Civilization Revolution makes your eyes bleed

I played Civilization back in the day (on my Mac IIci, when I was still a Macintosh fanboy). Great game, but none of the sequels ever did much for me. Too complicated, and I never got the hang of properly micromanaging my cities to generate the right stuff for my empire.

More recently I looked at FreeCiv, which is an open source clone of Civilization. It has the same complication level as the later Civ sequels, but with not much hand holding on how to survive. My ass kicked forcefully, I gave up.

Since I had to buy a PS3 to play Grand Theft Auto IV, I recently downloaded a copy of the Civilization Revolution demo. It really hit a good note for me. It has all of the things I liked about Civilization (great battles, building up an empire, researching new tech) and a nice learning curve on the easy levels.

Plus it has just enough depth for your city interface without usually necessitating too much micro-management. The defaults for city production do pretty well, so not until you have specific needs do you need to delve into playing with your workers too much.

The interface is clean, easy to use on a console, and really displays well what you need to know. It’s concise but pretty, and the battles are fun to watch (though seemingly unskippable).

One new feature not in any of the older Civs is the ability to combine three like units into an army, which then moves as one but has 3x the stats. Also, units have different offensive and defensive stats, so you need to combine them intelligently. Whichever unit has the best defense when that square is attacked will defend first. So you want to group your catapults along with your archers so the archers can be a shield while your catapults deal out death.

I bought the full game a few days ago and have been playing it as much as possible since. Very addicting, and it has revealed perhaps my only major complaint about the game… it HURTS MY EYES.

I’ve more than a little experience with first person shooters. I ran a CS, then a CS:S, and now a TF2 server. When playing those games, you do have periods where you forget to blink… you’re so intent on the action that you can’t look away. But when you die, your eyes get a break until respawn time comes.

In Civ Rev, when it’s my turn, I’m obviously concentrating on what’s going on… but when my turn is done, I don’t look away, because I’m so concerned about what my opponents are up to! You never get a break from the visual stimuli.

My eyes have been dry and red and irritated for the last 5 days as a result. Must learn to blink more while playing. Civ Rev makes your eyes bleed. You’ve been warned.

GTA:IV

I’ve loved every version of GTA from the first I played on the original Playstation (A game where the object is to steal cars and commit crime? No way!)

I’ve said for years that I would buy a PS3 or Xbox360 based on which played GTA:IV best. I went PS3 in a close heat (I already have a PSP, so I figured any coolness from pairing them would be icing on the cake… and I’ve always liked the Playstation controller form factor.)

So I’m sitting here trying to load my save for my second session of playtime ever… and it’s sitting there "LOADING – JAMAICAN HEAT". No HD access, just sitting there. If I quit, it crashes the PS3. Loading again gets me to the same place. Tried nuking my most recent save data. No joy. I guess the next step is to whack all the rest of my GTA data.

This is the second bug I’ve run into. This is worse, as the first time, I just couldn’t get a lapdance from a stripper who all of a sudden froze and went totally catatonic. Weird.

So far, not impressed, Rockstar.

Oh yeah, and no skippable intros on loading? Fuck you, Rockstar. [Edit – this is not the case. The intro screens do seem to be mandatory, bit it’s loading up the game while they show – I can now see HD activity. Previously running into the hang bug, there was no HD activity, so I assumed it was an unskippable intro instead of a loading screen]

Next Day:

Once I deleted all save game data, I was back…. however, when I loaded again, it fails again. The fix, I found too late, it to unplug ethernet. It seems this is a mutiplayer issue – probably the GTA servers are overloaded. Grr.

They took out side/rear look with the trigger buttons. Now you have to use L3 to look behind, and the right analog stick in general to look around. You can hit O to go into "cinema mode" and then when you release it, the view is centered forward. Being able to quickly center the view is important, but really L3 for rear look is a big annoyance. You have to either take your thumb off the wheel, or the brake/gas, in order to look behind. Grr.

It doesn’t look that great on my old school standard def rear projector TV, as well… so until I get HDTV (not bloody likely any time soon), the graphics really aren’t that much better than I recall in San Andreas.

So far, is it good? Yes. Still wonderful to have a world of GTA in front of me. It is much more realistic than any before.

I realized how different it was the first time I ran headlong into a guard rail at top speed. The car crunched to a stop as my body sailed clear through the windshield. Fucking cool.

After a Weekend:

All complaining aside, it’s really, really good.

GPS is nice – click a waypoint on the map and you’re directed there via a route on your minimap. If you’re in a high-end car, you’re like to hear "Turn left in… 100 yards… BING".

They did a good job modeling the strippers in action at the club.

The weapons system is improved. Hit L2 to duck into cover, then you can target enemies and pop out to shoot when they’re exposed.

The realism of the cars is much improved.

It’s quite clearly the best GTA ever made. The few flaws are more than made up for by the overwhelming goodness.

Game of the Year

Mark my words, this damn game is going to win Multiplayer Game of the Year from all sorts of places.

The balance is well done, but they’re still tweaking (an update ago or so, the pyro’s damage got buffed up a bit, for example).

My new rig with an ATI Radeon x1950 works swimmingly with TF2, and I finally get more than 10fps.

