alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Quoted from an old colleague:
So this month marks the 20th anniversary of System Shock's release! Holy Crap!

To celebrate, I am going to be live streaming the game this Sunday (9/21), starting at 1pm pacific on http://twitch.tv/algorithmancy.

If this is something that amuses you, please spread the word about it. I'd like to be streaming to someone other than crickets. I'm in the process of getting the word out on social media and the various LG fan forums.

Salt the Fries!

- MAHK
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
After years of dissatisfaction in the corporate world, followed by months of depressed unemployment, I've decide to take the plunge. I'm going indie, all-in, succeed or bankrupt.

On the cusp of that decision, I went to my local comic-book store (Outer Limits) for the first time in several months. I saw there an omnibus collection of Stray Bullets prominently displayed. This was one of my favorite indie crime titles from the 90s, but no new material had seen print in the last 9 years. The creator, David Lapham, seemed to have been seduced by the corporate side of the force, and had produced no self-owned work in ages.

I start talking about it to Steve, and discover that this collection actually heralds *new* material. In fact, there's not one, but *two* brand-new issues on the shelves. And they're great; Lapham has slipped back into the form like he was never away at all.

It's an omen. Now is the time to do My Own Art.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
My wife often refers to my videogaming as "killing things" (typical usage: "Are you going to go kill things now?"). This is because many (though by no means all) games follow a basic play loop of "kill things and take their loot".

One of my recent games has been "Batman: Arkham City". I first started playing it about a year ago, but got distracted by other things, and recently re-started it. I should say up front that I think this is an excellent game, even if I am going to proceed to discuss some of its failings.

In Arkham City, you aren't *technically* killing things, 'cause Batman has a code against killing. Instead, you just beat thugs into unconsciousness and/or break their bones and/or leave them dangling helplessly from gargoyles. This sort of thing is dubious enough when it happens in the comics, but in the fiction of this game, it's even worse. Arkham City is a lawless prison, with different criminal gangs in a constant state of warfare. To leave a foe helpless in this environment is "not killing" only by the narrowest of margins.

======

As many of you know, about a year ago, I started having issues with chronic shoulder pain. This was diagnosed as being due to a combination of years of bad ergonomics with oncoming arthritis. I've been in physical therapy on and off since then. The PT has greatly improved my arm strength and my range of motion. It *was*, after months of work, finally getting the pain down to a reasonable level. But a few weeks ago, I had a major relapse, and am struggling with high pain levels again.

Now, I'm not *certain* what brought on the relapse. It might have been the sudden temperature drop, or a spike in the spiciness of the food I was eating. It could be something I didn't even notice, or a combination of many factors. And, of course, I wouldn't have been vulnerable in the first place without years of prior abuse. But I can't help but notice a correlation between sudden increases in my pain level and playing Batman: Arkham City.

I have reached the sad conclusion that I probably can't play "action" games any more :( They just inflict too much punishment on me to be worth their pleasures. I may still be able to play FPSs, as long as I keep them set to Easy, and stick mostly to sniping.

So now, I empathize more with the ordinary thugs than I do with Batman. To Batman, each individual thug is no more than a minor speed bump in his progression through the game. But to the thug, meeting Batman means suffering serious physical damage, almost always including a concussion, and injuries that may cripple him for a lifetime.

After all, Batman crippled me.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
I finished The Walking Dead last night. I *meant* to only play for an hour, but found myself quite unable to stop playing when my timer went off. Luckily, the final episode was a bit on the short side, so I only stayed up late by about another half hour.

I had an idea of where I thought the game would go. I wasn't completely wrong, but the writers turned out to be much cleverer than I had given them credit for. The ending was brilliant, shocking, and simultaneously life-affirming and tragic. They paid off a lot more of the long-term consequences of player choice than I thought they would, and they *nailed* their themes perfectly. I cried. Admittedly, I'm a well-known sentimental softy, but still: actual tears.

