set to high. The game looks old fashioned today because of the low resolution, but I also know that it’s a long and challenging game. Some reviewers say 50+ hours – try comparing that to the 10-15 hours of Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.². There are also sub quests and even sub quests within sub quests. It might make the game confusing and introduce the non-linearity I’m not comfortable with yet.

Nevertheless I will now give it a chance and then we’ll see. I paid a lot of money for the original game.

Quote from Reddit

I asked my grandpa what it felt like to grow old. Grandpa is a man who will deliberate on which part of the newspaper to start with each morning, so I knew my question would take him some time to answer. I said nothing. I let him gather his thoughts.

When I was a boy, Grandpa had once complimented me on this habit. He told me it was good that I asked a question and gave a person silence. And being that any compliment from him was so few and far between, this habit soon became a part of my personality and one that served me well.

Grandpa stared out the window and looked at the empty bird feeder that hung from an overgrown tree next to the pond he built in the spring of 1993. For twenty years, Grandpa filled up the feeder each evening. But he stopped doing it last winter when walking became too difficult for him.

Without ever taking his eyes from the window, he asked me a question: “Have you ever been in a hot shower when the water ran cold?” I told him I had.

“That’s what aging feels like. In the beginning of your life it’s like you’re standing in a hot shower. At first the water is too warm, but you eventually grow used to the heat and begin enjoying it. But you take it for granted when you’re young and think it’s going to be this way forever. Life goes on like this for some time.”

Grandpa looked at me with those eyes that had seen so much change in this world. He smiled and winked at me.

“And if you’re lucky, a few good looking women will join you in the shower from time to time.”

We laughed. He looked out the window and continued on.

“You begin to feel it in your forties and fifties. The water temperature declines just the slightest bit. It’s almost imperceptible, but you know it happened and you know what it means. You try to pretend like you didn’t feel it, but you still turn the faucet up to stay warm. But the water keeps going lukewarm. One day you realize the faucet can’t go any further, and from here on out the temperature begins to drop. And everyday you feel the warmth gradually leaving your body.”

Grandpa cleared his throat and pulled a stained handkerchief from his flannel shirt pocket. He blew his nose, balled up the handkerchief, and put it back in his pocket.

“It’s a rather helpless feeling, truth told. The water is still pleasant, but you know it will soon become cold and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is the point when some people decide to leave the shower on their own terms. They know it’s never going to get warmer, so why prolong the inevitable? I was able to stay in because I contented myself recalling the showers of my youth. I lived a good life, but still wish I hadn’t taken my youth for granted. But it’s too late now. No matter how hard I try, I know I’ll never get the hot water back on again.”

He paused for a few moments and kept looking out the window with those eyes that had seen ninety-one years on this Earth. Those eyes that lived through the Great Depression, those eyes that beheld the Pacific Ocean in World War II, those eyes that saw the birth of his three children, five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

He had indeed lived a good life, I thought to myself.

“And that’s what it feels like to grow old.”Sozaiix3, /r/AskReddit/

The post I got this from is here. Sozaiix3 is not the originator but the source has since vanished.

Diary Games: The Beginning of the Millennium

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This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the many games I played from 2000 and onwards, translated and adapted from Danish.

In fact, this is the very first one with the first play sessions in 2000. As is the case with so many hobbies just like this one, it started in a casual manner and only gradually became more serious. It wasn’t like hitting a switch and suddenly I was writing hundreds of lines in each session.

I started writing diaries about my life in 1996 and have kept it up since then. Games were rarely mentioned as something I played one evening. I wasn’t really into gaming until I had sort of an epiphany with Gunman Chronicles, as you can read here below. In the end of the 90’s, it was mostly about coding and composing. I did complete Rama, Sanitarium and the first three Tomb Raider games in the end of the 90’s, but their sessions were sometimes months apart and the comments very brief.

Although better for the following ten games, the descriptions are still plain and the details few. However, it gets a lot more interesting in later blog posts as I dig deeper into my diaries. Later I also started grabbing my own screenshots, but for this blog post they are all courtesy of MobyGames.

Game Boy Music by Drax

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Thomas Mogensen not only composed a ton of awesome C64 tunes, he also composed for a few Game Boy Color games in the late 90’s. This page contains all the work he has done, including demo tunes.

The process of creating these tunes actually began in FastTracker 2. Thomas composed the tunes using samples from a Game Boy Color. The saved XM files were then converted to Game Boy Color binaries using a tool coded by Thomas Egeskov Petersen. The Game Boy Color hardware has two square wave channels, one wave channel, and one noise channel, but note that most in-game level tunes only use two voices.

Everything has been converted from the original XM files to MP3 for easy listening.

Alone in Space

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Developer: Butterflyware | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

I completed this first person action adventure in less than 4 hours. I woke up alone in a desolated space station on a stormy planet and had to find my way off. There was an abundance of corridors with tilted chairs and a ton of boxes that gave the game a very samey look. Most of the areas were mazes and there were connect or sliding puzzles to open doors, pass codes to find in big widescreen log screens, stationary lasers to cut doors open, sizzling magenta anomalies to traverse carefully, and much more.