One of the best things about this game is the learning curve. Nine different classes makes the game complex, but each class is pretty simple… only a couple of weapons, and you don’t need to memorize a bunch of new keys. Noobs will be able to get right in and not feel as intimidated as, say, someone walking into a Counter-Strike server for the first time (BAM! Dead.).

Big thumbs up.

I’ll be starting a server soon. Look out for "Dr Him’s Laboratory TF2 Experiment" in your game browser.

Here’s a good interview with two of the TF2 team from Valve.

And here is a guide to the classes.

Frag you later.

Team Fortress 2

My new addiction.

Just about every three years, a PC game comes around that forces me to upgrade my rig.

Many, many moons ago it was Counter-Strike. I’d never gotten into Half Life (upon which CS is based), but somehow I got into Counter-Strike, and even ran a server for a couple of years that got quite popular. I guess I must have gotten into CS in 2000.

The next upgrade was forced by Battlefield: 1942 in 2002. The Penny Arcade guys were into it, and as an avid reader it was on my radar. The game was awesome… a multi-vehicle, multiplayer game that really played well. But my old PC couldn’t handle it, so upgrade time it was.

Then Half-Life:Source came out and with it, Counter-Strike: Source. I got into that in 2005. It is pretty much the same game as CS but with updated graphics, again forcing an upgrade (to a GeForce 6600GT) That the same game could captivate so many people for so long is quite a testament to the architects of CS. I now run a CS:S server, which while not as popular as the old CS server, still gets the old fogies back together again once in a while.

But now the time has come again… Team Fortress 2, a game so very cool that I’m forced to drop the cash to make it run smoothly on my PC. I bought into the beta on Monday, and played for a few hours before I decided it was clear this would be my new addiction.

Originally announced a full decade ago (see the wikipedia for the full story there), it’s second only to Duke Nukem Forever as the longest running, most anticipated, vaporware in history. It has finally arrived, and it was worth the wait.

The style they used for the models and graphics is very well done… an apt comparison is to The Incredibles. And it’s pumping out detail at a rate that is choking my computer, even with every setting dropped down to low. So I wait for my upgrade, and still can’t resist playing as much as possible with a 15fps framerate (when I’m lucky and there is not much onscreen – get into a big arena firefight and it’s a slideshow).

The game is the ultimate balanced (with a couple of minor complaints) rock paper scissors teamplay first person shooter. You can play as one of nine classes, each with its own strengths and weaknesses: Scout, Soldier, Pyro, Demoman, Heavy Weapons, Engineer, Medic, Sniper, and Spy.

Teamplay is key for success, moreso than any other game I’ve played. A medic is nigh-useless without a heavy or soldier to buff up, for example.

Here are a few trailers for the game.

Meet the Soldier

[youtube]QbZOeGyd61E[/youtube]

Meet the Heavy
[youtube]mY5qJHZCz2I[/youtube]

And my current personal favorite (I’ve played more as this class than any other, by far)…

Meet the Engineer

[youtube]HjgB0mQuVPA[/youtube]

So as a review, big thumbs-up so far.

My only complaints:

1 – The damn thing doesn’t run smoothly on my system… a system which runs HL2 and CS:S just fine. I’d have thought since it was based on the same HL2 engine, it would be reasonable to tun TF2. Nope.

2 – Based on a few games I’ve played on a couple of maps (sorry, no idea which it was – one of the ones where you need to capture points in a series), the scout is too powerful. The game just devolved into a scout rush. As an engineer, I simply could not keep a sentry gun up at all. The scout is uber-fast, and as a balance the armament is supposed to be minimal. However, the shotgun is quite lethal at close range, so the engineer is no match heads-up without a sentry gun, and they’re too fast getting there to mount a proper defense.

Now, this is as likely to be an issue with myself and my team simply not knowing (yet) the proper tactics to handle this strategy, but it was very annoying losing round after round to a scout rush and being unable to defend at all. Attempting the strategy in reverse was futile since I just don’t have the necessary twitch reflex (yet), nor framerate, to properly play the scout myself.

See you on the battlefield.

Line Rider

If you’ve not seen this yet, you have to check it out. Awesome time waster from any machine that has Internet access.

It’s not a game per se, but a toy. Draw a line, hit play, and a little dude sleds down whatever lines you’ve drawn. Bump him too hard, and he gets knocked off.

You can save your tracks, but note that it saves them local to your PC in a Flash directory. The save file is limited to 100k, so eventually you get to the point where you can’t save any more (and it’ll just silently fail to save the track). You can nuke this file to start over. It’s in:

C:\Documents and Settings\<Username>\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash Player\#SharedObjects\<Some Hash>\ic3.deviantart.com\fs12\f\2006\292\a\1\Linerider.swf

Note the ic3.deviantart.com is the web server the file was loaded from. All the hashes and directory names will vary. Also note that Application Data by default is hidden.

I saved a copy
here.

YouTube has tons of videos of pretty damn amazing tracks people have made. Here is a submission of mine, a system which slowly increases in energy and eventually crashes.
[youtube]yGEzXeIIHmw[/youtube]