Posts Tagged ‘Games’

Posted on: July 3rd, 2011 by

I don’t know if I’m unusual here, by playing lots of different games and flitting between them, but when people find out I play games and who have any interest in the subject, a question I’m often asked is “What is your favourite game?” or “What do you play?”

I find it pretty hard to answer, and usually either say “Half-Life” or respond with what I’ve been mostly playing that week. They, in turn find it extremely easy to answer, as they tend to stick to one game and play it constantly.

Equally, people whose first and last gaming experience is World of Warcraft have been astonished to learn that I don’t have an army of max-level super raid awesome characters after hearing that I’m a gamer that has played it on and off since launch.

Neither of those profiles fit my gaming style, but match the majority of game-playing people I talk to outside. So I guess this is the market the operators of game using the free-to-play with microtransactions model are gunning for. Get them hooked by giving away the game, then have them spend money to improve their game experience. Even though I’ve reduced the amount of new games I’m buying, if I stuck to a single game (the horror) I could easily fund a subscription-based game, or more pertinently buy out every item in a single game’s item store. (except maybe the Sims)

So while people’s money is indeed finite, getting them to try another game at no cost, having them like it enough to switch to it exclusively and then transfer what they would have spent on subs/items to add-ons for the new game is a pretty good business plan.

“Pay for playtime”, where you pre-pay for X amount of in-game time, is like having a big £££ countdown timer on the screen, and to a degree subscriptions are like that, except that the £££ timer appears hanging in the air in front of you when you’re not playing the game.

“Pay to win”, where you buy bonus items to give yourself an in-game advantage, I’m undecided on. Everyone says they hate the idea, and certainly I would if it was as clear-cut as that title suggests:

– Giving people items for cash that others have spent a lot of time getting does devalue the achievement, but they had fun getting there right? Games are fun aren’t they, not some menial, repetitive task you perform for trivial rewards? Maybe cash for those sort of items is a wake-up call to some.

– Some items only being available for cash is more irksome to me, actually irrespective of whether or not they are “better”. As a collector I want to have them all – but in some games this can mean shelling out a sizeable sum.

– The acceptability of how Premium (or better) your “premium” items are seems to me tied to how much people are paying, partly for the items, but especially for the vanilla product.
In a completely free game, I’d say almost all bets are off – you should be able to buy level-ups, stat-boosting items and content as much as you want – because you’re the one funding the game’s development. The only time I’d call foul was for (say) single-use activated power-ups which allowed you to win duels – Need For Speed World for example has these, but crucially you can obtain them in-game.
In a full-price game (subscription or otherwise) extras or pre-order bonuses are a lot more controversial and if they exist at all shouldn’t really be game-changing. Unless it is generally or tacitly agreed that the regular-price-paying customers are getting some sort of discount then is it not unreasonable for them to expect full access to everything the game has to offer as sold on day one?


In all I think the hybrid models are a good idea, reinvigorating flagging games. The best models seem to be the ones which are completely free to play without draconian level caps, but have time-saving items for sale and an optional subscription which as well as giving you automatic bonus content also pays you a monthly allowance of the bonus item currency. People can try for free, pay for a few bits if they are liking it or switch to a sub if they’re spending more in the store than it would cost to subscribe. They can take payment holidays, don’t feel forced to play (supposed to be fun, remember?) – pretty much get what they want and only what they want to pay for.

Posted on: October 1st, 2007 by

Hmm, I really need to play some of those games a bit more, and increase that gamerscore thing.

Posted on: September 15th, 2006 by


To be released with Half Life: Episode 2

Posted on: September 15th, 2006 by


Also released with Half Life: Episode 2

Posted on: September 13th, 2006 by


Well, I had to try out the new media tags, and this is the best thing I’ve seen in ages – check out Father Grigori.

