Friday, February 27, 2009

Gamer's Diary 2009-02-13

Tuesday I started going through my Steam games in alphabetical order. I successfully got Half-Life, Half-Life: Blue Shift, and Half-Life 2: Lost Coast installed and running. To cap the evening off, I gave Fallout 2 a brief try (which I'd forgotten on Friday), and it ran beautifully.

Wednesday I installed and ran Darwinia (for which I found a native Linux executable), and Half-Life: Opposing Force.

Then on Thursday I tried to get Team Fortress 2 to install and run, but Steam refused to unpack the game files, instead giving me the all too familiar error message, "This game is currently unavailable. Please try again later." I had no luck getting past it, but I haven't run out of things to try yet.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gamer's Diary 2009-02-10

Over the weekend I started a new gaming project: Get most of my PC games working in Linux, so I would only rarely have to reboot to Windows. Along the way I play-tested each game to see if it worked, so I played a lot of games.

Friday night I got the Good Old Games versions of Fallout and Fallout 2 installed in Crossover Linux Professional. I play-tested Fallout, and it ran great.

I also installed Frederik Pohl's Gateway and Gateway II: Homeworld, a couple of old DOS games that were made freeware by the publisher before it went under. These I installed in DosBox, a program for many platforms (including Linux and Windows) that emulates a PC running MS-DOS, and used DBGL to make them easily launchable. They ran very well in Linux.

I did not, however, play enough of any of the four games to form an impression of them. I'll write about them when I've played more of them.

Saturday I reinstalled Crossover Games, then installed Steam in it and started trying again to get my Steam games running in Linux. I had success in installing X-COM: UFO Defense and Half-Life and getting both to run properly, but Half-Life 2 was another story - and not a happy one.

It kept hanging after the initial loading screen. I tried many different combinations of command-line and in-game video options, to no avail. Finally I gave up and called it a night.

Sunday I tried varying my video driver - again without success - until I remembered that the way to deal with proprietary ATI video drivers in Linux is to use Envy. So I did, and noticed during the installation process that Envy relinked the driver to the Linux kernel. Aha! This was why I'd been experiencing issues with video for a while; I'd updated my kernel a couple of times since I last installed the video driver, and now they were out of sync.

After I updated the video driver, Half-Life 2 started working. Steam didn't work that well though; I started getting "server too busy" when trying to download a game, and "application unavailable" when trying to launch one. I managed to find workarounds for both problems, and command-line options that worked reasonably well for running the game, but eventually encountered settings that hung the game and prevented me from getting back to Linux. So I did a hard reset of my PC, and after that Crossover Games didn't work right. So I uninstalled it, reinstalled it, and started the painful downloading process once again.

Monday I tried Half-Life 2 again, without much luck, and decided instead to focus on getting two kinds of games to work: single player games I don't have on other platforms, and multiplayer games. So I gave up on Half-Life 2 and instead tried to run Half-Life 2 Deathmatch.

Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to work either. It simply refused to go past the menu screen and start a match. So I gave up on it too. When I'm at a lan party, I'll just have to boot Windows.

Gamer's Diary 2009-02-06

Last night I picked up four used games, and gave each a try:

God of War: Chains of Olympus for PSP scratches the same itch that its PS2 brethren do. It looks and plays just as good as them. After I finish God of War II, I'll be playing this one.

Sadly, it has one of my most-hated game features, quick-time events. It appears to be a staple of the God of War series. Fortunately, these games contain the least obnoxious use of it I've ever seen. Unfortunately, the success of this game series has led to other game designers imitating this feature, typically with annoying results.

Designers, don't make your cutscenes "interactive" by using QTEs; it's a cheap attempt to hide the fact that the player can't make the character do those actions through gameplay. It's more enjoyable to just watch.

Gears of War I gave away to a friend months ago, thinking I was done with it. But I recently started jonesing for it again, so I bought another copy and fired it up. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed this game.

I like the Command and Conquer series, so Command and Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath is something I've had on my radar since it was announced. I always meant to buy it when the price came down, and that time was last night. I played the tutorial and the first mission, the latter of which kicked my butt on easy. Next time I will turtle more. It seems to be much the same as C&C3, with some tweaks to the controls to improve them.

I like it. I find the hammy, badly-acted cutscenes with their cheap special effects especially enjoyable.

At the same time I completed my Command and Conquer collection with Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3. What I said about Kane's Wrath applies in large part, except that the units are sillier and the cutscenes over-the-top, even when compared to the rest of this over-the-top series. Great fun!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Gamer's Diary - February 5, 2009

Last night R-Type Dimensions showed up on Xbox Live Arcade and I picked it up. It's a port of R-Type and R-Type II with the addition of 3-D views, an infinite lives mode and online co-op.

This game is hard-core. Casual gamers need not apply.

I finished it, but only because I played in infinite lives mode. Had I played in normal mode, my three lives would have evaporated within seconds.

I did notice one bug: From time to time, while playing in 3D view, the game will switch to 2D without user input (you can use the Y button to switch). Minor issue, but annoying.

Gamer's Diary - February 4, 2009

I played some more Silent Hill Homecoming and beat the first boss. I did consult a walkthrough to do it. I would never have guessed the monster's weakness otherwise. Ironically, the very next time I restarted the boss battle, the loading screen also revealed that weakness.

Sean "Elysium" Sands on the Gamers with Jobs podcast recommended Mona: The Assassin, a professionally produced mod for Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. I'd already given away my PC copy of MP2, so I shut down Ubuntu, booted Windows, and downloaded it from Steam ($10 USD). I then downloaded and installed the mod, and played a half hour of it.

It has the same vibe as Max Payne 2, and all that good bullet-time shootdodging action. There are no plot-moving comic-book cutscenes, but that's understandable considering that this is a free mod. I'll be playing more of this in the future.