A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mechwarrior Online: Clans are Here. Content Isn't.

Yep.  People dumb enough to spend real money for virtual robots to do the same thing you can do for free except now silly people that really like playing incestuous test tube babies who have a warrior based caste eugenics system can play their robots.

(The Clans in Battletech are largely considered to be where the game went off the rails for most of the old school players.  It went from a semi Mad Max feeling universe into something with higher tech and bigger stakes.  Plus the Clans broke gameplay balance for years until a somewhat refined points system got revised multiple times.  Except their background is still ridiculous and stupid.  They are something that would fit better into Warhammer 40,000 than the "hard" sci fi post apocalypse setting Battletech was before they showed up.)

So... let's get down and show more screenshots showing new patch notes and a couple pictures of new robots eh?

(I should probably have waited till tomorrow to get a third patch in but I try to get at least three posts to the blog each month.  So here we go.)

 (As always click for bigger.)
 Yet more hero mechs continue to be released.  Free to Play means trying to grab easy money from idiots.  Hero mechs basically are taxes on the stupid.

 More weapon tweaks.  STILL.  Autocannons got their maximum range reduced.  Artillery and Air Strike modules got a rebalance while SRMs got their damage spread squished a little which might make them more useful.  The uberpowerful Ultra Autocannon 5 had it's max range dropped into merely absurd levels.   Both Small Laser types get a bit of a tiny range buff, and the Medium Pulse Laser gets a range increase and heat decrease.  Maybe they realized hardly anyone was using them?

 And some more bug fixes.

Two weeks later the Clans are introduced.  Sort of.  This is still Mechwarrior Online, the Mech game that content forgot after all.

 New modules are introduced.  I am not sure how many of these will get used but it does give the hard core players more things to grind for XP.  I kind of like the Speed Retention modules.  It might be a great thing to keep Light and Medium class mechs from dying the second they get legged.  Instead it will be within half a minute so.. win?  

The Radar Deprivation seems nice but otherwise the rest aren't exciting or useful really.

Turrets get weakened again making them even more pointless sadly.  I am not sure I like the Machinegun or UAC changes at all.

A metric buttload of bug fixes. most of which related to the Clan stuff.  Way to fix it in Beta guys!

 Well it seems as if that late patch and increased player logins to play Clan mechs caused the game to bugger up a bit.  I logged in after this announcement so I dunno if I got the goodies.  

Let me log in and see if they gave me the hookup.  Then I will come back and show some in game shots of dirty Clan Mechs.

They did.  This is nice. 

 Uh oh.  Here come the Clans.  And sadly, not the Wu Tang.  The only good Clan.

 Dirty filthy test tube baby space furries.  I SHALL OFFER THEIR SKULLS FOR KHORNE THE BLOOD GOD.


(I should be listening to Bolt Thrower while killing dirty so far seemingly balanced Clan scum instead of cartoon show music.  Because I am apparently 40 going on 6 and 60 simultaneously.)

Streak SRM 2 launchers are like friendship and totally magic against dirty space furries.

And a screenshot inside the Mad Cat, aka Timber Wolf if you are a Furry Eugenic Space Nazi.

So overall I have no real quarrel with the Clan mecha so far.  I would MUCH rather see meaningful game content though.  As it is I honestly want to go back to Mechwarriors 2-4 (Mercenaries) because there is actually fun and interesting things to do, not just endless team deathmatches.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Retrocomputing: Why Bother? Special: Alternate Ways to Play the Game 1

Yes.  Sometimes you just want to play and enjoy a good classic computer game.

But emulation isn't your bag.  The game doesn't run on Windows 7 or 8.
(I will just laugh at OSX and Linux here.)

The game itself just.. doesn't HOLD UP to modern standards.

(WASD controls for first person gameplay or GTFO?  Yes.  Just like the bottom button on a standard four button controller layout diamond is always my KILLY BUTTON.  I don't care that Japan does it backwards with center right.  Those two buttons are like mouse buttons and are thus primary and secondary/cancel.  Anything else drives me crazy and gives me a headache.  Like the one I kind of have right now and is thus why I am posting instead of working and making dat cash money.  Except it aint caused by a sinusy type cold attack.  Or too much caffeine/withdrawals of caffeine lately.)

There are a couple of alternate solutions and we are gonna talk about them a little bit.