A few final observations:
This game should forever put to rest the notion that "moral choice" systems in games should be tied to gameplay rewards. They are *so* much more rewarding taken on their own terms, without game-mechanical rewards like gear that is only usable if you are sufficiently "good" or "evil".

This game has earned a really high mark of respect that I don't recall encountering before. *No one* wants this experience spoiled. I am immersed in videogame culture both on-line and physically at work, and even though lots of people discuss this game, they are always very... elliptical, as if the specific details are actually sacred.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Writing in the middle of the night to exorcise my demons. Or zombies, as the case maybe. My brain is over-full from The Walking Dead videogame. So I may as well write about it.

This is a game based on The Walking Dead comic book, but following an entirely different cast of characters. While I had some fundamental problems with the comic book, it wasn't clear that they would apply to this game, and the game received rave reviews, so I figured it was worth checking out.

TWD is, for want of a better descriptor, a point-and-click adventure game. That's what Telltale Games started making when they were founded, years ago. But they have been gradually pushing on the limits of the form, and are approaching something new and cool. TWD does feature some 'puzzles', but they are far less emphasized than is standard for adventure games, and also the weakest part of the experience. Instead, the game focuses on narrative and direct interaction.

A brief media studies digression: Postmodernism in general, and postmodern horror in particular, has had a fascination with audience complicity going back at least to Bertolt Brecht. These stories like to call attention to the function of the audience *as* audience. If they didn't *want* to be entertained by these horrors, the horrors would not exist, so the audience is in some sense morally culpable for what happens.

TWD manages a similar effect *without* the postmodernism. Because you control the protagonist's actions, you are automatically complicit, without necessarily being reminded that you are "audience" and removing your immersion in the story. As a game designer myself, I am still aware of how tightly they are controlling the story, but the fact that they require you to actively drive the action forward is still surprisingly powerful.

One early example is when the protagonist/player is confronted with a trapped-but-animate zombie that needs to be searched, and therefore needs to be rendered inanimate. This zombie was, in life, an important person to the protagonist, and now he has to 'kill' them. He has a blunt object, and the game provides a cursor that you can -- *must* -- place over the zombie's head and press the mouse button to swing. Four. Separate. Times. From a strict UI design perspective, this is meaningless busywork, involving no player choice, and no interesting challenge. But it is nonetheless emotionally *hard* to keep pressing that button, and the camera angles and animations while you do so tell their own story in miniature. It's a microcosm of the whole game, right there. I should note that they only use this technique where it will be emotionally impactful. If the characters decide to leave their safe-house and sneak through the sewer system for half a mile to reach the next important plot location, the game just cuts directly from leaving the safe-house to them coming out of the sewer. But if you have to sneak up slowly on something, you'll be pushing the 'forward' button every step of the way.

The game contains many interactive dialogue scenes. The writing and voice-acting is top-notch. The animations are impressive, though they still aren't quite out of the Uncanny Valley. When presented with a dialogue choice, you are usually on a timer, and if you don't act fairly quickly, you'll just say nothing. Which is sometimes exactly what you *want* to say. This is one of the only games I can recall that understands the value of negative space in dialogue -- how silence is sometimes the most powerful line there is. The choices you make in the dialogue only rarely affect the broad outcome of events, but can have a large effect on what the other characters think of you -- and what you think of yourself. The game is rife with no-win scenarios where you struggle to choose which is the least horrible alternative.

With a name like "The Walking Dead", you might think that this was a zombie game. Only sort of. Yes, there has been a zombie apocalypse, but that's setting, not theme. In fact, this game is an example of a genre that is becoming more common as the average age of game designers goes up: this is a story about parenthood. Very early on, the protagonist comes across a small girl named Clementine, and bonds with her as they save each other's life. She becomes his surrogate child, and is the emotional focus of the game. You not only want to protect her (difficult in and of itself), but you want to set a good example for her. This makes the aforementioned no-win decisions even more emotionally devastating than they would be on their own.

