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.

Quote from Reddit

ELI5: Why do 5-year-olds (and under) like to watch the same movie every day for months at a time?

One of the things that “Fun” is, is being able to predict a result, and see that prediction be validated.

As a child, they’re still learning a lot of things, so much is not understood and unpredictable. A movie or a show gives them the ability to think about what is going to happen, and then have the show confirm the result.

As an adult, we have learned a lot of things. Our ability to predict the result is not fun because it’s not surprising. The kids shows are simple and predictable, and the joy that we get from confirmation of that prediction is minor because it’s a certainty.

As an adult, I find myself watching the same shows with my daughter over and over. I find myself looking for details, whether it’s trying to build a map of the island in my head in Puffin Rock, or pick out the individual theme songs of the various creatures in Dinosaur Train. Or finding patterns that show changes in the show’s production. I do this because I’m searching for fun, though it’s a bit more work on my behalf, but it’s essentially the same thing that my daughter finds fun in on the surface.

I have a method of guessing what the result is going to be. I know early in the season the production is less regular about playing the theme music for the characters, but has more location and mood based music, while later in the season the character music is dominant, less music is written, and it’s generally more thematic. So early in the season they have music for watching the sun set or walking around on the train, or exploring a new place. Later in the season the music follows the person talking, or it’s the intro theme to the type of story it is (under the sea for instance), but you rarely see music that imparts mood or minor activities, and there’s less music written for a specific incident in a single episode.

I like watching shows with my daughter, I’ve never been the person to just sit her down in front of the TV and go and do my own thing. This means I get to see this, and struggle to find something that interests me. But I still do the same thing, recognize the pattern, predict the result, and feel good when I’m right. For my daughter, it’s the same, but the pattern that she recognizes is trivial to me.

I think it’s very similar to how you develop a taste for music. If you’re unfamiliar with a genre of music, it’s the more ‘pop’ type of music that is appealing. The more popular music is generally simpler, so the patterns are easy to see and predict and get validation for quickly. These kinds of songs are catchy and easy to sing along to even the first time you hear them. It’s kind of fun when a song has a part that you can sing along to, because you can quickly make the prediction that the next verse is going to sound like this one, and get validated. You’re smart, you figured out the pattern.

But as you get more interested in the genre, that catchy music gets dull. It’s predictable. It’s boring. There are other genres of music that have more complex elements to them, but which are common to the genre or the artist. You start to learn these elements and can predict them, and that’s exciting and fun, and you’re understanding it in a deeper way than you could before. As you get deeper into the understanding of these mechanics, you start to appreciate things that a naive observer wouldn’t even have the basis to understand.

This results in things like appreciation of art that is like 4 bands of color but people are willing to buy it for 75 million dollars. Because the people who are looking at it and appreciating it have so much more background that they’re using to evaluate the piece. The naive observer can’t start to even relate to the people who love it. At the same time, the people who love it can’t really relate to the people who appreciate much more accessible amateur art.

The child likes the same movie every day because there’s a lot for them to get out of it.

The adult is just way past the child in terms of what is filtered out and what is remembered and how easily it’s remembered, and how predictable the outcomes of the characters in a children’s show will be that they run out of that excitement quickly, and essentially can’t appreciate it at the same level as a child.

In the same way, many adult shows, with their level of complexity and nuance, can be very boring and confusing to a child because they don’t have the tools to learn and make these predictions and be rewarded for them.

Layering it can help. For instance, if my daughter were to watch a television show that had in the background a bit of a backstory that took a bit of work to put together, created out of hints and things at the periphery of the action, then it would be kind of fun to watch it over and over. The first time through the series you might pick up on some of those subtleties, and then over the course of watching it a few times you might be able to put together what’s really going on behind the scenes. Meanwhile, the child might not even be aware of that deeper story, they can enjoy the basic story.