One of the easiest is of course Console Ports.  Yep.  In some cases many of the classic games got ported to consoles removing pesky disk or tape loads.  They usually got decent controller modes over their 1 button counterparts.  In many cases the games had better graphics and sound.  (Gods while in the US Genesis and SNES port runs a bit faster than the Amiga original adds in a full in game music score plus nice proper multibutton controls over 1 button Amiga play.)

I am gonna show an example that will work quite well as to what you can expect from a VGA DOS era game since I own the Sega CD port and recently got a boxed PC DOS CDROM copy cheap.

(As usual click for larger images.  Most of the non game images are from my iPad Air as to minimize the need for a flash.  But some clarity is still lost.)
Dungeon Master 2 will work really well here!  Both versions have things the other does not while basically being 99% the exact same game.  Obviously the PC comes in a much bigger box.

Surprisingly enough this game even supports the mouse for the Genesis which not too many other games did, allowing for almost the same control as the PC.  Though in general the Sega version wins out because it has control pad support including the 6 button controller which allows a number of actions to be macro set to the top 3 buttons.  (You see the Dungeon Master genre of RPGs are closer in some ways to an action game with RPG elements where you have to stick and move.  Pure mouse play does NOT work well for this.  Also this was in the days before WASD controls became a default and the keyboard movement is either the arrow keys or the numeric keypad.  Depending on your computer's desk setup playing games like this is super uncomfortable unless you can move said keyboard about 5 inches to the left of it's normal position.  And no, setting keys in DOSBox doesn't help much.  In fact it just makes things difficult.)

Both my games were bought used, Dungeon Master 2 around 1996 when a computer store was getting rid of it's attempts at renting out video games.  Sadly this means this sticker from a former Commodore sales and service location is basically stuck there forever.  But it does let you see how the old Sega CD and Saturn CD boxes looked.  Kind of classy in a way.

The back of the Sega CD version has an ad for one of the three official clue books made for the game.  I am also showing what the PC Jewel Case front and back look like too.

Of course the PC version also comes with this nice fold out poster map thingie and a reference card with a bit of a starting walkthrough.  It's main manual has one as well though they are both a touch different.

The PC version manual is a bit larger and the introductory story is a bit better written.  In general both manuals basically cover the same thing.  Its just the Sega version has size limits.  Its a console thing.

The PC version on the left here again shows it is a bit better than the console manual but.. they basically cover the exact same info.

However the console manual is nicer in that it tells you what a lot of the spells in the game are as opposed to having to find them in the PC port.  

Now we are seeing the games compared side by side in emulators but using my original disks.  (I have a good DOSbox setup that runs most things easy peasy for me.)  PC on left, console right.  From my research the Sega version there uses the Amiga palette so it is actually hurting itself if true.  (The main Amigas and their popular graphics modes had 32 colors on screen.  PCs of the day were 256 colors.  You can see this.  Normally the Genesis did 64 colors though the Sega CD did boost its' capabilities to some degree.)

Again, its basically the SAME THING but one is clearly better looking.

Again, PC on left, Sega on right.  Same thing but the PC version looks loads better.  From my research the Amiga version was closer in form to the original Dungeon Master whose home platform was the Atari ST which while generally on par with the Amiga was saddled with 16 colors on its most popular machines and thus normally looks inferior to most Amiga counterpart games.  Yet from my understanding DM2 here never was released on the system that it owes its' existence to.  

And one final shot from Dungeon Master 2 showing exploration.  The same info and basic graphical layout but the PC version is vastly superior.

Yet the Sega CD version has more control options to easily choose from and is a bit easier to play.

I guess the choice is yours on this one!

I just need to learn how to "get" the Dungeon Master franchise and most of its VERY popular in the UK cousin games so I can play them and enjoy them.

But you see there are plenty of ways to enjoy a lot of old computer games even if you don't want to play with old computers.  

Here are a few more for this installment as a way to inspire you to look into various platforms and games just to see what is out there.

This here is an iOS game called Silversword.  It is basically a modern game trying to be like the Bard's Tale series but with allowances for nearly 30 years of technology and game player expectations.  Automaps!  The game informing you when your characters have earned a level up or have regained magic points in the sun.  ACTUALLY TELLING YOU WHAT YOUR EQUIPMENT DOES.

You know, stuff I wanted back in 1988 when I first played Bard's Tale.
(Also graphics for male and female characters, another thing BT 1 and 2 decided we didn't need.)

