Stropp's World

Games And Gamery

Archive for March, 2010

And Never To Sleep Again

Posted by Stropp on March 29, 2010

Civilization is one of those games that drags me back to itself every time a new version is released.

I resist because I know that at some time in the evening, usually around 11pm, when I’m in the middle of a game I’ll say to myself, “Just one more turn and then I’ll get ready for bed.”

The next thing I know, I’m looking at the clock on my desk and the time is somewhere north of 2:30am. Oh Crap! In the I have an important team meeting at 9am kind of way. (Who has important meetings at 9am anyway? How crass.)

I only found out about Sid Meier’s latest and greatest egomaniac’s soul soothing turn based strategy game only a few weeks ago, and immediately did a bit of searching for a release date. I found nothing at the time, and figured it was quite a while away, perhaps sometime in 2011. Well tonight that uncertainty was laid to rest as I was perusing through the Steam online store and, lo-and-behold, found an entry for Civilization V with a release date of the 2nd of September, 2010.

At least I have five months to catch up on some sleep.

New Hope For R-Rating For Games In Australia

Posted by Stropp on March 22, 2010

Australian gamers have been wanting an R-Rating category for games for quite some time now. Unfortunately this takes a unanimous approval from each of the state Attorney-Generals, and while nearly every state was for such a rating category, the South Australian Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson has been the lone hold-out preventing the implementation of an R rating for games.

This has risen to a head over the last year or so. Atkinsons refusal prompted the formation of a new political party called Gamers4Croydon which put forward a candidate in Atkinson’s seat of Croydon. Croydon however is a fairly safe Labor seat requiring a massive swing against Labor for it to fall to the Liberal party. A petition was also collected and presented to a Federal hearing on the R issue with over 50,000 signatures. A number I’m lead to believe is fairly hard to achieve.

Just a note for international readers: While it’s not entirely accurate, you can think of the Labor party as the Australian equivalent to The US Democrats and the Liberal party as the conservatives or Republicans.

Now the South Australian state election was held over the weekend (Aussies always vote on Saturday) and there was a massive swing against the government, something like seven percent. Unfortunately, noone yet knows who has won. It appears that the winner will be decided by postal votes, and that will take a few more days to find out. Still, the predictions are that Labor will retain government by the slimmest of margins.

It also looks like Gamers4Croydon did pretty well in Croydon. They picked up 587 votes at the polling booths. Out of over 16000 ballots cast, that’s 3.7% of the vote, and isn’t too bad for an independant party, especially one formed only a few months ago and running on a single issue.

So why the title of the post, New Hope For R-Rating For Games In Australia, if Labor will be returned?

Well, the reason for the big swing against the government was predominantly a sex scandal involving the state Premier, but there has also been widespread disatisfaction with the government especially Atkinson. So while Michael Atkinson was returned to parliament with 64%, he has decided to stand down as state Attorney-General.

This means that the single greatest obstacle to the implementation of an R-Rating for games is no longer an obstacle.

This doesn’t mean of course that the new rating will be automatic. There’s going to be all sorts of political processes that will have to happen first. And we also don’t know which way Atkinson’s successor will lean on the issue. It’s possible that it will remain blocked.

Still, things are looking a bit brighter for Australian gamer choice.

Boldly Going Somewhere. But Is It Trek?

Posted by Stropp on March 16, 2010

I decided a couple of weeks after the launch of Star Trek Online to give it a tryout. The game had a lot of positive buzz at the time which stimulated the impulse buying centre of my brain. But I had a plan.

The plan was to buy the game and just play the free 30 days and then let it lapse. Time being limited the way it is for me now, I can’t justify having another sub going, but I did want to see what everyone was going on about. I’m also enjoying other games in my limited play time and something would suffer with another game in the mix.

By the way, this isn’t a review, just my impressions of the game with limited exposure. I should also say that while I enjoy Star Trek as Science Fiction, I’m not a Trekkie and don’t spend hours (or even minutes really) in chat rooms discussing the relative merits of the starship classes, or if champaign would freeze or boil when the bottle breaks against a spaceship hull.

Overall, my STO experience was quite positive. The space combat was excellent and I really enjoyed that. But there were a few things.

  • Ground combat sucked. I didn’t enjoy it at all. It was unimaginative and ultimately pointless. There was in fact one mission I beamed down to where I had to run around and question a bunch of colonists and then repeat their answers to the colony foreman. That was it. No defending the colony from unknown critters. No solving a problem. Just we’re upset, answer these questions, see you later. Pointless.
  • Gold Spam. Or energy credits spam… whatever. Start the game up, or go into a new area and wham! Chat full of crap which then had to be /ignored. Very annoying. And ultimately it should not have been there. Star Trek has never been about economics, and The Next Generation put a lot of emphasis on that and how humanity had grown past the trappings of material gain, although later series hinted at an underlying economy. But still, the Star Trek gold trade could have been avoided if the economy was de-emphasised and the Star Trek values had been given more place.
  • And I guess that’s the last thing that bothered me. Despite the ships and species, it didn’t have a particularly Star Trek feel for me. Replace the Star Trek elements and there wouldn’t really be any difference. Except Cryptic wouldn’t have players up in arms about the lack of Klingon content. Star Trek was always about exploration and boldly going. I know it’s wartime and all, but Star Trek was all about maintaining the values even when things are going awry. That Prime Directive was a harsh mistress.

However, as I said before. Space combat is where STO is at. It’s fun, and the battles aren’t always walkovers. It can take a little planning and getting the ship loadout right to blast through a mission, but it’s reasonable easy to figure out. I have to say I especially enjoyed piloting the Klingon ship. Nothing like bearing down on an enemy with that ST Klingon anthem running through your head. (I’m not the only one who hears that, right?)

