Play Together Stay Together

My Cybernetic Future

I’ve long been an advocate for the world of Android. I’ve favoured it’s openness over the protected walled gardens of iOS since before I owned my first Android device. Then when I actually escaped from the world of mobile phones into smartphones with the Samsung Galaxy I never looked back. It may have, back then, lacked the elegance and super focused vision of Apples output, but for a PC loving geek just as myself the parallels to a user customisable experience where far closer to what I wanted. I did’t want to be told how my ‘personal assistant’ should look or operate, or what it could or couldn’t do.

However no matter how much I go on about Android, and how much of a powerhouse the current systems have become I’ve only ever experienced things from the user point of view. And this is something I plan to change in the coming years. I’ve already played with the Construct 2 game creator that can produce touch screen games as an output choice, and next I plan to actually rekindle my programming skills and have a look at coding for Android. How far I will get is anyone’s guess as it’s been many years since I programmed in any serious way, my career headed down a more graphical drag and drop road were my education of IFs and SubRoutines were of little use. I’ve felt more like a ‘Super User’ than an actual Information Technology associate for far too long, my BSc left rusting on the shelf.

But it’s a world I miss. There is a beauty in the code for me, a simple logical progression of data which my mind craves to control.

And so I plan to become one with the ‘droid. May my blood run green!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Blog Off

We’re had a fair few self hosted blogs over the past few years under various website names. This latest one was to be a proper joint venture into blogging about our gaming lives. However it never really got started. With tools like Twitter around there was little need to repeat things we updated on there on a blog in more, possibly tedious detail, so we ended up not posting much at all. From time to time I would think of something to talk about, but often the topics I considered fell outside of the co-op gaming remit of the site so I kept them in Google Docs and never published.

And now with some big changes approaching for us we think it’s time to pull the plug on this site.

But we’ll still be online all over the internet of course, via our Twitter accounts, and also I have a Tumblr where I can babble on about my thoughts even if they fall outside of the realms of gaming.

We’ll also look into starting something about our adventures over in Denmark at some point, but we’ll use a hosted solution at a more popular location rather than out here in the sticks of internet land 😀

Thanks for listening those that did, and see you around the internet!

Star Trek Online

So now that this is Free to Play is anyone trying it?

I played the beta long ago, but it was very buggy at the time, often spawning as a ship for away missions which was funny the first time, then quickly a major annoyance so I left it behind and once it went subscription I found little draw to pay.

However after downloading the client the other night I’ve now put a couple of hours into commanding my own star ship and crew but it is much as I remember. The away missions are a little dull, and uninspired, but I do enjoy the slow methodical space combat, adjusting power setups to boost shields, angling the ship to protect weakened areas, making use of your command crew’s special abilities to turn the tide of battle. The sound of releasing a photon torpedo barrage is still cool.

Frankly if the game was all space combat I would much prefer it, maybe saving the on foot sections for just story progression and interaction minimising ground combat.

Still for free it’s worth a try if you ever liked playing the old Bridge Commander or perhaps even the original Star Trek pen and paper RPG. And if you happen across the U.S.S. Stexington on your explorations of strange new worlds and civilisations then be sure to hail me. 🙂

Enhanced by Zemanta

My Steaming Pile of Shame*



*Title courtesy of Last Save Loaded/Chris O’Regan

With a recent lock out on my XBOX/Live account meaning I was unable to play any 360 games online, I found myself spending more time back with the PC, and in doing so reviewing my Steam games list. I have a fair few games on there. One hundred and thirty nine to be precise. 139! Now fairs fair, I bought the Pop-Cap collection at one point which had a lot of games in it, and as much as I love the jump in fun of a Pop-Cap game I don’t consider them games that I would sit down and play through from start to finish. But even discounting them I’m still rocking around the 100 games mark. Less than ten of these are games I have actually completed. It’s those damn Steam sales of course that so many of us fall foul off, offers that are just too good to refuse.