Those difficult decisions are a big part of why I am up in the middle of the night. My conscious mind is aware of how constrained the choices in the game actually are, and is furthermore committed to owning those choices I make, even the ones I kinda regret after the heat of the moment has passed. But my *subconscious*, sleeping mind is another story. *That* part of my brain doesn't understand the no-win scenario, and has been endlessly replaying, doing a brute-force search of the possibility space in order to find some outcome that is less awful than what I did experience. Not that it *can*, because my subconscious is a really lousy storyteller. So, sleep, but not very restful.

I haven't yet finished the game. There are five episodes, each running between 2-3 hours, and earlier tonight I finished episode 4. One could theoretically play the whole game in one sitting, but I think it actually benefits from being drawn out, so I've been playing it an hour or so at a a time intermittently for the last few weeks. Theoretically, they could still fumble the ending, but I don't believe they will. In fact, given what happened in the penultimate episode, I'm pretty sure I know how this story ends, though I don't yet know exactly how I'll get there. But I'm definitely going to walk that road.

Highest Recommendation.
alexxkay: (Bar Harbor)
Just finished playing Lego Batman 2. The basic formula is the standard Lego one, with lots of smashing bricks and unlockable characters. Similar to the first Lego Batman, Batman and Robin have many different suits providing different abilities. They are generally cooler than the suits in LB1, however, and each one has at least two major gameplay functions, so the designers can vary the challenges a bit more.

New to this installment is a GTA-style explorable Gotham City that is impressively large and detailed. It's clearly heavily inspired by Anton Furst's "Gothic meets Deco" designs for the 1989 Batman film, with giant statuary holding up lots of the architecture. When those giant human figures are actually gigantic Lego minifigs, the effect sits delightfully between creepy and charming. The game mechanics of clearing fog of war from the map of Gotham, and of finding the many, many collectable objects scattered around it, are well-tuned to my taste. The map has a "Scan" function that hits the sweet spot between making things too easy and frustrating needle-in-a-haystack searches.

Also new to this game is the fact that the characters are all fully voiced. Standouts: Troy "Booker" Baker gives a fine performance as Batman, and Clancy Brown reprises his animated role as Lex Luthor. The voicing allows the designers to craft a surprisingly intricate plot which, again, hits a sweet spot for me. The writers clearly have a love for superheroes and their long history, while at the same time understanding how fundamentally silly many of their tropes are and being willing to make fun of them. I had a number of legitimately laugh-out-loud reactions to plot twists, and even, surprisingly, one heart-stoppingly tense moment of "I can't believe they *went* there". [The script even has a couple of funny call-outs to Batman: Arkham City, a game with similar love for the source material, but less ability to laugh at themselves.]
alexxkay: (Default)
Wow, I've been lax in posting this year. But here's a few tidbits:

My Employers, as some of you will have heard, recently rebranded themselves as Irrational Games again. The relaunched website includes a monthly podcast. Since our current project is still Sooper Top Sekrit, the first batch of episodes talk about our past. In Episode 2, I can be heard talking about Thief, Freedom Force, and BioShock. There's also some writing from me in a related feature about Cut Features.

On another front, Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos novel, Iorich is out. I had the pleasure of 'beta-reading' an earlier draft. One of the changes from the draft I saw to the print edition was the addition of one line to the Acknowledgments: "Finally, my thanks to Alexx Kay for continuity checking."
alexxkay: (Default)
There is much to enjoy in Grand Theft Auto IV, but also much that makes me shake my head in disgust. For every aspect of gameplay that they advance in revolutionary ways, there's some other aspect that is painfully regressive, where the series is actually getting *worse* as it goes along. Here's a case study of one such element.

GTA III had a mechanic called 'Hidden Packages'. There were 100 of these scattered around the city, in out-of-the-way nooks and crannies. They were designed to reward exploration. Every time you found ten packages, you would get a gameplay reward, usually (always?) in the form of a weapon pickup at your safehouse. There were other ways in the game to arm yourself, but having the weapons be free and convenient was definitely a plus, and felt like a reward worth going to some effort for. The intermittent reward schedule was a classic addictive mechanism, and greatly lengthened the time people spent exploring.

