Wednesday, 31 August 2011

behind the times

So it seems that someone finally read the EULA for ea's "Origins" software and realised that it basically said they could take your computer, play football with it, and sell it back to you.

Okay, I'm exaggerating to the level of just plain making things up. :P Read the article yourself.

But considering what a massive arsepain dealing with that 'Origins' thing was and how eager it is to cram stuff down my throat while trying to play a FREE game, I had already mentioned that it pretty much turned me off buying any future product using it. I'm not at all surprised to find sinister undertones, whether or not they have any intention of misusing them. If they don't, it's just another sign of the system being badly thought-out and generally crap.

And when the best you can say is that their system is generally crap...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

well that's new

Apparently GameStop is breaking into new copies of games and removing any free-gift items that they disapprove of, then selling them full-price as new, unmarked.

Of course, while they feel that the included gift certificate served as an advertisement for their competitor, I think *ripping off your customers* is an even better way to lose your customers to the competition....

Friday, 26 August 2011

Visions of the past

On a trip to see relatives I got my hands on a pile of my old computer game stuff. Boxes, in a rare few cases, but mostly MANUALS. And copy protection. And maps. ALl the stuff that used to be jammed into these things. Not my entire collection ever, but a good bunch of stuff. So what have I got here?

The "manual" for FACEMAKER, which includes how-to-load-game for all the various computer systems it was available on (LOAD"SPIN",8) and how to 'play'. It's not exactly much of a game. Why did I even have this? (I was obviously VERY young.)

The rather thick manual for Wonderland most of which is taken up by "how to use windows", and a similarly thick but weirder shaped one for the Magnetic Scrolls Collection.

The insert map and how-to-load for that blasted Hobbit text adventure that I remember frustrating me as a kid and I've always been confused about it because when I tried to look it up I found things that didn't quite match. However, this proves it was indeed the Hobbit Software Adventure - either I just have NO memory of the graphics or I played in text-only mode because I liked words.

The foldout 'Getting Started' for Super BoulderDash.

An almost-complete box for a game called Rings of Medusa that I obviously owned but have zero memory of. It's got the box, a manual, and the loading instructions sheet, but the original disk is gone, replaced by a 3.5" backup disk.

A probably-complete box for Joan Of Arc: Siege & The Sword which I also have zero memory of. Amusing because 85% of the big box is taken up with nothing but a cardboard spacer.

... I probably bought both of those just because they had women on the covers, and then didn't play them because I don't actually like strategy games.

Sierra stuff (there's lots!):
The big map and twisty city streets guide from Quest For Glory 2. And the official hint book. And the technical manual. And the BOX. Or at least, that's the sleeve that I put on the one original Sierra box I still have. They all looked alike! And ONE original disk, probably dead, and no idea where the others are.
The fingerprint sheet AND the red-plastic-spyglass used for reading it from the Colonel's Bequest. WHich I know I lost at least once while I still had the game. Stupid annoying copy protection. :)
Hint book for Space Quest IV.
A manual from Hoyle Solitaire which I don't think i actually played, it's my mom who liked Solitaire.
The 'manual' (background story, slight tech info, and crucial copy-protection spellbook) from King's Quest III.
A fold-out "hint map" from King's Quest 1, decorated with my confused attempt to solve the Rumplestiltskin puzzle, and the official hint book. Which was one of the ones that you had to use yellow markers to make the invisible ink appear (now rather faded). The later books used the red plastic window approach. Also the game backstory-manual.
Box sleeve for King's Quest V.
The original box sleeve for King's Quest VI (5.25" version) and the included fluff/copy-protection guidebook to the isles. Also the hint book, when they gave up all this 'reveal the hidden text' rigamarole and just printed the answers.
Hero's Quest reference card and Famous Adventurer's Correspondence Manual.
A Sierra tenth anniversary product catalog.
New products catalog listing for 1988.
'A Letter From The President' explaining why gamers should buy sound cards to improve their Sierra experience.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

chicks in chainmail (as it were)

Only tangential to games, but I was passed a link to a tumblr blog of Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor

(That is, wearing something more than a chainmail bikini)

Not that hotness should be the most important part of a female character, but I think you'll agree that they can still be very attractive WHILE wearing something that covers important regions!

