Category: Video Games


Minecon!

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The stage is all set for the official Minecraft release here at Minecon.  All Notch has to do is pull that lever and unleash the final build to the public.

Thousands of us are crammed into the ballroom at the Mandalay Bay anxiously waiting for the opening presentation.

My friends and I have speculated that the creeper on the stage will explode into the blocks on the left and our hero, Notch, will pop out to greet his horde.

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Last Weekend, after a few weeks on RTS hiatus, I fired up Supreme Commander 2 and went online to assert my dominance. I got demolished in a ranked 1v1 game, so I pushed through my shame and joined a 4 player FFA game. FFA is my absolute favorite way to play RTS online. You never know what to expect or who is going to win. It forces you to constantly think on your feet. I knew this game was going to be extra exiting as I was Cybran and the other three players were UEF (Blue, Purple, and Green).

I started off in the lower right-hand corner, focused on land assault and started applying pressure to Blue, on my left. Unfortunately for him, not only was I hammering him, but so was Purple from the north. It wasn’t too long until he was wiped out, which left me the opportunity to take out purple myself.

Purple had started building a new base in the middle of the map, so that was were I sent my massive land army. Stuff started blowing up as I nearly decimated his new base. He was well defended and was able to neutralize my army, so I pulled back into my base to regroup. That was when I noticed Green begin to stack up a huge army along my northern border.

Green had apparently grown unchecked as I and Purple had been too focused on each other. He began marching down with his army. Frak! Frak! Frak! He had three King Kryptors escorted by countless land assault bots. I had a couple of megaliths, but I knew I was doomed.

I almost considered attacking with my ACU and going down in a blaze of glory. Instead, I chose to flee and try to stay alive as long as possible. Flight won out over Fight this time. I pumped as many research points into the ACU category as I could. As I was chased by his overwhelming army, I ran into purple. With nowhere else to go, I was pinned between these two players with big armies. What could I do?

Lady luck smiled on me as the other Purple’s ACU happened to be in the same vicinity as me, so I poured as much firepower into him as I could while dancing around to avoid his return artillery fire. Both of our health bars receded to dangerous levels as we slugged it out at point blank range. My ACU’s tactical missiles saved the day and I took him out in a blinding explosion of awesomeness.

The resulting nuclear blast, red-lined my health, but also took out most of the Green’s pursuing army. I had taken out Purple who had overwhelming firepower all by myself. Holy frak was it awesome. Green’s King Kryptors eventually caught up to me and I lost, but I ended up coming in second place because I refused to give up. Take that as a life lesson.

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MechIn case you have been living under a rock lately like me, MekTek has released a free, updated version of MechWarrior4: Mercenaries. This release includes various patches to enable the game to work correctly on Windows Vista and 7. They have also worked tirelessly to keep the multiplayer spirit of the game alive and have plenty of online servers to frag your friends on.

MW4: Mercenaries still holds up extremely well, even 8 years since its first release. The gameplay is ferociously fun, and with a thriving online community, there has been no better time to relive this classic. Nothing beats suiting up in a huge walking tank and blowing up everything on your screen. Team with your friends and strap in for the ride of your life.

The graphics are indeed a bit dated, but bearable enough to have a really great time. Come to think about it, they are still better than PS2 or XBOX graphics, so if you enjoy classics on those old consoles you should have no problem here. A blocky walking tank is still a freaking walking tank with the firepower to level an entire city.

After spending some quality time this weekend playing online, I fully regret never buying this game when it came out. I vividly remember its release, telling myself that it was a must-buy, but alas, I never took the plunge. Now I am forced to contend with all of those wasted years since 2002. If you, like me, regret being left out, jump in now because it is never too late. As an added bonus, nostalgia is all the rage these days.

So, while we all wait crossing our fingers for the upcoming release of the MechWarrior reboot, we can fire up our old MW4 friend here to pass the time. See you on the battlefield.

Supreme Commander 2Alrighty, it has been nearly two weeks since the release of SupCom2 and even though I maintain a busy schedule, I was able to devote about 20 hours to this game. I am here to bring you my official take on it. This is not a review because there are already too many of those crawling about the interwebs that you can look up if you are so inclined. This is just me presenting what I think about it. 

