• Review – Train Simulator 2012

    Over the past week or so Steam has been running a sale on Halloween/horror themed games. One game, oddly, was Train Simulator 2012 with its Trains vs. Zombies DLC. (No, really.) I had seen Train Simulator before but had mostly been aware of it as that game that had about 150 pieces of DLC on Steam. (It appears that every single train car and locomotive ever made is available separately as DLC.) But for some reason the concept of “Trains vs Zombies” was weird enough that (along with the 50% discount) it convinced me to pick it up and actually look at it. So marketing successful, I suppose. Having played with the game a bit, I have to say that I am disappointed with it. I’m not sure what I was expecting actually but the game has for me failed to deliver, though I’m not sure if that is the fault of the game or not. As the title states the game is a train simulator. A train simulator has to be different from just about any other simulator out there in that you don’t have full freedom in where you go. A plane, boat or even farming simulator should let you wander around more or less freely within the simulation area but trains by their nature are confined to their rails. You don’t steer a train, you just manage the speed to keep it from falling off the rails on a curve and to make sure you stop at

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  • NaNoWriMo 2011 – Back in the Saddle Again

    Well, NaNoWriMo starts next week. For the three of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is short for “National Novel Writing Month”. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to encourage writers and those who aspire to be writers to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. No, really. I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo several times now and I’ve always failed but I’m trying again this year. My problem has always been that I have ideas for things (including this oft-neglected blog) but never seem to be able to actually consign them to paper (or word processor files in this case). I keep hoping that I will come up some magic formula that will let me write things easily, but have never come up with one. The truth is, creativity is hard work. I’m sure there are some people out there for whom things flow naturally but for me it often feels that there is a physical block between what I want to get out of my brain and actually getting those ideas into physical form. So I’m trying NaNoWriMo again this year. I’m hoping that if I can physically force myself to put words down on paper, then I will somehow open the hole between the inside of my head and the outside. Will it work? Who knows, but for now I’m planning on it. See you in November.

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  • It’s Not Reality, It’s Just a Fantasy

    I took a swing through a bookstore the other day, the first one I had been through since the demise of my local Borders, and as usual went to check out the SF section. What I found, also as usual of late, was that most of it was actually fantasy. Mostly Urban Fantasy, actually; so much urban fantasy. I didn’t find anything (my reading pile is still big enough that I don’t need to grab anything just to have something to read) but as I left I started wondering what happened to the Science Fiction shelves of old. I remember when Science Fiction and Fantasy were two different areas in the stores and the SF shelf was the larger of the two. No longer. Of course, part of it is the popularity and success of such things as the Harry Potter and Twilight series which of course have spawned their imitators, but this just changes the question as to why these series became so popular in the first place. I think it is because that, based on what Science Fiction promised us, Science has failed. I’m not talking about “where’s my flying car?” here. Up through the 1950’s and 1960’s, everyone thought that science (Science!) would solve all of our problems. Robots would remove all need for menial labor. The Atom would provide all our energy needs. We would be living in a utopia fueled by the fruits of science. Reality didn’t match that. We are constantly told of the

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  • Let’s Play! – Precursors – Parts 9 & 10

    Treece heads out into the jungle in search of the dangerous beast he must slay in order to prove his worth to the Keeper of the Nest, even though he can’t remember what she is called. Along the way he explains why he is using a useless weapon, slaughters a large number of jungle critters and somehow winds up with an alien weapon that shoots spiders. Obviously, another session of Precursors! Treece heads back out into the jungle to perform a mixture of theft and assassinations. Along the way he stops by the gonzo pens to try to meet a hunter named Thompson, speculates on the advantages of a personal soundtrack, having a weapon with infinite ammo and why a jungle where everything is trying to kill him is annoying. Then he meets the exiled Elder and realizes that all Empires seem to have a thing about blowing up planets. Another exciting session of Precursors!

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  • Sunset

    Sunset was almost over when the first of the planes flew overhead. A chill had set into the air and a number of the abnormally large number of guests that had set the staff of the small cafe scrambling throughout the day had gone inside, but they came rushing back into the flagstoned courtyard at the sound of the engines. Three V-formations of large bombers passed overhead, their support fighters flanking around them like remoras pacing a shark. Many of the watchers whispered excitedly to each other, pointing towards the skies. Others shouted angrily and one cheered wildly until he was silenced by others of his group. But most simply watched silently. A few wept. I had been here often enough that I no longer looked at the planes. Instead, I watched the crowd of tourists. What drew them here, I wondered, to this place. To this event. I had first come here many years ago, for me anyway, because it seemed to be an out of the way place. While many came to visit Paris, or Normandy, or Berlin or even Auschwitz, very few came to Le Fleur de la Mer, this small cafe on the northern coast of Belgium. Most were now engrossed in watching the next wave pass overhead, though a few others watched the crowd as I did. We glanced at each other, nodded slightly in recognition, then returned to our observations of the others. The staff has been struggling to handle the unexpected number of

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  • Random Things on Twitter

