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Hamarabi2006 Blog

Video Game Romance

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There was a discussion over at the Neverwinter Nights 2: MOTB messageboard about romance options in video games and the following is my response to the topic.
I am not against a good romance, but isn't there more important things that the developers should be working on? There are too many personalities in the world and there will never be the perfect romance option for everyone, so why even try? Too many people will be disappointed with whatever option you provide! Wouldn't it be better to just provide an option for deeper friendships with all of the NPCs? When I say "friendships", I mean "FRIENDSHIPS", not romance! Just forget about romance, because it is a waste of resources that could be spent on more important things, like a decent ending, for gawd's sake! If you spend more time on developing the characters / story and provide more meaningful friendship-dialogue, no one will complain that your romance options suck, like in the OC.
I wonder what everyone's definition of a good friend would be? I suspect most people will have nearly identical qualities in mind (most of them broad and general), but what of a romantic interest? Sure, there are going to be some similarities, but I am pretty sure that extreme views will dominate. Some like it hot, as it were. It's just easier to develop a character that offers a deep meaningful friendship, than one that can be romanced. I have lots of friends of all different personalities, but when it comes to romance, I am very picky. I hope you see my point.
I know everyone wants to have romance options in the game, so I won't be surprised if my ideas are attacked, once again. Nonetheless, I have an opinion that I would like to share, in regard to the issue. I do not see why relationships in video games have to be escalated all the way to the act of knocking boots or even a confession of love. I feel that if game companies worked on developing the characters in such a way that deeper friendships were possible, the relationship would be much more meaningful and the player would gain so much more from the experience if the "Act" or "Confession" never came into play. In my opinion, the developers should leave that up to our imagination. Think of all the fan-art and fan-fiction that could arise from such a story telling method, because all of the requirements for a potential romance of epic proportions are there, but nothing serious is acted upon, except a bit of tasteful and friendly flirting, teasing, joking, and thoughful comments. Maybe a rush of inspiration could be conveyed with body language or other actions, to stoke something magical in our imaginations. I want these companions to be something that everyone talks about for decades. I want people to say, "Wow, I have never met anyone THAT kool!" and just be very thankful to experience such a grand friendship. People might even start wearing T-Shirts with that particular companion saying something really kool and memorable from the adventure. From my personal experience, whenever I am around my real life friends I put my game-face on, because I want them to be glad that they know me. I am always funnier, smarter, more interesting, more compassionate, and more etc., than I ever have been on my own. I am a better person whenever I am around them and I love that they inspire such drive and passion in me. Simply put, I am better off just because I know THEM! I want a friendship in these companions, like the one that Khelgar displayed when he came forward to fight Lorne in your place. His words meant so much more than what the others said, because there was passion and seriousness in his voice. You could tell that he really meant what he said and I was very moved by his act of true friendship. I want a friend that would die for me and I for him/her. I want there to be intimate humor and mutual bonding to happen, as a result of our adventures and experiences together. I want to be able to care about the companion, so much that I would restart the game every time he or she fell unconcious in battle, because I couldn't bear to have it happen! I think that the developers could add more friendship bonding moments to a game by having short cutscenes trigger whenever most of the party was unconcious and only you and one of your companions were left standing long enough to defeat your attackers. The cutscene could be something as simple as a breathless joke or sarcasm about what just happen, that makes you giggle, because that's just what YOU were thinking. Maybe later on in the adventure, the companion could yell something that reminds you of that close call and you break out in tears of affectionate laughter. Basically, your companions have to show you a good time and you will start to care about them, because of their awesome personalities, the fun you had together, and because of the unbreakable friendship you have established. It's all about sharing a fantastic experience and what you are inspired to imagine could happen under different circumstances. A relationship that is based on genuine friendship is so much more meaningful and longer lasting than one that is of primal nature, because after the initial attraction wears off, there is nothing left to hold it together. If you want an epic romance, find someone that you love as a person and true friend, brought on by mutual and intimate bonding through shared experience and deep compatibility, because your heart will sing, your spirit will sour, and you will be inspired to greatness.
Of course, you have to be attracted to the person, otherwise, you might as well stay friends. What I am opposing, is that a relationship start JUST because you are attracted to someone, which is what most people do. They jump into the sack long before a deep and genuine friendship has been developed and that animalistic rush to instant gratification usually ends in an emotional disaster for both parties, because they find that they are not compatible after the deed is done, months or even years later. My post above hints at not allowing a romance to evolve to conclusion, because it is easier to develop deep and meaningful friendship possibilities for all NPCs, while letting the player's imagination fill in the romantic blanks. If the developers take the relationship all the way, most people will be unsatisfied and probably disappointed in the way it climaxed. I just feel that it is better to keep the dream alive, than offer something that could never meet everyone's expectations. To be honest, I have never witnessed a video game romance that was even close to what it strived to be.
Well, that's what I think about the issue and besides, who wants to romance a cartoon, anyway? Cheers! Hamarabi2006

