The co-op conundrum

In multiplayer gaming there are really only two broad categories of gaming, versus or co-operative, at least for the purposes of this article.

When you play a multiplayer game versus other people, generally you can drop in, blow some noobs back to the stone age, check your kill:death ratio and your achievements then go back to whatever it was you were doing before the urge to distribute brain matter came over you.

In co-operative multiplayer you generally join a small group of friends to work you way through a campaign of some sort, be that slaying dragons or breaching a safe house full of terrorists.

Fable 2 had a co-op system which relied on finding a friend who didn’t want to actually play their own character while helping you complete your game with no reward for them, nobody like you that much buddy, big mistake Fable 2, fail. The co-op mode in Crackdown 2 also only progressed the game of the host, leaving the other players as nothing more than hired lacky’s who gained nothing from the experience, we could call this the Fable 2 co-op model, very broken, very wrong.

Saints Row 2 also included a co-op mode and while you could play through the campaign with a friend it was way too much fun to just surprise them with an RPG to the face, over and over and over. That never got old and unfortunately it severely impaired progress through the campaign.

Which brings me to Halo:Reach. A game which has nailed the co-op campaign like no other, while it doesn’t support drop in/out in the co-op campaign it does allow you to play through with a friend (or up to 3 friends) with your own customised character and allows you to bring in the items and character from your single player game in to the campaign and firefight (versus) modes. Almost a perfect co-op experience.

Which brings me to the co-op conundrum.

A game which doesn’t allow drop in/out, but does allow you to play through the campaign with friends where everyone gets credit for completing the campaign introduced a dynamic whereby you need everyone who started the campaign with you be available to play at the same time in order to progress.

Unfortunately, for me at least, your friends all have families, with kids or other commitments (or just other games they play, I hate you WoW) and it would seem that the chances of assembling four of you at the same place for any considerable period of time is approaching impossible in a logarithmic progression the more players you add to the mix.

Obviously, the chances of getting game time in a single player game is 100%, but as you add players, the chances that you are all available in a coherent block of time approaches zero, this dynamic works for as little as 4 players depending the age of the player.

For example, when you’re 15 years old and you’de done all your homework and you parents will let you play, you may be able to get 3 of your friends in to a game maybe 50% of the time, like so:

Single guys, around mid 20’s (or maybe any age) probably still living in there mothers basements have a much easier time of it.

35+, with a family, four player co-op? Forget about it.

I fit in to this last category of course and I know these numbers are scientifically proven by empirical evidence collected over the last 40 years, it’s real science, you can’t dispute my findings.

What these finding do tell us is that as an Angry Old Bastard gamer the most you can hope for in a game like Halo:Reach is to be able to game with one buddy, add more in to the mix and you’re just asking for a world of hurt and frustration. Of course, there will be exceptions and by changing the variables (for instance adding drop in/out to a co-op game, like Diablo 3) and the chance of achieving gaming nirvana are increased.

So, if you’re old and stupid and still manage to co-ordinate both thumbs at the same time through all the arthritis pain grab a copy of Halo:Reach and sign up one of your friends, pick wisely, in fact, maybe you should pick your single friends as your co-op partner. I didn’t chart that possibility, shit. Maybe next time.

Brickquest, it’s HeroQuest with LEGO!

Thanks (again) to Geekdad for posting another great geeky thing which looks like a lot of fun. Brickquest is essentially a HeroQuest-like game where a group of players traverse a 3D tabletop dungeon in search of monsters to kill and rob. I wasn’t fully sold on the idea until I saw some of the photos of the boards which the designer has created from his awesome collection of LEGO, for example:

 

 

I doubt the average LEGO collection would go nowhere near having enough pieces to come close to something as cool as that, I even think my efforts using the LEGO I kept from when I was a kid may just be able to emulate a floorplan like that but it would look like some kind of clown explosion of mixed blocks and colours. Still, it looks like a great idea and best of all, it’s free! (download the PDF game manual here)