The next installment, GTA Vice City, made only minor tweaks to the hidden package mechanic. Now, the top levels of reward were not weapons, but vehicles, such as a tank and an assault helicopter. Not a bad plan in and of itself, but also not entirely great: while these vehicles were made 'available', they were *not* parked at your safehouse, but at other locations in the city, making them somewhat inconvenient to get to when you wanted to use them. If you weren't using an internet FAQ or a strategy guide, you might not even *know* where they were parked, as the game itself never told you. Of course, few players would find so many packages without using such a guide in the first place, but it was nonetheless a disturbing indicator.

GTA San Andreas made big changes to the system. Firstly, it divided the hidden goodies into several different categories, each with between 50 and 100 elements, some of which involved some player action to trigger, not mere discovery. There were photos to take, graffiti tags to deface, and a few other categories that were just hidden. These did *not* give incremental rewards. You got a reward only when you completed an *entire category*, not missing *any* of them. This amounts to entirely negating the value of this mechanic for everyone who *doesn't* use outside information. Didn't buy the strategy guide? Sorry, Bub, you get nothin'. This entire gameplay mwchanic is just a tease.

In GTA IV, I thought at first that they had dropped the Hidden Packages notion entirely. Nope, it just underwent further mutations. Now, in keeping with their increased 'realism', the packages are pigeons that you have to kill. When you get your first one, you see a message pop up saying "199 flying rats remaining". OK, that's kinda funny. But it turns out that pigeons are completely immune to melee damage -- you have to actually shoot them. And since this game has a staggering density of policemen, odds are about 2 in 3 that a cop will notice the gunfire, and you now have to lose a 1-star wanted level. This makes them more annoying to collect, as a class, than any previous iteration.

I went on-line to see if there was a FAQ explaining why I might want to kill these pigeons. It turns out that there are, again, *no* incremental rewards whatsoever. Get 199 pigeons, and you've earmed squat. Once again, you have no realistic chance of getting all 200 without outside help. Even if you *have* outside help, this is an incredibly tedious chore, requiring literally hours of largely uninteresting gameplay. [One might argue that the police chases add some spice to an otherwise dull task. One would be wrong. One-star wanted ratings are easy enough to lose that they just add more tedium. And since they effectively randomize your location, they make it more difficult to follow the directions in the FAQ.]

And what do you get for all that time investment? There is some disagreement among the FAQ writers on this topic. All do agree that you need to do this to get a 100% game completion rating. By itself, that's a staggeringly small reward. There are also many reports that it unlocks an assault helicopter. But this copter is (allegedly) parked on the roof of a non-safehouse building (again with the inconvenience), and at least one FAQ writer reports being unable to find it after killing all the pigeons.

For that matter, even if you did get it, it's not like an assault heli is all that *useful* in the actual game. Sure, you can cause some fun random havoc with it, but it would only be useful in a tiny handful of actual missions. Most tough parts in missions involve interior combat, prescribed vehicle action, or some 'the plan goes to hell' element which would preclude any use of your heli.

So there's an entire huge game system, that no doubt ate up vast amounts of design and testing time, yet only pays off for the top 1% of obsessive-compulsive players. Something that used to be an fun reward system reduced to a punishing grind. Come *on*, Rockstar, I *know* you can do better than that!
alexxkay: (Default)
There is much to enjoy in Grand Theft Auto IV, but also much that makes me shake my head in disgust. For every aspect of gameplay that they advance in revolutionary ways, there's some other aspect that is painfully regressive, where the series is actually getting *worse* as it goes along. Here's a case study of one such element.

GTA III had a mechanic called 'Hidden Packages'. There were 100 of these scattered around the city, in out-of-the-way nooks and crannies. They were designed to reward exploration. Every time you found ten packages, you would get a gameplay reward, usually (always?) in the form of a weapon pickup at your safehouse. There were other ways in the game to arm yourself, but having the weapons be free and convenient was definitely a plus, and felt like a reward worth going to some effort for. The intermittent reward schedule was a classic addictive mechanism, and greatly lengthened the time people spent exploring.