Monday, 22 August 2011

marketing fail

So I spotted a potentially interesting new game on DLsite (not H).

The description says it's a physics-based puzzle sim. Sounds fun! But... what is it? There's no demo version. Of the three posted screenshots, one is just a title screen image, nothing to do with the gameplay. One is a picture of the back of the BOX (many doujin games sell at least a handful of box copies) with screenshots too small to make out gameplay details. Only the third lets you see anything about what the game looks like to play... and with so little information it would be a huge gamble to assume that it even RUNS on English windows, much less is comprehensible to people who can't read Japanese.

And for all that, it's got a highish price for a doujin title. Certainly not unreasonable, there are plenty of games on DLsite for $20, but it's not the STANDARD price. Most things are cheaper.

Unsurprisingly it's not selling any copies on the English side. (Okay, the majority of stuff doesn't sell on the English side, because, well, it's not in English. But still.)

... Of course, the next thing I click on is a downloadable set of speech bubbles. For $50. Good luck, you'll need it.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

ship it

(When I saw that title on the tweet that linked me to this post, I thought it was going to be about shipping. Like, romance. No.)

Basically, they discover a catastrophic-but-rare bug in a game shortly before ship date, and rather than delay the game to put in a fix, ship it anyway.

I've never worked in a big game company, I don't know much about console games. Trying to extrapolate from a business perspective, I can kind of see their point in not addressing it. The majority of customers never finish games, so a bug that only happens sixteen hours in is already of lower importance (no surprise, anyone who plays games has seen how much buggier the endgames get.) On top of that, it requires the player doing something unusual at a precise moment. (At least, I'm guessing that the autosave is somehow visible, in order for the tester to have been able to find and replicate this behavior.) So the odds of a normal player hitting it seem low, and therefore IF it really would take ages to fix, you can see why they wouldn't.

On the other hand, bricking your console is a much bigger deal than just not fixing a crash bug. (Of course, that also sounds like a bug in the console, no?) I have no idea what game this was, but if they didn't report the problem to the console manufacturers and take responsibility in case the bug did hit someone... lawsuit?

Anyway. I can see why you might not fix the bug. But I can't see why you'd fire the poor tester trying to tell you what you'd done. :)

Saturday, 20 August 2011

back to dust

Well, if you were foolish enough to buy a PC game from Ubisoft, at least you can request a refund.


Friday, 12 August 2011

own goals

(Spoilers for Dragon Age 1 and 2)

I've seen some people firing back at the DA2 haters, claiming that they felt more personally involved in Hawke's story than the Warden's, mostly because of voice acting but also because of the fixed origin.

I have to differ.

As best as I can tell, the problem I have with Hawke's story is the lack of ability to set and pursue my own goals - or even a default goal! While Origins piled a dramatic (to varying degrees) backstory on each possible origin character, they still gave you some leeway about what you really wanted. You had to take care of the Big Bad issue, sure, but beyond that, were you out for revenge, or justice, or personal power? You could believably have some ideas of your own that you wanted to carry out, and get some chances to advance those personal causes. You could pick different rewards at the end and feel like you'd accomplished something.

Hawke's story seems largely to be about a person swept up in larger forces - someone who absolutely did not cause any of the disaster that unfolds, but just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with enough power to move things along. That's not a bad story, but the problem is that it leaves you somewhat adrift otherwise. What are YOU trying to do while all this unfolds around you? In one act, you're trying to raise funds to eventually buy a home (not that you get any choice about that home either). Past that, you're just... sort of going along with things and taking quests because they're quests and someone asked you to do them. You can claim that you intend to start a business or intend to return to Ferelden but you can't do either of those things or work towards them in any way afaik.

You may care deeply about the cause of mage freedom. If so, tough - you still can't choose to do anything about it. Again, on my first playthrough, when Bethie was taken off to the Circle I absolutely expected that I'd be organising a raid on the circle to break her free in the next chapter, and was baffled to discover that apparently I'd been sitting around for years doing nothing. Even more, when she's later kidnapped from the circle and I can actually see her and talk to her again... I *still* can't talk to her about getting away? Apparently no matter what Hawke has actually said on the subject, Hawke really doesn't care. The only slight difference it makes to side with the mages or not is which set of quests you do in the final runup to disaster - which will still involve shutting DOWN rebellious people. You can't promote rebellion at all. You can only help runaways if someone else asks you to.

