Category Archives: Videogames

“videogames” “video games” “digital games” – whatever your term, this broad category means any discussion by me or others on games.

Steam UI Update – Nice, just Hugggeee

Odd thing, the new UI update for Steam looks okay, as so far it was functional before but has shading and stuff now. It also allows you to filter games so only installed ones are shown, which is great.

It’s just huge.

Hugggeeee.

I have a second monitor and it takes up half of it (it’s 1680×1050!). I am not blind, I can perfectly use the friends list which is much more acceptable in size…

This screenshot below is as small a width as I could make it (height limitations are not as bad, ie; it’ll go down to 500 or so pixels high):

Huuuggeee Steam UI

I really, really prefer a smaller Pidgen/Skype/IM client style, is it too much to ask to have such an option back so it doesn’t waste so much screen space if I have it open on top of or next to things? 🙂 This is also the smallest way to display games – although the grid option is there to display more games you can’t narrow it any further. A simple list, ala the steam friends view, and previous game small view, would be awesome.

Or I’m missing the button to change it (although I’ve tried every button, you can’t even remove the toolbar at the top either, and the options are 90% the same in the settings menu for UI things 🙁 ).

Sadly, not being a Steam Forums member, for strictly sanity reasons, it appears there is no email to feedback this to! how…silly!

I’m also surprised, since I thought netbook-sized screen resolutions (or just small laptops) wouldn’t even be able to display so much width, and that, you know, we weren’t blind and that the previous small list worked fine.

2, 2, 2 or 2?

I’ve got some posts to finish off (STALKER and Mass Effect), but I’m now deciding what to play seriously next – beyond finishing my long game of Baldur’s Gate II that is.

There’s…Mass Effect 2, BioShock 2, maybe Battlefield Bad Company 2 even. I noticed Supreme Commander 2 is out in March, although I’ll see what reviews say and see if there is a demo. I think I have some download ticket for DiRT 2 as well. Probably should go find it! On the Wii, man, I still need to finish Super Mario Galaxy (have I mentioned I’m rather terrible at platformers?), but really want to try No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle now too.

Further along this year, well, I decided to get a Blizzard account to try and get in the Starcraft 2 beta. No word on if it’ll be out this year though, and I doubt I’ll get into the beta. 🙂

The main one I won’t be purchasing ever is Assassins Creed 2. Humph. There is also Modern Warfare 2, which I still can’t be bothered with for the price (cost/time ratio is rather low, so many other good, longer games for my not exactly cash filled wallet to buy).

Expansion wise there is Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising (not out until March luckily, but have on order, the singleplayer is darn fun), and Dragon Age Origins: Awakening (perhaps…still got Dragon Age to finish once I’ve reinstalled it and the horrendous DLC stuff). Hey, something without the number 2 in it!

Oh, hell with these sequels. I think I’ll open up my new copy of Planescape Torment, or maybe try out Grand Theft Auto 4 that’s sitting on my desk – hey, it must be twice as good as the games above! 🙂 (I also have Farcry 2, although that is tending towards my “if I’m really board” bit of my desk). While some of the above titles are tempting, there is also Borderlands which was recommended last year too…

Choices, choices! Looks like Mass Effect 2 will be in the mail mainly because of this post I’m finishing off of the original from months ago (edit “Last week” to “Last year” 🙂 ), just a lot of good choices, especially since I don’t buy on release date. Shame not many of them are entirely original, ho hum!

AI War

Tutorial Fun
Tutorial Fun

After League of Legends I need some better games to post about, so I’ll be posting about them this week! The first up is AI War, which took a good part of my weekend up. The game itself is a large-scale sci-fi co-op RTS game against the CPU. It also has elements of tower defence (against waves of enemies based at choakpoints), tactical battles (some micromanagement and work there) and the classic Turn Based Strategy stuff like long term resource management, technology research, strategic thinking and so forth.

The aim is to defeat the two AI forces (having very well defended bases) who get increasingly angry and competitive as you take over the map.

Long Time Playin’

Zoomed out on a planet map.
Zoomed out on a planet map.

Just from the outset if you don’t like playing long games, don’t play this game. It’s Civ4-long, hours and hours to complete a campaign. I’ve only played the tutorial and that took all weekend! 🙂

For me this is perfect – I’ll probably play by myself but I hope to get some interested people who frequent the WDG forums to play too. I am sure I’d enjoy it by myself but I want to try out co-op possibilities.

The reason is the strategic long-term elements are well thought out. There is actually some reason to not kill every enemy on every planet (each planet being connected by wormhole chokepoints to other planets, each planet is an 2d RTS map). You get waves of enemies only from planets which have gates that spawn them, and you can destroy AI data banks of the enemy to hinder progress – every offensive action is met with the AI pumping up the difficulty, which this hinders slightly. Raids like this are important it appears. Expand too fast and you have tough ships destroying you before you know it. Some planets just are not worth conquering for the natural resources, or are just chokepoints to more important planets. Some have unique things to capture which require the complete annihilation of the AI on the planet to make it safe.

