Crackdown 2 multiplayer sneak peek

Yeah, I really don’t like linking to IGN because they do their reviews without actually playing the games, but I’ll make an exception with the Crackdown 2 multiplayer sneak peak.  Now, Crackdown is one of those awesome not so great games.  That is, no one is going to call the original a great game, but it was good exceedingly fun just to run around an open world blowing shit up without all the GTA bullshit (people calling your cell constantly in game, actually having to drive cars: bleh)–it just had some rough edges and was a lot of the same all the way through.  The new one looks to be more of the same: good, not great, but real fun stuff.  Looking forward to it.

The end of the greatest blog in human history

I asked a friend many moons ago what the best web-navigation was and he immediately said: “A small picture of a hot chick that leads to a big picture of a hot chick.”  This is an eternal truth that I have used in client meetings, internal design reviews and user experience discussions ever since, going as far as asking a client: what is YOUR hot chick?  That said, there was one blog out there that I just stumbled across one afternoon that is the absolute essence of this statement: because that’s ALL it is.  After 5 years, the man responsible decided to call it quits, or, at least that’s what google translation tells me since it’s entirely in Japanese. Sad.

Some d&d..er Pathfinder

Not without some trepidation after a disasterous D&D session at a bachelor party in 2005 did I agree to a day long Pathfinder session for a buddy’s birthday.  Having only had the chance to play an RPG a few times, and with my majority exposure to version 3.0 being the excellent CRPG Temple of Elemental Evil, I said yes.   Since it was in the company of friends, food and beer, there was no question at all that it was fun, so I want to focus on a few things in the system that irked me a bit.  While the session was entertaining, it ratified some of my previous feelings that the D20 system has a very odd abstraction of combat that really isn’t very good when you get right down to it.

First is initiative.  Pathfinder’s initiative system makes zero changes from 3rd edition, 2nd edition and as far as I can remember uses the same initiative system as basic D&D.  Each character rolls a D20, adds some modifiers and take their attack turns in that order.  Regardless of the type of action the character takes, their initiative order does not change at any point during combat, regardless of ‘wounds’ and regardless of the action they took until a character or enemy is incapacitated.  Essentially, characters have 6 seconds to act in and order based on an arbitrary role at the beginning of combat.  That said, I failed to see the real advantage of going first.  Compared to other systems (I’m tempted to say ‘more modern systems’ here but will abstain) the initiative system has a frustrating lack of tactical depth.  In most RPG’s I’ve played or GM’ed since playing D&D as a kid,  a character’s speed and actions taken during their turn effect the next time they can act, how they are able to defend, etc.   While the initiative system in this version of D&D works, it has a distinct lack of allowing the player to make interesting choices.

Second beef is the single, massive spread of pips die roll to attack–i.e.: the basis for the entire D20 system.  In combat you make a couple choices, for example: whether to move attack/ attack move whether or not to use a feat, etc.  What it really boils down to are modifiers on a single die roll where each pip represents +/-5%.  If you roll high enough, you get to roll another die for damage.  If you roll low, your turn is over.  There are no attack rerolls, no way to expend power points or whatnotall to enhance your attack, and while the choice of feats to use can be somewhat interesting, it typically only increases or decreases the attack roll by 5-10%.  What’s more, your attack roll has nothing to do with anything your opponent did previously, and your opponent cannot react at all to your attack, whether it’s an (abstracted) flurry of fists or a massive haymaker with a halberd.

Third, and this is the big one for me, is the lack of narrative combat options: i.e.: stunting. During the session I kept wanting to blurt out some heroic, stylish, wuxia-infused description of a clever use of the scenery, my weapon or the opponent’s position to not only spice up the proceedings, but to gain some extra dice/pips to hit, etc. I realized during the session that I hadn’t played a game without some form of stunting, whether it was Werewolf, Exalted, Amber diceless or Feng Shui for a decade or so. I’ve been exposed so much to players always stunting everything that I had forgotten just how like a dry wind through a soulless city (like, say, Houston) narrative roleplaying combat was without it.