More info here: http://gunth.com/brickquest/

iPhone Apps store is the devil

Kristie recently got an iPhone and we have been wrestling for control over it for the last week. After taking recommendations from friends who already have iPhones and downloading most of those, I’ve also spent some (too much) time browsing the apps store and grabbing anything which looks cool. There’s some really amazing stuff available and while the iPhone has some limitations (no MMS, no copy & paste, no multitasking, WTF Apple?!) they are more than made up for by the support of the apps developers who keep producing an unprecedented number of apps for the iPhone platform. It’s true that 95% of the 22205 applications (current count as of 24 Feb 2009 according to appshopper.com) are complete garbage, even if that rate is 99% that still leaves 100ish gems in the rough, if you can find them.

So, I present here a list of my favourite app store games (I’ll make a new post some time for other non-game apps) from my first week or so of using (ok, borrowing) an iPhone:

Paid Apps

My impulse buy threshold is $1.19 (the lowest cost of paid apps, which is our equivalent of the US apps store $.99 and strangely much cheaper than US$.99) but I have on occasion stretched it to $2.49 for the right app/game (noted below).

I originally had the second page of icons on the iPhone reserved for the games we’ve spent money on (so I know not to delete them without thinking), I’ve had to add a second page for paid apps and I’m getting towards needing a third (but shuffling the pages around is a pain), it’s just too easy to click BUY when it’s only $1 (slightly easier when pre-paid iTunes cards are on sale for 25% off – and even easier when the apps are free).

The amazing thing is, I don’t think I’ve paid for a dud yet, the quality of the games which are coming out at this price is just amazing (prices in the app store change frequently, most of the below are $.99 at the time of writing):

  • Flick Fishing – Exactly what you think it is, a well implemented fishing game making full use of the accelerometer and touchscreen.
  • Pocket God – torment your followers on a small island with natural disasters, coconuts and gravity, mindless fun, updates which add new features are frequent and free.
  • Alphabetic – sounds lame, but isn’t. You are presented with a jumble of animated letters on the screen and you need to tap each letter in alphabetical sequence, harder than it seems and with additional game modes (try the Z-A mode!) to add longevity.
  • SlotZ – (just went back up to $2.49 but still worth it, use appsniper to get it when it drops to $1 again) a slot car racing game with downloadable player made tracks, simple controls, nice graphics and challenging AI.
  • Heavy Mach – side scrolling shooter, think Metal Slug where you’re never on foot.
  • iDracula – twin stick shooter with amazing graphics and shallow gameplay, it was hoped to be the first decent Diablo clone for the iPhone but didn’t quite deliver, still, worth a dollar!
  • Enigmo – build an incredible machine to transfer drops of water from one container to another, very challenging, very pretty.
  • Bebot Robot Synth ($2.49) – polyphonic musical synthesizer with a cute robot, what more could you want for 2 bucks?
  • Scoops ($2.49) – Simple yet addictive pick-up-and play with about the best implementation of the accelerometer I’ve seen so far. The aim is to add ice cream scoops to your cone to progress higher in to the sky, great kids game.
  • Lux DLX ($4.99) – There is a free version of this but this game is so good I figured it was worth paying the (relatively) high price for, it’s a RISK clone but a very well done RISK clone.

Free Apps

The list below are “lite” free versions with corresponding paid upgrades (with more levels or features or whatever), the lite versions of these are great but the paid versions cost too much at the moment (this is where Appsniper comes in – see below):

  • Yard Sale: Hidden Treasures – Essentially a “find the hidden item” game, without any twists but it’s very pretty and Kristie like it, but $4.99 is too much for the full game (thanks to the 1Up podcast for the recommendation on this one)
  • Textropolis – This is a goon made game (as is Scoops, noted above, from the Somethingawful forums) where the aim is to create words from letters which makes up a set of nine letter city names, with some additional game player features like how your city population grows as you progress (as does the picture of the city in the background) and you can “spend” population for hints. I love the graphical style and how there is no time limit.
  • Puzzle Quest – the classic originally from the Nintendo DS ported to just about every platform on the planet and now iPhone, from what I can tell there’s only a free version available via the apps store and I’m not sure if it’s crippled until the full version is released.