First off, I have been following Chris Taylor since the old Total Annihilation days, so I am a long time fan of his work. In fact, TA remains one of my all-time favorite games. When he first announced Supreme Commander as the spiritual successor to TA, I was completely blown away and will never forget reading about it in PC Gamer. Supreme Commander went on to claim a special place in my heart. 

Naturally, I was equally excited when Supreme Commander 2 was announced. PC Gamer wrote about all kinds of cool stuff on the game and I hyped myself up. As soon as it was available, I pre-ordered. Unfortunately, I had to work ridiculously late on the release date, so I was not able to play it until a couple days later. 

Many of my fellow OG fans are already strongly voicing their opposition to the game due to the retardly simple resource management and scaled down battles. It seems that my hero, Chris Taylor, forgot to add the ‘Supreme’ when making this game. However, if he had simply repackaged the original and tried to pass it off as a sequel, the OG fans would still have attacked him, so it was really a no win situation. Sometimes you can never satisfy gamers, especially us elitist RTS gamers. 

While the game certainly sacrifices complexity and strategy to appeal to a wider audience, it makes up for it in sheer fun. Yes the battles are smaller and may only require a child’s level of understanding to play, but I cannot deny that this game is pretty fun. Sometimes fun it what counts in video games. Yes, even in RTS games. 

Which brings me to another point. The original SupCom and SupCom:FA were hardcore RTS titles. You had to have an attention span greater than a four-year-old’s to complete even a single campaign mission. This is what made the game epic and allowed massively large battles to play out. No RTS game has ever had battles as big as the original SupCom. 

Supreme Commander 2 is not a hardcore RTS. It follows the model of mainstream RTS’s like Command & Conquer and Starcraft. While this is a completely new direction for the franchise, it does not spell certain doom. The game has some awesome qualities that I have already noted when I took a look at the demo.

Overall, I like the game, but I do prefer the style of the original.

Highlights

  • Fun action-oriented battles in the campaign and multiplayer
  • Awesome new research system
  • Awesome revamped ‘Tactical View’
  • Dual monitors is even more awesome with the new ‘Tactical View’
  • Low learning curve
Things I don’t Particulary Like
  • Resource management has been over-simplified
  • Campaign story is not very compelling (the voice acting makes me want to strangle myself)
  • Battles have been scaled waaaaay down
  • Multiplayer battles last about 30 minutes max with evenly skilled players
  • Low learning curve

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Supreme Commander 2So I loaded up the demo for Supreme Commander 2 the other day to try it out and I am still pretty excited about the release next Tuesday. As with any sequel, I am quite nervous about how well it will stack up against its predecessor. From the demo, I think that the game will be a worthy successor.

The demo gives you two tutorial and two campaign missions. The tutorial missions are extremely helpful for those new to the way SupCom handles the RTS genre. The campaign missions provide a nice sampling of land, air, and naval combat from the UEF perspective.

New Research System

I was very impressed with the new research system. You acquire research points from research facilities and may spend them in the tech tree to upgrade your units and structures. Tanks can be upgraded with anti-air missiles and shields to improve their effectiveness. Once an upgrade has been purchased, all units instantly benefit from it, even if they are currently in battle. Climbing up the tech tree is no longer solely dependent on how well your economy is performing like the first SupCom. I foresee an interesting multiplayer experience since knowing what upgrades to research first will give you a considerable advantage.

New Tactical View

In the first game, zooming out from the battlefield brought up the ‘Tactical View’ where all of the on-screen units were represented by icons and you could more easily control your theater of war. This view has been enhanced by auto-grouping nearby units. Auto-grouped units have a numbered disc above them that will select the grouped units when clicked. Hot-keying control groups is still beneficial, but this new feature gives greater control over the battlefield, especially in hectic situations. It is entirely possible to fully control your units without ever hot-keying them into a control group.

The Square Enix Touch

The new maps in the demo’s campaign missions are pretty cool, especially the second where you fight on a series of platforms floating in the sky. This is one of the more noticeable influences of Square Enix on the game. They have also made the voice acting and some of the characters a bit campy, but that is Square Enix for you.

