game noob

I went and bought myself a Nintendo Game Cube yesterday. I’m pretty excited. This is about my third try at getting a gaming console in my old age, and this time I’m going to stick with it and figure it out. I haven’t been a serious console gamer since I was probably 6 years old, and back then we had an Atari, and I remember playing games like Pitfall, Missile Command and Pole Position. There’s a few more I can see in my mind’s eye, but I can’t remember the names of them anymore.

Anyway, the whole point is that I haven’t had one in a very long time, and as a result I’m not very good at these things at all. My motor and hand-eye coordination skills are almost null, so it makes even the easiest games a little frustrating for me. This time I’m determined to develop them, and have a little fun at the same time. :)

I already found about two dozen games on Amazon that look interesting. I decided that I’m going to try all my games before I buy them so I don’t get stuck with something I don’t like. That happens to me all too often with computer games, so fortunately I’ve got some options this time. I went to Blockbuster last night and signed up for an account, and it cost freaking $7 to rent a game. What a crock. I got Batman Begins and some Star Wars game. I spent about an hour playing the Batman one last night, and it was hard for me, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. Those multi-key combo attacks are really hard for me.

I like the design of the Game Cube already. There aren’t nearly as many buttons as the Xbox or the Playstation 2, so that’s going to make things much simpler on me. Plus the discs are really tiny which is cool. I guess the system is going to get phased out pretty soon here, since the Wii just came out, so I’m in a good position to get the games for a little cheaper. The selection doesn’t seem that huge, but I don’t anticipate having more than a dozen games in my library anyway. I already bought a copy of Simpsons Road Rage, which is by itself a great reason to get any gaming system. :)

Today I did some googling and found out there’s a service just like Netflix for console games. It’s called Gamefly, and while it’s a little expensive ($21.95 for two games out at a time, unlimited rentals per month), it’s still going to be a lot cheaper than going into Blockbuster. I already signed up for my trial account and put a few games in there to check out. If anyone knows of any good ones I should check out, lemme know. There look to be some cool RPGs out, which I’m really interested to see what the buzz is about.

Maybe the best thing of all is I managed to get mine really cheap. I picked it up at Game Stop for only $60, refurbished. Plus they sold me a $10 warranty so if anything happens within a year I can just take it back and get it replaced. Right on. I’m all about saving money sometimes, believe it or not. The only thing that surprised me with the system was that it only comes with one controller and no memory stick (not even a teeny one), so I can’t save my games. I already bought a memory stick on Amazon so I don’t have to wait for my Batman game to always start from the last checkpoint.

That’s another thing I forgot about console games is that in some respects they are like DVDs in forcing you to sit through corporate logos and cutscenes. It’s kind of annoying but I guess I’ll just get used to it. At least the load times are reasonably fast it seems.

I’m pretty stoked about the whole thing. I actually can’t wait to go home and try out my other games. I tell you whot. :)

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icewind dale

I’ve been re-repping all my music CDs (again), this time to MP3s because I want to be able to listen to them in my car. I’ve got all the love in the world for Ogg Vorbis, but let’s face it, nothing supports it, and music is my life. I’m always listening to music. I’m rewriting a little frontend of mine that I’ve been using for years to access my music too. I used to kludge the MP3 metadata into tags and sort my music that way, but now I’m just going to tag it in a database or something and pull them out that way.

Anyway, the cool thing going through all my CDs (and my crap, there are a lot of them) is that I get to handle all the ones I haven’t listened to in a long time, and as a result sort of forget that I have. The soundtrack to Icewind Dale is one of them.

Now, first of all, it’s a real shame there are not more soundtracks to computer games out there. The concept slowly seems to be becoming more popular though. This one is well worth it if you are into celtic, ambient, new age or instrumental music. Most of the tracks are pretty short, but still amazingly good. “Kuldahar’s Theme” is one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever heard across my entire collection. The entire score is very high quality.

If you are interested in getting your own, just buy a copy of the Icewind Dale Ultimate Edition package. It will come with a copy of the CD.

