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Diplomatic Correspondence from Civilization IV


Dear Montezuma,

I realize that as neighbors with relatively equal territory my notably high culture score creates some tension. In addition my modest army might seem like a tempting challenge, especially as our common neighbors such as Julius Caesar or Queen Elizabeth would present a clearly greater opponent for you.

Yet after fighting two short wars I thought you would have learned that I am a more than competent general. I know when and where to maneuver my troops to present you with the greatest challenge possible. Also I expected that you would have given up on directly attacking me after conclusion of the second war where I captured a fairly large city from you. I had hoped that taking a city would have sent a message that further conflict between us will only annoy me and cost your nation dearly.

I certainly understood why you would keep troops along our border after the second conflict where I gained the upper hand both economically and in terms of strategic territory. Yet even with troops on the border I was surprised when your troops crossed that border in clear violation of our peace treaty in an effort to retake your lost city.

Did you really think that I would just leave a couple archers in a recently captured city? Were you really surprised when you found nearly half of my total military forces holding that town? Did you really think that you could take a fortified city garrisoned by forces in at least an equal number to your striking forces?

In response to your latest incursions into my territory I can only respond:

IT’S ON $%#&#$ $#@&! I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR %@$#! YOU HAD BETTER RUN NOW BECAUSE I’M GOING TO GO BRONZE AGE ON YOUR &%$&!

Sincerely,

duxup
Supreme Leader of the Persian Empire

Quick Thought: Lincoln

There aren’t enough games where I play as an Evil Abraham Lincoln.

Seriously though, Sci-Fi shooter game plots are mostly just necessary filler to provide some rational for the characters in those games. Instead of more of that filler why not go crazy with some sort of Bill and Ted inspired clash amongst histories greatest figures that takes place in contemporary times?

You Mr. Game McDevloper. Yes you, the guy who is sitting in his office right now wondering if his game has anything unique to pique your potential customer’s interest. You heard me. Tomorrow morning you will announce that your game models are all being scrapped and you will start making a list of historical figures who will appear in your game. Don’t change the physics or the gameplay. I’m sure that is fine. I wanna see some Evil Abraham Lincoln models by next week. Get on it.

I Would like My Monsters on the Side Please


I imagine that one day we will be able to utilize to a sort of gaming boutique (I say boutique because I’m sure some marketing droid will give it a similarly stupid name). This will be a place where gamers can request a custom game experience. Modular components such as the story, levels, combat systems and characters would be mixed in order to put together a unique enough design that people would pay enough to make it profitable. Customers could even customize the experience with their own story and special requests. Of course this could be sold via the internet just as easily as in a brick and mortar store, but for my purposes a store is what we’ll imagine.



Begin imaginary scene

Game Master: Welcome to Custom Games Unlimited. I’ll be making your custom game this afternoon. What kind of game would you like?

duxup: Yeah…. I’m in the mood for an RPG. You know lots of nights, kings and queens and whatever. Some evil sorcerers would be cool. I’d like a lot of side quests but none of them should be too long. Oh and a few dragons would be cool.

Game Master: Any thing else?

duxup: Yeah, other than the dragons, could you maybe *duxup whispers* leave the monsters on the side?

Game Master: What?

duxup: You know, on the side… Ok how about keeping the dragons but just leaving out monsters altogether.

*customers waiting in line behind duxup begin to whisper *

Game Master: Sir I don’t think we can do that.

duxup: But, but I don’t want to fight a bunch of stupid monsters.

*other customers in the store gasp*

Random Customer: You bastard! My dad is a monster animator!

*duxup turns to the other customers*

duxup: Well too bad! I’m tired of fighting stupid monsters! They’re not interesting to fight. I want to fight people! You know, something that might add to the story, have motivation, a little AI, maybe even surprise me from time to time!

Game Master: Sir I’m going to have to ask you to leave. We don’t allow that kind of talk in here.

duxup: Damn it!

End Imagination Scene



I am tired of monsters. As much fun as I’ve had with games like Oblivion, Far Cry, or any game that has monsters in it I just don’t want to fight them anymore. My problem with monsters is as follows:


Monsters Don’t Care

Ask yourself: Why do monsters attack people? The answer is, because they’re monsters. That’s all there is to it. Monsters have no motivation, no character, nothing to add to the game other than to act as the obligatory challenge to progress in the game.

I’d much rather face something I can relate to outside of how I feel after working a 70+ hour work week (something I’m doing as I type this). Give me a human, or even a humanoid alien who might have a motivation for attacking me. Give me something might have a story of its own. Give me something that might even add to the story of the game I’m playing.


Melee Sucks

Monsters come in a variety of forms but the vast majority of monsters that I’ve faced come in melee form. Now admit this is logical. Tradition seems to hold that unless a monster is somehow possessed or supernatural in nature then they don’t have the experience or intelligence to operate complex tools such as computers, guns, light sabers, or banana cream pies. At best you get a monster with a chainsaw now and then. Even that is sadly rare.