The next installment, GTA Vice City, made only minor tweaks to the hidden package mechanic. Now, the top levels of reward were not weapons, but vehicles, such as a tank and an assault helicopter. Not a bad plan in and of itself, but also not entirely great: while these vehicles were made 'available', they were *not* parked at your safehouse, but at other locations in the city, making them somewhat inconvenient to get to when you wanted to use them. If you weren't using an internet FAQ or a strategy guide, you might not even *know* where they were parked, as the game itself never told you. Of course, few players would find so many packages without using such a guide in the first place, but it was nonetheless a disturbing indicator.

GTA San Andreas made big changes to the system. Firstly, it divided the hidden goodies into several different categories, each with between 50 and 100 elements, some of which involved some player action to trigger, not mere discovery. There were photos to take, graffiti tags to deface, and a few other categories that were just hidden. These did *not* give incremental rewards. You got a reward only when you completed an *entire category*, not missing *any* of them. This amounts to entirely negating the value of this mechanic for everyone who *doesn't* use outside information. Didn't buy the strategy guide? Sorry, Bub, you get nothin'. This entire gameplay mwchanic is just a tease.

In GTA IV, I thought at first that they had dropped the Hidden Packages notion entirely. Nope, it just underwent further mutations. Now, in keeping with their increased 'realism', the packages are pigeons that you have to kill. When you get your first one, you see a message pop up saying "199 flying rats remaining". OK, that's kinda funny. But it turns out that pigeons are completely immune to melee damage -- you have to actually shoot them. And since this game has a staggering density of policemen, odds are about 2 in 3 that a cop will notice the gunfire, and you now have to lose a 1-star wanted level. This makes them more annoying to collect, as a class, than any previous iteration.

I went on-line to see if there was a FAQ explaining why I might want to kill these pigeons. It turns out that there are, again, *no* incremental rewards whatsoever. Get 199 pigeons, and you've earmed squat. Once again, you have no realistic chance of getting all 200 without outside help. Even if you *have* outside help, this is an incredibly tedious chore, requiring literally hours of largely uninteresting gameplay. [One might argue that the police chases add some spice to an otherwise dull task. One would be wrong. One-star wanted ratings are easy enough to lose that they just add more tedium. And since they effectively randomize your location, they make it more difficult to follow the directions in the FAQ.]

And what do you get for all that time investment? There is some disagreement among the FAQ writers on this topic. All do agree that you need to do this to get a 100% game completion rating. By itself, that's a staggeringly small reward. There are also many reports that it unlocks an assault helicopter. But this copter is (allegedly) parked on the roof of a non-safehouse building (again with the inconvenience), and at least one FAQ writer reports being unable to find it after killing all the pigeons.

For that matter, even if you did get it, it's not like an assault heli is all that *useful* in the actual game. Sure, you can cause some fun random havoc with it, but it would only be useful in a tiny handful of actual missions. Most tough parts in missions involve interior combat, prescribed vehicle action, or some 'the plan goes to hell' element which would preclude any use of your heli.

So there's an entire huge game system, that no doubt ate up vast amounts of design and testing time, yet only pays off for the top 1% of obsessive-compulsive players. Something that used to be an fun reward system reduced to a punishing grind. Come *on*, Rockstar, I *know* you can do better than that!
alexxkay: (Default)
In a previous post about dreams, I said that in my dreams, videogames were much more immersive, but also fairly dull. It has since occurred to me that that only describes a small (if recently frequent) subset of my dreams about games.

Sometimes I dream about playing classic games on an old computer. These are invariably even better than they were in waking life, though I am almost never able to remain focused enough to play them for very long, much less actually finish one. (Similar to dreaming about nonexistent books, my dream-manager can, for a short time, fake my emotional reaction to Great New Art, but it isn't capable of actually showing me the Art itself for any length of time.)

