Archive for February, 2010

I recently feel like I no longer need to read books, watch movies or follow any type of story to gain some new kind of enlightenment I didn’t already possess before. At this point, there are no vital truths left to tell me. Deep down, at least, I already know all of them, or so it appears. Which kinda reduces all great speeches, stories and books telling any, to some sort of comfort, for demonstrating, I’m not alone in realizing the essence behind them.

Maybe I just finally reached a point, at which TV shows can no longer teach me anything. But that can’t be true, can it? Might it only be a result of how repetitive all media is?

Advertisements

No LAN But Login

Bass explained “if you go to another machine — friend’s house, Internet café — whatever, you can login with your profile and all the stuff you’ve unlocked is accessible to you there. It all lives on a server so you can’t really do dedicated servers with that.”

www.joystiq.com

Well, if that doesn’t sound familiar… Another guy who tries to make it sound, as if they were doing customers a favor with this. That might be the most disturbing part.
With no multiplayer part, that would work without EA servers, it can only be thrown in the trash can, once those are gone.

Since there are 5 patches now for this game, it was “safe” to start playing it (my “least bugs = most fun” principle). The first impression was less than great. “Rockstar Social Club” took care of that. It’s another application that starts with (and besides) the game and takes care of online activity (=multiplayer) BUT sticks around even if the player just wants to have fun with GTA by himself. Yes… Since Steam is always running too, there’s now more and more stuff always active. But RSC also tries to make the user create an account with Rockstar, possibly for features he’ll never use. With every launch of GTA, the client appears again and all the steps have to be skipped anew (including a window reminding the user that he’s not logged into RSC…). I hope the people responsible for this end up in the SPECIAL hell.
I’m also no big fan of the Microsoft Games for Windows LIVE stuff (the second experience gamers have with GTA IV, directly after RSC). It’s just bloat for the common/basic feature of creating save games. Naturally I use the offline option for saving games. I guess people are supposed to be happy about the fact they left this option. What shall I say, I like to be able to play my games, even if (for whatever reason) my Internet connection is dead.
The intro (couple of gangstaZZZ do gangsta stuff) and it’s duration made me think, that someone should explain to the good people at Rockstar, why GTA became the big franchise it is today. Because they seem to believe, that the purpose of GTA is to be a big movie or something. It’s not. It’s about driving vehicles around and crash into things (which is really easy in IV, because the handling of the cars is so great – interpret that any way you want). But even the intro ends at some point and the driving finally begins. And since cut scenes can be skipped by pressing return, forget this entire point or consider it as being invalid…
After all these steps are mastered, which obviously tried to keep the player from having fun (which is why people buy and play these games, btw), GTA IV really lifts off and the rich scenario takes the gamer all in for the first time. They took everything and enhanced it. I don’t know how many radio stations the vehicles can receive now. A LOT. It takes some time, until music or dialog repeats. This is no real problem either, since the music selection is so good, it holds up to anything that’s out there. Sometimes I’m glad I can listen to the same song again.
The focus here is on missions, so there’s less going on in the sandbox world (even “random friend” encounters are missions) and the game relies less on it than San Andreas did. I played almost constantly missions over anything else and it took “long” (I forgot the stats) to reach the end. This is a positive thing, for someone like me, who never was too fond of all the endless tattoo/clothes/fitness … shops in San Andreas.
But they just couldn’t make everything in-game fun and motivating. That’s what constant calls from various contacts and girlfriends were supposed to take down a notch. Honestly, it’s not possible to do 2-3 missions in peace, without having Roman (main character’s cousin), Little Jacob (some gangster), Brucie (just plain crazy) […] and several of the girlfriends calling! Spending time with all these ~10 “contacts” can unlock certain extras (that I never used), when the characters approval gets high enough. Declining any “dates”, will decrease this value each time by ~3%. So anyone who spent hours with all this people to bump it up to 100%, will be down again to 60 pretty soon. The method they use to ruin the gaming experience/pump up the pressure varies. Some of them call and expect the player to say yes (and then it’s time to drive them around endlessly instead of actually playing the game), others will expect the player to call THEM – every few (in-game) hours! Everyone who fails/forgets to do that, will receive angry messages and/or emails from all those people, once their deadlines were met. It’s possible to receive 4 of these messages simultaneously – even during missions, where important notes are distributed through the same channel… What also happens all the time, is that they call for drinks/darts/bowling/[…] during story-missions and then Niko Bellic hangs up automatically (going somewhere else would fail the story-mission), but this doesn’t save the player from the annoyance, because the approval rate sinks anyway! So, doing missions often just means lowering the like-factor of all the important folks… The consequence of this is, if the player tries to keep up, that playing GTA for hours could easily just consist of appeasing all of those clingy bastards. In which case, of course, you’d never see the ending credits. Ergo, by reaching this conclusion, you are done with all of them and never react to any call.