Even the truly free (non-lite) ones are great:

  • Space Deadbeef – stupid name, great game. R-Type clone but with very good touch screen implementation of weapons and movement.
  • Dactyl – defuse the bombs before they go off, seems to induce a trance-like state, my highest score is 370, somehow! (there is paid version called Dactyl 2 which I’ve added to my appsniper for when it drops to $1)
  • Trace – use the touchpad to guide your little guy around obsticles by drawing your own steps, ramps and barriers, hand drawn graphics add to the charm.

This list is entirely made up of games, but it’s interesting to note that my most used application isn’t actually a game, well, I treat it like a game of sorts, what is it? Appsniper. Appsniper allows you to set up a watch list of applications/games and a price threshold, when that threshold is met by a price drop Appsniper highlights it on the Appsniper icon so you can snap up the bargain. Appsniper also has a very well put together top listing for all the genres in a much nicer interface than the app store.

I think part of the reason I have been able to wade through the 21000 crap apps is due to the user reviews on the app store, sometimes they’re clearly bogus but my bogus radar is getting pretty good and they are usually a pretty good guide to tell if an apps lives up to the description.

My only bad purchase so far has been Fast Contacts (not a game)– It’s harder than you’d think to find a contact management app which doesn’t suck, or isn’t just a complete rip off the of built-in contacts app, this one is a complete rip off but with the added feature of a birthday reminder function and some nifty filtering options. NOT WORTH the $4.99 I paid since there are plenty of free birthday reminder apps and a good example of how the description for the app and the reviews are a complete deception. It does do a good job with the birthday reminders but it’s not worth 5 bux just for that.

ScoopsFlick FishingDactylEnigmoAlphabetic
TraceBebotYard SaleLux DLXiDraculaHeavy MachSlotZPocket God

Discuss this on the AOB forums

Wii games for a 3 year old

I’m just typing out loud here while I do some research. We just bought a combined birthday (and christmas) present for all of us from Mum & Dad which consists of a Wii (including Wii Sports) + Wii Music + De Blob + Wii Play + Guitar Hero World Tour. I’m not exactly sure how Alex will take Guitar Hero, he doesn’t know any Foo Fighters songs (yet) but I’m hoping he’ll get a blast out of Wii Music (reviews are mixed), Wii Play and De Blob looks kinda kid friendly.

So I’ve been doing some research in to other games which would be suitable for a three year old, here’s a hardly comprehensive list along with associated comments from the source I found the recommendation:

Kororinpa – a marble race game with cool looking environments

soccerball

I would recommend Kororinpa. I have found it to be a great little game. Your daughter will think she’s rolling a marble round a baking tray!

Highly recommended!

Cosmic Family – Lots of mini games aimed at pre-schoolers.

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There’s a game that’s just come out and is designed for young kids.

Endless Ocean – I have a feeling he’ll love this one.

forever-blue-20070705094426374_640w

I think Cosmic Family (aimed at under 5’s) and Endless Ocean are probably the best games to start her off on.

Mario Party 8 – just a bunch of kid friendly mini games

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And lastly, I would really recommend Mario Party 8, which is great fun for all ages, with mini games for everyone. If you play the full game with her, it involves a virtual board game with cute characters jumping round a board as you roll the dice. Lots of beautiful animation, fun games and cute from start to finish. Perfect!

More general comments:

She also likes some of the minigames on WarioWare:Smooth Moves, the cow race on Wii Play, batting practice and punchbag training on Wii sports and just checking the Wii parade for new miis. She likes the voting channel too, particularly when she guesses right and I get it wrong, in fact she likes most things that I let her beat me on.

I think that’s a good start.

EDIT: It looks like Kororinpa, Cosmic Family and Endless Ocean are not available in our region (yeah, Nintendo still region code their game, ho hum), so the search goes on!