With co-op the fun would come from multiple fronts being fought, co-operative army usage and gifting and so forth. Should be fun to try! (much like a Civ4 game played in real time).

Battles and Combat

Overwhelming Assault
Overwhelming Assault

All the battles are massive amounts of ships. Simply check all the screenshots I’ve uploaded! You have to get hundreds of ships to do simple tasks, and thousands to do anything remotely hard. Each ship does its own targeting which is a godsend – it is pretty much fine for people poor at micromanagement, and mainly the tactical part comes from positioning ships, formations, groups and luring enemies, hitting them with a timely wave of firepower, retreating and raiding.

The unit types are also varied – there are more then a standard trio of rock-paper-scissors, and certainly is a large part of the strategy (especially which to upgrade into better versions). You get ship caps per tier of ship – so you don’t instantly get every ship to level 2 once you research it, meaning you always have a mixed force of different levels since even the lower level ships can act as cannon fodder to save the higher level ones.

Resources and Tech

Conga Line of Production
Conga Line of Production

Resources come in the Total-Annihilation way of constant streams – crystals and metal being the two base items. They work pretty fundamentally like Sins of a Solar Empire if you’ve played that. You also have power being a constant number – either you’re in the black or red there, with X power costing X crystals and metal a second depending on your power plants. This keeps a cap on the amount of ships and expansion you can achieve with a limited amount of planets.

Technology means unlocking new turrets, defences, economic buildings, higher rated ships and so forth. You get 2000 points of knowledge per planet from science ships docked there. This means you can hop into enemy planets, and if well defended (or not provoked too much) you can sap some knowledge quickly and not have to take the planet entirely to get more technology. I’ve not had a chance to use a lot of it, but there are some interesting things I’ve not tried much of (force fields and turret defences, large powerful star ships, additional economic buildings and so forth).

Agressive AI

Battle! (Not much interesting going on)
Battle! (Not much interesting going on)

I can’t honestly comment much on the AI. The tutorial sets it in “No attacks, AI level 1” – which is pathetically easy to lure out on each planet and destroy with smaller forces. However, I see much potential – and the AI ships do know how to handle themselves. Not thinking will get your entire force massacred (as happened to me attacking a building in the final planet which drew every AI unit there to attack me!). There are obviously AI personalities, and difficulty levels, which will likely make it a lot more fun to defend against and purposely raid. They are certainly out to get the players, even the tutorial warns you that you could lose quite easily if you’re not careful!

Since I built the wrong units the last enemy base took a while to kill too:

Final Base 1: The Beginning of the End
Final Base 1: The Beginning of the End

Final Base 2: More Firepower
Final Base 2: More Firepower

Final Base 3: Carry on Hitting...
Final Base 3: Carry on Hitting...

Final Base 4: Still needs more...
Final Base 4: Still needs more...

Final Base 5: Still needs a little more...
Final Base 5: Still needs a little more...

Final Base 6: Finally destroyed! AI good riddance!
Final Base 6: Finally destroyed! AI good riddance!

20 minutes or so! Mainly because I built the wrong units to attack it at the end. Also I really need to sort the alignment of multiple images. I’ll do a slideshow next time.

Fun!?!?

It is 2D, although since you zoom out a lot to get a better perspective, this matters little. There are some issues getting things done fast unless you know your hotkeys (such as building new buildings means finding a single unit who can build), but I can forgive that – it’s not a game that needs rushing all the time, and if you’re so unprepared to have to build in battle you might have already lost. The core gameplay also hasn’t got any alternatives – it is against two AI’s and that’s that. I guess it is balanced entirely around this, but you can choose a wide option from the amount of planets (thus length of the game) and other things.

In the end though it was fun playing the tutorial. Fun to toil destroying those faceless AI dregs! FUN TO RUIN THAT SILLY AI! MUAHAHAHAH! *ahem*. The competition against more then just an equal opponent makes a nice edge. There looks to be a lot of difficulty and personality options with the AI, and co-op will be fun to try out. It was satisfying to destroy the tutorial AI – as you can see above! Worth trying the trial and playing the tutorial, and was £13, which is quite good considering the price of some games 🙂

League of Legends

League of Legends (American Version) Loads
League of Legends (American Version) Loads

Well, League of “Sucky Download Speeds, Horrible Client Frontend and Beta Status” I guess 😉

Basically this was recommended by Idle Thumbs, and the gameplay, once you get to actually playing a game, is pretty fun. It all comes down to if you like controlling a single unit in RTS style, in a standard non-dynamic battlefield, working with random people, and destroying an enemy base. This is Defence of the Ancients, one of a few games out now or coming out soon that mimic the gameplay. I will probably try the other two soon.

Horrible Downloads

Let’s get one thing straight though. The League of Legends team has this not going for it: it’s hopelessly confusing getting the damn thing installed.

League of Legends utterly useless downloader.
League of Legends utterly useless downloader.

Now, should a what-might-be-kinda-a-review point this out? YES! Because I am now, while writing this, spending an hour re-downloading the European version of the game from lol-europe.com, whereas I previously slowly downloaded the American client at leagueoflegends.com. Just so I can play with the single person I have on Steam who also has it. Oh, did I mention this uses bittorrent to simply mean I can’t get it reasonably fast? The download is 750MB in size, and only available though the crappy “download clients” which are hopelessly slow (50 minutes and counting, fluctuating between 50KB/s and 200KB/s).

