• Boldly Going Where No (Digital) Explorer Has Gone Before

    So I’m still making my way through the various bits of the Half-Life 2 saga and, somewhere in the middle of Episode 1, it suddenly struck that despite having what seemed at first glance to be a huge, complex world, the game really consisted of a single long corridor with lots of bends in it for things to hide behind and shoot at you. Think about it. All through the game you really only have one way to go at any given moment. Sure, you can sometimes go into a side room that has a second door that opens a bit further down the corridor but that really doesn’t make that much of a difference. It’s well hidden because your path is constantly turning left, right, back, forth, up, down, over, under and around itself but the fact remains that the game could consist of a single long corridor and not really be that different. This bothers me because the environments in the game look interesting and I want to go out, explore and see what I can find but you really can’t get to most of it. Sure, you may be able to eventually get to the other side of that fence but to do so you will have to climb an elevator shaft, jump across the roof, shoot your way through five levels of offices and finally crawl out of a ventilator shaft to get there. There’s no other way to do it. Which leads me to the concept of

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  • Syberia

    A Few Notes on Game Play Syberia allows Kate to wander around freely on the screen so she may be facing at any direction at any moment. Since this could cause confusion when I give directions, I will be giving them relative to you, the player; not Kate. So, if I say for you to go left, I mean have Kate go to the left side of your screen, not Kate’s left. Usually your cursor will highlight whenever it is over a path which will take you to another screen. If I say for you to go to the next screen, I mean to move your cursor to the edge of the screen until it highlights, then click. In this case I will usually just tell you where to click. However, a few screens will scroll one way or the other as Kate approaches the edge of the screen so if I tell you to go in some direction and you can’t find a path there, just have Kate keep going in that direction until you find the highlight. To use an item in Syberia you must first select it from your inventory (by right-clicking anywhere to bring up your inventory then clicking on the item you want to use). The active item will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen. To put the item away again (so you won’t try to use it on everything you click on) right-click to bring up your inventory then immediately right-click

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  • Foundations

    I woke up in a cleared field. Somehow I wasn’t surprised. The three of them were there, watching as I sat up from the bed in which I found myself. The three of them sat around a banquet table which was loaded with food and drink. There was a fourth chair at the table, waiting. I walked over and sat down; there really was no reason not to. We all knew why I was there. “A fascinating device.” Blue spoke first, holding up a dunderschlag. “Immediately obvious as to its use and obviously useful.” He pointed it at me and I briefly flinched but he seemed more impressed with it than threatening. “We don’t care about that!” snapped Green. She took the device from Blue and pointed it at me herself. This time I didn’t flinch. I suspected half her anger was due to the fact that she couldn’t use it and knew it. None of them. That would certainly anger her. “What we want to know is how you acquired it.” I shrugged. “I made it.” “We are aware of that.” said Red. “As we are of everything. But we are not aware of this.” It pointed at the dunderschlag which Green still held in a firm grip. “It has no source. No template. So where did you get it.” I shrugged again, dismissively. “Not everything has a template. You know that. We make new templates all the time.” “Yes you do.” Blue spoke again. He seemed almost genuinely

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  • Dark Fall II: Lights Out

    A Few Notes on Navigation Lights Out‘s interface should be obvious but there are a few minor quirks with it. The main issue is that the cursor sometimes takes a few moments to change shape when it passes over a hotspot on the screen. So, you may sometimes miss a path or an item of interest because the cursor failed to change when you passed it over the location in question; I found it very finicky in a few places (and in at least two it completely failed to change like it should). Therefore, if the cursor doesn’t seem to be behaving the way I say it should, just move it around a bit. Also, the game likes to make you work at examining things. Sometimes you have to click for a closeup, click again for a closer closeup, click a third time to pick the item up, click a fourth time to open it then a fifth time to actually read whatever you found. Rather than telling you to click a half-dozen times if I tell you to examine something then just click however many times is necessary to get to wherever you need to be. The Story So Far… The year is 1912. You are Benjamin Parker, a cartographer with the Royal Academy of Sciences, and you have been sent to map the Cornish coastline; a task you resent as the coast of this part of England has been mapped for years. It is only after your arrival

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  • Let’s Play – Precursors – Parts 7 & 8

    Treece finally makes it to orbit, only to find that everyone there is shooting at him as well. After blowing up some raiders, he escorts a freighter to the middle of nowhere, finds that the Empire has a very low threshold for success, intercepts a few smugglers and finds that even cheating won’t let him win a race. Just a typical orbital jaunt in Precursors! Treece returns to Goldin to discover the actual start of the plot. He then learns that he has to track down the singer Falco on the show Glee… wait, the exiled Elder Falcao on the planet Gli. Or something like that. There, he gets a lot of experience for following a tour guide, rescues a tourist liner simply by showing up and finds out the best way to be saved by any religion is to simply give it a lot of money. Pretty much standard for a day in Precursors!