Spore, expectations vs reality (my last post on Spore, I promise)

Will Wright has a long history of great games (pretty much all the Sims games, I still own the original Sim City on 5.25″ floppies) but there comes a point where he needs to stop believing his own publicity and stop building up games well beyond what he can actually deliver, Fable was Moleneux’s breaking point, famous for not delivering on pretty much all the cool stuff he claimed would be in the game, Spore is Will Wright’s.

Thanks to Omnicarus from the SA forums for this concise summary of how the hype associated with Spore and the building of expectations over the years has once again not delivered. On with the show (with some paraphrasing from me).

What Will Wright led us to believe Spore would be:

Spore, expectations

What we got:

For the record, despite the minor dispointment of discovering we have been given a game which resembles a shitty sand castle if you ignore all the nerd rage associated with this sort of game launch, I still think it’s a good game and Alex loves watching me make “monsters” and having them fight and eat each other. He’s going to explode when I get to the Space stage. Pew Pew.

First impressions of Spore

I loaded up Spore last night for the first time and played for about two hours, here are my first impressions and some screenshots.

Spore is touted as an open ended game where you can form your species in to pretty much anything you want, from tree hugging hippies who dance and sing and generally make everyone nausious to murderious bloodthirsty predators who eat the hippies for breakfast.

I decided early on that my species would be a warmongering genocidal carnivorous race of predators hell bent on ridding the world (universe) of all other life forms in the most violent way possible, I think maybe I just need a hug.

Anyway, I was well on my way to this goal as my first single celled organism formed and began hunting for prey. The first stage of the game revolves around finding food (chunks of meat floating the primordial ooze) and other single celled organisms in order to take their traits, you can also find body parts or DNA by eating parts of the meteor which crashed in to the planet you inhabit and began the cycle of life.

My first creature, pictured here was built for destruction. The huge spikes are a self defence mechanism (I wasn’t the biggest fish in the pond, and the bigger ones all wanted to eat me!) and a double mouth, all the better to eat you with my dear.

Spore_2008-09-03_22-00-53

During this phase you are constantly reminded that you are not the biggest fish in the pond, you can see the blurring giant organism in the background in the image above but luckily there are layers of life in this phase so something that big doesn’t care about eating me, yet.

After chowing down on cow like prey for about 10 minutes and discovering the ability to spit poison and shoot lightning out my butt, I evolved to a land based being, dragging myself from the ooze on to dry land. Thus the Creature phase began.

The Creature phase isn’t that different from the single celled phase, you hunt, you kill, you eat, you evolve. There is another dimension in this phase where you can attempt to use social skills (Song, Dance, Charm) to befriend other species and have them join your tribe. I attempted this several times but my “built to kill” creature, pictured below (in various states of evolution), was not build for dancing so I just ate their faces instead, same end result, sort of.

CRE_Meatbag-06e90ec8_ful CRE_Meatbag-06e90ecb_ful Spore_2008-09-03_22-21-29 Spore_2008-09-03_22-46-01

The aim of this phase if to befriend or destroy other species as you make your way around the landmass, each new conquest give you DNA and body parts with which to build on your own creature to make them a better fighter, tree hugger or somewhere in between, whatever floats your boat.

The sense of achievement is done in a way that it keeps you going without getting bored of doing the same thing over and over, each new genocide you inflict yields some new DNA for you to build on your creature, be it a new mouth, legs, feet, opposable thumbs, bigger brain, lightning shooting butt attachment or whatever. I think in the two hours I played I spent about equal time in the creature designer and chewing on other creatures livers.

As I practiced and became more familiar with the creature creator my species (which I named Meatbag) got more and more intricate and changed designs in quite radical ways as I found new body parts and discovered different ways the designer allowed me to fiddle with the anatomy (oh, that sounds wrong) of the new life form.

Here is the final result so far, the yellow weirdo on the left (as oppose to the pink weirdo on the right) was my first attempt at a sentient pac-man, failed..I’ll try again when I have some morebody parts.

Spore_2008-09-03_23-52-05 Spore_2008-09-04_00-00-46

You can see more screens in the gallery, click below:

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EDIT: The Spore official site is actually pretty cool and includes a personal page which documents your own creatures evolution, the animation below isn’t clickable, which is odd, but you can subscribe to the RSS feed for my creatures. Here we go, a link to all my creatures and my profile.
 
