Category Archives: Computer/Video Games

Three Things I Like to See in C-RPGs

I’ve been playing the original Mass Effect lately.  I never got into it before because I have to admit I found it a bit challenging for the amount of time I wanted to put in to the combat system, but I’m a big fan of BioWare’s games and I always wanted to like it.  Anyway, I’m smashing through it on Easy setting now so I can play Mass Effect 3 when it comes out, and I’m having a lot of fun.

Playing Skyrim recently (and now this) has reminded me of a few things I really like to see in C-RPGs: Continue reading

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Top Ten Most Hated Super Street Fighter IV Opponents

This is my first ever filler post top ten list:  Street Fighter characters that make me groan when I see I have been matched up against them.  Characters are on this list for a variety of reasons: the people who commonly play them are jerks, the character rewards a play-style that is frustrating or boring to play against, or even just because something about the character’s manner irritates me.

Warning:  contains stronger language than I normally use . . . Continue reading


Diary of a casual video gamer: Skyrim

Yeah, I don't have a device for hooking my xbox up to my laptop so this is literally a screenshot. A blurry, pinstriped screenshot. Enjoy.

I’ve been flat out with work lately (as in, writing thousands of words a day for the last ten days) so I haven’t had much time for gaming or hobby stuff. I haven’t even been checking my regular gaming blogs.  I did manage to start playing Skyrim a little.  That guy up there is my 5th level orc, Krabulos.

Did I mention how I hate Ryu players? They're humourless jerks who seem to think they are tireless warriors rather than couch potatoes pretending to be a tireless warrior. Oh how I love smashing them, and how I cry when they smash me.

As I’ve said many times before, I have a short attention span with video games and I’m not that interested in winning them or getting achievements.  Except for Street Fighter.  I can’t help trying to win at Street Fighter, against my better judgement.

With computer/console RPGs I often play them on “easy” so I can get through the story without having my suspension of disbelief broken by my hero constantly dying and respawning.  It’s awesome, it makes my hard-core gamer friends spin in their graves while they’re still alive.

The Elder Scrolls games I like because I don’t have to do that.  You can play at your own pace.  I played Oblivion for something like 80 hours and never attempted the main story.  Skyrim I am so far enjoying even more than Oblivion.  I’ve already spent about 4 or 5 hours of real world time just running over mountains picking flowers and trying (unsuccessfully) to hunt rabbits with fireballs.

Krabulos enjoys running through the mountains and occasionally being slain by animals/wandering monsters/falls/drowning.

The reason I say I like it more than Oblivion is aesthetics.  I think the Elder Scrolls games have always fallen short of what they were trying to achieve visually, at least for me.  You could see they were going for a natural, woody feel to everything but it just came across a bit bland and flat.  The people looked strange, with tiny heads and odd colouring.  It was almost impossible to make a good-looking character, unlike in Dragon Age II (and Bioware RPGs in general) where everyone is hot.  I always play these games in third person view if possible because I figure since I spend ages making my character and collecting their gear, I might as well see them.  And if I’m going to be looking at someone all day, I want them to look cool.  Krabulos looks pretty cool, I have to say.  And my girlfriend’s character looks like a swimsuit model wearing a sword.

I also didn’t like the armour and weapon style of Oblivion and Morrowind.  I’m not a fan of golden plates of armour that look like leaves.  I like furs and iron and animal teeth, Hyborian style.

Skyrim has more visually arresting backgrounds.  I think they finally struck the right colour balance between vivid and realistic.  The people also look much better.  The armour and weapons are Conan-esque.  I’m enjoying the leveling-up system too.  You improve skills with use, but you still have the ability to control your development in a more traditional way by picking perks.  It’s a nice combination.

I have a couple of criticisms too of course.  The bewildering array of skills from other Elder Scrolls games has been drastically cut down.  There’s no hand-to-hand skill for example, so I can’t play a fist-fighter or monk style character effectively.  I was kind of looking forward to being an orc brawler, but I pretty much have to use a weapon.  I suppose it’s more realistic, but punching armed bandits to death is fun dammit.  The dual wielding thing is cool except that it seems like to use a spell you have to have it equipped. This means you’re constantly switching up what’s in your hands in the middle of combat in a very unrealistic way.

All in all though, my criticisms aren’t stopping me playing every chance I get.

Oh and the voice actors are . . . variable.  Some characters seem to flow between being Scandinavian, Irish and Transylvanian while you’re talking to them.  But a video game with perfect voice acting just wouldn’t have the charm now would it?