The cell offers an option to “freeze” these calls, but that shuts down the story too, so this certainly well-meant function doesn’t help at all/offers no solution to this problem.
What was extremely well done on the other hand, is the combat system. I thought it exceeded that of all other GTA games by far. I never had any problems to succeed in a mission, that had tons of gun fights on account of horrible controls. I sometimes failed to aim very well in San Andreas, but this is a thing of the past. The taking cover in IV is awesome. Other than ME1, the PC doesn’t just stick to walls by touching them, a button has to be pressed, so there is no accidental behavior when running around. Once in cover, it’s possible to blindly shoot around (“gangsta style”) or lean out of cover a little to aim more precise. THAT was immense fun and action. I hope they never trash this model. I didn’t perceive it as too easy either, because all of the options are necessary to get by. And the hostiles use all of these opportunities as well. It always makes a world more believable, when the same basic rules are applied to all its inhabitants and there’s no obvious difference between the player character and everyone else.
What really made the game likable (and what I consider as one of the best features) is how ironic the entire game world is created. No radio commentator is to be taken seriously – they all just mock someone or something, that usually really deserves to be made fun of. Next to the main story, which often jumps around wildly, this is the golden thread guiding through the entire game. Though this is nothing new in GTA, or could even be considered a standard, I felt as if they never pulled it off so well. There always seems to be a connection to current themes that I never noticed before. That Rockstar even cast people like Ricky Gervais is something I’d never have expected. It’s all a tribute to the fact, how big GTA has actually become.

Therefore I’m quite glad that “concerns”, that Rockstar (or whoever makes these decisions, could be the publisher as well…) might leave “everything” out, that could offend anyone (and then you don’t have a game, because that’s just not possible), basically a kind of self-censorship, were seemingly unfounded. After the ridiculous media circus over San Andreas, I wouldn’t have taken that one for granted. Maybe there’s some hope after all, that people might wise up.

2.5 – Will my items, armor, stats, etc transfer over if I import my character from Dragon Age: Origins?

Almost all items are imported with your character. The only exceptions are the Origins promotional items and DLC loot, which were meant for Origins alone.

http://dragonage.bioware.com/awakening/faq/#q2-5

Yay! Nice formula, isn’t it? I just think it’s awesome, that e.g. using the Blood Dragon Armor or the Warden’s Armor surprises any player importing such a character by wearing “no clothes” in Awakening. :D How refreshing (cause it gets a little chilly in Ferelden every now and then)! I’m not annoyed by this at all, because I already felt quite stupid for buying the keep (though it’s actually the fault of LIARS who made false promises in their “tests”). They just don’t forget any method to make DLC more appealing to players! Why let this chance pass by? I simply adore congruent and consequent behavior…
Also, I’m wondering – did they tell right away, that DLC loot was meant for Origins alone?

