Archive for August, 2011

Eagle Day: ground control to Major Tom

, | Game diaries

So many storylines run through the Battle of Britain that it’s hard to decide where to start. The evolution of airpower theory in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The secretive growth of the Luftwaffe after the Treaty of Versailles. The design and development of the main mechanical protagonists: the Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, and Messerschmidt 109, as well as the German medium bombers, at least one of which started out as an airliner. British Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, who almost singlehandedly devised and directed a coherent strategy for fighting the battle. German Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring, who did not. The ballroom at Bentley Priory, which was converted into the first real “war room” over two decades before Dr. Strangelove. The female air controllers who served there and elsewhere, constituting an irreplaceable contribution to the war effort every bit as much a part of it as the fighter pilots. Those pilots themselves, including the refugees from conquered lands who ended up being among the highest scoring aces in the battle. A lone democratic island nation against an ascendant continental tribe gripped by an abhorrent ideology. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most written-about battles in the English language. What if any of those storylines had read differently? Would you be speaking German?

After the jump, achtung, dummkopf! Continue reading →

Hitting the big five-oh on Xbox Live

, | Games

I could lie and say that I don’t really pay attention to my gamerscore on Xbox Live, and that one of the reasons I prefer playing games on my 360 instead of my PS3 isn’t because the achievements add to my gamerscore, and that I just happened to notice that I topped 50,000 points when I got the “Stealing is wrong, kids!” achievement in Bodycount for “diminishing the scavenger population”.

But none of those things is true. I can’t help but follow achievements and my gamerscore. It’s an insidious system because it’s effective. And I do gravitate to games on the 360 partly for that illusory feeling that I’m contributing to a body of work. And I noticed the exact moment I topped 50,000 because I was waiting for it to happen.

I was at 49,987 when the “achievement earned” sound dinged and that little box popped up on the screen. I checked the list, but the achievement was only 5 points for killing ten enemies with mines. I was still 18 points away from 50,000. Shortly thereafter, the sound dinged again. It was a 20 pointer for killing some indeterminate number of the guys who run around the levels picking up the scattered tokens that power your special abilities. “Stealing is wrong, kids!” it read. “Diminish the Scavenger Population”.

So here I sit, after six years, with a gamerscore of 50,002. I wish I could turn that feature off so it would stop distracting me from more important pursuits. Like finally getting a platinum trophy on the PS3.

Eagle Day: behind the Stone Curve

, | Game diaries

If you read my previous game diary about War in the East, you might be all ready for me to start playing Eagle Day and RAF, pull a few history books off the shelf, find some random paragraphs that support whatever point I’m making at the time, and still manage to lose the game. You must think that– like the people I write about — I haven’t learned anything from the last war I fought.

After the jump, sorry suckers Continue reading →

Gamespotting: Breaking Bad, again

, | Games

In the most blatant forward-looking videogame product placement (i.e. advertisement) since Aaron Eckhart fought aliens under a Resistance 3 billboard in Battle: Los Angeles, Breaking Bad went to bat for Bethesda this past weekend. The opening scene in the latest episode featured Jesse pretending to play Rage with some sort of fake gun peripheral that doesn’t have the courtesy to superimpose a reticle over the canned footage that passes for gameplay. Meanwhile, the character supposedly relates the gameplay to his own misdeeds involving a gun. Shooters, man. They take you to dark places.

Frankly, I prefer it Breaking Bad is shilling for the new Dodge Challenger.

Eagle Day: one more time with Churchill’s “few”

, | Game diaries

Leisure reading about history makes me want to play wargames. This is what makes wargamers “wargamers,” as has been definitively proven in at least one scholarly journal article somewhere. I’m sure of it. Michael Korda’s With Wings Like Eagles, a fast-reading, intelligent history of the Battle of Britain published in 2009, got me thinking that I’d like to, you know, play some kind of Battle of Britain simulation. That’s how it always works. But which one? SPI’s Battle Over Britain? Haha, no. That’s what you think this is, right? Another excuse to explain why boardgames are better than computer wargames, and that everything totally sucks in computer game land? I’m sorry if I seem that predictable. But I did really want to get historically involved with the subject matter in some way, and thanks to my previous search through boxes of old games looking for Rails Across America, I knew exactly where my old Talonsoft games were. So pulling out Gary Grigsby’s Battle of Britain* wasn’t hard.

After the jump, what my RPG experience over Europe taught me about the Battle of Britain Continue reading →

August 29, 2011: wallet threat level football

, | Games

Hey, look, it’s time for Madden 12! Unleash your inner Pele with this year’s football simulation game from Electronic Arts, the fine folks who brought you Monopoly Streets, Deathspank, and Army of Two.

