Tag Archives: Computer Gaming

Kerbal Space Program: The Eagle Has Landed

d1uEBThis particular Kerbal Space Program has been running for just over a week and has already seen a remarkable reduction in average life expectancy of kerbal test pilots, astronauts, scientists and engineers. Previous “test flights” have stranded at least four kerbals on the moon, one in lunar orbit in a spacesuit and one in an elliptical orbit around the inner planets. Not to mention many an exploding rocket, parachute failure and crash landings.

It is with much kerbalish pride that we can report that we have finally and successfully designed, built and flown a space rocket to land three kerbals on the surface of the moon; and most importantly brought them back to Kerbin completely not dead. From that achievement we quickly stepped up the challenge level and using the same technology and rocket design managed to achieve the same on Kerbal’s second and much smaller moon, Minmus.

Next then, we will try to open the doors to constructing a space station, only as a stepping stone to the other planets. All shall be in awe of our fledgling space empire!

Six Of The Greatest Computer and Video Games Ever

Ever since I could hold a dial contoller and make the lines go up and down on a pong machine I’ve been playing computer games. Not that that qualifies me at all to make any kind of judgement upon what makes a good game or not, it simply shows that I’m getting old and still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

So anyway spambots, I have been thinking long and deeply about some of what I consider the best of gaming… EVER!!! Obviously as I write this in the middle of October 2010 it may not be valid for very long… Indeed I might well have changed my mind by tomorrow, but here goes:

6) Mass Effect 2 – This game truly is a work of genius. Just about the only adventure game I’ve ever played where I actually gave a stuff about what NPCs had to say. I must have sat through hours of dialogue and not got bored, wore out the continue button, fell asleep or went off in search of food once. Remarkable. In addition, I don’t think I got lost in game either, saving literally tonnes of virtual shoe leather. Good adventures? This is how it’s done!

5) Modern Warfare 2 – The second sequel on our list proves the point that video games are utterly unlike videos. For those of you who are 20 years old or less a video is an archaic device used to store films and movies. They were big plastic bulky things, and if you were posh you could put them in covers that made them look like books from the side. Anyway, most movie sequels are about flogging the dead horse in a vain attempt to cash in. Game sequles are about taking a game and making it better. MW2 happens to be just about the greatest FPS game, technically and especially playability wise. Single player – great, multiplayer – amazing, co-operative – a right laugh. Yes PC owners whinge that it doesn’t have LAN support. It’s best played on a console where the playing fields are level and victory cannot be bought at your local PC component store.

4) Grand Theft Auto 4 – I know a guy from eastern europe who happens to be called Niko. He also looks like the protagonist of this great game. Fortunately he has never tried to carjack me or rob a bank. I did pay him to help paint my house and assemble a bathroom though, and I would say that maybe he’d be wise to keep his options open for a career in crime. Regardless, GTA4 is amazing. The attention to detail is fantastic. Even if breaking the law is not your thing you can spend hours watching the TV, going to shows and surfing the internet in game. It’s seriously hilarious. The game proper though is a great high quality adventure into the seedy underworld of Liberty City, with enough freedom to keep you playing for days. It’s the jewel in the crown of Rockstar Games, but also recommended are the similar Grand Theft Cowboy (Red Dead Redemption) and Grand Theft School (Bully).

3) Gears Of War 2 – Want a game with sex drugs and rock n’ roll? Pfff… that’s for wimps! Get up close and personal with one of the most brutal and excitng games you’ll ever play! Once you’ve hacked, slashed, blasted and sawed your way through an excellent single player or co-op campaign, you then have the further fun of brilliant multiplayer options. Gears of War 2 has a serious ace which will keep you hacking, slashing, blasting and sawing for years to come. What? Two words – Horde Mode.

2) Bayonetta – What the heck is this doing at number two? I’ll tell you what, it’s a veritable feast of awesome. Everything about this game is absolutely stunning and I’d say that even if the main character was a fat bloke called Dave who walks around with his wang out. Visually it’s incredible, aurally it’s amazing and it all glues together with such seamless effortlessness and flow to produce the ultimate beat ’em up. Give typewriters to an infinite number of monkeys and eventually they’ll produce the full works of Shakespeare. Give computers and hallucinogenic drugs to an infinite number of programmers and I don’t think they’d come close to producing something this crazily amazing.