Final Frontier Impressions and Walkthrough--Civilization IV Beyond the Sword

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Here's a link to my Final Frontier Walkthrough. Jon Shafer, one of the Firaxis Games Designers/Programmers thanked me for the feedback after reading the following text, detailing my impressions of the "Final Frontier" module that is included in the "Beyond the Sword" expansion for "Civilization IV". The following is my response to him:
You are very welcome, Jon! You have accomplished an amazing feat with this module and I commend you. Frankly, I never thought I would ever see anything as extreme of a Civ4 make-over as what you have just shown the community and the rest of the world. Fantastic work! I have played Galactic Civilization in the past, but I was bored with the game-play after only a few days. I always knew Civilization IV was the superior product and found myself wishing that someone would make a Space Theme strategy game with as much quality and depth. Your module is the closest I have seen and I know it will only get better as time passes. Good luck with Final Frontier, we are all rooting for you and your efforts! -- Hamarabi
Later on in the thread, someone asked if there were any guides available for this module and since there wasn't any, I volunteered to create one. The following is what I posted in follow-up to his request:
Announcement of my Final Frontier Walkthrough:
For everyone else, I just finished the first two sections of my Final Frontier Walkthrough and I hope someone finds it useful. I know it is not as advanced as some of you may have been expecting and for that I apologize. I never claimed to be an expert, not even with the regular civilization game, I just saw that someone was asking for help and I was compelled to do what I could to assist him. I plan to add several more sections to the guide, on which I will work daily, detailing my understanding of the game mechanics all the way to the end game. If it helps you, great. If it doesn't, please do not give me any grief about it, because I put a lot of work into it and the documentation is for free. If I made any errors or crude uneducated assumptions, I would really appreciate some constructive feedback, because it will help everyone. On a side note, you are probably wondering why I did not post the guide on this forum, so I will try to answer that question as best I can. I spent nearly 12 hours on this project, while writing, spell checking, proof reading, taking screenshots, resizing images for thumbnails, programming XHTML, validating that XHTML to the 1.0 Transitional standard, etc., and the work is my own. I used to post game reviews on Gamespot, until one day the rhetorical question dawned on me. "Why should I be working so hard on these reviews and just giving it away to a company that does not need my help?" I answered that question by purchasing a domain and uploaded the reviews to my own website. I don't do them often, but when I do, I would rather not see them buried under a sea of other reviews. -- Hamarabi
Final Frontier Impressions:
It is true that the module needs some work, but it is still a great deal of fun. In one session, I was the most powerful civ in the late game and I was building up a massive force to go for a conquest victory when I noticed they were all working on a doomsday weapon! I thought ok, they are going to nuke me, so I switched to researching and building the United Planets thinking that my friendly relations with other civs and my enormous population would seal a victory or at least allow me to pass a non-proliferation resolution. Not so! They all voted for the most competitive AI civ and he won the vote by a small margin! Ugghh, not good! So, I ended up having to go for the Ascension victory, while they were all building nukes. In the end, my superior production won the day, but it was an exciting finale to be sure. I am surprised, however, that they never called for a diplomatic victory resolution to be voted on. Strange! In another game, I experimented with the world builder and put a resource rich asteroid field near my capital to see what would happen. I then built 8 Construction Ships and just let them go to work on their own and they went nuts! They covered my territory with an intricate web of warp/jump lanes that made it incredibly fast to traverse the vastness of space between my star systems. What I thought was hilarious, was in the late game a Pirate Ship would destroy part of the transportation network and after I blasted it out of the sky, all 8 workers would rush to fix the network! They charged into action with a battlecry, "Must be preteeey!" It was so funny! Here's a Screenshot.
The Following Needs Work:
I feel that the module is too short and that there is a little bit of a mismatch with pace of technology and improvements. There needs to be a lot more techs between building a shipyard and your first battleship, because it is the most powerful unit in the game. Not to mention the fact that once you reach this juncture, there isn't anywhere else to go other than a more powerful battleship. The problem is that victory is accomplished so soon after the achievement that the unit is more for bragging rights, than anything else. Another feature that I feel is lacking, is the ability to determine which star system would be more advantageous to colonize. Giving a scout ship the ability to obtain vital information about a star system, such as hammer, health, happiness, and food potential should be one of the top priorities for future updates. Also, there needs be a management screen for each planet, rather than just one for the entire system. The value system just doesn't work the way it is supposed to. All of the Value technologies are obtained by different civilizations at nearly the same time, which puts everyone at odds with each other. Consequently, there is never enough time to spread your values to rival star systems, which makes them pointless, unless the creator intended for everyone to be at war with each other. I believe, "Value" technologies need to be spaced out more in order to prevent universal conflict. Besides, if the player wanted "always war" they could just check that in the setup window. In addition to the above, I feel that the Pirate Civilization is just an annoyance in the late game. All they ever send is destroyers and planetary defense ships, which to me is just like swatting flies. I feel that if the creator beefed them up a bit, the game would become much more challenging and rewarding in the late stage. Let them send battleships and carriers loaded up with fighter and bomber squadrons along with the destroyers! I feel it is a necessity, because the other civilizations are never able to send a real army, because the game is already won, before that happens. The victory conditions are met way too early to allow any kind of real military conflict, which is disappointing. Another feature that I think would help the module, is creating a greater variety of weapons for your military ships, like missiles and plasma weapons for example. Of course, adding new animations for each weapon type would be required. The trading game needs to be more than just swapping technologies with rival civilizations. I think some sort of Galactic Exchange would be a neat feature to include in the module. Civilizations could use freight ships to haul valuable resources to the exchange and sell them for a boost in economy. Allowing civilizations to purchase resources for a steep price would add a new element to the module that would allow everyone to compete on a new level. Civilizations that are caught in a sector of space that is resource poor, could still offer serious competition. With a Galactic Exchange feature, the trading game could open up a whole new element of play. Escort ships would need to be sent along each trade route in order to protect the investment, because pirates and rival civilizations would try to interrupt that part of your commerce. There needs to be some sort of write-up on how to get things going for the newbie. A tutorial that walks the player through the crucial initial techs that are required to develop and sustain a viable economy, military, and espionage network would be a great help. I had to figure everything out on my own, which was a lot of fun, but not everyone will want to do that. Maybe someone could start a "Final Frontier Game" thread that includes screenshots, explanations, and strategy discussions. I, for one, would be interested in the information! In the "World Builder", there are a great deal of icons and terrain options that should not be available in a space themed mod and some do not even work when they should. Currently, there is no compelling reason to ally with anyone, but if the Pirates were truly a menace to be feared and respected, I feel diplomacy would become a greater factor in game-play. I think that if the tech tree was expanded upon, more units, buildings, and wonders were added, the AI was given an overhaul, and the Pirates were given more powerful ships, the module would be a smash hit. Anyway, I really enjoyed this module and it has a huge potential to be one of the best ever made for Civ4. If you haven't got around to trying it yet, you simply must check it out. It takes a while to develop a good strategy, because you have to learn a new way of doing things, but that's half the fun. -- Hamarabi
After I posted the announcement of my Final Frontier Walkthrough, Jon Shafer posted the following:
Very cool Hamarabi. I'm honored you'd spend the time to make this for my mod. Jon
In closing, if you would like to leave feedback or share some hints and advice about the module guide, you can do so in this thread. Oh and please, keep it civilized! No pun intended. :lol: :) Cheers! Hamarabi2006