I guess it’s the substitute for the fact, that the player isn’t getting any otherwise. :P

1.8 – Who can I romance in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening? (Back to top)

There are no romances options available in Awakening. The story is focused more on the mission at hand and the new threat to Ferelden.

http://dragonage.bioware.com/awakening/faq/#q1-8

But If So

Sooo, Ubisoft decided to enforce a permanent online connection for everyone who wants to buy their games (although, under those conditions, it’s actually more of a subscription with costs for an obscure and undisclosed amount of time).

What happens if Ubisoft take the DRM servers offline for maintenance, or suffer a technical breakdown?

In the case of a server failure their games will be taken offline, and you’ll be unable to play them.

PC Gamer Blog

Having an interruption in Internet connectivity will be penalized with stopping the game and throwing the player back to the last checkpoint (Assassin’s Creed 2). If a player should be offline (that’s actually the best time to play a game), the game won’t work at all. Anyone who ever used WLAN (or the Internet itself for that matter) and therefore is familiar with frequent disconnects, gets to experience yet another (what I call) WTF-moment. The level of ignorance and the absence of a sense for reality is massive and omnipresent.

“It’s hard for us to say, yes, from now until the day that we all die all of our games are going to include this,”

PC Gamer Blog

Sure, even shortly after Microsoft (for the first XBOX) and EA shut down some of their “old” servers (used for multiplayer games, which are now, without the servers, more of the solo-dead kind) there are users who claim that Ubisoft will release a patch one day, if they should ever unplug their DRM servers, so customers could continue playing… I guess because the company cares so much for a great customer experience, except that they just portrayed with this whole act that they really don’t. Also, please just leave me alone with that kind of naive wishfulness, as if any of those dudes had any clue what would happen, if the company would go bankrupt or something…
Further, I tend to discard any thought process, that’s just a little too exclusive to a ton of relevant issues. With this level of control, the game might be installed locally, but the control always stays with the publisher. “Youth protection”? No problem. The game works only until 8, after that it’s “you are not allowed to play at this hour, go to bed now” (some countries might even revise their legislation regarding such control right now anyway, wait until they hear of this possibility). Adults can certainly authenticate their accounts in addition (they have to keep busy with something, while their games don’t work).
It puzzles me as well, what they try to spin as an advantage, the use of “the cloud” for save games. If I imagine I would have had to upload all my Dragon Age: Origins save games (almost 2 GB!) to a server (instead of classically writing them to disk), with my “slow” Internet connection, I would have experienced the ending a few weeks later… and my PC would have to be running and online all the time. Crazy.
Now that I already mentioned DAO – most of the time they didn’t even pull it off to upload screenshots and character data correctly… Small JPG files were too much for their infrastructure. This entire idea is broken by design. “Automatic uploading” of any content from my PC is certainly nothing I desire.
I’m thrilled to see how long people will be happy about this.

Don’t read any of this if you haven’t finished the game yet (and care).

Everything written here is based on the initial PC retail release version, previous to any patch (that might be released later on).

All in all, Mass Effect 2 could just be the best game I’ve ever played. But it’s really hard to say, isn’t it? It’s not like one could compare this with another genre or even with other great role-playing games. Too intense weighs the effect of being able to continue everything from part 1 in 2. Because of it this game is simply a little more than just an ordinary sequel every vivid player is used to. They’ll really have a hard time to do a better 3. The next game will be great if they manage to just make it as good. BioWare has left the field far behind, where story or atmosphere could still be enhanced, a whole while ago. Mass Effect is a great example to illustrate this. All problems and letdowns are of a whole other type. The negative parts mostly come down to a lack of time to polish (or even finish) certain pieces of the game (and if you don’t stick to deadlines, there’s the fear of becoming Duke Nukem Forever). There is no lack of talent that could explain that. And of course focusing on DLC brings more cash than doing vast patches, which will still roll out “everything” that couldn’t be accomplished in the initial development cycle. And let’s face it, as sad as it is, these real world issues won’t change. They’ve come to stay. There probably will never be the game that makes good on all those wishes (I mentioned many times before), while being on time for release and having “low”/expected budget. I’m convinced that most glitches still left in this game attribute to these ugly “real world” issues.
Although it’s almost a month after release now, it remains a mystery, how “Kasumi” or the Hammerhead will still change this game. Getting a new character at this point might be very weird, since all of them were recruited to do the “suicide” mission, which my character survived along the entire crew and squad (the game can go on after the credits, similar to GTA). Shepard: “Hi, I’m Commander Shepard and I came to recruit you for the suicide mission that I already did and easily survived! Wanna come?” Kasumi: “Sure I’ll come! It sounds as if you really need me and as if the mission you already did could fail without me!”