“Oh look, I can get Portal 2, wait.. there’s a pack with Portal 2 and every other Valve game, now I’ve got most of them but I don’t have Left 4 Dead 1 & 2, well not on PC, I should get this. I should get this now!”

Foolishly I had about 50% of these games installed, leading to what is commonly known as the Steam ‘What should I play” Impasse. You sit there looking at all these games you could be playing trying to decide which one you are in the mood for, only to eventually close Steam and go look at porn read the internet.

Well I’ve had enough of this. Both never completing anything and having an ever-growing backlog of great games to play on Steam. Thus I took drastic action! I uninstalled all but five unplayed games. These five games must be completed before I allow myself to spend money on another one game/collection. I even turned away from this weeks offer of Oblivion for £3.49!

So which five game are on my initial to play hitlist? Well, these:

  1. Saints Row 2
  2. Tropico 3
  3. GTA IV + Stories
  4. Titan Quest + Expansion
  5. Dirt 2

A hefty selection on their own! Now Tropico and Dirt are games I have ploughed a few hours into already, so shouldn’t

Titan Quest

Image via Wikipedia

take too long to ‘finish’ though Tropico will probably remain installed for years for it contains its wonderful sandbox mode, which kept me playing its first incarnation until 2010! If you are interesting in Tropico, version 4 has recently arrived. Frankly I could ignore Saints Row 2, however I want to have a good understanding of the game for when GameBurst talk about it on their excellent podcast. GTA IV and Titan Quest are both daunting prospects given their associated expansions (DLC for console types) are included, but also are well respected games which I should get a lot out of.

So there you have it. A game plan is in action, now I just need to see if I can actually stick to it!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Resident Evil Bubbles Up

Resident Evil series western logo

Image via Wikipedia

This past weekend we had a good sort through our XBOX 360 collection in order to update our Pile of Shame/To Play lists for this site. A few of the games we had borrowed from a good friend some 18 months past and decided to bring these titles to the fore so as to be able to return them to their rightful owner. First amongst these was Resident Evil 5.

My personal history with the Resident Evil/Biohazard series is patchy. I tried to play some of the early games on friends PlayStations without ever catching the bug, and then actually purchased Code Veronica for our Dreamcast but didn’t get too far with that either. And so I have ignored the whole franchise, labelling it as a game style I just didn’t like. I have no real problem with doing such things unlike many, with so many quality games about I rather like being able to ignore some and allow more room for others to flourish.

The advantage RE5 had for getting an actual play through was of course our favourite feature, co-op play. And specifically, with only having a single borrowed copy, split screen co-op. Admittedly this has some drawbacks in RE5, the engine clearly struggles to handle the two viewpoints and the split screens are not full width, so it resembles playing split screen on an old 4:3 display with just a slight offset the spare space around just black not even used for the minimap display or collectables. Also the 360 implementation seems to suffer from some of the worst screen tearing I’ve witnessed on the console, perhaps I’ve just been lucky or maybe the port was just a little poorly handled assuming the game was developed primarily for the PlayStation which may be entirely wrong.

The game play however took us by surprise.  At first we did struggle having jumped into this game, with little experience of the series and even more importantly having ploughed many hours into Gears 3 over the past couple of weeks. We kept trying to clear rooms and take out all the enemies, only slowly coming to the realisation that in many cases it was just about surviving and staying out of trouble for a set amount of time, or finding an escape route. Also the hot topic of ‘turret’ style shooting reared it’s head. I can see why the game needs to not have you running and gunning, it wouldn’t be a Resident Evil game if you could, however I could see the game allowing some slow side stepping whilst aiming without breaking the style or atmosphere. Either way we did eventually adapt over the course of the first chapter of the game and started to really understand how the game wanted to be played. The addition of collectables, as always, lit up Linda’s eyes and so we would spend a good deal of time finding the treasures and emblems as we went, although this effects your rankings at the end of each chapter given time is one of the criteria so that seems a little counter productive.