The game itself is incredibly fun. I’ve played (and solved) the first one, along with the expansion pack, Heart of Winter. I really wish there were a lot more games out there based on the Baldur’s Gate game engine. Hopefully they will open source it someday so development can continue. I haven’t solved Icewind Dale II yet, or played it in a while … I kind of remember it as being a little bit harder.

The crazy thing I found out while doing my research about the soundtrack again was that there was one released for Neverwinter Nights … perhaps my most favorite game evah! And I don’t even have a copy! Not only that, but Neverwinter Nights 2 came out last month. Man, I am really not on the ball. Unfortunately, I’m too poor to rush out and buy one off the shelf right now (car payments and all), but I certainly can’t wait. I tell you what.

legend of the green dragon

The whole reason I was yammering on about my virtual hosts in my last post, was because I had to cleanup a mess I made with my PHP installation. Turns out if you add support for multiple languages and Unicode, and then take it off and access your MySQL databases that are set to UTF-8, it really foobs stuff up. So, I got that all cleaned up, and installed Legend of the Green Dragon on my server. :D

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, have you ever heard of Legend of the Red Dragon? It’s the original old-school awesome, amazing, hilarious, really fun BBS game from back in the day, when young punks like myself would dial up on my 80286 and my 2400 baud modem just to get my daily RPG fix.

The old BBS program is still around, and you can buy it if you want from Gameport. In fact, I actually bought a license about eight years ago or so, which I’m sure I still have somewhere. I could always fire up a telnet server and run that online too. That’d be fun.

Some tenacious coders though, have reproduced the experience in great detail, in an online web-version (written in PHP, uses MySQL as the backend) that’s just as much fun, and is very extensive with the modules it can add.

So, if you’d like to check it out, come create a new account on my server here, or just play online at the official website where there is always lot of people playing. ┬áThe only difference on mine is that I’ve enabled just about every module there is, I’m a little more giving in gold and fights, and you can play 4 times a day. ┬áThat and you probably won’t get killed by sleeping in the fields every night.
Either way, check it out! :)

another game, another lost weekend

I spent most of last weekend playing one of my favorite computer games: Knights of the Old Republic II. Turning to the dark side is a hobby of mine. It’s great fun. In fact, that’s the third or fourth time I’ve started from scratch since buying it to play it. Anyway, I was looking at GameSpot for some tips and tricks, and I noticed they had a ‘recommendations’ section. I checked it out, and among the games listed, I found one I’d never heard of before: Elder Scrolls III.

So, I checked it out. The basic description really intrigued me. The review described it as an open-ended gameplay with no forced quest, meaning you just run around as your character doing whatever you want. My short description is this: it feels like Dark Age of Camelot without the lag and morons. I’m not one much for MMORPGs, myself. I think the whole subscription model is stupid. It wouldn’t work for me because my preferences shift so easily, I’d play the game for two months at a time then give up, then come back maybe a year later. That would just wreak havoc on their billing system, I’m sure. Besides, I’ve had my fill of them, and they’re called MUDs, and I flunked too many college courses to get hooked on something like that again. Instead, I just spend my weekends with the offline counterpart.

So, the game is pretty fun. I jumped right in there and managed to figure it out pretty quickly. The gameplay is rather slow, and the UI is frustrating. For instance, you can hit a keyboard key to pull up your inventory menus and what not, but you have to use the mouse to close out (click ‘Cancel’). Kind of annoying. The other major flaw I don’t like is it’s a real pain to keep track of who you talked to and what quest they want you to go on. They do give you a journal to look at, but the default (and only) viewing option is in chronological order. It worsens as your pages quickly fill up, and you have to keep notes of your own to keep track of where you’re supposed to go.

The concept is absolutely ideal, though. I love games like this, and always have, starting with the original AD&D gold-box games — adventures that let you choose your own adventure to one degree or another. The interface on this game though needs a little polishing. It’s just overall annoying enough to make me not want to play, but I’ll forget about it enough to want to come back and try my hand at it again. At the very least, it’s great to see games evolving to a great level like this. I hope the next one to come along improves upon the interface and annoyances, and employs the same great concepts.