Posted on: August 18th, 2005 by
game front cover Writing about web page

Star Ocean: Till The End of Time (PS2)
4 out of 5 stars
This game is made by Square-Enix (formerly Squaresoft), who were responsible for what many regard as the pinnacle of console RPGs – the Final Fantasy series. You may have heard of them.
This, though is not a Final Fantasy game and while I would be a liar if I said the bonus DVD featuring FF12 footage did not inflence my buying decision, I was kind of hoping there’d be a decent game on the other disc, too. I was wrong on two counts: there are two other discs (only the second 2DVD PS2 game I’ve encountered) and it’s rather a fine game.Square have done some other games besides FF before, and while some (like Unlimited SaGa) felt like they were made up of ideas rejected for inclusion in the next FF, others were sufficiently different to stand on their own.

Star Ocean
There was a “Star Ocean II” on the PS1, but it’s rather rare, and whatever SO1 ran on I can’t find it – so I’m reviewing with no knowledge of the series as a whole.
The whole style is the anime-type thing we’ve seen before, so if spiky hair, big doe eyes and pointy noses and ears rub you up the wrong way, it’s not for you.
It is two types of game squished together. In the main you explore around, talking to people and advancing the story much like any other console RPG, with all the usual levels, equipment, magic skills as well as a few other things like inventing and cooking which I haven’t managed to unlock yet after about 12 hours of play. The other part is the battles – they are real-time button-mashing affairs, switching between characters at will while the configurable AI controls the other party members, in battle you gain various trophies which are redeemable later. For some reason these trophies require a whopping 1.2Mb of your memory card (with each save game taking 500kb) – and are not transferrable, so plan your memory cardage before playing.
Despite the name, the boxart and website pics – I haven’t seen much in the way of space adventuring, having consecutively crashlanded on two “underdeveloped” planets and had to utilise my sword-swinging and face-punching skills to sort them out. Remember the Prime Directive, space cadets.

Overall rather well done, certainly very simple and hard to make an error. When you’re in a small room your character seems to move a bit fast, though, and it can be a bit frustrating to get them to line up just right in order to activate usuable items. There is no indication items are usable, apart from obvious treasure chests, so it’s trial and error for a while until you learn to spot them. Battle is okay, there are a few more moves than just hit-hit-hit and it’s actually quite a small part of the game time-wise.

Attention to detail
The character models are quite well done and used in all the cut scenes – a few sword-poking-through-the-character and “steel hair” glitches, but you almost expect them in these types of games. The backgrounds though, deserve a rather special mention, still in a cartoon style they are much more detailed, and while they do have a stack of reusable stock furnishings they do manage to make every location seem custom-drawn. While many locations are simply labelled “Private Home” they have made the effort to make them all look unique.

Yes, it’s quite fun. I’m still playing it and taking time time to enjoy it, too – rather than rushing to the next quest. Will I play it again when I’ve finished it? Very unlikely.

I’ve given it four stars – while it’s not as jaw-dropping as Jade Empire, I expect it will last me a lot longer.

Posted on: August 17th, 2005 by
game front cover Writing about web page

Jade Empire Limited Edition (Xbox)
4 out of 5 stars
My first real game review. Could even be the first game review.

Bioware. Made Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic. All of them Action RPGs with familiar backstories – the first two in a D&D setting with a game world spanning 11 games/add-ons and the last one being set in the Star Wars universe, hugely successful amongst the fans who had actually grown up since the original trilogy.

They could have made the sequel to Knights, but they didn’t: they made Jade Empire. I’m rather glad they did.

While the consequence of this is that Knights II was rather clumsy graphically, Jade Empire is absolutely beautiful – while the Xbox is probably the most powerful of the current consoles they get more out of it than I thought possible, given it’s based on technology which seems very outdated to PC users. Smoke effects, running water, rain, fountains, waterfalls and an amazing water trickling over stone effect all add to a believable and wonderfully detailed world. Typically as the Xbox’s replacement looms into view we only just begin to see what it is capable of.