One tip though. Get yourself a controller. I used my wired XBox 360 controller and plugged it into a spare USB port. It makes all the difference. I was finding the keyboard mappings were taking my fingers through a bit of a stretch and twist routine, and it was difficult to do everything I needed to keep up in a battle. After spending a bit of time mapping to the controller, and then getting used to piloting the ship with it, I found it was a joy to battle. And it was faster too.

So the upshot. Crappy ground combat. Doesn’t feel like Star Trek (to me.) But excellent ship to ship combat which makes up for the shortcoming.

Admitting To Punching Puppies

Posted by Stropp on March 15, 2010

Last week Suzina of Kill Ten Rats admitted on a blog post to buying gold. That’s kind of like admitting to the world that you enjoy punching puppies. It’s not going to win you any friends, other than those who also punch puppies and are looking for some kind of justification.

Okay. Perhaps I am being a little harsh here. For the most part I don’t care if someone goes out and buys gold. It really doesn’t make any difference since, with a couple of exceptions, it doesn’t really affect me in a PvE game. And Suzina’s stated reason of needing the 1000 gold to get the dual spec talents really affects no-one since it just makes it easier to change over for different play styles.

But to a lot of players, admitting to buying gold is near enough the same thing. After all, someone who has had their account hacked, and had lost uncountable hours of time building up their characters, to a gold seller might feel a little touchy that Suzina has in effect (possibly) received gold that might consist of the proceeds from some of that stolen gear. The fact that she bought it from a so called reputable dealer means nothing. These guys outsource gold collection, and likely have no idea how that gold is obtained. Kinda like a shoe company denying knowledge that their shoes are made by five year olds chained to finger crushing machines.

That she was surprised about the negative reaction from other players did surprise me though. I’d have thought that anyone who’d hung around the MMORPG community for any length of time would be aware that the gold selling issue is a hot button to many players. After all, from gold spam to account hacks, it’s the same players who have to wear the bad behaviour of the gold sellers. I’m sure any player who’s played for any length of time or has been in a guild or is sociable would know someone who’s been hacked. That another player would change his opinion of her character at such a revelation and put her on ignore isn’t that unexpected.

You see, that’s what I care about. The fact is, gold sellers make the games I like to play less enjoyable. If I have to keep ignoring gold spammers just to read chat, or need to go out and spend extra money buying an authenticator, or have to distrust anyone I give guild bank privileges to, then the gold sellers have made the game a little less fun. And the gold sellers wouldn’t be messing with my play if no-one used their services.

And that’s why, I’m just a little annoyed by Suzina.

But at least she had the guts to admit it. (It’s sure pulled a bit of traffic into her blog too, hasn’t it?)

Piracy Works

Posted by Stropp on March 8, 2010

That’s probably what an awful lot of Ubisoft’s customers will be thinking right now, at least those who loaded up Silent Hunter over the last day or so hoping to enjoy some quality gaming time.

It turns out that Ubisoft’s incredibly stupid DRM scheme has completely shafted all their legitimate customers according to reports from Rock, Paper, Shotgun. The DRM servers that each customer has to be connected to, all the time, just to be able to play the game have been down for an entire day.

No gaming for you!

What’s even more precious is that the claims that Ubisoft made concerning the inability of pirates to crack the DRM code in a way that allows players to play while these servers were down seem to be false too, according to the Rampant Coyote. It turns out that those who pirated the game were able to play it when the servers hit the deck.

I’m going to admit something bad. No, not pirating games, I don’t believe in doing that. But I have enjoyed a bit of the old schadenfreude in reading these reports. This situation reinforces the whole concept that treating your customers like criminals is a bad thing, and that it will backfire. In this case it backfired sooner rather than later. And that’s absolutely wonderful because it reinforces this position. Will it affect sales of other Ubisoft games infected with this customer hating crap? I hope so, since that’s the only way these companies will stop pushing this nonsense on their customers.

I also noticed over the last week or so that a couple of bloggers made the assertion that there’s no difference between an always connected DRM and the need to be connected to play a MMORPG. I just want to spend a moment to say that assertion is not entirely true for the following reasons.

First of all, nearly every modern MMORPG is meticulously designed to cope with random disconnects in such a way as to prevent the loss of progress as much as possible. That’s not the case with this DRM. Disconnect or get line lag and expect to restart from the last checkpoint. Ubisoft’s DRM is designed to interrupt the game experience. MMORPGs are designed to prevent interruptions even in the case of individual server crashes.

Secondly, the fundamental expectation of playing a solo single player game is to be able to do it anywhere. Some people just don’t have good internet. They may not be able to play a MMORPG, they shouldn’t be able to play single player games either?

And as we’ve seen today, server downtime can affect legitimate customers. Should a single player game be unplayable if the publisher has a bad server day?

PS. Don’t pirate games. It’s wrong, and it’s part of the reason these companies are doing this.

Rollback Your NVidia Driver 196.75 ASAP

Posted by Stropp on March 5, 2010

If you have an nVidia based graphics card and have recently installed the 196.75 version of the drivers, make sure you roll back to an earlier version as soon as you can.

Engadget is reporting that nVidia have pulled this version of the driver from their site due to reports that it is causing a fan malfunction causing performance issues and in some cases graphics card heat death.

If you have recently installed this version of the driver, it’s a good idea to rollback to an earlier version. Despite the inconvenience, remember that graphics cards ain’t cheap. At the very least it’s probably worth your time (if you own a card based on the nVidia chipset) to check the driver version, especially if you’ve installed any new games lately. Or if you’ve updated your drivers recently.

If you’re like me and last updated when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, you’re probably okay.