Peppa Pig does this a bit by cheekily using Ms. Rabbit for pretty much every odd job out there. In something like Paw Patrol, my wife and I have made up backstories to explain away Ryder’s resources, and Mayor Goodway’s incompetence. One idea is Ryder is a juvenile god who is practicing at creating his own world. Another is that it’s a bit of a Coma dream where Ryder fell into a coma during the messy divorce of his parents, represented by Mayor Goodway and Mayor Hummdinger.

But what I’m searching for by playing these little games and taking note of these meta-details is basically the same thing as my daughter gets. And it’s a lot of the same types of content that is directly served to me by a show like Westworld.

Note that some of the movies or shows that you as an adult might like to watch multiple times are typically because there are new things you might learn every time you watch them. Consider also that kids are just a lot less skilled at picking up on those things in the same way, so they can watch the same thing over and over and continue to build on their understanding of it.

It’s not every video. Give a child a show that is a simple 3 minute video and try and have them watch it every day for an hour. You’ll still have a hard time keeping their attention for the first hour. They’ll get bored because there’s nothing new for them to figure out.zeidrich, /r/explainlikeimfive/

The original thread is here.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 4

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This is part 4 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. Part 1 is here in case you missed the beginning of it.

May 2005

Izz from our guild (a level 42 Priest) and I went to Arathi Highlands where I managed to close a couple of elite quests. First we killed the stone giant Fozruk (he was easier than I thought) and then we entered Stromgarde Keep to get the artifacts in the tower. Here we found a Paladin and a Warrior had just wiped. I resurrected them both, and as thanks they helped us both get the artifacts. It’s in situations like these that the game really shines and shows when an online game can be really fascinating.1 May 2005

One thing I have skipped so far is that I wanted Bricaard to be a great enchanter. I had increased this skill meticulously by disenchanting a lot of gear and buying materials from the auction house.

I managed to buy the final reagents at the auction house and was ready for a trip to Uldaman to reach the enchanting master. Degaul and Sebastianus from my guild lent me a hand, and we quickly found the inconveniently placed woman. I bought the artisan level and trained from 225 to 250 using the reagents, thereby squeezing all the recipes available out of her. Nice keeping it to just one trip.3 May 2005

After a few short visits here and there in Azeroth, I went to Hinterlands and picked up quests. The town Aerie Peak used new building prefabs I hadn’t seen before. There were planes and tanks inside. I killed trolls and found a lot of feathers. After delivering the quests I dinged to level 51 and was finally able to get the new buff spell Blessing of Kings. It could increase all the attributes of a player with 10%.

My Endeavors in World of Warcraft, Part 3

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This is part 3 in a continuous series about my time in World of Warcraft, from when I started playing in 2005 and onwards. Part 1 is here in case you missed the beginning of it.

April 2005

I bought some plate armor at the auction. My level 40 paladin now had more than 2000 hit points and was getting close to 3000 armor. I redefined the keys Q for my mount and E for Seal of Command.

Along with Danes from my current guild we started a chain of runs in Scarlet Monastery, a big place that was split up in several smaller dungeon instances. The journey there was actually quite a hassle. We started in Southshore, rode past the magical sphere of Dalaran, swam through a lake with small islands, then rode through a low-level Horde zone with a couple of lethal “Level ??” PvP soldiers on our tails.

First we visited the Graveyard (the smallest with no quests) and then the Library. It went well for a while but on the way out we pulled too many. Here I tried using Divine Intervention, a timed shield of immunity to protect another player from harm while the enemies run back. Throwing this spell was always a suicide on my part and the other player was then supposed to revive the fallen party members afterwards.

Unfortunately the guildies didn’t know about this mechanism and we just wiped anyway.

Another not so cool thing was that our pulling player did so using his character instead of a ranged weapon or spell. Nevertheless it went better in the Armory and we even killed the boss Herod. As he died it started pouring in with several dozens of additional enemies, but luckily they were not elite and could be exterminated with area of effect (AOE) spells. We did okay – but there was still a lot to learn.