Maybe you want to be viscount? Too bad, you can't actively pursue it. You might get it, but if you do, it may come as a complete surprise because you weren't interested in the slightest - and you don't even get the chance to say no, it's just thrown in at the ending that "Oh by the way also you're Viscount now. Or were. Except also you left."

So no, I don't feel really involved in Hawke's story because I don't feel like Hawke had a story. Hawke's just someone that things happened to. That doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining watching things happen, but it does mean I look confused at people who claimed that they did feel more attachment. :)

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Contest And Pondering

We're running a back-to-school giveaway for Magical Diary. If you want to win a free copy, check out the rules on the forum here. It's a simple fanfic contest where you can imagine strange magical things happening on your character's thirteenth birthday.

On the production front I'm still largely coasting right now, waiting for the artist to come up with some extra things so that I can write the bonus path/scenes for the sort-of-hidden-character. (Okay, he's not that hidden, but figuring out how to befriend him is the trickiest set of interactions in the game. And it will get even trickier once the ability to dance with him is available.)

I've also been prototyping a yaoi card game. On the bright side I think I invented something simple and fun to play. On the downside a physical card game is not something I have a lot of audience to sell to, and it would require quite a lot of art. We might try putting this on kickstarter or something... if we can get some solid preorders then we can go for it.

Monday, 8 August 2011


From the BBC:

A novel class of security problems have been found lurking in many mobile games by a ten-year old hacker.

Going by the handle CyFi, the hacker presented her findings at the DefCon hacker conference held in Las Vegas.

She found that advancing the clock on a tablet or phone can, in many games, open a loophole that can be exploited.

CyFi discovered the bug after getting bored with the pace of farming games and seeking ways to speed them up.

I admit to finding the idea of a little girl bored with her farming games and starting to vigorously poke at them absolutely adorable.

... Now let's hope she uses her powers for good. And then comes and joins me in the world of game-making! :)

Friday, 5 August 2011

humble ARGH!

So I picked up the latest Humble Bundle, with the bit extra to get bundle 2 as well. There's nothing here I was really amazingly excited for - I can't remember if I actually bought Crayon Physics Deluxe when it first came out or just played the demo until I got bored, a slider puzzle is still a slider puzzle even if it's got a lot of bells and whistles, pseudo-retro-platformers are fun but I wasn't desperate for one, and I still don't know what hammerfight IS yet.

I have, however, become quite fond of And Yet It Moves. I feel free to play around and explore the game a little... there's not only one exact way to do things, and the save points are very frequent so I never have to worry about losing too much progress. I did have to consult the internet to figure out what to do about the beehive, though, and the windmill bat-tree was suprisingly scary in some weird way (That's as far as I've gone so far). In classic tricky platformer tradition, of course, I sometimes JUST BARELY miss something and end up yelling at my computer... and then trying again. :)

I guess the difference is that VVVVVV is too tightly focused on its puzzles. It feels very driven - get past this, get to the next point, keep moving, keep moving! It doesn't feel like there's any entertainment to be had from just fooling around, and that makes the whole experience less relaxing.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Diablo Online

As someone pointed out, if they just called it Diablo Online there'd be absolutely nothing to whine about. From looking at the details, it appears they *do* want a more MMORPG-like experience from the game.

Which is fine for them I guess, but not what I played it for.

I tried Diablo 2 multiplayer once or twice. It was a disaster. Lag and rubber-banding were miserable. It wasn't fun. I quickly reached a 'never again' decision and went back to enjoying my game. My other half, who had nothing better to do at the time, contemplated spending years on the online games trying to obtain rare weapons to sell on ebay. I looked baffled at the idea.

It's been a long long time since Diablo2 and I'd pretty much given up on them ever releasing 3 and/or doing anything interesting with it. So I lose nothing by the realisation that their eventual release is the opposite of what I want. In the time between, I've played FATE and Titan Quest and really *should* get around to Torchlight and gosh did I never actually buy Din's Curse? I should do that!

So yeah. No real loss. :)

oh the irony

While trying to respond to someone's ludicrous assertion that in the modern age there are NEVER internet connection problems, I ended up getting connection reset errors and being unable to post.

Ha bloody ha.