By the start of Chapter 2, of the 6 in the game, we were really starting to enjoy ourselves. I should point out we were playing through on Amateur which is the lowest difficulty in the game. Perhaps this means in some ways we are not really playing a Resident Evil game, that it makes the ammo supply better and thus less management is required, I’m not sure. But having a fun time is really what gaming is about for us, second only to having a shared experience. What it did allow though was for us to finish the game without ever hitting a real stumbling block. Sure we had a fair few downs, and more than a dozen full deaths but we always knew what we were doing and how to progress building our skills as we went as well as upgrading out chosen weapon specialisations. Myself favouring Handgun, Shotgun and heavy weapons, whilst Linda went Handgun, Machine Gun, Rifle.

The game had a satisfying conclusion, and despite this being our first encounter with Wesker we were more than happy to see the Matrix aping fool dealt with, though clearly this had happened previously also and in true villain style had survived so who know eh? We’re now replaying through the sections required to get the emblems and pick up various treasures and achievements we missed so it’s fair to say the game has risen in our expectations and we would now look forward to another in the series, provided of course the co-op play is maintained.

It’s always nice to have a game take you by surprise in this way and rise above being just play through and become an experience.

As a side note the new Cane and Rinse podcast has chosen Resident Evil 4’s HD remake as it’s topic for episode 2 and due to it’s in depth coverage handles the entire RE series so is well worth a listen to anyone with more than a passing interest in the series, or who just loves a good meaty games discussion. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

OnLive, not Origin, is the true competitor to Steam

Despite what EA would like you to think with regards to their Origin digital distribution system it isn’t, nor will be, a grand competitor to Steam. Steam has a virtual monopoly on PC games sales, and monopolies are things we are taught to fear, however that is only the case when the system in control is or becomes corrupt, and over exerts it’s reach on what is available and how much it will cost. Valve has never shown even a hint of this, despite having had no real competition in the past few years. We trust them because they trust us, we’ve bought into the idea of what Steam represents, and we as a community of gamers are resistant to having the PC gaming world fragmented to the point where you need to install an application for every publisher you wish to buy games from.

This is why Origin has met with responses from ‘Meh’ to boycotting. It’s trying to give us what Steam already does, but for such a subset of games that it fails to even come close. Sure EA has the might to just push on with it, and having their games removed from Steam sets up Origin as the only place to get most EA titles, and certainly the upcoming Old Republic MMO, not that I really have much interest in that anyway.

Other providers have found niches to extract value from. Good Old Games, specialising in many abandoned titles have found a way to make money whilst offering games DRM free by keeping the price to the customer low enough for people to not worry about paying compared to copying the games. $5 or even $10 for a game and an assortment of collectibles like wallpapers and sound clips is a good bargain in most peoples books.

But as for taking on Steam, there is unlikely to be a system that could directly.

And that’s where Onlive comes in. Essentially it’s providing the same product. Games, from various publishers, to end users. But the system is so different to what Steam is offering that it will find itself a place. It can offer the same, brand new, cutting edge games but sell them to people who don’t want to, or can’t afford to keep up with even the slowed PC tech arms race of recent years. Grab yourself a £200 laptop and away you go, you can even hook it up to a TV screen with a £3 cable and be playing the latest PC games on your 50” screen for next to nothing. This represents the true threat to Valves dominance, by not taking Steam on directly and offering a totally different approach, but with the same end result. Both services are just as volatile, should either go out of business you will lose all those games irrespective of whether they had been downloaded or just streamed.

So what could Valve do about this situation? Other that just shelling out for OnLive? Well how about they introduce their own streaming service, not to replace the downloads but to run along side them in a shared ecosystem? Imagine that for a moment.