My favorite games can become permanent dream environments. I played a lot of Thief: The Dark Project while awake, and still play it sometimes when I'm asleep. Although the overall plot of the game is similar, the actual levels are very different -- but consistent. There's one that starts with the player in the ocean, then you make your way to the docks, then across the city to a warehouse (rooftops and sewers are both viable). Another mission is set in a nobleman's mansion; there is an attached chapel with a high steeple, and beams for fun rope arrow use -- just don't grab the bell-rope by accident! And so on.

Sometimes I have lucid dreams. More often, I manage a semi-lucid state, where I can partially affect the content of the dream. Sometimes this is expressed in terms of my job in the game industry: I "pop out to the editor, make a few changes, then start the sim running again".
alexxkay: (Default)
In a previous post about dreams, I said that in my dreams, videogames were much more immersive, but also fairly dull. It has since occurred to me that that only describes a small (if recently frequent) subset of my dreams about games.

Sometimes I dream about playing classic games on an old computer. These are invariably even better than they were in waking life, though I am almost never able to remain focused enough to play them for very long, much less actually finish one. (Similar to dreaming about nonexistent books, my dream-manager can, for a short time, fake my emotional reaction to Great New Art, but it isn't capable of actually showing me the Art itself for any length of time.)

My favorite games can become permanent dream environments. I played a lot of Thief: The Dark Project while awake, and still play it sometimes when I'm asleep. Although the overall plot of the game is similar, the actual levels are very different -- but consistent. There's one that starts with the player in the ocean, then you make your way to the docks, then across the city to a warehouse (rooftops and sewers are both viable). Another mission is set in a nobleman's mansion; there is an attached chapel with a high steeple, and beams for fun rope arrow use -- just don't grab the bell-rope by accident! And so on.

Sometimes I have lucid dreams. More often, I manage a semi-lucid state, where I can partially affect the content of the dream. Sometimes this is expressed in terms of my job in the game industry: I "pop out to the editor, make a few changes, then start the sim running again".
alexxkay: (Default)
A decent game, but not up to the standards of its predecessors. Which is a shame, because there's no inherent reason that it shouldn't be. While many of the mechanics are different, to reflect the different setting (whips, shovels, guns, etc.), the amount and complexity of those mechanics is comparable to those of Lego Star Wars. This one just has less content and polish then they did. I suspect it was rushed out to coincide with the new movie, and suffered for it. I hope the upcoming Lego Batman doesn't suffer a similar fate.

I played for significantly less than a full weekend, completed the basic story, and got about 70% completion. Certainly one more weekend will finish it off entirely. In contrast, I played Lego Star Wars every weekend for months, and never quite got to 100%, stopping only due to being distracted by newer games.

Difficulty is wildly variable: many sections are cakewalks, but there are also lots of places where you can't help but die multiple times due to to one-shot-kill game mechanics. Some enemy types are armed with insta-gib-bazookas, which is bad by itself. But at one point, they bring out *multiple* bazooka guys, along with several environmental hazards *simultaneously*. It was effectively a boss fight, but it was not so much 'climactic' as 'infuriating'.

The economy is also out of whack. The unlockable characters are so cheap that I quickly ended up with a vast cash surplus and nothing to spend it on. Hypothetically, I could have also bought gameplay extras unlocked by finding hidden items in the missions, but these were *so* hidden that I never found them (another polish issue).

Finding hidden stuff is also the only reason to do the missions in Free Play mode. In former games, there was a stud-collection goal, but not this one. Strangely, this makes me much less motivated to do Free Play. The stud goals, while simple, did provide motivation. Possibly *because* they were simple. Yes, ideally you would also find all the hidden stuff as well; but if you missed some of them, it wasn't a total failure, because at least you finished the stud goal.

On the plus side, the Lego version of Temple of Doom is much more fun than the film. The Kid Sidekick and The Annoying Blonde each have useful powers that no earlier character had. And Thugees are approximately equivalent to Bounty Hunters, in that there are special Thugee-only doors, so ToD is good for that. And the mine-car chase was fun.