Level Design
I always judge a good “map” or “level” by how easy it is to remember – if after a couple of runs around you pretty much know your way around, the designers have done their job – they’ve made it “real” and they’ve made it distinctive. A perfect map of the old Senate House corridors isn’t going to make a great level, and no level is going to win awards if it’s all made out of plain concrete.

New Thing
This is a new thing for Bioware – the game world is basically ancient China, but a China where all the stories you ever heard about magic and demons and crazy kung foo antics were all true. Plenty of Emperors, Monks and Spirits too. They went a bit mad with it, and I’m not sure if there’s enough left for a sequel. What’s not new is the “Open Palm”/”Closed Fist” meter – it’s just the “Light Side”/”Dark Side” meter taken straight out of Knights and while the game has plenty to say on the merits of either course, in actuality it’s a good/evil choice as usual.

The controls are a little different from a regular RPG, and more what you’d expect from a game based around martial arts, but are nowhere near as hard to master as a straight beat-em-up. Actually there’s loads of things to help you – there are buttons for healing, dealing more damage and even a “bullet-time” mode – the latter two only really being necessary when you’re in a desperate scrape.

Overall I found it rather fun, most of the lines are spoken in not-too-annoying style, the good/bad thing works well, difficultly is constantly adjustable so you shouldn’t get stuck/bored, there’s a nice variety of missions from finding lost animals to repelling a siege, great story and it looks superb.
Having finished “good”, I will probably give it another play through as “evil”, but not right away.

The limited edition reviewed here gives you an extra selectable character Monk Zeng but his Leaping Tiger move is available to other characters, so I’m not sure if it’s an exclusive – it was my favourite move, though. You also get a Making Of DVD which is reasonably interesting, but recorded at a pitifully low resolution and probably available for download from the game TV channel it was taken from

Edit: on reflection have reduced the rating to four stars – while it scores highly on all the criteria I am interested in, I will only play through it a maximum of two times, good and evil paths, unless a significant amount of extra content becomes available for it.

Posted on: July 11th, 2005 by

Writing about Gimme Five… from The random scribblings of a diseased imagination

The brief was to select five characters you would take on a quest, after a bit of thought I limited myself to characters from computer games. I’ve only played RPs on computers, but that didn’t stop me selecting a classic Thief, Ranger, Wizard, Cleric and Fighter combination, I decided to avoid robots and select characters whose skills would be useful in both a fantasy and sci-fi setting.

  1. Cate Archer (No-One lives forever) – rather good at sneaking around and being a super-spy and good at using gadgets. More attractive than James Bond.
  2. Gordon Freeman (Half-Life) – good with guns and other projectile weapons, versatile pilot. Easy to locate in bright orange haz-suit.
  3. Eiko Magami (Project A-Ko) – obligatory super magic anime girl, A-Ko is quite possibly indestructable, jumps onto nuclear warheads and punches them to oblivion – kind of like Superman did but on a larger scale. Rather than performing magic, she just is magic, while Sabrina Spellman might be fun to have along she rarely gets a spell right and can’t keep her mind off boys.
  4. Sam Stone (Serious Sam) – Not here for his fighting skills, but his amazing healing regenerative powers. If you play the (first) game on Easy mode he actually recovers health all the time – so much so that he recovers it quicker than even vast hordes of monsters can remove it. Proven against large numbers of foes.
  5. Bonus Mahler (Fighting Vipers/Fighters Megamix) – Of all the fighting games this bloke dominates in his. He hardly has to do anything – a single button press is enough to clear most opponents (after taunting). So while it might be kind of cheap to use him against a human opponent, and rather boring against the CPU he would be good to have on your side in a scrap.
Posted on: May 20th, 2005 by

Writing about web page

It’s just been updated – now tracks even more games!

Posted on: April 20th, 2005 by

Have been playing 16 hours now, so it can’t be that bad – having 108 characters to collect/choose from certainly adds to its longevity.

Lilin from Suikoden IV

Fina from Skies of Arcadia

I would probably still rate it second to Skies of Arcadia (not bad for a 5-year-old Dreamcast game), but a much closer second than I initially thought.