Turning Point: Fall of Liberty

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Ok, I just read the preview / interview for this game and I was rather disappointed with the company's lack of imagination in developing a believable scenario. I was reminded of something I wrote a long time ago, in a discussion with CmdrMcNeil on his blog, and decided to re-post that text as a comment for this game's interview. My Response:
I think the Battle of Dunkirk would be a more interesting, "what if?" scenerio to use as a backdrop for this game. The Battle of Dunkirk: British and French forces were cut off in northern France by a German armoured advance to the channel coast at Calais. There were over 330,000 Allied troops caught in the pocket and had to be evacuated by sea to England, in "Operation Dynamo". This was considered a miracle by most historians and here's why: ************************************************************************** The German Army burst through the Ardennes region, and advanced rapidly to the west, then turned north in the so-called "sickle cut". To the east, more German forces invaded and subdued the Netherlands and advanced westward through Belgium. Unopposed German panzer divisions halted outside of Dunkirk. This order allowed preparation for a new southward advance against the remaining French forces. The remaining Allied forces were compressed into a 5 km wide coastal strip from De Panne through Bray-Dunes to Dunkirk. If Hitler HAD NOT ordered the German panzer divisions to halt, but instead ordered an all-out attack on Dunkirk, the retreating Allies could have possibly been cut off from the sea and destroyed. If the British forces had been captured or killed at Dunkirk, not only would have Britain been vulnerable to invasion, but morale in Britain could have sunk so low as to have decimated the government and replaced it with one more willing to make an accommodation with Nazi Germany, similar to the Vichy regime in France. Without the need to oppose the British in the Atlantic and North Africa; or even with the assistance of a humbled government in Britain; perhaps the troops and resources that were now free, would have been enough to defeat the Russian's in 1941 and led to German victory over the European and Asian continents. ************************************************************************** This has been discussed at length by many historians and most agree, that if the miracle evacuation at Dunkirk had not been successful, Germany may well have ruled the world. Hamarabi2006