EDIT 2: It seems that my stupid ball thing with spikes has been Eclipsed by some absolutely amazing creations, check these out, they’re all made in the creature creator: 
 
EDIT 3: There’s a lot of internet hate at the moment for the game, and I do agree with some of it, here’s a great post from the SA forums which sum it up pretty well.
This game is horrible. I cannot believe that this simple shit is the result of five years and who knows how many millions of development dollars. Here’s the whole thing:

Cell stage:
Swim around, eat meat or plants.
Eat enough meat/plant, get a little bigger.
Kill cells that have something you don’t, get their DNA.
Repeat until you are about ready to barf.
I liked it better when it was called O’DELL LAKE.

Creature stage:
Run around collecting little DNA bits out of skeletons.
Meet a new creature either a) eat them and they go extinct or b) try to impress them and usually fail because it’s really tough to get the right skills for each one.
Stick on more parts that you have found.

Tribal stage:
Plunk down city buildings.
Gather food.
Go to to other tribes and either dance/sing to impress them or kill them.

Civilization stage:
EASILY the least sense-making portion of the game.
Convert other cities using religion or economics or just military force, it’s all very wtf, generally.

Space stage:
Fly on uninspired missions to do boring things.

It’s fucking tragic, and not really fun for any length of time. You will never have enough DNA to really make a complicated awesome creature the way you want, it will always be this complete pain in the ass to try to balance what you WANT with WHAT IS NEEDED TO SURVIVE. Creating the minor works of complicated art like in the CC is really not possible.

and
Fable was at least sort of fun on its own merits.

Unless you’re autistic with the creature creator this… not so much.

I agree with most of that (so far, I’m only up to creature stage, but luckily I am autistic with the creature creator, how long that will last remains to be seen.
 
…and the final word to all the nerd ragers claiming they have once again been deceived by famous game designers (from NEOGAF):
 
Exactly! It’s clear to me that many people here approach the game completely wrong and have totally different expectations from it than was ever promised to begin with. No wonder you hear many negative comments. This game is first and foremost about creation. Creating your own world and sharing it with others. It was also very clear beforehand that this game would consist of completely different gameplay styles. No wonder it doesn’t feel contiguous. It isn’t exactly supposed to be.

This is no hardcore evolution sim, strategy game, or tycoon. It’s all about creation, exploration, socalizing and simple fun. No more, no less.

 

To put it more succinctly:

This game is not COD4.

Mythbusters “illustrate” how a GPU works, in typical style.

Here’s a story from the final moments of Nvision involving the Mythbusters explaining the difference between a CPU and a GPU, seet hevideo below but read the info on the linked page, below, for the full impact.

Nvidia ended the first Nvision visual computing festival with a bang, in a quite literal sense, after inviting Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of Mythbusters fame on stage to bring an end to official proceedings.

The two were tasked with using their scientific and engineering skill to demonstrate the difference between a CPU and a GPU… in a visual sense.

http://www.bit-tech.net/news/2008/09/01/mythbusters-finish-nvision-in-style/1

Dawn of War 2, inside information…

Not really, I have a friend working for THQ Australia but he is steadfastly refusing to give me any information on what he’s working on, bastard.

However, here’s some potential DoW2 news, THQ Aus are working on an unnamed Warhammer 40k project for 360 and PS3.

No confirmation on if it’s a port of DoW2 for consoles or a whole new game but they’ve just put up a bunch of job ads which state they are working on “an action game for Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony Playstation 3 based on the popular Warhammer 40,000 universe from Games Workshop“, either way it’s awesome. If it’s a port here’s their chance to prove that RTS’s don’t have to suck on a console and I’ll probably end up buying both (PC and 360) anyway, if it’s a whole new game, even better!

Dawn of War 2

Ads here:
http://www.sumea.com.au/snews.asp?news=4073

Story here:
http://au.ps3.ign.com/articles/906/906078p1.html