Looking for an Ultimate Team

So it looks like my VUL team from last summer won’t have enough players to field itself this summer. Which means I’m teamless. So!

If you play ultimate, and are looking for any more players, please drop me a line, at steve @ this domain. I’ve been playing for 6-odd years, and would rate myself a “B”, skill-level wise – which means I’m good, but I’m not going to single-handedly carry a team (which is my criteria for being an “A” player). I’d ideally like to play for one of the following types of teams:

  1. A good team that has practices where people show up and players that I could learn from, to become a better player,
  2. or, an easy-going team where the highlights are likely to involve bbqs & drinks, where fun is more important than winning – ie, a team that doesn’t care so much about winning, but cares about the “spirit” of the game.

So please let me know if you’ve a spot for me, or let your friends know about me, if they play ultimate.

Fable

So, as I suspect many other X-Box owners have, I’ve been playing Fable a fair bit lately. I’ve not finished it (although Leah has – twice!), but I’ve played enough to get a fair bit of experience about it, and enough to toss out my $0.02 to the world. So here it is:

Overall, the game is fantastic. My quibbles are few and far between. The graphics are glorious, the sound is lovely the pacing even, etc, etc. It’s one of the best CRPGs I’ve ever played. You really get you money’s worth with this game. To re-iterate, I love it.

Now, onto my quibbles about it:

  • This game, which features numerous green or red glowing outlines on items of import, is very hard to play if, like me, you’re red-green color blind. Once I got used to looking for the white-edge that outlines the glow, it was ok, but it was really hard at first. And fishing, I always had to go by the feedback on the controller, as I really couldn’t see what was going on in that bar
  • The lack of critters: Compared to other computer-based RPGs, there was a definite lack of critters in this game – several variants on a theme, but not enough that they didn’t quite quickly feel repetitive
  • It’s too easy: It may get harder yet, but I’ve never felt that surge of adrenaline as I desperately fight for survival. Sometimes there’s a trick you’ve got to learn, but for the most part, I’ve been able to power my way through virtually every encounter without much thought – it’s too easy to get health potions & resurrection potions.
  • Missing content: I’m pretty damn sure there were some late cuts to the content of this game – specifically, dragons, of which there are several mentions of in the game, but as far as I can tell, no way to actually see/meet/fight/etc one of these – so probably, a whole area of the game is missing.
  • Difficult menus: The menu system, a massive tree-menu, get quite annoying when you have lots of items – especially as you can’t seem to sell some of these things, so they just get stuck there, taking up room.
  • No ‘Live’ content: This, which, until I had Live, I never cared about, now seems like a serious weakness – especially as there appears to be missing content. What could be better to enhance the playability of a game then to be able to get a whole new area, with new baddies, 2,3 or even 6 months down the road? While the new area in KOTOR wasn’t huge, just the fact that it was there was nice. It made playing through the game again just slightly more enjoyable.

So these (truly) minor issues aside, Fable is an awesome game, and everyone who owns an X-box owes it to themselves to buy it.

Eberron

Eberron Campaign Setting Cover The Eberron Campaign Setting is Wizards of The Coast’s (WoTC) latest D&D Campaign Setting, following in the footsteps of Greyhawk, Dragonlance & The Forgotten Realms.

What makes this one different is how it was created: WoTC ran a $100,000 contest for the public to submit a campaign idea. The winner’s entry would become the new setting for WoTC. At the same time as they were offering Joe Blow all this money, WoTC was laying off their own development staff. Understandably, there was a lot of bad feelings by the ‘gaming community’ towards this whole process.

(BTW, I know posting this very review makes me the most nerdiest nerd that ever did nerd, but well, there we go. I’m a super-geek 🙂

Continue reading “Eberron”

Splinter Cell

(So, as usually happens, anytime I say posting will be light, I follow up immediately with another post).

I rented
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
over the weekend (after an abortive attempt at renting Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (see a review at Ben’s site) — the disc was horribly damaged). I didn’t particularly like the subject matter of the game (given current world politics, the sudden explosion of military-themed games & movies is disturbing (although a good idea commercially)), and I’m not generally a huge fan of FPS, but I have to say, I really, really liked this game.