Part 3 Linear Vs. Non-Linear

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I posted this followup to the argument going on over at the DA forums.
I think you people just like to argue, because no progress is being made and no attempt to do so is being offered. So far, from what I have gathered: 1)Some people want to be able to do quests in any order they want. (I think someone needs to elaborate on this complaint, because it doesn't make any sense. Due to the fact that side-quests are not required to be done in any particular order, I fail to see the logic or reasoning behind the request.) 2)They want to be able to wander into dangerous areas, even if they are way above their head. 3)They want wide-open areas that they can explore without being bothered with the story. 4)Some people do not want story or dialogue at all, so they can just enjoy the game-play. 5)Is that it?
For people that just want great game-play, without story or dialogue: If all you really want is great game-play without meaningful story or dialogue, I recommend picking up games like DOA or Ninja Gaiden and their subsequent sequels, because they are excellent titles from that specific genre. Stop trying to change this genre, because the result is always the same. A futile argument will escalate out of control, because people will defend their preferred style to the bitter end.
For people that want complete freedom to wander aimlessly, no real story to follow, and no meaningful dialogue. Game Requirements WinXP, NT, 2000, Linux, Mac 2GHZ Processor 64MB Video RAM DirectX 9c and X.0 Shader, etc. 5-10GB Free Space Enormous Imagination or Consume Hallucinogens MMOGs and those that mimic MMOGs, but are offline, are perfect for this. You can wander all you want. You can pick up thousands of generic quests and do them in any order you want. You have complete freedom to level up or not. You can go to extremely dangerous areas and die in two seconds, if that's what you want. The game never ends, so you can pretend forever. Stop trying to change this genre, because the result is always the same. A futile argument ....
My Personal Opinion: You are exploring every area as you go, no matter how linear the path is, so maybe you just want more of it. Larger areas in which to satisfy that urge might silence the constant complaining. Yes? No? But then, something else will have to be sacrificed. Regretably, it is usually FOCUS that takes the hit, which takes away from immersion. Is that what you want? I don't buy role-playing games, so that I can make up my own story or pretend that I can build a house, go grocery shopping, pick flowers, or live out my life as a normal person inside my own imagination. I buy them to experience someone else's story and adventure, a tale that is interesting and epic in scale, and something that I could never experience in real life. (If I wanted to pick a flower, I would do that in real life, because the experience is much richer and more satisfying than a video game simulation could ever accomplish.) A game that mimics real life is completely uninteresting to me. Why waste six months of my life pretending that the game is better than it really is? Why not use that imagination to create my own video game? Better yet, why not write a book, that includes the simple meandering of normal life with no real story to follow? I cannot see how you could sell a single book that contains boring content like that, let alone a video game -- but, it happens all the time. Go for it, you might get rich!
Crazy talk, if you ask me! Cheers! Hamarabi2006

Part 2 Linear Vs. Non-Linear

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I posted a response to some of the people that were throwing insults and arguing over at the DA Forum. I tried to avoid doing the same and opted for a more constructive discussion.
OK, so what do the advocates of "Sandbox" play want in their games? I bet both parties really want most of the same things, but people just like to argue. Let's make a list and see: * Just Plain Fun (That's a given) * Great Graphics (no artifacts, clipping problems, or other anomalies. Poly count, textures and lighting are superb) * Beautiful Environments (Art and Level design) * Great Sound Effects * Interesting Character Interaction and Dialogue * Interesting and Numerous Quests / Side Quests that are not broken. * Great Voice Acting * Great Story (with options to affect the outcome through-out, several endings) * Great Locations (Interesting areas that are not copied over and over) * Decent Challenge in game-play * Interesting and Likeable Characters * Awesome Spell Effects * Great Gameplay Mechanics, with lots of different things you can do. * Good Character Progression * Interesting and Awe Inspiring Enemies * Good Pace, that is not bogged down by Experience or Skill Grinding * Abundant character appearance choices. (Equal number of good looking, plain, and ugly facial appearances) * Fun Melee Combat (not just point, click, wait till the enemy is dead) * Fun Magic Combat * Fun Ranged Combat * Interactive Environments * Intelligent Level design * Lots of interesting dialogue, that is not repetitious. * No Annoying Characters being forced into your party. * Some people want romance options (I am not against it, but its not on my wish list). * Race / Class mechanics that are complete (nothing broken) * Option to skip cut-scenes and dialogue for sequential play-throughs. (Just enjoy the game-play.) * Good Strong Ending.
I cannot see how anyone from either side of the argument would disagree with the items on this list, being something desirable. What we might disagree with are the finer points of each item on the list, however. For instance, the item entitled, "Good Pace, that is not bogged down by Experience or Skill Grinding" is subjective. Personally, I don't want to have to spend two hours shooting an arrow at the wall to increase my skill enough to continue with a quest. I do not want to have to stand there for an hour, while a rat attacks me to increase my armor skill, either. Additionally, I do not want to have to spend two hours killing the same mob over and over again so that I have enough experience or high enough level to continue with the quest, but that's just me. Some people do not consider this type of game-play grinding. Another item that might be in disagreement, is the "Intelligent Level design" entry. Personally, I want to see lots of puzzles or traps that must be over come, with a difficulty slider so experienced and non-experienced players can have equal amount of fun finding the solution. Some people would disagree, because they do not want to see any puzzles in the game, whatsoever. I would like to mention, that there are plenty of linear RPGs out there that include some game-play elements that I hate. For instance, most of the Final Fantasy games are pretty good linear RPGs, but they include far too much experience grinding, for my taste. Don't get me wrong, I love those games, but I hate grinding with a passion. Closing: With out a doubt, there are countless linear RPGs out there that suck and we are in agreement on that fact, I'm sure. I think the reason why they suck could be contributed to weaknesses derived from the list above. What I am trying to get a grip on is why there is this huge argument over "Linear Vs. Non-Linear" or "Linear Vs. Sandbox" type of gameplay. Is there really that big of a difference between what each party considers good game-play? Hey, I'm all for sidequests that have nothing to do with the main quest. But, there's something about Oblivion that I hate. It reminds me so much of generic MMO game-play, that I just can't get past those shortcomings in order to enjoy the good parts of the title. I really would like to see other people provide a list of what they consider good game-play, so we can compare the "Linear Vs. Sandbox" elements of each type Cheers! Hamarabi2006