New Resource Management System

The major grievance I have against the demo is the new resource management system. In the first game, you collected and expended resources in real time. As you built a unit or structure, it would draw out from your resource pool at a constant rate. Now when a unit or structure is built, it immediately pulls out the full amount from your resource pool. This forces entirely too much micro-management when building a base and base-building is already micro-management enough for any RTS game.

With the previous real-time system, you could queue up a long list of structures to build and let your engineers run wild. Of course, this required you to plan ahead and not overstate your limits, but that is the nature of true strategy. Now, if you want to queue up a series of structures for an engineer to build, you must have all of the resources for all the structures at the time of queue creation, or you cannot add them to the queue.

This also extends to unit production. Unit production factories still have the awesome repeat order where you can give it a build order to constantly repeat, but if you do not have the resources to build that particular unit at that time, the factory will pause all production indefinitely. You must constantly watch all of your unit factories to make sure none of them have paused production. Periodically un-pausing them gets really old really quick and is a stress I do not need during battle.

Overall Experience

I am still pretty optimistic about the game. The new tac view and research system will add a lot to the multiplayer experience. I think the story is only going to be so-so, due to the campy Square Enix style, but thankfully RTS games are more about gameplay than story. Chris Taylor and his superb studio, Gas Powered Games, have certainly brought out a game that will easily contend with Starcraft 2 for top RTS this year. I will try to write up an official review in a couple of weeks after I have fully torn into the game.

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LAN Party Debrief

The LAN party this past Saturday was a blast! Everyone seemed to have a great time and are ready for the next one. We had seven people total show up. One of my friends had to drop out at the last minute due to something called a ‘wife’. I am not quite sure what that is, but I think I want one when I grow up.

If you consider yourself an avid PC gamer, get out there and throw down at some LAN parties with your friends!

The Setup

We started setting promptly at 10:00am and were finished around 10:45am, after a few problems and some quick troubleshooting. At this point, we were totally pschyked out of our minds and could not wait to play. Unfortunately, we forgot the first rule of LAN parties, that Murphy kicks his law into overdrive.

We fired up good ole MechWarrior 4 first. I set up a LAN lobby and waited for the others to connect. We all connected and played our first ten minute game with no hassle at all, except that my keyboard was not operating normally. I exited the game, checked my cords, and returned to set up another lobby.

This time around two people were not able to connect to the game, so we entered another troubleshooting round. After several minutes of ‘WTF is going on’, we thought that the ancient hub we were using could not handle the network traffic. We went to our friendly neighborhood Office Depot to buy a new switch (for the tech-ignorant: switches are better than hubs). We got back to the house at 11:30 and plugged it up.

FINALLY! All our problems were instantly solved and we continued playing. Just kidding, the two problem computers still could not connect to the LAN game. After a few more minutes of ‘WTF IS GOING ON HERE!’, we noticed that only the Windows XP machines were not connecting. The rest of us were running either Vista or 7.

This was really confusing. How could XP not connect to a game, but Vista and 7 had no problems at all? We started to scream things like ‘THIS MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL’ and ‘XP IS THE GREATEST EVER, WHY IS IT HAVING A PROBLEM?’, but noticed that did not help at all.

When it comes to problems, I normally live by the mantra, ‘It is always something simple’, however in times like these it is extremely hard, since the craziness of the problem threw me into overdrive. We circled around this problem for the next 45 minutes until the attending networking guru stumbled upon the problem.

When hooking up the computers, I had connected my router to the cable modem/router and then the switch to my router. What I had forgotten was that the other day, the power went out in my apartment and reset my router back to default settings. Since the cable modem and my router were both Linksys, they both wanted to have the same IP address and the XP computers were getting confused as to which device was which.

I felt like such an idiot.

The Gameplay

After the rocky start, we played MechWarrior 4 for several hours. We started with 3v3 Team Destruction until the seventh person showed up. 4v3 is no fun, so we did 4v4 and added a bot to the short team. I aptly named the bot ‘Your Mom’ to enhance the fun, and believe me, we wore out all the jokes you can make with that.