League of Legends Doesn't Like Your Duplicate Name!
League of Legends Doesn't Like Your Duplicate Name!

I also need to make a brand new account. Gee, thanks for wasting my time. Oh, not that it is easy to find on the main page. Nope, it’s either some random popup (which I closed assuming I didn’t need another account and because I just wanted to browse the site!) or buried at the bottom of the FAQ page, pointing here. Also, for some reason the “Summoner” name can’t be the same as the “Username” despite them being the same thing. I don’t understand this at all. I am sure the main League of Legends site doesn’t have this requirement.

Finally, once it’s downloaded, wait! No, don’t play just yet, you need to download the ton o’ updates first! Oh, why oh why isn’t the installer updated to take these updates into account? Don’t ask me! 🙁

No, Riot, I’m also not going to make it easier to use your crappy download tools (which don’t allow direct downloads, it appears) by opening my firewall. Although you seem to use my upload speed regardless 🙁 This is not how you get me to enjoy your game. Beta or not, this is entirely the opposite of fun. Gah!

The Frontend

The American version (since I don’t have the seemingly entirely incompatible European version installed yet) the front end is more a flash web app (yes, it installs a flash toolkit to run, so it is a flash web app). It’s pretty poor to navigate, sluggish, help is non-existent, parts of it are incomplete (obviously, it’s in beta) or seemingly not functioning.

(Jumped up to 56 minutes left now!). The actual thing isn’t terrible once you can find a game you can join (no filters, so tough luck getting rid of the locked likely bot-only games), although it takes a fair amount of time just to start the game – choosing a character and the spells (the only two choices you need to do) is fine to give you some time to do, but it had waited the whole 1:30 when I played with bots. I honestly can’t remember if it also did this when I played with humans, who knows…

Then it finally gets to loading the actual game.

The Game

(51 minutes left). The game is pretty much a Warcraft III-looking thing. The GUI is certainly streamlined to doing the one thing you can, that is, controlling your one character. The actual graphics are fine, functional even if a little confusing at times – effects stack up in weird ways, making you unsure of what bad effect you’re under at times unless a popup says specifically “slowed!”.

The game is all about destroying some towers, getting to the enemy base, and destroying it. They do the same – it’s a mirror map (sadly – since I’d love to see some unbalanced maps – attack, defend, different allies etc.). You also have some additional neutral creatures to kill for money if you like. It’s nothing much more then the original mod it was taken from, although I prefer the shop being in one place, the second 2 lane map is fun too.

(Jumped to 1 hour! 574MB left…). You do get a vast choice of heroes – and it is certainly more fun having a large amount of things to choose from. Be prepared to die a lot, of course, since the whole point is to kill the strong enemies heroes first, before you can get anywhere near the enemy base. I also really really like having suggested gear to buy – simply put the interface is pretty terrible for quickly finding something suitable to buy with your cash. No options for “more damage rather then health” or something, but it’s a good feature to have.

You can practice against bots. They’re pretty boring, likely because of their beta status – only playing a few types of heroes, at 2 easy difficulty levels. A shame really, especially since they could take over people who have disconnected in the main game if they were done right.

Oh, I don’t have any screenshots in-game for some reason. Can’t get any from the American version since I uninstalled it due to thinking the European version would be quick to download (hah!).

So…

Give it a shot while it’s free. Choose the right damn one first though, don’t ask me, I’m still confused why they can’t be the same service since there are barely any beta players as it is, and I got reasonable ping times (since RTS games don’t need amazing ones) in any case! I think many people I played with were the same too – the totally inexcusable complexity of it all is mind-numbing to me. For this reason I think I’ll be put off buying playing it it (edit: I got told it is free, well, Microtransaction free – wait to see how much is pay-to-unlock, hmm, and being free doesn’t get it off the hook), and certainly need to look at the alternatives first.

(It’s gone up to over an hour now! Time to upload some pictures…).

DAMMIT

League of Legends EU Downloader Crashes
League of Legends EU Downloader Crashes

THE DOWNLOAD CLIENT JUST CRASHED SINCE I WANTED TO STOP THE STUPID UPLOADING SO I COULD UPLOAD PICTURES FOR THIS POST. I manage to restart it and it decides there is ONE HOUR AND A HALF LEFT. It is utterly raping my upload speed, tons of connections and it can’t get more then 100Kb/s.

Upload this crap to fileshack or something! ANYTHING IS BETTER THEN THIS. EVEN STEAM WORKS BETTER THEN THIS! 🙁

I give up. I’ve played the American version and only getting the EU one to play with someone I know. It won’t change the gameplay, which is a shame it’s wrapped up so badly. I just hope for their sake they get it together and offer basic ways to get the game without this rubbish first. This seems to be gold-release Beta stage for them, and likely is what it will be at release. I am sad at this. Very sad.

Says 2 hours 30 now… 🙁