I’ve seen reviewers on Steam pushing down the walking simulator stamp, but that’s not fair. Yes, there are sizable periods of time where you’re not doing much else than traverse a maze, but there are enough puzzles and dangerous passages to make it a real game. In fact, some of the dangerous passages even got me quite aggravated. There are no monsters or humans to be found, but the anomalies zapped me dead until I figured out how to throw down a metal bolt step by step to find my way through the parts that didn’t zap me. There was also a section with flaming gas leaks where I kept coughing and had to crouch or close rooms to kill the flames, and enough coughing meant death. Lightning could sometimes zap me dead in a corridor if my timing was off. There were a couple of sections with the air being sucked out fast.

And of course, don’t get in front of a stationary laser.

Quote from Reddit

[The Matrix] was a good movie, but the Wachowskis could have made it a much better mind fuck.

Mind fuck #1:

Smith explains to Neo that Morpheus has it all wrong. Humans made the world uninhabitable and the robots are saving the human race in the only way they can. That business of harvesting humans for energy doesn’t even make sense. Someday, the world will be habitable again and the human race can come out of its pods.

Smith doesn’t hate humans, he just hates Morpheus and his gang of vandals because they’re interfering with the work of saving the human race. The robots look at Morpheus the way doctors look at anti-vaxxers during a measles epidemic.

Now Neo has to figure out who’s telling the truth.

Mind fuck #2:

At the end of the second movie, Neo uses his magic matrix powers to knock down some robots, even though that shouldn’t be possible outside the matrix. This is never explained.

My explanation: Zion is just another matrix. One created to house the humans who are too paranoid to accept life in the main matrix. This is hinted at by Smith, who points out that the original matrix was too nice, and people didn’t believe it. (“We lost entire crops.”). Actually, that first “paradise” matrix still exists, and most people still live there. Neo’s matrix only houses that portion of humanity that couldn’t handle paradise. Zion houses the people who can’t even handle the mundane matrix.

So the third movie should have been about Neo solving the riddle of the Zion matrix. I wonder if the Wachowskis originally had this in mind, but chickened out.capilot, /r/AskReddit/

The original thread is here.

Technobabylon

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Developer: Technocrat Games | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

This was an excellent AGS cyberpunk adventure game, at least as good as (if not better than) Beneath a Steel Sky and Gemini Rue. After the fifth Broken Sword I thought I was through with adventure games, but this game managed to fondle gray adventure cells I thought had gone extinct. All it took was the right futuristic setting, the right story, and the right puzzles – along with great voice acting.

Part of the reason I liked this game so much was also that none of the areas (or chapters) were too big. Less than half a dozen screens and for the most part even less than that. The inventory was usually also small, rarely were there enough items to make a second page necessary. It made for a nice balance where nothing felt too difficult, yet it wasn’t so easy that I could just stroll along.

That being said, I never felt the need for a walkthrough.

Backlog/Checklist Web Sites for Video Games

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As a creator of a backlog/checklist web site for video games myself, of course I need to keep track of what the competition looks like. It’s only natural to check out whether your own stuff can hold its own. Sure, I have a ton of my own ideas, but maybe a site supports something I hadn’t thought of.

Besides, I can see in my activity log they are also checking out my site. What goes around.

But what really is a shame is how unknown these kinds of sites are. Apart from the two usual suspects, Backloggery and HowLongToBeat, it truly is a niche. Whenever someone talks about the concept in forum threads, you can be sure that at least one of those two sites will be mentioned. Anyone else among truly nice sites are practically never linked to, unless a lonesome cowboy fan happens to stop by.

So I’ve decided to list what I have found during these years, no matter how it may affect visitor retention on my own site. I’ll try to keep the listing of sites relatively objective since I’m a player too.

Into the Mists of Pandaria

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So I finally gave in and went back to World of Warcraft to check out Mists of Pandaria – the expansion right after Cataclysm. Curiosity and nostalgia got the better of me. Last I played this game was about 6 years ago. In fact, the last report about it should be right here in the 2011 line of blog posts.

If you’re wondering how it’s like to level from 85 in 2017, in a time where two more expansions may have affected the balance of health and damage, look no further. It was all solo – no dungeons or raids.

And I can say right off the bat that it was too easy, even for a jellyfish like me. I can’t for logical reasons say if it was always like this or if the two later expansions and all their patches have affected the balance. I sure hope it was harder when the expansion arrived in 2012. I played my main Retribution Paladin and I could kill almost all solo enemies in approximately two ability attacks. Typically a judgment and then a follow-up. Solo enemies also did really weak damage to me, typically a total of much less than 10%. I rarely bothered with healing spells, food or bandages. The only place where it felt like Blizzard finally turned the tides was right after going through the wall gate into the north area of Townlong Steppes. There were a few mobs here that actually smacked my health bar down for me to see an actual gap.

But alas, it turned out to be the exception that proved the rule.