At one point I was on the short team and we were playing on a mountainous map. The bigger mechs (which we had all chosen due to their awesomeness) have trouble climbing up the mountains, so we were all careful when navigating through them. Unfortunately for my team, Your Mom had trouble navigating and would mostly sit on the side lines trying to figure out where to go. We charged in and dealt a good deal of damage to the other team, but they out numbered us and killed us pretty quickly. Then Your Mom comes out of nowhere, annihilates the entire enemy team and runs and hides again. It was the strangest, yet most hilarious, event of the day.

It took us a while to get tired of MechWarrior, because it is such an awesome LAN game, but we eventually did and switched over to Left 4 Dead 2. We played a couple of rounds of Scavenge before moving on to Dark Crusade. At this time, one of the guys had to leave, so we were back to playing 3v3 again.

We were seated at a long table with three people on each side, so one side of the table played against the other.  The way it worked out, all the experienced DC players (including myself) were on the same side. We fired up a game and completely power-hosed the others. They cried like little girls about it, so we were no longer allowed to play the race we were most familiar with. However, that still did not even the score up, so we finished up with some 2v2v2, which worked out pretty great.

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LAN Party

LAN party on Saturday! My friends and I have been planning this one for the past couple of months and it is going to be awesome. Online gaming is fun, but there is nothing better than destroying your friends in a game and instantaneously witness them react to your gaming superiority. Plus, you get the added bonus of not feeling guilty about playing video games all day instead of socializing, albeit socializing with fellow nerds may not be the same as socializing with real people. But who has real friends anyway?

We have eight confirmed participants for Saturday, so it’s going to be 4v4 madness all day long. Witty banter and friendly fire are going to drive all our emotions as we fuel up with Monsters and Mountain-Dew. Our day will start around 10am as we get set up and game away until we pass out from exhaustion. I anticipate playing for no less than twelve hours, because once you have put in the effort to set up your LAN, you want to get the maximum mileage out of it.

Thankfully, Pizza Hut still has their ‘Any pizza for $10’ going on so we have a cheap, constant supply of food. Of course, there is a Taco Bell and a Chinese place right up the road that we will probably end up crashing with our ravenous bunch of gamers. Never ever get between a PC gamer and his food. He (there is no such thing as a girl PC gamer) will eat you as an appetizer.

Our game selection will mainly consist of older titles. Classic games have a certain nostalgia appeal that really puts magic in a LAN party. They also open the floor to everyone’s past war stories for additional entertainment.

Games:

Mechwarrior 4: Vengence

Giant walking tanks with customizable weapons? Instant gaming gold! This game was completely amazing when it released and still holds up today, especially in a LAN setting. 4v4 on this game is boss!

Learning the controls is kind of tricky, especially if you are used to more modern, fact-paced shooters. Mechs don’t move as fast or react as quickly, but once you get the idea, you are in for the ride of your life.

Starcraft

With Starcraft 2 looming in the distance, it was only right to resurrect this piece of gaming history. This game just oozes classic era PC gaming (remember when Blizzard was a group of nobodies developing out of a garage?).

I must confess, however, that I have never actually played this game. Please hold back your shurikens! I was really into the game Total Annihilation when this came out and kind of overlooked this gem. I never went back to play it.

Dawn of War: Dark Crusade

Dawn of War: Dark Crusade

Now this is a good game and one that is pretty easy to pick up on as well. Relic created an awesome franchise with the Dawn of War series and this is its pinnacle. With seven races to choose from, the action never gets old.

This should be mandatory at all LAN parties. Nothing says ‘We are such good friends’ like ‘Hey, guys! Lets do an eight player free-for-all!’ No matter how you choose to play, this will instantly become the life of any LAN party.

Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2

Bring this to a LAN Party and you can generate some real competition. Playing through the Scavenge or Versus modes with a room full of people will surely drive you to shout in your friends’ faces.

This game is super easy to just pick up and play. Just team up against one another and have at it! Plus, you never have to worry about playing with annoying kids who are way better than you will ever be (but only because they don’t have real jobs).

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