Despite my ragging on it, I did (mostly) enjoy myself, and will probably play at least some more of it. It just fails to approach the high bar set by its predecessors. Mildly recommended.
alexxkay: (Default)
A decent game, but not up to the standards of its predecessors. Which is a shame, because there's no inherent reason that it shouldn't be. While many of the mechanics are different, to reflect the different setting (whips, shovels, guns, etc.), the amount and complexity of those mechanics is comparable to those of Lego Star Wars. This one just has less content and polish then they did. I suspect it was rushed out to coincide with the new movie, and suffered for it. I hope the upcoming Lego Batman doesn't suffer a similar fate.

I played for significantly less than a full weekend, completed the basic story, and got about 70% completion. Certainly one more weekend will finish it off entirely. In contrast, I played Lego Star Wars every weekend for months, and never quite got to 100%, stopping only due to being distracted by newer games.

Difficulty is wildly variable: many sections are cakewalks, but there are also lots of places where you can't help but die multiple times due to to one-shot-kill game mechanics. Some enemy types are armed with insta-gib-bazookas, which is bad by itself. But at one point, they bring out *multiple* bazooka guys, along with several environmental hazards *simultaneously*. It was effectively a boss fight, but it was not so much 'climactic' as 'infuriating'.

The economy is also out of whack. The unlockable characters are so cheap that I quickly ended up with a vast cash surplus and nothing to spend it on. Hypothetically, I could have also bought gameplay extras unlocked by finding hidden items in the missions, but these were *so* hidden that I never found them (another polish issue).

Finding hidden stuff is also the only reason to do the missions in Free Play mode. In former games, there was a stud-collection goal, but not this one. Strangely, this makes me much less motivated to do Free Play. The stud goals, while simple, did provide motivation. Possibly *because* they were simple. Yes, ideally you would also find all the hidden stuff as well; but if you missed some of them, it wasn't a total failure, because at least you finished the stud goal.

On the plus side, the Lego version of Temple of Doom is much more fun than the film. The Kid Sidekick and The Annoying Blonde each have useful powers that no earlier character had. And Thugees are approximately equivalent to Bounty Hunters, in that there are special Thugee-only doors, so ToD is good for that. And the mine-car chase was fun.

Despite my ragging on it, I did (mostly) enjoy myself, and will probably play at least some more of it. It just fails to approach the high bar set by its predecessors. Mildly recommended.
alexxkay: (Default)
Less than a week after my most recent praising of them, Computer Games Magazine is no more. It wasn't even due to poor circulation. Their corporate owners, TheGlobe.com, just lost a huge pile of money due to a lawsuit, and are shutting down many of their operations.

Shit.
alexxkay: (Default)
Less than a week after my most recent praising of them, Computer Games Magazine is no more. It wasn't even due to poor circulation. Their corporate owners, TheGlobe.com, just lost a huge pile of money due to a lawsuit, and are shutting down many of their operations.

Shit.
alexxkay: (Default)
A while back I posted about an ad for the upcoming Lord of the Rings: Online game. In one of this month's mags, I saw a 2-page ad for the game. It has the same basic imagery as the one-page version, but with more and different people gathered beneath The One Ring. So, here's an update.

More women this time, up to about 30% of the population. They're also much less clumped than they were in the first ad, mostly appearing in sngles and pairs.

Two clearly identifiable black people. One female, front and center, one male off near the edge, and back a bit. A few more people in the middle who might possibly be identified as black, but no more definites. Given that this ad is twice as large as the previous one, I hink that has to count as "no change".
alexxkay: (Default)
A while back I posted about an ad for the upcoming Lord of the Rings: Online game. In one of this month's mags, I saw a 2-page ad for the game. It has the same basic imagery as the one-page version, but with more and different people gathered beneath The One Ring. So, here's an update.

More women this time, up to about 30% of the population. They're also much less clumped than they were in the first ad, mostly appearing in sngles and pairs.

Two clearly identifiable black people. One female, front and center, one male off near the edge, and back a bit. A few more people in the middle who might possibly be identified as black, but no more definites. Given that this ad is twice as large as the previous one, I hink that has to count as "no change".

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