Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Halo 2, Duke Nukem 3D, Halo 3, Universe at War

Halo 2: Finished it on Easy. I think Bungie made a mistake in having the narrative switch tracks (between Master Chief and the Arbiter) every couple of chapters. It makes it significantly harder to follow the story. I could and did follow it, but it took more effort.

This sort of thing works in movies because they have more frequent switches. This prevents the viewer from forgetting what happened in one track while following another. The Empire Strikes Back and the last two movies of The Matrix trilogy exemplify this technique done well.

Games have playtimes too lengthy for this to work well. I think Bungie recognized this and corrected it in Halo 3, where the player becomes the Master Chief for the entire game.

Bungie could have made this work in Halo 2 by turning the Arbiter's chapters into short cutscenes. But that would have meant cutting the game's length by a lot, which would have not gone over well with many reviewers and players.

Duke Nukem 3D: I bought it on Xbox Live Arcade. It plays and looks just as I remember it. All the humor and gory gibbing remains intact, as do the low-resolution textures. I could wish for the high-res mod, but understand that licensing issues likely prevented them from including it.

Halo 3:: I finished it on Easy, so my comfort gaming ends - for now. For my next such experience I expect I'll play through the Half-Life series, including Portal.

Universe at War: Earth Assault: After finishing Halo 3, I started this game again. I began from the tutorial mission in order to re-learn the controls. The next night I played through the two Earth faction missions and the first Novus mission (take down a Hierarchy walker). The game seems fun, but the controls strike me as complicated and hard to remember. I may have to replay the tutorial mission once or twice to memorize them.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gamer's Diary - GTA Vice City Stories, Halo, Universe at War, Halo 2

Issues in Real Life (work, chemo, surgery) kept me from playing as much as I'd like, though the hospital visit through some strange business accounting magic gave me this past weekend completely free.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories: I played this in the hospital, mostly because I remembered to bring my portable games, and forgot the books I wanted to read. I find it fun, although the quad bike race seemed gratuitous and frustrating. It struck me as one of those game tasks one grits one's teeth and soldiers through in order to get to the next fun bit.

Halo: Combat Evolved: Upon getting home from the hospital, I wanted to play, but nothing too taxing. So I loaded Halo and restarted the game on easy. I think of it as 'comfort gaming'. Fun as always. On easy the story stands out better than on the more difficult levels. I finished it over the weekend, with a short side trip to Universe at War: Earth Assault.

Universe at War: Earth Assault: Later I felt a little more ambitious, so I started playing UaW:EA the next entry on my wanna list. I only got through the video tutorials and the tutorial level, so I can't say yet what fun it may contain. The controls seem pretty good though.

Halo 2: More comfort gaming, with a restart of the game on Easy. Haven't finished it yet. After I do, I'll replay Halo 3.

Gamer's Diary - LAN Party

Saturday the 13th I attended a LAN party that a co-worker holds at irregular intervals. I arrived first, dropped off homemade chocolate-chip cookies and fudge, set up my pc, and futzed about on the Internet until playtime.

I missed the last few games because I needed to leave early (work next day, and fatigue from chemotherapy), but participated in the majority of sessions. Of the games we played, I participated in:

  • Serious Sam II
  • Team Fortress 2
  • Star Trek Elite Force II
  • Far Cry
  • Flatout 2
  • Painkiller
Everybody else had started playing Tron 2.0 when I left.

The host added animation to the proceedings with exultant laughs, curses and insults hurled at other players. He did it all in a spirit of fun, of course, and others hurled just as much back, but at lower volume.

Everyone had a good time with a minimum of technical issues, making the LAN party a success.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Too Human

I may have spoken too soon about beam weapons. I still favor them, but the latest enemies I've come up against seem nearly immune to them. I've seen the Valkyrie animation a lot lately.

A tip: Shoot the floating fat undead guys. They come with an army of nigh-invincible undead soldiers. Once you dispatch the leader, most of the soldiers seem to disappear, and you can kill those left much easier. I think the floating fat guy keeps them alive.

I found it difficult to target the floaters from within their army, but distance makes it much easier. Distance also makes it easier to kill them as guns have a longer range than the floaters' area attack.

I have finished the game. I had a very difficult time trying to take down Hel. I think the problem consisted of me dying so often that my weapons and armor all had zero state. In that condition I could not inflict any damage on Hell. The next time I played I repaired everything and re-spec'ed my skill tree. After that I successfully got to the final battle with weapons and armor in non-zero state. Then she went down in pretty short order.

I have one complaint about the game, something that all the reviewers seemed to miss: The game (with tutorials on) does not adequately educate the player in how things work, especially charms and battlecries and the skill tree. That information may reside in the manual (I haven't read it yet), but players should have it all available to them in-game.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Too Human

I've played this off and on for the last several days. Not a lot new to report, except that the story does make sense to me (so far), and that some of the weapons and armor you can get at levels starting in the mid teens deserve the term "sweet". And beam weapons (like the "silver beam cannon of rooting" or the "honed pulse rifle of hypnosis") rock. And cyborg zombies? Too cool.