You’re at home, you have Space Marine installed from Steam on you high powered home gaming nirvana. Glorious actual 1080P gameplay streaming into your eyeballs via your carefully selected gaming rig. But then sometimes you are not at home, no access to that £500+ gaming beast. But you do have your laptop with you, or even a tablet device. Fire up the Steam app on either and you can be playing the same Space Marine experiance, continuing from where you saved via Cloud Saves, the game not hobbled by your mobile device, but steaming OnLive style giving far better quality of visuals than would otherwise be possible. You haven’t bought the game twice, just purchased the licence to play that game either via download or streamed content. Surely such an idea has already occurred to Valve, a way to remain up to date and relevant, providing the same great service as ever, yet enabling a much wider audience to join in the regular wallet emptying that so many of us already partake in in Valves favour.

Dead Island 2 : Bank Account 0

So, as an update, we caved in and picked up a second copy of Dead Island. So we’ll soon be able to let you know what we think of it as a co-op game. Our hopes are for a Borderlands style adventure with the quest based gameplay, and we’ll be trying out the alternative combat system also. We picked the game up at BestBuy who are becoming our go to people when it comes to picking games up there and then, prices are quite standard, but they will price match other retailers, including Amazon, up to 30 days AFTER your purchase. Good to know 🙂

Arcade is where the heart is.

After the disappointment of the lack split screen in Dead Island, we found ourselves without a new co-op game to play. So as we have started to do more and more recently we turned to the XBOX Live Arcade for help, in between grabbing levels of Gears of War 2 😉

After trying a few demos which show promise for future purchases, namely Toy Soldiers Cold War and Space Marine Kill Team, we decided on the dungeon crawler Crimson Alliance. The pay structure is a little odd, the game itself is free and then you pay for character packs, which are even more oddly done in that a single character is a rather hefty 800 MSP whilst the all 3 character pack is just the usual Arcade game price of 1200 MSP. Given there is an achievement to completing the game once with each character type I’d advice most people to go for the full pack. Another oddity is there are three characters but the game is set up for four player teams, perhaps a sign for future character types to be released?

The game play seems fun, if relatively standard fare. Linda took on the role of Assassin, which was an easy choice given it’s the only female character (seriously male/female options for all classes would be nice if it became a standard feature in games) and I took on the caster role. Our friend @Woodoggies will become the tank like fighter once he has the game downloaded. Linda and I played through the first five or so levels to get a good feel for the game, the combat is quick paced and the block function essential yet tricky making building up a multiplayer tough. So far we’ve managed a x5, somewhat short of the x8 required for the achievement. Loot drops are controlled by finding chests rather than killing enemies, and in general are less impressive than the items you can buy from the occasional caravan stop, and we seemed to have more than enough money to buy the best item at each stop.

There are also some puzzle sections, however from what we have seen so far they require all the brain power of a clever mouse, so we’re picking up health boosts and ‘soul anchors’ at a quick pace but presumably these will increase in difficulty. They may hinder a solo play through though, as some favour being in a multi person party so worth baring in mind it you plan to play alone.

All in all a jolly fun game, including what appears to be some replay value with score attacks and leader boards being present and correct and a medal system for rating each dungeon run you make with an achievement based incentive to gold them all.

Dead Island is dead to us.

We booted up Dead Island last night having had it delivered in a timely fashion by the excellent ShopTo, however we were immediately disappointed by the game as it lacks any local co-op options what so ever! After all the hours of fun we’ve had playing the likes of Borderlands, Gears of War and Left4Dead split screen, whilst also joining up with others online this came as somewhat of a shock. The only other game to let us down in this way in recent years was Red Dead, however given that’s more of a single player game with added multiplayer modes it was less offensive.