Sci fi: The women can be blue, green, purple, yellow, red… as long as they’ve got cleavage.

Sofox

Regrets

The whole emphasis of this game danced around being on a suicide mission, having to throw the entire team into one… Whatever. What stuck in mind was, that the survival of all the heroes was nothing that could be taken for granted. Everyone, even all of them, could ultimately die (as THE official ending). The player would have to work for their well-being and make certain decisions throughout the entire game (if he/she intended to prevent this). Having 100% of the crew alive at the end of the game (including non-squad mates like Yeoman Kelly or Dr. Chakwas) could be considered an accomplishment. So what happens at the end, with no losses on the team/crew? A huge party? No! Absolutely nothing. Shepard walks past some of his mates and then the credits start rolling! I want my party goddammit! These people just survived a presumed suicide mission against all odds completely unharmed, they just stuck it to the (illusive) man! BIG TIME. And they just move on like they don’t care? That’s weak folks. This is my only big minus in this game (the rest I consider all more or less inevitable for such massive titles, or at least less important). Short: GIVE ME MY ULTIMATE KICK ASS CELEBRATION!

Importing Save Games

I finished my second playthrough of ME2 and used a new character this time. Playing ME2 without imported (ME1) character, is like eating food without spices. All the people (that could be saved) died, the colonies failed, the council is gone (I played ME1 as “100% paragon” = everyone that could be helped/saved/supported was) and everything feels like ME1 never happened, except for the one thing Shepard did at the Citadel (at the end of the first game). So whoever cares enough about the game, has no choice but to play them all, since only this will grant the full experience (something BioWare won’t cry about, I guess).
I’m glad though, that importing a former save game had such a huge impact (and I’m not addressing starting with more credits/experience/resources – nice, but not that important). I didn’t expect it to be taken this seriously. I encountered so many people I was sure I’d never see again (some even bring small quests). An incredible accomplishment by the developers. The more unexpected the return of some person from the (seemingly) most random sidequest was, the more “adrenaline rush” I got. The galactic news were equally formidable. I can only imagine how many versions and lines they must have recorded to have one for every possible occurrence and decision from both games. From here on in I gotta say that there probably never existed a game to do all this. This is a real unique attribute, which (right now) sets this game apart from all the others. A few other games allowed importing former characters, but nothing of this magnitude. Nothing, that carried over more, than just “simple” character values. No decisions specific players made during their game.
Typically, games that offered story decisions during one game, just declared one version of the story as canon for the next part and thus started over. Like pilots from Wing Commander III were alive in IV, although they died for some players. With FMV, this level of detail was very hard to accomplish. Still, even if a 3D engine helps here, the voice work must stay pretty complex.
At last it should be mentioned, that the information some game “tests” gave, that the player would choose certain aspects by answering questions in the beginning of the game, if he wasn’t using an imported ME1 save game, is wrong. The mentioned sequence in the game only allows to answer in the usual positive/neutral/negative fashion. No story aspects will be set by this. At best it earns some paragon/renegade points.

Weird

Save games are limited to 52 for every character (or career as it is called in game). Quite funny, because the Unreal Engine 3.5 produces the smallest save game files EVER (which is great). 20-40 KB per file and you are done. I admit that 52 is usually a lot, but one advantage of current architectures is, that there’s no need for such limits anymore. Saving should work until the hard drive is full.