First off, the graphics are just beautiful, with the notable exception of how the game treats water. It’s reminiscent of a bunch of tiled animated gifs, with no real translucency to it. The characters, compartively, are very smooth, with very few hard edges. There are also some 3D issues — if you stand right next to a wall and dump a body, half the body will disapear through a wall (which, incidentally, reduces the chance of someone spotting it), but overall, it’s a beautiful game to watch.

The gameplay is fantastic. Each mission is introduced with some cuts of a newscast highlighting international events, followed by a briefing from your CO. Then the game begins. Throughout, your missions are updated (via some nice voicework) through a little app in the top left corner, that looks like a pager (although if you go into the ‘opsat’ screen, there’s a palm logo up top, like you’re using a Palm Pilot (random advertising, I suppose, as there’s no reason for it to be there)). Each mission itself is broken down into smallish objectives, with a save points quite frequently (which is important, as it’s really easy to fuck up in this game).

The first mission is a training mission (ostensibly a test to see if you’re worthy of being this special ops guy) that doubles as teaching you the controls. I always really like it when games incorporate the learning into the storyline, so thumbs up for this. I’m also a fan of the fact that it’s possible to complete many of the missions without killing everyone in site (some in fact, you can’t – no body count allowed). It’s often much harder to knock people out rather than simply shoot them, but it adds an element of humanism to the game for me — I’m not a cold-hearted killer, I’m a spy, only killing when it simply can’t be avoided (I personally have shot many more cameras and lights than I have people)

The music is non-obtrusive, which is good for this sort of game, and the sound effects are brilliant, making full use of the benefits offered by Dolby Digital sound. There’s also lots of humorous snippets from the characters in the game that do wonders to add life to them.

My only real complaint is one that I often have with these sorts of games: if there’s somewhere I can’t go, make it so that it doesn’t look like I could. A set of pipes with a visible gap, I could crawl under or over, so this doesn’t count. Fire, a wall, a fence, rubble, these are good blockages. But it annoys me that just because the controls don’t support slithering on your belly, you can’t go under that wall.

This game gets high points from me, and gets the best recommendation I can give: I think I’m going to buy it. It’s also XBox Live enabled, so there’s the possibility of extra missions once the main game is finished.

EarthandBeyond

So I spent the vast majority of last evening playing Earth And Beyond, EA‘s space MMORPG. And well? I don’t think I’d pay a monthly fee for this. It’s much like an old-style MUD, in that it seems clearly pointed at hack’n’slah/loot/pillage style gaming, rather than roleplaying (which is main complaint with every MMORPG I’ve encountered so far). Essentially, you are the pilot of a ship and you go out into space to kill enemies, mine asteroids for materials, loot space junk and then go back to trade the stuff you get in a space port. Over and over and over again. Sure, there are missions that require you to do some combo of these things, but little else as far as I could tell.
In terms of interacting with other playes, you can form ‘groups’, which provide you combat & exploration bonuses, allow you to get XP faster and that’s about it. You don’t even need to be anywhere near your group to get these bonuses, and they also appear to only apply whilst in space. I joined a couple of different groups while I played, and I don’t think my group had any interactions at all (besides a fellow group member stealing a particular type of loot that I wanted). So we weren’t really a group.
I guess the game was fun in the way any FPS is fund – for kicks for a short period of time, but not really enthralling. With incredibly weak dialogue options, interactions with the NPCs are almost painful, and with no real reason to interact with other PCs,there’s really no point in this being multiplayer – it would, at least in my experience of it, have been much more fun as a standalone game in the vein of Privateer, that old Wing Commander spin-off game. At least Privateer had hollywood actors in it (I think it was Malcolm McDowell).

What I will say for Earth and Beyond is that the character creation process is amazingly simple and the customizations that can be done for your character are fantastic, making the creation process very enjoyable. I was also impressed with the very straightforward character advancement method. There are 3 types of XP: combat, exploration, trade. To get a skill point (used to increase you skills), one of those three must ‘fill up’. At that point, you gain a level in that XP type and your overall character level goes up. For instance, when I quit, I was level 7, which broke down as Combat 3, Exploration 3, Trade 1.

So I’ll try out a couple of the other classes/races (you choose a profession, which determines your race), and take advantage of the beta test, but I don’t think I’ll play it on an ongoing basis. If you like the way current MMORPGs work, you may like this game also. For an old-school type like me, bred on table-top & former MUSHers, where the systems are secondary to the interactions, these current MMORPGs just don’t quite cut it yet.