So while seems logical that most monsters offer only a melee based opposition that still sucks none the less. To make monsters the formidable their melee attacks tend to range from very strong to one shot kills. This boils nearly every monster encounter into a repetitive process of avoiding any contact with the monster while you pound away at it with ranged weapons or hit and run tactics. Over, and over, and over…

Now I’m sure some people could list me exceptions to the melee rule. Yes there are exceptions, but many either don’t count or suck. First of all vampires count as people, not monsters, they’re just people with a drinking problem who also tan easily. Secondly some monsters do have weapons such as in Doom 3. The catch there is that there’s no damn good reason for it. Oh yeah they’re from hell, where they apparently have a good supply of infinite-ammo-enabled-shoulder-mounted-rocket-launchers. The reason that doesn’t count is because that’s just stupid, and because they suffer from the second issue that I mentioned earlier well as a few of the other issues with monsters that I’m going to bring up.


Monsters look like Trash

When it comes to people developers seem to put a great amount of time into the details that make the people look realistic. Yet when it comes to monsters cloning seems to be the way to go. For some inexplicable reason every monster who is of the same type doesn’t just act like similar monsters, they look just like them too. Perhaps they’re born in litters of dozens at a time or something like that?

Cloning aside I can’t remember the last monster that actually interested me visually. Actually I just remembered, it was the mysterious tentacle creature that grabbed a random enemy solider in a trailer for Half Life 2. They left it out of the final game… Meanwhile we’re subjected to monsters that either are an obvious take on existing animals (ooh another gorilla like creature), or frequently look like the creatures drawn by “that creepy kid” that I sat next to in Jr. High.


Walk Straightforward

If there is something I’m sure of it is that regardless of their status as monsters, most monsters can pass the first part of a DWI test. They can walk straightforward with exceptional precision provided that I’m standing at the other end of that line. In fact that’s mostly all they do as soon as they seem me. They walk, crawl, lurch or do the hokey pokey (I wish) over to my position where they can unleash the aforementioned +infinity damage melee attacks. There’s no strategy, no defensive moves, nor is there attempt to avoid #9 of the required 99 rockets it takes to take down some of these monsters. Most don’t even react (aside from repetitive shrieking) as I pump rockets into them.

Most of the time this has me asking one very important question . . . We’re a few years into the 21st century right? So why do so many monsters still move around like in the original Doom game more than ten years ago?

We have enemy soldiers with fairly impressive AI or at least quality scripted sequences in many games yet monsters are still left with what seems like rudimentary instructions:

10 SEE PLAYER
20 WALK TO PLAYER FLAILING ABOUT AND SUCH
END


Monsters Don’t Surprise Me

You mean all those strange sounds, cages, and talk of mysterious experiments resulted in some monsters? Oh my, what a shock! How on earth could I have predicted that? I totally missed all those painfully blunt clues that I found earlier in the game . . . and the screenshots on the box.

I suppose every game has to establish some context for monster encounters, and the typical “OMG monsters!” introduction might not be entirely tedious if it weren’t for the rest of the issues that I have with monsters. Yet even when developers go out of their way to introduce monsters in a surprising it usually boils down to using sudden noise and such to scare the player. Being an easy to startle person this is almost always effective on me. The only problem then is that those games that try to startle the player often over use it. Every suspiciously quiet few moments, unusual hallway and such boils down to myself groping blindly for the trigger for the next monster event and that becomes tedious quite quickly.


Conclusion

I freely admit that it is not monsters themselves that are the problem here, it how they are used in video games. Even the individual issues I mention aren’t a big deal. I’ve played games with some and even most of those problems and enjoyed them a great deal. Yet they’re beginning to wear on me to the point where I’m often looking at games wondering if or for how long I will have to dig thru the inane monster grind that many games provide.

duxup's Game Industry Nitpick of the Day: Siege Towers

Did the ESRB mandate that any game that could possibly justify a video involving a Roman siege tower must do so?

If so I’d like them to find a new cliché. It is one thing if your game might actually involve similar visuals during game play. Yet if it is just your start up video let’s try something new eh? History is pretty big. Someone has something cool that I haven’t seen in everyone else’s prerendered video trailer.

Experimental Video Blog 001

[video=JndnlTX85bsFuDQ]

I slapped this video together with Windows Movie Maker and some photo editing software. If you’ve ever used Windows Movie Maker you’ll recognize the stock sample music. There are a lot of things that could be improved with this video but this video was just meant to be a learning experience. I hope you enjoy it.

You Have Read This Before

You really don’t need to read more about Wii, 360, PS3 and their prices do you?

If you don’t, do yourself a favor and skip this journal entery. Instead go watch Alex get punched in the stomach, or check out guy’s videos.

If you do need to read more rambling on that topic (why?) read on.