Years ago during a session of Feng Shui, an old school D&D player (who we will call Steve to protect the innocent) had real problems wrapping his head around the stunting system while fighting some mooks inside a fully stocked kitchen no less. After some frustrating attempts at stunting and goading from the other players he would simply say “Medium punch to no specific location.”    He eventually picked up the torch and can now stunt to consistently help other players to roll on the floor in laughter or state the softly spoken ‘badass’ compliment.  Yet, this phrase is the essence of my issue with the D20 system. Combat becomes an exercise of moving miniatures, adding up the bonuses and rolling one die representing an abstracted set of combat actions that take exactly six seconds. If you roll high you get to roll another die– and that’s it. While miniature-based, Pathfinder/D&D is just not good miniature combat (like say Confrontation), nor does it capture the narrative possibilities that exist for pen and paper RPGs. For me personally, stunting in combat is sine qua non. Without it, my Confrontation/Warhammer/Blood Bowl miniature game player brain takes over and it’s all about abusing scenery, wishing I had a lot more than just one little plastic figure to control and little quirks in the rules rather than a flowing narrative.

Rise of the Machines

beatings by a machineA computer has beaten a professional Go player. It’s pretty shocking really as compared to Chess, where humans do not stand a chance, Go presents incredible problems due to the sheer number of places that a stone could be played in any given turn.  Humans can instantly eliminate 95% of the spaces of play on the board and focus on the areas that most need a stone; seeing the strategic as well as the tactical implications, reading eventual shapes long before the actual stones are played. A computer, coming from the much more flatly tactical game of chess, would have to crunch through all the possibilities, eliminating each only when the entire tactical line of possible moves was ruled out.  This proved to be impossible, and for many years computers could barely keep up with middling amateurs (of which I don’t even rank near middling).  All I can conclude with is we should be prepared to kneel before our robot masters sooner than later after a breakthrough like this.

Queen’s Blade

Queen's Blade MellownaI don’t even know what this is nor where it’s from. I just know it’s frightenly awesome.  From Wikipeedia: ” is a series of visual combat books published by Hobby Japan, based on the licensed works from Lost Worlds. First published in 2005, it features only female characters in sexual art situations.”  And yes, if you were roaming around Hobby Horse in the early 80’s the Lost Worlds referenced are those strange little combat books that filled up the rack next to the microgames.

Gabe on the Pirates

Gabe on Piracy.  Focusing on the lack of service driving people to pirate, not the fact that they can get stuff for free.  This goes hand in hand with the iTunes model– why would any one buy an MP3 when they can get it for free almost as easily? The key is ALMOST as easy.  iTunes makes it horrifically convenient to spend your money and legitimately get a MP3.  A few less clicks without the guilt is the win– amazingly even though you have to play real money.

DICE is NICE

Despite the rather long acronym for the game(BFBC2), the first blush of both the single and multiplayer have proven to be absolutely over the top.  Particle effects, sound and lighting are all nothing short of amazing and in multi: the destructible environments fundamentally change the way the maps are played.   Sadly, I’m getting a lot of lag in multiplayer, but that will lessen as I find closer servers to play on.

The single player reminds me quite a bit of Far Cry– one section harkens back to my favorite level: River, but with sound and lighting that put Far Cry to shame.

If you haven’t picked this up, even if you have no interest in the multiplayer game, it’s time!

Amazon Diablo 3

Without even a published release date YEAR announced (I’ve heard from 2011 to 2013), Amazon has started selling pre-orders of Diablo 3 for ~60$.  Is that even the final price?  Is that the final box art?  Are you giving a giant company a chance to invest your money for up to 3 years and gain interest on it for a pre-order that has only imagined value and from the price is not any type of deal at all, especially since electronic delivery methods may be the only way the game files are actually delivered to the user by the time it comes out?