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  • The Morrowind Diaries – Chapter 5

    Chapter 5 – The Road to Balmora Heartfire 5 (Day 21) The last few stars were still out as I began my travels. I left Ald-Rhun through the western gate and was planning on passing southward through Caldera and from there on to Balmora. As I walked, I found myself thinking about things I had heard the previous evening. While passing the time indoors and away from the blowing ash I had spoken with several of the locals. One had mentioned a secret cult known as the Sixth House that was killing Imperial citizens. Another, a bard, had said the appearance of this cult and the general increase in violence across Vvardenfell was a sickness of the soul caused by a lack of faith and a love of sin. He said that the bad dreams and omens people had been experiencing were a sign that the people had abandoned the Temple and fallen into greed and wickedness. He said more but I once again found myself remembering the strange dream I had experienced just as I arrived on the island. It continued to haunt me for some reason and I strangely felt as if my own destiny were tied in with that of Morrowind. These thoughts had troubled me in my sleep and they continued to do so as I made my way along the road. Hisin Deep-Raed My thoughts were interrupted when I spotted a figure standing alone on the road. I made a friendly gesture as I approached

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  • Echo Bazaar – Wandering the Paths of Wilmot’s End

    So I’m wandering the paths of Wimot’s End. I know them well by now. I stop by the man with the bowler and tell him why I am here. I then spy on the faithful functionary to see what is in his paperwork. I then go back to the man with the bowler to promise not to kill anyone then swap a duffel bag for a different duffel bag five times before checking in with the woman feeding the fish. After I complete this sequence three times, she gives me a set of Collated Research. Yes, I am still playing Echo Bazaar. Sadly, I have reached the current limit on the story, my stats are all currently maxed out at 120 and I am just grinding out the storylets necessary to get the next item out of the Bazaar Side Streets. Right now I am working on collecting Collated Research in order to join God’s Editors. I need 12. It takes 11 actions in Wilmot’s End to raise my “Dramatic Tension” by 1 point. I need to raise it to 2 (three points) to get one set of research. So 33 actions plus one more to collect the research means I can get (almost) 3 per day if I do nothing else. That’s 4 days to get the 12 I need. Sadly, that’s all I really have to do right now. Before this I ground out War of Assassins missions in the Forgotten Quarter in order to get enough “Use

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  • What’s the Difficulty, Kenneth?

    Last night I was looking to kill a few hours and so went into my Steam games list looking for something light to pass the time. I really didn’t want to get into anything serious so I pulled up Majesty 2. Majesty 2 calls itself a “fantasy kingdom sim” but it really is more of an RTS. You build guild halls (and other buildings) to encourage adventurers to move to your kingdom then set quests for them to perform. It’s kind of the reverse of your normal fantasy game in that you’re the one assigning the quests instead of the one doing them. Yeah, that isn’t looking so good At any rate, I drifted through a couple of missions then suddenly the difficulty spiked. The enemy wizard was dropping fire spells on my village which burned down my market. Then a werewolf wandered into the town and killed almost all of the adventurers who had come there. Without a market I had no income with which to entice more adventurers to come to town and with no adventurers there was no one to protect they peasants so they couldn’t rebuild anything. I was getting more and more frustrated, more-so when I remembered that I had started playing a “light” game to relax in the first place. So I decided to just crank the difficulty down to minimum (since I was just playing as a distraction anyway) only to find that the game

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  • Level 5000

    I had been climbing for days. I don’t know exactly how long I had been on the ladder. I had tried counting for a while, numbering each rough, corroded rung as it passed in the dim glow of my biolight, but I had lost count somewhere in the tens of thousands. I do know I had slept three times, hanging clipped to the ladder, but in the darkness of the shaft I had no way of determining how long I had gone between sleeping. So I continued to climb. I was starting to wonder if I should climb back down and try to find another upward access from the maze of vents I had previously been traversing when a change in the shadows indicated an end to the shaft. The ladder finally ended in a horizontal panel. It was frozen in place, but a few sharp blows were sufficient to break the seal produced by decades of oxidation and it finally, reluctantly drew aside. I pulled myself up into the room beyond and lay for a long time, allowing my arms to rest as I lay motionless on the padded floor. After some time I stood up and looked around. I was in some sort of maintenance closet. Several machines I did not recognize stood along one wall, a faint, almost unnoticeable vibration being the only indication that they still functioned. Part of the air circulation or food fabrication systems I presumed. Certainly not one of the enormous electromagnetic generators

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  • Review – Kerbal Space Program

    Ground control to Major Tom. Ground control to Major Tom. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on. Lately I’ve been playing a bit of an independent game called Kerbal Space Program. The game is a spaceflight simulator in which you design a rocket, put it out on the pad, launch it and attempt to get it into space and successfully return it to Kearth. The game starts in the vertical assembly building where you build your rocket from a series of predefined components. You can choose from a variety of solid and liquid fueled rockets, fuel tanks and motors as well as structural components like stage connectors and stabilizers. You put together one or more stages of the rocket then put the capsule containing your Kerbals, the inhabitants of the planet, on top. Then it’s off to the launch pad. There you can fire off the first stage of the rocket and see if it lifts off or if it simply falls over and explodes. Once off the ground you are responsible for controlling the rocket, jettisoning stages as they burn out and adjusting its pitch, roll and yaw and the thrust of the liquid fueled engines in an attempt to successfully gain altitude and get into orbit. Once there (assuming you managed to make it) you can burn your engines again to cause the capsule to re-enter the atmosphere and descend by parachute to a safe landing. The game is harder than it looks. It is easily

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