Papers on Gaming: Nine Ways to Play

I mentioned a while ago that I’d been reading some academic papers about gamer culture, and that I’d share some with you all.  I’ve found a few interesting things.  Firstly, there is a whole academic journal, Simulation and Gaming, devoted to the topic.  Unfortunately academic journals charge massive fees to read the articles unless you’re a student or professor. Behold the free and unfettered exchange of ideas.

But that’s partially why I’m sharing this – my work gives me institutional access.  The article I’m going to present and discuss today is At Least Nine Ways to Play: Approaching Gamer Mentalities by Kallio, Mayra and Kaipainen.  These Finnish researchers recently (2010) completed a massive three-year survey to discover attitudes to video gaming among people of all ages.   The survey they made was restricted to digital gaming, but I think the results can be applied to traditional games too. Continue reading


THQ Makes Me a Chump

Or, How I Paid a Hundred Bucks for a Game and Didn’t Get What I Wanted . . .

Original box art from the Rogue Trader era marines

So picked up Space Marine on Friday night, as my girlfriend and I were looking after her ten-year old brother again – the guy I played Kill Team with.  The next day I had a chance to sit down and play it properly myself, so I thought I’d put down my first impressions.  This is not going to be a technical review.  I haven’t won the game yet or anything, and there are plenty of other good traditional game reviews about, for example here and here.  I’ll just mention the things about the game that I personally found striking or disappointing on first play.

Basically I can sum the experience for me so far up like this: Great visuals and tone, poor organization.  The Campaign is great fun. The marine feels like a marine in every way, from the way he runs to the way the Guardsmen fall to their knees when he talks to them.  The combat is brutal and really fun, and the Orks are even true to the setting.  They take a lot of putting down, and really come across as tough, furious, fearless opponents.

Unfortunately there is no option for split screen play, which is how I normally like to play these games.  I don’t have the longest attention span when it comes to games, and I don’t care about finding secrets and unlocking achievements – I play games when there’s nothing better to do.  This means for me to even finish a video game I normally need to be playing with someone else, to spur me on.  I played the Halo Reach campaign with my girlfriend and Borderlands with my dad, and enjoyed them both a lot.  I can’t play Space Marine with anyone.  It’s just plain anti-social I tell you. Continue reading


Kill Team and temporary loss of signal

Yesterday I finally had time to check out Kill Team on the Xbox 360.  I played it with my girlfriend’s ten year old brother, and we had a great time smashing orks and trying out all the different space marines.  I was impressed by some of the little things, like the orkified space marine statue that showed the kill krooza was a looted imperial vessel, and the way the meltagun actually seemed like superheated air and did a lot more damage at short range.  I really enjoy short, cheap games like this with a lot of replay value, like Super Meat Boy.  There should be more of them.

I also had to keep myself from laughing because the kid I was playing with kept saying “I need health . . . badly!”  He’s ten, he’s never played or even heard of Gauntlet, so it was pretty funny.

Playing this game and seeing the build-up to Space Marine has got me thinking that GW could do a lot worse than license their intellectual property to as many other high quality media companies (like THQ and Fantasy Flight) as they can.  I really believe that the Warhammer 40,000 universe has the potential to be a science fiction milieu as recognizable as Star Trek or even Star Wars, but GW’s continued emphasis on their miniatures and tabletop game is a bad idea.  Let it go, GW.  It’s not 1990 any more.  You can still make the minis and sell the original game, but it’s a niche product and always will be.  Buckets of extra money and new creative blood with fresh perspectives can only help the original hobby, but if they keep treating games like Dawn of War, the upcoming Space Marine and the prophesied 40k MMO as essentially giant advertisements for their tabletop hobby then they’re fooling themselves and just wasting so much potential.

The second thing I wanted to mention is that I’m taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks.  I know there are a few of you out there who regularly check up on me and my ramblings – thanks heaps for that by the way! – so I thought I should let you all know I may be a bit quiet for a while, but I’ll be back soon. Continue reading


Gaming Thoughts: computer vs. pen and paper RPGs

I was a child in the mid-to-late 1980s, and a teenager in the mid-to-late 90s, so I grew up in that unique time when computer and console versions of wargames and RPGs were starting to emerge and really challenge traditional games.

Back then, if you mentioned the words “wargame” or “role-playing game” the picture people got in their head was of a traditional table-top, board, or pen and paper game.  Now I think most people outside the gaming community, and even many in it, would first picture a screen, and the player either lounging around with a console controller or huddled in front of a keyboard and mouse.

I’m planning on writing a few articles on how the experience of playing each of these kinds of game differs, their strengths and weaknesses as I see them, and maybe mention a bit about these games changing place in the world while I’m at it.  So in this Gaming Thoughts, I’m going to start with what I started with:  RPGs. Continue reading


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