Neverwinter Nights

So I’ve finally had some real time to play through Neverwinter Nights – I’m not finished, but I’ve probably logged some 20-odd hours of game time (mostly over the previous weekend). I’ve finished the first chapter, and started in on the second.

First of all, Neverwinter Nights has the feel of D&D 3rd Edition down pat. Seeing the feats and skills in action is truly amazing, and beautifully executed. I love watching Daelan Red Tiger, my ‘henchman’, kill a creature, take a 5-foot step and launch into an attack against the next creature, using the cleave feat. I love watching my character, an elven rogue/wizard, sidle around a creature to flank it, then repeatedly backstap the poor thing.

The graphics are great. Zoom in close and they look a little blocky, and show their age (the game being 5 years in development), but from the zoomed-out position, they look great. The way the character changes appearance based on what equipment is being worn is also well done, and the models for the various creatures are very nicely done (although I do have some quibbles, to be listed later).

The score, by Jeremy Soule (isn’t every rpg score by him these days?), is understated, appropriate and not at all distracting.

The game play itself is excellent – the interface is wonderfully intuitve and non-intrusive, the storyline is intriguing (although I do long for a true high-fantasy storyline – the balder’s gate and this one have all been somewhat gothic in nature), the characters driving the plot all compelling (although like most game characters, they telegraph their intentions long before the game reveals it, and long before your character can do anything about it).

I’ve not spent too much time in the module builder or DM client, but from what I have spent, they are fantastic. I am convinced that with care, I could recreate any table-top world I’ve imagined. With fans able to supply new monster models and tilesets, the options will continue to grow. Aurora, the scripting language, is very easy to use if you understand perl, and so scripting events will be fairly straight forward, and I have glimpsed the amazing complexity that one can script. Check out Neverwinter Vault for some execellent resources to this end.

Finally some quibbles, which are fairly minor:

  • You can’t equip henchmen, nor have more than one (although you can have a henchman and a summoned creature, like a familiar)
  • When fighting trolls, I’ve seen no evidence of regeneration, and when you put them down, they’re dead – even without fire
  • Fighters have more class skills than wizards, because there are no knowledge skills
  • There’s no language skills – a really minor thing, but I always feel different languages add amazing flavor to a game
  • The game seems heavily weighted to rogue & wizard types – there are so many traps and locks to pick that not having rogue levels becomes quite dangerous. And without spells, the options of what can be done become far fewer (although the combat feats are beautifully implemented, and choosing which feat to use as a fighter would indeed be fun)
  • The ‘Stone of Recall’ from the main story – this essentially allows you to teleport out of any situation, be healed for free and then for a tiny amount of gold, be teleported back – makes all sorts of things less scary (like poison/disease or massive bodily harm).

But overall, definitely at least an A, if not an A+ for this game. The best thing about it, however, is that it has made me more excited about D&D, rather than less. Seeing the table-top game in action, is (in a very geeky way) a rush. I’ll be uploading files to a server soon-ish and attempt to setup and run through a couple of modules, so if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll email once this is up and running (the goal is to have something up for next weekend).

Civ 3

Ahh, there’s nothing like the site of 10 galleys, each filled with a settler and an impi. setting forth across the seas to conquor and colonise unknown lands. Meeting a land populated with americans, the the settlements are quickly established. Slowly but surely, we land new troops to conquor American cities. Once with a city anihilated or conquored, the settlers follow, building settlements on the available good land, leaving the scraps of desert and tundra for the Americans. Then, one fine day in AD 600, the American nation is conquored, subsumed into the massively powerful zulu empire.

Things to learn here:

  • My method of conquest in Civilization is disturbingly similar to Israeli practices in the west bank.
  • I take perverse pleasure in playing out reverse-colonialism in games of Civ, having the Iroquois/Zulus/Aztecs conquor the Europeans.
  • I never play as the Americans, and in every game that features them, I generally take the time to destroy them. I’m not entirely sure why, but perhaps some deep-seated resentment of American foreign policy is in there somewhere
  • One shouldn’t start a game of Civ 3 in the late evening, after the hockey game, because one will be up for far too long.