Linear Vs. Non-Linear

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I posted this over at the Dragon Age messageboard in response to someone complaining that games are too linear. The content of my response has similarities to statements that I have made in my other blogs.
Linear Vs. Non-Linear.
Personally, I think those words are being abused when applied to gaming. Is linear gameplay, really a bad thing? In a single player RPG game, there is a story to be told, which has a beginning, a middle, and an end; therefore, it has to be linear. The story pulls you along in the direction that the developers want you to go and if the tale is good enough, you won't mind at all, because you will want to go where they are taking you. Also, the adventures are a lot more fun and each quest is different, since a good single player RPG game will not repeat the same stock quests over and over again with different wording. Usually, there are puzzles and traps that require you to use your wit to figure things out, before you can proceed. Excellent Single Player RPG games are largely for the thinking man/woman and this very much appeals to me. Mindless repetition of the same thing over and over again will never keep my attention for very long. What if we changed the title of this thread to "Single Player Vs. Massively Multiplayer"? There are a great many similarities to their so-called "Linear VS. Non-Linear" respective gameplay elements. Fire up ANY MMO game or even "E.S. Oblivion", which plays like an MMO, to see what I mean.
MMO Games and "E.S. Oblivion" (Very similar, not everything applies): (Non-Linear)
1) They have you grind exp by killing the same thing over and over and over again. Sure, when you level up you get to go to new areas and see new monsters, but it's the same thing, essentially. Instead of kill one million gnolls to advance, it is now kill one million goblins. The only difference is what the mobs look like, but the grind is still there. Developers need to pace the game, so that you level-up naturally just by following the story. I hate grinding! 2) You have to camp for that uber mob for hours and hours. I don't even want to wait a minute, because I have better things to do with my life. In other words, the mob should be there when I complete the leg-work to find his layer or location. 3) They make you, repetitiously, run through half a dozen very large zones or one gigantic zone to get to where you want to be. I really don't want to waste 30 to 60 minutes running from one zone to the next till I can finally start having fun. 4) They require you to wander aimlessly back and forth, with nothing to do but look at the same environments that you have seen 1000 times before. You can kill countless generic mobs along the way, but what fun is that? 5) Oblivion and many of the MMO's out there lack any real depth to them, because their gameplay suffers due to the shear scale of the zones. Good Single Player games have a great deal more intrigue to the storyline, game mechanics, and gameplay, because the designers can concentrate on each area to make sure that they are fun. As a result, Single Player games that last 50 hours to complete are considered well worth the money, if the developers did their job right. On the other hand, Oblivion and MMO games have to do the same thing, only on a much larger scale, so the fun gets spread way too thin.
Conclusion:
Oblivion and the most popular MMO's out there just have you grinding XP by killing thousands of the same mobs over and over again. They have you camping mobs for hours or sometimes even weeks and they have you traveling for 30 to 60 minutes, before you get to the fun. This kind of content was made to stretch it out as long as possible. Content? Yes. Quality Content? Definitely NOT! Just because other games take longer to get to the end-game, does not mean that there is more content. It just means that the developers made it so you had to grind longer in order to see everything, which is nothing more than a time-sink to make the game seem more valuable than it is. I prefer a good "Linear" game over a Non-Linear one, any day! Cheers! Hamarabi2006