I would call this a Homage/Spiritual Sequel game.  Other games in this category would be Midnight Manor which is like a modern Montezuma's Revenge except with a built in construction set, or Devil Whiskey which is another Bard's Tale styled game.  The Dark Spire on the Nintendo DS is a Wizardry styled game.

Nowadays with Kickstarter this style of game is making a big comeback.  GOG.com and Steam have plenty of games basically being unofficial sequels to the classics as well.

This here is a translation patch for two Japanese only Wizardry installments.  See many Computer RPGs were BIG IN JAPAN so they got more games over there.  So let's call this that then.  A few of them even have translation patches.

Another big one is the Source Port/Hack.  This is where a game is either ported to run on modern platforms with engine tweaks, if not having the engine entirely redone, usually allowing for modern gameplay enhancements like Sensible World of Soccer has had, allowing for online leagues and the like.  (I was the Revolution.  I am NOT a Goal Scoring Superstar Hero sadly.  I need time to learn this game.)

(Note: most of the following images I uploaded to Facebook so they are a touch reduced in image fidelity compared to if I had hosted them elsewhere.)

This here is a special case.  Not only is it a source port.  Its a source port of a console game that was a console only sequel.  Doom 64.  Yes.  Someone took the original Doom 64 game and back coded it into a Doom Sourceport.  And then later on someone else made it so you could just directly play it on it's own, but like all good Source Ports this one adds in features like improved graphics resolution and control options.  On the N64 I didn't get very far.  On the PC I have nearly completed it even giving how I am trying to avoid saving my game anywhere besides the start of the level.

But let's show a "proper" sourceport eh?

Here is stock Quake in what would have been fantastic for its time resolution.

Now?  Source Port with fan made graphical improvements all over the place.  I could have even added more if I felt like looking for and installing them all.

Vanilla again.

Source Port!

The glorious Doomsday Project sourceport running Heretic with almost all the upgrades I could find.  Heretic was basically Doom with fantasy trappings and a higher difficulty level plus inventory management.  It can abide now like the Dude.

Just download a couple handy packs, put them where the instructions tell you to, and let the front end program handle the rest!  (It just reminds me I still haven't bought Hexen which is the sequel to Heretic and I have been meaning to buy it for close to 2 decades now.  Also the Quake 1 Mission Packs.)

Of course there are others too!  Perhaps I will cover these whenever I decide to do another installment eh?

Until then, GET TO GAMING.  There are so many ways to enjoy classic computer games in all sorts of ways you are bound to find something you enjoy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Retro Computing: Why Bother? Special: 1987 SSI Catalog.

Why am I photographing an SSI catalog to share?

Well for FUN mostly.  For nostalgia.  To share said fun and nostalgia.  Also because it came in a boxed game I got cheap this week.

A game with the best cover ever:
(As always click images for bigger.  And forgive the odd flash.)
This is without a doubt the best electronic game cover EVER.  It's so absurdly ridiculous and pandering to every 12 year old boy it isn't even funny.  And that is why it rules.  We have a dude with a shirtless vest on top of a truck holding on to it while standing with ONE HAND so the other can hold a crossbow while his BEST WOMAN who found the last remaining spandex bodysuit is holding on to him with one hand so she can have the other for her submachine gun.  Oh... and he has on big 80s sunglasses because I don't know.  He is just THAT COOL.

I want a poster of this for my living room.  I will frame it.

Anyhow, let's move on to the catalog inside the box!

Front and back cover.  It is the summer of 1987.  I have finished 7th Grade and am about to endure the hell of 8th.  I am spending this summer mostly putzing around with my NES and being pushed away from Transformers thanks to my mother who was a horrible person or completely nuts.   The front cover there on the right is amusingly cheesy.  1987 computer nerds playing wargames of all things are probably not ones who go to the beach much.  The back cover there on the left shows the game they are pushing right now.  I cannot say this is a title I really ever wanted.

Our new games for the quarter!  B24 seems kinda bleh much like President Elect.  I love me a good wargame so Rebel Charge is a game I might look into getting in the future.  I played the prequel to Eternal Dagger there (Wizard's Crown) on my C64 but never really got into it.  If I can get it cheap for my Atari 8 bit I wouldn't mind trying it out.  It is apparently a bit improved as sequels should be.