Am I little crazy to be looking forward to Bodycount, an unsung shooter from Codemasters? Have I been tricked by Fear 3 into expecting to be pleasantly surprised by what should be just a throwaway shooter? Do I just want to collect a whole mess of whatever those little collectibles are that scatter around the map like confetti when you shoot bad guys? Am I just a sucker for co-op modes?

Speaking of being a sucker, the Pirates and Nobles expansion for Sims: Medieval is out this week. I don’t care if it’s awful. It only takes a tiny nudge to push me into a little more Sims: Medieval. They could sell me a Stevedores and Chambermaids expansion.

Gaming’s funniest joke: GameStop

, | Games

The biggest joke in gaming is sadly not “Funny Ha Ha.”

Lately, the uproar has been about GameStop opening copies of the PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and removing coupons for a free copy on the OnLive system. They weren’t really in the wrong on the point that Square/Enix shouldn’t have included coupons for a possible GameStop competitor without their knowledge. However, instead of holding the game back and discussing it with the publisher, they just opened them up, removed the piece of paper and then sold them as new. Is this legal? Maybe. Is it the right thing to do? I personally don’t believe so.

Though the Deus Ex thing is the latest hoo-haa for GameStop, it’s far from their first and certainly not the worst. With that in mind, lets take a look back at some of the other reasons you shouldn’t shop with GameStop.

After the Jump: GameStop, I Hardly Knew Ye

Continue reading →

Weekly Little Big Planet: good against the living

, | Features

Confession time. That picture isn’t from LPB2. I have an inquiry in to the Screenshot Department of Weekly Little Big Planet, and I assure you that we will get to the bottom of this, because it is unacceptable. I’m told the inquiry has been forwarded to the Compliance Department of WLBP, since the problem isn’t with screenshots, but with playing time. Seems the head writer of this column spent all his gaming time this week playing pinball instead of…well…

The staff here at WLBP is on this, I assure you. The investigation so far has yielded little beyond lame excuses that blame the community levels for being cute but empty, too cinematic, decent but bog standard, and in one case too hard.

Preliminary findings suggest the real problem is that a gauntlet was thrown down. That is to say, one of the WLBP head writer’s friends beat his high score on his favorite FX2 table, Secrets of the Deep. By about ten million points. And this simply could not stand. Tooling around with sackfolk is one thing. Having your pinball table score messed with by an actual human being? That’s personal.

Speaking of personal…

After the jump, that’s something else Continue reading →

DotA Who? Oh, DotA 2.

, | Games

Last weekend was the end of the 1,000,000 dollar tournament that marks the official reveal of gameplay for Defense of the Ancients 2, or DotA 2 for short. Valve chose the tournament route to coincide with the large European games convention Gamescom, hosted in Cologne, Germany – a show in which many game developers release post-E3, pre-holiday news for the gaming industry. The tournament, The International DotA 2 Championships, ended Sunday. The entire tournament was streamed from and the matches are available afterwards via SD or HD videos, some with commentary, from YouTube. I’ve spent a good deal of my time over the last few days watching these matches and I’m now ready for the Beta. In fact, the more I watch, the more I want to play.

After the jump, I can’t wait to get my hands on DotA 2.

Continue reading →

Age of Empires Online takes bottom honors

, | Game reviews

I’ve been playing a fair bit of Command and Conquer: Generals lately. It actually holds up pretty well! Fast, easy, eminently asymmetrical, and full of personality. The interface isn’t even particularly terrible, even if there isn’t a panel at the bottom of the screen to show me what units I have selected. Part of the re-learning curve in Command and Conquer: Generals involves sending all your Comanche attack choppers directly over a GLA missile bunker because you didn’t know you had them selected.

A year or so ago at a press event, I was talking to one of the guys from EALA, the studio that made Command and Conquer: Generals. He told me that I’d called Red Alert 3 “the worst real time strategy game ever made”. I felt bad at the time, since I didn’t recall that particular bit of vitriol and since EALA is one of my favorite RTS developers. But he was probably right, not just about me writing that but about me meaning it. Red Alert 3 was a frenetic sloppy overbearing stew of poorly implemented backwards ideas from a developer that should have known better. However, I have good news for the developers of Red Alert 3: you’re off the hook.

Read of the Age of Empres Online review here.

Qt3 Podcast: Spoofychop and Wizard Wars

, | Games podcasts

You probably don’t know what Wizard Wars is. From that picture of the game above, taken by Keith (aka Spoofychop), it doesn’t look like much. But assuming your concept of computer RPGs predates the latest visual feast, and assuming you remember what it was like being a kid, you will absolutely understand the magic of Wizard Wars. Because — no joke — a bunch of museum curators understood it. Hear the tale on this episode of the Quarter to Three Podcast.

After the jump, we have visual aids, which we’ll explain as you’re listening! Continue reading →