Gaming Rant, Rebuttal, and a splash of NWN2

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There was a rather large thread containing complaints / rants / defenses about the game over at the NWN2 messageboard. The original author of the post was stating that he would never buy another game from this company, because of the buggy release. I decided to join in on the discussion and add my two cents worth and you can read my response, below: Complaints? Sure, I have a few complaints -- hideous character faces, unfinished class/race game mechanics, dead end or unfinished dialogue, terrible ending, alignment and influence issues, and boring melee combat -- but mostly, I have had a Great Deal of FUN Playing Neverwinter Nights 2, because they did a lot of things RIGHT! I hate to mention that fact, because I believe this thread is meant to inspire the developers and publishers to do a better job of quality control. More than that, I believe this thread is meant to convey outrage with an unfinished and poorly coded product. Even more, I believe the very act of releasing a defective product should never be forgiven. Besides, what other industry can get away with this unsavory business practice? What if a company could sell a Beta Helicopter? Why not? It only crashes three times a day! Or, what if you could only take off, because the ability to land has not been implemented, yet! How about a Beta Boat? The boat floats 94% of the time, since the hot fixes patched most of the holes, however, the boat will still corrupt any third party life preservers! Kidding aside, I believe that the publishers are usually responsible for releasing an unfinished product and it damages both them and the developer in the process, but I wonder if sometimes the publisher is not used as a scapegoat. It's perfect! If anything goes wrong, just blame the publisher for rushing us! The industry has been progressively leaning on borrowed time for years and that is the reason for their miscalculation of time, materials, and quality control to release a finished product. They get it wrong "ALMOST Every Time", because the formula they are using is flawed. They dig a deeper hole every time they release an unfinished game, because customer trust has been betrayed. Tragically, this method of doing business has become the standard. However, all it takes is a few brave companies to buck the trend and release a few polished games, then all the other companies must follow suit or they will lose their customer base. Gamers will ask themselves, "Why would I buy from this company, when they always release unfinished or poorly coded products? This company over here has proven themselves over and over again with superior releases, so I'll buy from them and be happier for it. More importantly, they will have earned my trust!" This substandard cyclic-pattern needs to be broken and the formula needs to be rebuilt from the ground up with quality assurance at the fore-front. The publishers are going to have to adjust the predicted expenditures to account for quality control or continue to poison the industry to it's death. Another form of entertainment will certainly take it's place, but this venomous business model will once again rear it's ugly head unless something is done to stop it. Even with all of that said, most complaints about this game are misguided. It's funny how people say they hate the game, because their machine can't run it. How could they blame the developer for that? The problem is, developers have optimized systems to test their games with, while most gamers lack the ability to make an informed purchase when shopping for a computer and they lack the ability to fine-tune the machine once they get it home. They claim they shouldn't have to and they are right, to an extent. However, the blame does not lye with the developer most of the time, it is with the company that you bought the computer from. Face it, you either bought junk or they have so much crap installed on your computer (all running in the background) you can't even play a game with graphics that are years behind your system's potential. Consequently, since you do not know who to blame, you direct your anger and frustration toward the game developer, unjustly in this case. Nonetheless, the computer company is only partly to blame. If you go out and buy a computer that is not capable of doing what you want it to, I think you need to accept some responsibility in the matter. If you do not know what you are doing when purchasing or optimizing a computer, ask a friend to help or pay a professional to give you guidance. The problem with computer companies, is that they are all too happy to sell you a pre-built system with a non-gaming quality video card and they rarely supply you with enough RAM to handle anything other than normal every day office work. Sometimes they give you a good processor, but a severely lacking power supply and don't get me started on cooling and air flow. Until recently, store bought computers would only come with 256MB or 512MB of RAM, if you're lucky! But, even brand new systems are shipped with only 1GB of RAM installed. That doesn't sound so bad, but they install tons of software packages, many of them running in the background 24/7, that slow your computer down to a crawl when playing games. There is something you can do, however. If you optimize your system by shutting down all of the unnecessary programs or prevent them from starting in the first place (services.msc), you can free up about 200 MB of RAM! If you only have 1GB RAM and you have 200MB of crap running in the background, it is no wonder you system can't handle this game! The operating system itself needs about 200MB, so you are already down below 600mb available! If the game recommends 1GB of ram and you are only supplying a fraction of that, don't expect to turn up all the eye candy, don't expect the game to run smooth, and dont expect to play without crashing! Your systems power requirements must be met, or you'll crash. The CPU, Memory, and Video Card all require different voltage and timing settings to run at stock speeds. Raising the Front Side Bus and voltage for your CPU will increase the clock speed and your RAM will also speed up (possibly past it's capability), unless you lower the memory divider at the same time. If your RAM wants 1.8, 1.9, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, etc., volts to run at stock speed, then you need to configure that in the bios. If your factory shipped (DEFAULT) BIOS setting has your RAM running above or below it's specs, you will have problems. Some RAM / motherboards require a certain voltage setting to run in Duel Channel Mode or your computer will crash. It could be just a matter of bumping the voltage and your system will stabilize. Monitor ALL temperatures during the procedure! It's simple things like this that could be done to fix gaming problems, but most people just blame the developer, rather than take a serious look at the system they are running the game on. I bought the game after the 1.05 patch came out, so I have not had a single crash, slow down, or stutter. The game runs smooth as silk on my machine with the following System Specs: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ Brisbane, Biostar T-Force 550 Socket AM2 Motherboard, Hiper 480W Power Supply, G.SKILL (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 800MHz (PC2 6400) RAM, and a GeForce 7600GT 256MB video card (In case you wondered). That said, I can honestly say this game is well worth the money. I had a blast playing through the original campaign that took over 40 hours to complete and I have been having a great time with the toolset, just messing around. Even with all the problems, this is a really good game. I love it. Still, that doesn't excuse the previously mentioned game defects, but they are still working on patches to fix it and because of that, I am willing to wait and see what happens. Here's hoping they do what we all know they can do and that is fix the original and make one heck of a fine expansion! One final note: Unless, you are a technical report writer with good knowledge of computer hardware and software, you should not be writing articles about how a game runs on your computer or how your machine performs while playing it. You just don't sound as intelligent as you think you do. Just write about whether the game is fun or not, so your credibility is not lost, due to your un-informed opinions. You can't really complain about technical issues if you do not understand if it is a problem with the game or with your computer. Cheers! Hamarabi2006