I’ve taken the step of emailing DeepSilver over the matter but I’m doubting we’ll get much of a response. Here is the contents of that mail:

Hello, my wife and I have been looking forward to playing Dead Island together since seeing the trailer, and have had the game on pre-order for some time. Well it arrived last night to our home and we booted it up expecting to find the same sort of co-op fun we’ve enjoyed over countless hours in other largely multi player games like Borderlands, Left4Dead 1&2, Gears of War, the Halo series, and so on. We were immediately let down by the fact that the was absolutely no split-screen option! Whilst we have come across this before in other games, most recently Red Dead Redemption, they have always been largely single player games and so we can forgive them somewhat. But in a game squarely focused on multi player it seems an absurd oversight! 

I realise that in the minds of many the idea of same room multi player is in decline, but the number of couples who game together is on the rise and so this is a market that really shouldn’t be over looked. 
Obviously this is an extreme long shot, but I don’t suppose there is any chance of Split screen being patched into the game? Would imagine retro fitting it would be difficult, which to be honest only adds to the surprise that it wasn’t considered earlier in the development cycle. 
Looking forward to hearing an explanation of why this was not considered a requirement for a modern multi player game.
Should we get any kind of response I’ll be sure to share it.
Annoyingly we tested the game out a little in single player and it looks like it would have been a very fun game for the two of us. How such an option can be overlooked in a world where the number of gaming couples is on the rise is a mystery to us.

A Day in the Asylum

I’m not one for marathoning a game usualy. I’m far more likely to just dip in for one to three hours on a work night, leaving the weekends for some multiplayer fun in Gears or L4D. However this past weekend saw a change to that. With Linda out of the house on Saturday for a chocolate making workshop, the results of which were divine, I loaded up Batman: Arkham Asylum. The Last Save Loaded for this was dated January. January 2010! Had it really been so long? And why had I stopped playing? I recalled really enjoying the game, but I think Linda saw me playing, started her go and for some reason I never jumped back on when she had finished.

So here we where, over eighteen months later and I powered up the XBOX to continue my story. Having been so long I elected to ignore the old save game and start over, probably a wise move as the combat system in Arkham Asylum, whilst wonderfully executed, takes a little while to get into the timing of so those early battles helped rekindle the muscle memory for the combat. Deciding to focus,  as I usually do these days, on just getting through the story I only picked up Riddler trophies I saw out in the open and had to walk past anyway, and so I made quick progress through the gameplay I had already seen. Starting at around 11:00 I was probably past my previous stopping point by 13:00, which was surprising. I can only assume I way taking a lot more time looking for clues and secrets on my first play.

The combat always entertained and the empowered feeling you get from being the Batman is spot on. Always wary of gun fire, but otherwise feeling smarter and quicker than all the enemies thrown at you. Not that I didn’t hit fights were I had to strategise, to out think the AI trying several techniques until I found the one that worked for me. Or occasionally believing I was safe to eliminate an inmate on the stealth sections when I clearly wasn’t, having to take to the rafters and leap about like a crazed fool until I lost them. But you always feel in control, that Batman knows what he is doing and will take them all down. And it’s this that sets this game above others that try the same approach. Batman should feel like this, the confidence to handle whatever is thrown at him, the gadgets coming it at just the right point to help him along ultimately overcoming the challenges to see justice done. The fact that I now wish I knew more about the universe of Batman is testament enough to the power of what has been created.

And so, with only a brief break, when Linda returned, for food and for her to check out Bully which we’ve bought On Demand for the 360 despite only just buying it for PC last week and already owning it on Wii, I finished the game at around 00:40. I’d estimate my total playtime at around 9 hours which for me is a great length of a game story. I spent Sunday picking up all the Riddler clues and Arkham history titbits I hadn’t come across during the story, a set of 3 teeth in the Mansion being the hardest to find so am left with only the challenges to master to get 100% however that might only be a dream. Whilst the combat system is fluid and fun, I am no master at it and probably never will be. Combo fights are not something I’ve ever been good at, one of the reasons that games like Bayonetta have little to no draw for me. But I already feel I’ve had my time with Batman well used. All I can hope now is that Arkham City is at least on a par. That will make me very happy indeed!