Sony and the P$300x2

I’ve seen some folk’s virtual “gamer” label revoked by other users who feel that taking issue with the PS3 price is somehow inappropriate because as a gamer it should be all about the games or something to that effect. When reading concerns over the PS3 price I just assume that if the writer saw the games they thought justified the purchase of a $600 system they wouldn’t be complaining.

Personally I have not seen any game or combination of games that could convince me to lay down 5 or 600 clams on that machine. I also don’t have much faith in Sony’s ability to drive any first party games into the realm where I’d feel that $600 clams, the cost of accessories, and games would be worthwhile altogether. I don’t see Sony as aggressive when it comes to putting out outstanding first party games to carry their system, and when it comes to something to show off and justify a system’s price tag, especially a big one, I expect those sorts of first party games to lead the way. That’s not to say there won’t be any great games. With the number of games coming out it is only a matter of time before some spectacular tittles. Yet it is going to now take more of those than games than it did last generation to push me over that top of that steep 600 smackers tall hill.

With memories of the so-so PS2 launch, the PS2’s reputation for being flakey in the hardware department, rumors of limited dev kits available for developers, and some launch tittles that don’t sound like they’ll be ready to launch it’s hard for me to come up with a good reason that I would want to buy a PS3 at this point.


Microsoft Xbox360

The caveat in regards to my perspective of the 360 is that I play a lot of PC games. So that takes three high scoring Xbox 360 games off of my “reasons to buy a 360 list” as I can play those games on the PC as it is (for less $ even). If not for that I think I’d find the 360 much more appealing. Even so the 360 has benefited in my eyes from the PS3s price point. As crazy as I know it is the 360’s price just doesn’t seem as formidable as it once did. Some of the cool XBL features and classic games such as Uno certainly help as well.

Yet being a PC gamer has kept the system off my shelf for a little while and it would seem that it will stay off of it for a little while longer. A price drop would certainly help but with the PS3’s price in mind it doesn’t seem necessary for Microsoft to do anything with the price at this point with a $200 gap between their system and their biggest competitor. It seems I’m bound to pickup a 360 some day but perhaps not this year.


Nintendo Wii

I can’t help but think of my experience on the GameCube when I think of the Nintendo Wii. That is an experience with great first party games, a handful of other good games, and big gaps with nothing to do between the releases of those games. Yet I also have to admit that for the price I paid for the system ($150) it was worth it.

The same goes for what I think about the Wii and its potential. I know there will be some great Nintendo games. Third party support seems to be making a fairly good showing so far, but I don’t anticipate too much third party support in the long run if the system doesn’t keep pace with the number of units sold by MS or Sony. Yet with this realm of console prices that doesn’t bother me too much as the Wii is notably less expensive. At this point that would seem to be around or lower than the $250 mark.

A while ago I wondered if Nintendo might shoot to for the title of “Everybody’s Favorite Second Console” and with the Wii’s interesting controller design, load of legacy titles they could sell online and notably lower price point they certainly seem poised to pull it off. If I have a 360 or PS3 why buy the other system when they have nearly the same games and while there is a system like the Wii for less money doing things that I can’t find anywhere else? Answer, you don’t buy another pricy system. You buy a Wii.

Oh and the name, I think it is great.


A New Console for duxup this Year?

So I’m on the fence at this point. If the 360 can give me a couple good reasons to pick one up (that I can’t play on my PC) I’ll be there this holiday season. Otherwise the Wii looks mighty tempting as a relatively inexpensive alternative console with some potentially refreshing game play.

I have to say if you asked me a year ago I wouldn’t have predicted that I’d be this close to picking up a Wii before any other system. Of course I also wouldn’t have known what you were talking about.

Who the hell are you? What the heck is a Wii? Never mind, just get the **** off my lawn and take your Wii talk with you!

This is why I do not play WoW

I’ve been working some crazy hours since last Monday. A friend / coworker of mine is playing manager on call this weekend. In practical terms he’s the guy my coworkers and I call when stuff hits the fan. It is not so much because he’s playing manager, but because come Monday morning someone needs to know why stuff hit the fan on the weekend to explain it to the non technical folks who work humane hours. Anyway some stuff hit the fan. I was in the general vicinity. So I called him early in the morning when I was at work this past weekend. Here is a transcript:

*phone rings*

Mgr Buddy: Hello?

duxup: Hey dude what’s up?

Mgr Buddy: duxup? What time is it?

duxup: 4:30 am

Mgr Buddy: What is it?

duxup: Some stuff happened, bla bla bla.

Mgr Buddy: Why the **** are you calling me at 4:30 AM about this? You could have called me in the afternoon later today or tomorrow man!

duxup: Dude, we both know you weren’t sleeping. You’re up playing WoW.

Mgr Buddy: Yeah… I am … Hey can you check if John is working this weekend? I need to ask him a question about something.

duxup: About WoW?

Mgr Buddy: … yeah.

duxup: He’s in his cube playing WoW. I’ll go get him.