    Every now and then I look at the “everyone” stream from Twitter. The out-of-context glimpses into other people’s conversations can be often both enlightening and amusing. Here are a few from today… Ooooh! I seem to detect a teeny tiny hint of something that MIGHT be considered sarcastic there((Sarcasm ftw!)) Just talked to friend living in NYC. No kids. One cat. Husband who makes 1.5 million a year. Bitch ((Tell us how you REALLY feel)) I’ve been saying it wrong too, apparently. I’ve been telling moms locally to go wear their babies in a drink!((Buwh?)) Boarded train at Poughkeepsie station bound for Grand Central. :a new earth: ((I wouldn’t go THAT far… well, maybe relative to Poughkeepsie)) RAPTOR ATTAAAACK ((I hope this wasn’t a warning. Or a distress call.)) Aaah hell. One of Diaz’ men is stealing money, and Diaz is pissed. Looks like I get to find his stash and waste his ass ((When video games tweet)) WOW! Fleshlight has a Twitter ((No, I’m not going to look)) I am NOT the only public librarian here, but I am the only one not talking in acronym-ese! ((Um… OK.)) NOOOO I FORGOT TO OPEN THE BLINDS TODAY I’M SO SORRY ((I REALLY want to know the context for this one)) Today: Wandering around a strange city with some lighting equipment; then some bedding; all the while wearing a rival city’s football shirt ((I’m sure this made sense to someone)) ONLY the fruits I named “neutral fruits”~ONLY these 4; i.e., pears, pineapples~papaya~apples~&tomatoes~cukes~avocados~ peppers ((Is that 4 or 8? I’m so

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  • Schizm: Mysterious Journey

    A Few Notes on Navigation Schizm allows you to rotate through a full 360° in most locations (to better see the scenery) but you can only move along certain fixed paths between certain fixed points. I call these “paths” and “nodes” in this walkthru. Many nodes have multiple paths leading from them so it may not always be obvious which path I am directing you on. I will try to give landmarks to navigate by as best as I can but if you seem completely lost try going back to the last node and looking around for another path. If I tell you to look for an arrow, what I mean is that you should move the cursor around until it changes into the arrow indicating you can walk forward. When I tell you to examine an object, I mean that you should move the cursor over the object until it turns into the magnifying glass then click on it. There are numerous places in the game where you have to click forward several times to get anywhere. For example, the game has an annoying tendency to have you stop in the middle of bridges, stairs and the like, forcing you to click forwards a second time (or third, or fourth, or…) in order to go the rest of the way. If I tell you to cross a bridge or whatever, just go forward however many times is necessary. Finally, there are a number of actions in the game, such

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  • Sentinel: Descendants in Time (aka “Realms of Illusion”)

    A Few Notes on Gameplay and this Walkthrough Sentinel allows you to move freely about in a three dimensional environment. Because of this, I cannot give you exact movement directions. I will try to direct you around using landmarks as best as possible but if you find yourself somewhere other than where I am describing, just backtrack and look around some more. None of the environments in the game are that large so you really can’t get lost. You should be aware that Sentinel has a lot of sound based puzzles. You cannot complete the game without sound. Make sure your speakers are on and your sound turned up. The interface is simple. To move forward, press the “W” key or the right mouse button. “A” and “D” move you to the left or right and “S” backs you up. You turn and look around using the mouse. Normally the cursor is a single dot in the middle of the screen. When it is positioned over an area that you can interact with, a circle appears around the dot. Click the left mouse button to enter a closeup. Click the right mouse button to exit the closeup. Pressing the space bar causes you to jump. This really isn’t necessary anywhere in the game though I did use it once or twice to free myself when I got “stuck” and couldn’t move. The game has no inventory puzzles so it has no inventory as such. There is only one type of

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  • Ain’t Got Time to Grind

    So it’s been awhile since I posted anything; I have the real world to blame. In my non-gaming life I’m a senior developer for an international airline and am currently working with a database used for revenue decision support. We completed a major upgrade to the system recently and installed it into production about a week and a half ago. Things actually went somewhat smoothly, or as smoothly as anything can with a 50 billion row, 4.5 terabyte database used by around 150 people. So, I’ve been a bit busy. It looks like I may clock in at under 60 hours this week, which is an improvement over the 70-80 I’ve been logging for the past two weeks. At any rate, the other night I had a bit of a break and decided to burn off some stress by logging into World of Warcraft and killing a few innocent snapjaws to collect their scales for my master leatherworking quest. So I wound up on a beach in Tanaris, killing snapjaws and half-watching the latest Torchwood off the TiVo while waiting for the next set to spawn. Then, when the show was over, I not only turned off the TV, I logged off of WoW as well. I just wasn’t having that much fun. And that started me thinking about MMOs, grinding and what makes a game fun. No one likes grinding; I think everyone agrees with that. Unfortunately, that makes up the vast majority of most MMOs. Most of your

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  • Return to Mysterious Island

    A Few Notes on Gameplay Return to Mysterious Island allows you to rotate through a full 360° in most locations (to better see the scenery) but you can only move along certain fixed paths between certain fixed points. Many points have multiple paths leading from them so it may not always be obvious which path I am directing you on. I will try to give landmarks to navigate by as best as I can but if you seem completely lost try going back to the last location and looking around for another path. The vast majority of the game involves combining items from your inventory and using them in various ways. The most interesting facts about this are that almost everything the game expects you to do actually makes sense and that there are usually multiple ways to solve most of the “puzzles”. Actually, I almost hesitate to call them “puzzles” since for most of the game you are taking what would be fairly realistic actions under the circumstances. So, keep in mind when I tell you to do things that there may be (and probably are!) other ways to accomplish the same task. This gives the game a replayability that most adventure games lack. Since so much of the game involves your inventory it probably makes sense to look at it briefly. You bring up the inventory screen by right-clicking anywhere; right-click again to close it. The major part of the screen contains of what the game calls the

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