In 1987 the 16 bit Amiga and Atari ST were actually a little bit popular.  Hence the ST getting four conversions of some RPGs of the day.  DOS PCs got three, and the Amiga got one.  For a very short period in the mid-late 80s the Atari ST looked like the horse to back.  Then PCs got more and more popular in spite of the default CGA graphics being eye searingly bad in spite of being such expensive machines.  And the Amiga took over from the ST for the enthusiast home computer gamer until both companies basically imploded in spite of both doing brisk sales in Europe.

Note they aren't calling them RPGs in spite of most of them being as such.  The Commodore 64 was still KING at this time, though even a year from now when I would have the machine I would start to see more and more games appear for the PC and then maybe the Amiga.  The Apple II series was the strong second place in spite of how bad its' audiovisual capabilities were.  The Atari 8 bit was in this timeframe what the Apple II would be in a year and a half, and the C64 in two.  Clearly not getting as many new games, but still plenty of titles to find.  But we didn't have Ebay back then.  So it was mail order discounters, dumb luck at garage sales, or the odd bit at retailers.  In general most retailers outside of specialty stores only carried C64 heavily, with a smattering of other machines, most of which would have their space taken up by PC eventually.

(Oh yeah.  I pretty much want every game on this page just about.  Some are easier to get than others.)

Now for the four pages covering SSI's meat and potatoes (Until the AD&D Gold Box series came around anyhow..), WARGAMES.  If hex and chit people think it is hard to find people to play these games with now, it was still very hard back then.  Computers let one actually get one's fix without having to play solitaire and feel like a big loser.  Bigger than one would already be for moving tiny pieces of cardboard on hex maps and referring to huge and complicated rulebooks.

 The Cold War was in it's dying days around now but there were still the odd game simulating those potential conflicts.  Of course World War 2 and the American Civil War were the main focus of wargaming.  And they mostly still are.   I wouldn't mind having Mech Brigade, Computer Ambush, Gettysburg, or Antietam from these pages.

 I have passed on Knights of the Desert a couple of times but I wouldn't mind it honestly.  I have Field of Fire already.  Panzer Grenadier might not be too bad but it seems to be another wargame where you can only play the Germans and this kinda creeps me out.  Nam I would like to get though.  That conflict tends to not be covered too much.  The wounds are still fresh even though it ended around forty years ago.  Well forty from TODAY.  So that era was to me what the 80s are to kids today.  Yes folks we are old now.   Broadsides I would like to get because AGE OF SAIL NAVAL COMBAT.  Battalion Commander is a primitive RTS and I am not sure it is my bag.  I have a previous RTS from SSI though.  I already have Wargame Construction Set.  Wouldn't mind checking out Colonial Conquest too.

 Data Disks!  Update your game without having to buy the whole thing over again!  Electronic Arts HATES THIS.  And they have proven idiots will rebuy the same sports game year after year with merely a roster update and a couple tweaks.  The old days when a single paragraph was all one needed for a preview of a future game.  Nowadays we merely look to the future and not backwards or what is out now.  

The other page has an accelerator card for Apple II computers to make them run faster, all for a mere 230 1987 dollars!  A savings over 280!  CHEAP.  (Well for Apple I guess it was.)  SSI advertising their free newsletter.  I had a few of these but sadly I think they are lost to the ether.  Some clearance prices for games without their boxes, and adverts to subscribe to Computer Gaming World or Fire & Movement.

And we end our little trip with the SSI LIST OF GAMES.  This covers most of what is in the catalog in a nice easy to read format including system requirements.  Going by this list, the Apple II and Commodore 64 are tied with the most games, with the Atari 8 bit rounding out the top three.  The PC is just starting to take off, though most of the titles look and play worse than any of the rest.  Macs have a mere four games, the Amiga six, and the ST eight.  

You would think from this list the four 16 bit machines wouldn't be a good buy.  And well honestly for a US computer person of the time none of them really WERE.

Within two years however everything would change.

Perhaps when I find a 1989-90 catalog I will even show you.

Until then laugh at the prices.  One rarely ordered direct from the publisher because every mail order store and even most brick and mortar retailers sold games cheaper than MSRP back then.  There was no real price fixing the way videogames are today.


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I like to play nerd games! I am a nerd! Join our nerd ways at https://www.facebook.com/groups/112040385527428/