Conrad, “The Fan” from the Mass Effect 1 Citadel reacts always as if his quest was closed by choosing renegade options. The game doesn’t flag it for paragon characters…

All rooms on the Normandy are locked, as long as no recruits are in them. The Commander has no access, but every stranger gets in as soon as they are on board? That’s a strange design decision… The lift already says which people are on which deck, so it can’t be to make them easier to find. Normandy is not that big anyway.

Though the Dragon Age: Origins installation is even bigger than that of Mass Effect 2, it comes on 2 DVDs instead of 1 (like DAO).

The mouse wheel doesn’t work in Mass Effect 2 menus (especially annoying in long text/codex entries), though it does switch weapons during actual gameplay. Since ME1 had mouse wheel support everywhere, IIRC, this doesn’t make any sense. 10 year old Deus Ex pulls this one off, a standard like this shouldn’t be ignored by such a masterful title as ME2.

Clipping Bugs. Again, ME1 had none. Some glitches are always inevitable in gigantic projects, but being stuck in a wall should raise some concerns in testing… Well, at least no one can claim they didn’t change the game engine at all. :P

The Blood Dragon Armor looks fucking awesome, this goes without saying… But… All this extensive facial animation work and the player is to look at the cylon visor only for the entire game? No way man. Because of that, I switched back to the N7 armor after a few missions. This one can be customized in many ways (which makes it the most desirable armor in the whole game – despite all the optional types, IMHO).

The message “New Content Available” is always shown in the game menu (this time I won’t go into my general dislike of DLC further), even if all DLCs are already installed. Since the game is connected to the company’s servers, it could know that nothing has changed and only show this message if something is actually new…

Run and use is the same button! Therefore I noticed how I got conditioned to walk most of the time, although I wanted to run, just so I wouldn’t activate something by accident.

The cut scene playing when leaving Illium cannot be aborted by pressing space. Same goes for BioWare and EA logos at the game startup. Players have to endure those every single time.

Liara T’Soni seems to have another voice (at first), but imdb claims it to be the same voice actress playing her in ME1. Maybe she had a cold or something…

“Helpful messages” like “press x to do y” appear for the entire game and not just for a tutorial, where players would still need it. Can’t be turned off either. After scanning 10.000 planets I KNOW THAT PRESSING LEFT FIRES A PROBE!!!

Mordin’s mission on Tuchanka can leave the player stuck, if he decides to stay (to maybe properly loot the place) instead of choosing the dialog option to go immediately. Pressing F (the button to return to Normandy – what the hell happened to N) doesn’t work, in that instance. Only reloading and replaying that part with choosing the other dialog option (and leave a terminal unlooted) helps. Happened only in 1 of my 2 playthroughs.

6.8 Complete (167 MB) / 6.7 => 6.8 (88 MB) / Changes

  • +Made bail bond returnable to Lily and restored VV’s poster to basic.
  • Restored three paintings into Empire hotel and moved others around.
  • Fixed static NPCs on downtown hub and restored some Society weapons.
  • Restored report to SM clinic and newspaper pictures to Ocean House.
  • Swapped wrong Luckee Star key model and SPAS into Hallowbrook hotel.
  • Restored three context icons, three infobar icons and three models.
  • Repaired dialogues of Heather, Jack, Arthur, Pisha, Dema and hooker.
  • Corrected Ocean House steam cloud directions and minor map details.
  • Prevented restored NPC conversations from triggering multiple times.
  • Hid door icons at Grout’s mansion and used phone prop to open one.
  • Restored rain to beachhouse and removed it from Ocean House outside.

It’s really constantly this awesome…

He’s dead Jim!

He looks better in red.

Mystery

“I wonder if I should reveal to him, why I’m the only female in the game with decent hair!”

Because she’s up in the air and it’s not a clipping problem!

Incredible, how lame the Dragon Age: Origins version looked in comparison!

And they said barriers would protect you best! These fools!

In FOUR steps!