1) World Of Warcraft – The greatest game ever made. Seriously. Hmm, I am beginning to doubt my own sanity. But just look at it, Warcrack is so immersive that it’s very hard to find a regular player who hasn’t had some kind of addiction to the game. It’s phenomenal once you get into it, all you need is a PC with GameBoy type specifications and a smattering of social skills and you are off into this crazy world of adventure which can and literally will suck your life away. The repercussions of Warcrack will become apparent in a few years as a generation comes of age lacking in qualifications and suntans, having squandered the best years of their lives holed away in basements doing the safety dance and grinding their Hodir rep. Good? – definitely. Addictive? – dangerously!

Things Not On This List:

1) Old games – Populous was great. Notice the WAS. Resident Evil was incredible. Again notice the WAS. They’ve all been redone, a million times better on far superior hardware. Only a true masochist or someone living at the bottom of a swamp would think that Elite is still the best space opera game ever. Groundbreaking, yes, the best game ever to grace the BBC Micro, sure. Possibly the best game on the planet by a long way on it’s release. Take off your rose tinted spectacles, play it on an emulator and see how it pales in comparison to games you can even get on your mobile phone.

2) Nintendo – Run by plumbers? Never played any of their games in any serious measure (well not since they refused to add blood to Mortal Kombat on the SNES, a bit like doing a wrestling game without the spandex). I do own a Wii, which is revolutionary in terms of game controllers but its a kind of fun thing for social gatherings. I don’t rush home from work to get in a round of Wii Sports Golf. Oh yeah, Goldeneye 64 was the best game of it’s day, but see ‘1) Old Games’.

3) Any Other MMO – Warcraft is far more popular. Admit it, you invested 3 months in levelling a toon in a game people only play when the WoW servers run maintenance.

4) Sonic The Hedgehog – Haha not a chance you spikey freak!

Five Of The Worst Games I’ve Ever Played

There are many ways to misspend your youth. Some people get in trouble, some people eat too much, some people spend their entire youthful summer holidays reading books, some people spend their days giving atomic wedgies to nerds. Others even spend their time pushing wet paint rollers over space marines before getting in endless arguments at the local sherriff store. Personally, I played computer games. My first computer was the ancient ZX81 Spectrum. No, not the one with rubber keys and the little rainbow in the corner, I mean the badass abacus that could kick your digital watch’s butt.

So I present to you, dear googlespiders, a collection of my faded and jaded memories of some of the lowlights of my career in lamerness. It is by no means a complete list or even slightly authoratitive, but just a selection of those games I remember!

5) Shadow Of The Beast II (Amiga)

Seriously, this game pushed the boundaries of what we thought was possible. We would huddle around our ‘female friends’, jaws agape at the phenomenal intro, the life like graphics and sound effects, and we were stunned. It couldn’t get much better than this. It was like you were really in this fantastic world. Then the gameplay started. It was impossible. It would be game over within three minutes, if you were good. The only reason anyone actually played this is thanks to some unknown superhero called Roger. If you walked up to the first person you encountered on your right and asked him about ‘TEN PINTS’, he would say something like ‘THIS ONE’S FOR YOU ROGER!’ and make you invincible, which made the game a tad more playable. To be fair, it was quite a good game with the cheat on and definitely wouldn’t make the list if someone had told me about this cheat before the game spent ages languishing in a cupboard.

4) Spirit Of Excalibur (Amiga)

This was about as close to a workout as many nerds got back in the day. Spirit Of Excalibur was actually quite a decent game, set in an exciting land of knights and dragons. The problem was that this game made disk swapping into an olympic discipline. Seriously, you think installing the likes of Diablo II off 3 cds is tough… well thats just peanuts to SOE. It would require a disk swap at least every five seconds, and the airy fairy old english language about magic boxes and gold medallions (drives and disks) made the whole experience unbearable. Ever see a 90’s teenage boy with one muscular arm? Could be Spirit Of Excalibur!