NWN2 and Ordered Parts for New Gaming Rig.

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After enjoying "Neverwinter Nights Diamond" so much, I decided to take a risk and buy "Neverwinter Nights 2", but the game was pretty much un-playable on my AMD Athlon XP 2200+, 1gb RAM, and 128mb Geforce FX 5200 system (Don't laugh, I was able to play Oblivion on this computer by using the Oldblivion shader mod.) However, I wasn't ready to give up just yet, so I spent a couple of days trying to tweak and optimize my old computer to squeeze every MHz / MB I could out of it. If you care to try, here are some good tweak guides to see how far you can push an old machine: Tweak Guides Also, you may want to disable some services by typing "services.msc" (WinXP as Administrator) in the run box and shutting down everything you don't need (There is a lot of crap running in the background that most people will never use! Be careful though, you can really screw stuff up if you don't know what you are doing!). Here's a good site that explains what most of the services are and what they do: Black Viper Further, you could type "msconfig" in the run box and click on the startup tab to shut down other programs that do not need to be running. Following the tweak guides, shutting down services, and shutting down startup programs will free up between 100 to 200 mb of RAM! Not to mention, you can push an old computer far beyond what you thought it could ever handle. After optimizing and tweaking, I was able to log on and make a character, but I struggled to finish the tutorial. The old dog just doesn't have the muscle needed to accommodate this resource hog of a game (Very Sluggish!), so I decided it was time to build a new machine. Incidentally, my engineering buddies would taunt and laugh at me if they knew I was only upgrading my computer to play a game, but they don't need to know and I'm not telling! LOL! Without further ado, here are the parts I ordered:
Motherboard: BIOSTAR TFORCE 550 Socket AM2 $79.99 CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ Brisbane $69.00 PSU: HIPER 480W Power Supply $49.99 CASE: COOLER MASTER Centurion 5 ATX Mid Tower $49.99 MEM: G.SKILL (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) $109.99 GPU: GeForce 7600GT 256MB $109.99 CPU Cooler: Thermaltake CL-P0114 120mm CPU Cooler $44.99 Thermal Paste: Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound $5.99 Total: $519.93 S/H: $31.08 Grand Total: $551.01
It's not as nice as Halo2_Norad's upgrade or as cheap, but it's the best I could do and hopefully when the Barcelona core comes out, I'll be able to slap it right into my socket AM2 motherboard (Not definite). Either way, I'll be able to upgrade the CPU many times before I need a new motherboard and the same goes for the video card. Not to mention, I still have room to add another 2 GB of RAM for a total of 4GB if I ever need it. The great thing about the "AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ Brisbane" processor is that it is extremely overclockable, as even X2 5000+ to X2 5900+ speeds are reachable! Amazingly, 2.8 to 3 GHz overclock is commonly reached, ON AIR! This CPU was a "MONSTER" when it came out, but even today NO ONE will argue that it is not a "Rampaging Little Beast"! Sure, Intel may have a superior processor in the same price range, but I have been with AMD for a very long time. I remember when Intel had no competition and CPU prices were astronomical, because there was nothing else available. Competition between manufacturers is a great boon to consumers, because low prices are always the end result. Without that competition, there is nothing to keep a company honest. I still hold resentment toward Intel's early dominance and pricing policy, but I may forgive them, someday. Just not THIS day. The bad thing about the BIOSTAR TFORCE 550 motherboard, is that it only has one IDE port (PATA) so you either have to set your hard drive and DVD burner up in a Master / Slave relationship, use a IDE / SATA card or adapter, or purchase a brand new SATA hard drive. Ouch! I recommend the "Master / Slave" setup or purchase an inexpensive IDE / SATA addon card, unless you have one of the new hard drives. Also, don't forget to download the most current Bios Flash and motherboard drivers. The GeForce 7600GT GPU is a very good card, except times are changing so fast, that it will soon be obsolete. Regardless, I refuse to pay 600 bucks just for a video card, so I guess DirectX 10 games are out of my reach, for now. In a year or so, the prices on DX10 cards will come down to something more reasonable, so I'll reassess my situation at that time. As far as RAM goes, all I can say is WOW that's cheap! Wasn't it only a couple of months ago, that they were charging about a hundred bucks for a 1GB stick? I just got 2 GB for that price! I realize that this ram is slower (Latency and Timing) than some of the more expensive stuff, but I doubt the difference is very noticeable. I don't have the money to go with a RAID setup, so RAM is not the only thing holding me back, but I'm sure it won't be that bad. There isn't much to say about the rest of the parts, except they all received either good or excellent reviews. The power supply has duel 12 volt rails and 76% efficiency, which is decent. However, I will have to purchase another one, when I upgrade the CPU and video card in the future, depending on their power demands. Nonetheless, it provides more than enough power for what I need it to do with this set up and has received good reviews. This component, may be my only regret. Only time will tell. By the way, this site has a good online Power Requirement Calculator that you can use to determine what you will need to meet your systems demands. They have a Lite and Pro version of the calculator, but the free version is all you need. Well, that's about it for this blog. I'll post an update when I get the parts and have my new Gaming Rig up and running. Also, I'll let you know how "Neverwinter Nights 2", plays on this system. Cheers! Hamarabi2006

