Monday, 17 September 2007

Ach no Hans! its the meme!

Due to circumstanes such as moving and cleaning and stuff I've not had much time to play games, let alone blog them recently, so sorry if you actually hang on my every word (and seriously, its a bit creepy if you do). But this morning Melmoth got meme all over me, so I feel I should do something about it :)

Four jobs I have had in my life (not including my current job):
Photography store assistant
Catering assistant
Hazard management engineer

Thats pretty much all the jobs I've had though, so not much to talk about on this front.

Four films I have watched again and again:
Star Wars (only 3-6 though)
Donnie Darko
The Matrix (original one, and usually only from the lobby scene onwards)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I don't tend to watch films over and over, usually once, once with the directors commentary, and thats about it. These films I've just watched multiple times, so I guess they count.

Four places I have lived:
Berkshire UK
Warwickshire UK
Leicestershire UK
Somerset UK (as of next Saturday)

Not moved much so far, but getting to the point in life where I end up out in the world spending a crapton on rent.

Four Programmes I love to watch:
I don't watch TV?

Four Places I have been on vacation holiday:
France (many many many times)

Four of my favourite foods:
Peanut butter on toast (toast spread with regular butter first to aleviate some of the reidiculous dryness otherwise caused)
Macaroni Cheese

To clarify, I love anything with apple in, although apple deserts tend to duke it out with cheesecake if both are available.

Four favourite drinks:
Tea (what what!)
Ale (Abbot, Jolly Plowman, anything from Wychwood breweries)

Usually not all at the same time. Also, there wasn't enough room in the list to add gin and tonic, so pretend its there.

Four places I would rather be right now:
At a gig by one of the bands i like
Down t'pub wi' friends
On stage. Preferably doing a musical
Backstage, see above point

Four People I Command to Do This:
I won't command anyone to do it, but if you want to be tagged and haven't been, leave me a comment, I'll edit your link in, and we can pretend it was always here ¬_¬

Saturday, 8 September 2007

I can still see my screen!

What with it being a new game to me, I've been fighting with the City of $dudes interface recently. Its pretty slick, and reasonably customisable, although nowhere near the extent of WoW's 'mod it until it feels right' culture. Everything has its own little 'show this' button, a docking toggle, resizing nubbin, move doohicky, and so on, which facilitates customisation, even if it does take a little extra room on the screen (and every little bit helps).

I have one bugbear with it though: The minimap.

Its huge! Its like a great big black magnet, appearing spontaneously in my gaze whenever I try to do anything! Even on the smallest it can be resized to, its bigger than the minimaps on the other games I've played, although it is vastly superior in terms of what it does: it shows everyone in your team, their facing, vendors, trainers, contacts, mission locations, everything.

Guild Wars is similarly customisable, but hidden under a couple of menu selections. Its also very slick, although the dialogues tend to annoy me for their largness. The inventory screen takes up the entire left quarter of the screen (or so), taking to a vendor takes up the entire right third of the screen (or so).

On both of these, the default is pretty good, and I've not changed them much (CoX's minimap aside)

But they both have one major issue (in my opinion): division of focus.

You have to know which of your abilities are on cooldown (as they all have one). You have to know you're targetting the right enemy. You have to keep an eye on your energy/endurance, so you don't get the dreaded 'not enough rage' sound (not an issue on my GW character as yet, due to my build). Watching my own health bar so I don't squish to easily. I'd hate to think about being a healer and having even more bars to watch.

Unfortunately, these things are more mechanics issues than UI issues, but they're still issues. I had some similar issues in WoW, but because of the mod culture, I ended up with something that solved some of them. In short, my health and mana and my enemies health and mana were displayed around my character model, and the only abilities I had displayed prominently (looking back on it, in almost exactly the same position as GW) where those with a cooldown and those with a unique range that frequently got used. And although the default UI has quite a few issues, due to the way it can be modified, they don't count quite as badly as they would otherwise.

I think part of the overall problem of UIs, is that they're slaves to the gameplay: until gameplay is streamlined (not dumbed down) enough, the UI will always be quite a mess of things all trying to grab your attention at once. And I don't want to be looking at bars and buttons, I want to look at my character beating the begubbins out of some enemy.

Friday, 7 September 2007

I've got it!

I've figured out Raph Koster's new game.

Here’s what works in this new model, according to Koster:

- the system is the game, not the interface, not the presentation.
- any button will do.
- long phases take your time – response time is rough.
- be done fast, once you’ve made a decision.
- do it side by side. Has to be massively parallel.
- extended accumulated state – save your profile.
- no roles – classless – teams are deterministic.
- representation agnostic – draw it however.
- open data – change it however.

Things that don’t work:

- twitch games.
- Inputs that are locked to commands – dance mats, styluses.
- Models that rely on specific representations (ie 3D).
- Models reliant on prior art – if you haven’t played every RTS you’re screwed.
- Narrative lock – if you tamper with our story, it won’t be good!

Gameplay matters more than presentation, profiles to be displayed, multi-platform, no 3D, flexible storyline. It all adds up to one thing!

Seriously, this is my most successful game of nethack ever. The newts, they hate me :(. On the other hand, I do have intrinsic telepathy, got to love them floating eyes. When they aren't freezing you so newts can kill you.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007


Last night in Guild Wars, far more importantly than everything else we did, I hit the level cap. Aside from the ironic comments of 'game over' and 'time to go home', life carried on as it had been for the last 5 missions (only 5? Really!? Seems a lot more than that. Sign of a good game I guess). Well, I did the attribute quest that I'd missed, and we're ready and waiting for the next mission next week.

So here I am, with max stats, end game armour (although it needs some runes (man are runes of vigor expensive) and insignia), and a perfectly adequate axe, shield and bow, if not the best in the game. Only thing left to do now is, well, over half the game actually. Oh, and I could rebuild my character from the ground up with a different secondary class, different (some would say 'more conventional') skills, different equipment etc. And then PvP beckons.

I know I've mentioned it here before, but having actually got to the cap rather than just theorising about it, my opinion has changed very little. If anything, its actually better. Life really does just carry on. You actually keep getting experience (to get skill points to buy skills with (oddly enough)). Enemies keep getting tougher. One needs to keep improving, although this means actually improving in skill rather than getting that extra +1 health.