3) Global Effect (Amiga)

This game came out amidst one of the regular reoccuring waves of eco-friendliness. It was basically SimCity for hippies. Do you SimCity thing, but beware the wrath of mother nature should you allow your ecosystem to get out of balance, man. All sounds good in principle right? Well there was a problem. Maybe it was just me, but no matter what I did in game, I always managed to trigger an ice age within about twenty minutes. Game over, this land belongs to the inuits, innit? Even spending all resources to build hundreds of coal fired power stations failed to avert the freezing of mankind. If this game was actually based on scientific fact then get that jumper your nan knitted you out of the loft NOW!

2) Car Tycoon (PC)

Apparently this game was made by a bunch of Germans affiliated with a famous puzzle maker. What is puzzling is that it seems no-one actually tested the game before release. I’ve seen less bugs in a siafu nest. Just stay away and stay sane!

1) The Fabulous Wanda And The Secret Of Life, The Universe And Everything (Commodore 64)

At the time I don’t remember this being such a bad game. The premise is easy enough, you have been coerced, under threat of death by an alien called Bruce or something to find Wanda and get her to reveal her secrets. You end up on an alien planet, and must play several simple minigames to make some cash. Once you have enough cash you can go and buy Wanda a drink or something. The problem is that you can never get enough cash. It is physically impossible. If by chance you win loads of money, Wanda’s drink simply gets more expensive, so inevitably you always lose. An interesting game no doubt, but an incredibly cruel, cruel trick to play on a ten year old.

MMOs Vs Tabletop – The Battle for Gaming

I was born at the tail end of the 70’s and therefore grew up during the age in which computers really took off as well as in the hey day of AD&D. Now, being a little young and in the wrong crowd for D&D I ended up firmly in the group who grew up with BBCs, Acorns and their ilk. As I got older I got into tabletop games and these both ran alongside each other as the hobbies that really would take a lot of my time especially as the 90’s hit and I had my own disposable income to chuck away.

Now, computer gaming really was quite a solitary thing, OK, you may have had a mate round to play Duck Hunt or something but that really was it, there wasn’t a huge multiplayer market unless you had two joysticks… Tabletop gaming is much more social in my mind, whether you’ve spent time in a store surrounded by the heady odour of unwashed men or surrounded yourself with better hygiened companions in the safety of your own boudoir, tabletop lends itself to a crowd. OK, you can enjoy a game with a close friend and enjoy it being just the two of you but often when I play there is at least 3 of us.

Nowadays however there is a (not so) new kid on the block. The MMORPG, a game genre that seeks to unite thousands if not millions of people globally into the same environment, some have even made the transition from tabletop to Internetz, and some vice versa. They seek to entice all people to enjoy their fruits and (after playing more than my fair share) I find them to be useful diversions that allow a bit of escapism, I’ve even been fortunate enough to play with real life friends in these adventures and have forged at least one lasting friendship through someone met in one of these games. However, both MMOs and tabletop gaming are very different, you obviously have a much more selective play group if you’re involved in a tabletop community, even if you are a regular tournament attendee, then we have the perennial stumbling block that miniatures are seen as nerdy and the age old image of computer gamers being sweaty old men living in their parents basement is becoming a stereotype more and more consigned to the past.

A hobby only survives long term with an injection of fresh blood and I don’t really have any numbers to throw around here but with the easy accessibility of computer games and the social aspects of MMOs, does this mean that we will see a slow decline in the number of people who take up the tabletop hobby? After all, there are no really immediate results from miniatures, you normally have to assemble them first and then there is the option of painting them too. MMOs you just pays your dollar and dives right in, you can see yourself getting rewards in terms of money, XP and loot a much more immediate gratification and your house doesn’t end up looking like the set from the Death Star trench run.

Yet, no matter how much MMOs may try to entice, even with games like Warhammer Online, I cannot see them replacing a hobby that I love. Would you be enticed into Warhammer Online to sample the Intellectual Property or rather try actually playing a proper game where you command entire regiments on the table rather than a single avatar in the game? Are we going to see more and more kids that may have been willing to try out tabletop going down the road of MMOs because they require a smaller investment up front and quicker rewards? Or do you feel that our beloved hobby will be able to endure against the continuing encroachment of virtual treats?

I don’t have the answers and I look forward to the day that I can pass on my geekiness to any legacy that may be forthcoming, but no matter how social gaming may become, standing around talking trash with friends in my living room will always be something I treasure.