Another Diamond in the Rough!!

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About a year ago, I tried the demo for "Neverwinter Nights" and was a little disappointed because it felt too much like "Diablo II" and I was not in the mood for that kind of gameplay, so I quickly dismissed it. When "Neverwinter Nights 2" came out, my excitement was renewed for that Diablo-esque type of gaming, but regretably, my computer doesn't quite meet the minimum specifications and I wanted to wait for the prices to come down before upgrading. This is a familiar conundrum to anyone that is not made of money, as I am sure many of you will agree. In searching to find a good computer RPG to play, one that doesn't require the most recent hardware, I decided to have another look at the original and noticed the "Neverwinter Nights Diamond" release has been out for a while, which includes the game, two expansion packs, and three premium modules, all for under 20 USD! That's right, twenty! Needless to say, I went out and bought it and I was completely surprised at how good it is! How could the demo be such a crappy representation of the full release!!!??? "Neverwinter Nights" and all of it's expansions and modules run great on older computers, too! Not to mention the thousands of user created modules that are FREELY available to everyone! You could spend months or even years before you played them all! Sure, the graphics are not that great and I have to admit, I was initially turned off by the display, but this game is so good that I quickly changed my mind without reservation. The DEMO does NOT do the game justice!! This game contains an amazing adventure / story and what RPG lover doesn't love "Dungeons and Dragons"? Also, there is a great deal of voice acting, but you still have to read some of the dialogue, but that didn't bother me once I got going. Anyway, If you haven't played it yet, don't miss out on this masterpiece! Cheers! Hamarabi2006 P.S. I haven't tried the multiplayer option yet, but I imagine it would be an amazing time with some good friends!

Battlestar Galactica Crossroads Part 2 Recap: Season Finale!!

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I just finished the "Crossroads Part 2" recap, from Battlestar Galactica Season 3, Episode 20! Just so you know, all of my recaps describe every scene and dialogue to the tune of nearly ten thousand words!
Here's a link, If you would like to read it: Battlestar Galactica "Crossroads Part 2 Recap"
Here's a short excerpt:
Apollo continues, "And me? Well, where do I begin? I shot down a civilian passenger ship, the Olympic Carrier. Over a thousand people onboard. Forgiven. I raised my weapon to a superior officer ...committed an act of mutiny! Forgiven! And then, on the very day that Baltar surrendered to those Cylons, I as Commander of the Pegasus, jumped away! I left everybody on that planet alone, undefended, for months!."
If you would like to help me out, you can digg the article, here.
Well, that was the season finale! A lot of mind blowing events happened in that episode! Wow, what a great way to end the season! The only bad thing is, we have to wait till January to see what happens, next ! LOL Since, the season has ended, I will start working on the older episodes now and maybe start a new project, if I think of one. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the read! Cheers! Hamarabi2006
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