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Everything posted by hexgrid

  1. Episode 328: King of Dragon Pass

    The latest Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff podcast has a segment on it; 'Robin' from the podcast is Robin D. Laws, (pen & paper RPG author...), who was involved with both the original and the new KoDP.
  2. Episode 417: 2017 in Review

    Somehow the Age of Wonder games always make me wish I was playing Warlords, though.
  3. I haven't played ES2, but to me the biggest problem with the original Endless Space was that it only ever provided you the illusion of choice. There was an optimal choice for each decision. It took me a few plays to realize it, but you always need to hit the same critical set of technologies as quickly as possible (the casimir drive primarily, and then the various colonization technologies so you don't lose a system to another empire just because you couldn't colonize the planet types there). You always hire heroes as fast as you can and you always make them governors because the multipliers they offer and the rate at which they level up means they account for a significant percentage of your overall production and science output. There is no point in Endless Space where you face a decision that matters in any meaningful way; either one path is clearly superior, or none of the choices matter. It's pretty, it has a nice UI, but it's arguable whether it's really a game or just a hand-cranked ant farm.
  4. It's easy to forget, Total Annihilation introduced a lot of things that are taken for granted now in RTSs and beyond; modding (of a sort; you could design your own units), being able to select all your units (while other RTS games limited you to a handful), queuing up orders... The other thing about TA was that the sheer variety of units meant you could never really be sure what would come over the hill next if you were playing multiplayer, and the game had a much wider gulf between the initial units and the very expensive heavies. The deficit spending economy was interesting as well. On the subject of Megaman Legends (Rockman Dash, originally...), that was an *excellent* game, possibly tied with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for metroidvania goodness. The controls were slightly rough (it was designed for the original digital-only PlayStation controller; IIRC it came out shortly before the original DualShock controller was available), and the graphics are definitely PlayStation 3D, but it's one of the best 3D metroidvanias ever made; I'd say it's actually better than any of the 3D Metroid games were. Warlords 3... I'm torn about. In many ways I liked Warlords 2 better, but it was still fun. That jazz/blues general midi soundtrack was awful, though.
  5. Episode 396: Endless Space 2

    Personally I don't mind the review episodes, but three comments: 1. i agree that I kind of prefer when the reviews happen after the game has matured a bit; discussions of working games are much more interesting than discussions of bugs, and there's enough of a wealth of strategy games out there now that I'm not waiting on tenterhooks for the next game to drop. 2. I'm generally most interested in the "mechanics" episodes; the ones where some subject like "Diplomacy" or "Movement Models" or "Logistics" is considered, and a variety of new and old games that relate to the subject are brought in. My interest in 3MA is primarily from a strategy game design point of view and only secondarily as a review of specific games. 3. I do enjoy the occasional "after hours" episode like the beginning of the last Q&A where the cast have some unstructured blowing-off-steam time. Of course, I may also be part of a small niche audience that isn't large enough to sustain 3MA on its own; maybe most people only show up for the timely reviews and put up with the rest. I've no idea.
  6. Episode 396: Endless Space 2

    One thing I'd be interested to know but couldn't really distill from this show is whether it improves on the lack of meaningful choice in Endless Space 1. I had several problems with ES1, but the main one is that at every moment of the game you have a meaningful decision to make, there's a clearly optimal choice. You have to go after the Casimir drive full tilt or the galaxy will be colonized before you escape your little corner. You hire heroes as quickly as you can and make them governors because of the vast multiplicative effect they have on the system stats, especially as they level up. The quadrant of the R&D tree that has the unlock-the-map drive also contains all the terraforming tech, so you mostly hit that first. You send your scout off scouting, you build mostly colony ships and just enough military to see off any pirates that show up. You use the correct exploitation for each planet, because they're free buffs. You can run the entire early game off a script, and then it's just painting the map your colour. I probably played over a hundred hours of ES1 (yeah, I know...), and I can't recall a single time I found myself weighing the options. I'm not even really sure there's a game there behind the shiny interface. It sounds like the political system might add some actual choice to ES2, but does it?
  7. Episode 395: Jack Greene

    This was fascinating. It's amazing how you can look through the game collection and tell what era something was produced just by the quality of the printing. It's particularly amusing to see the early computer era when (janky) desktop publishing starts to eat traditional typesetting and printing from below, and then gradually gets better and better. Are any of the older games discussed here available for sale any more, or are we in $1000-on-ebay territory?
  8. Having listened to this I'm wanting to see a Paradox take on Solium Infernum.
  9. Episode 386: Steel Panthers

    With respect to not ageing well, part of it is that the graphics of the day were designed for CRT monitors, often in graphics modes with non-square pixels. Between the aspect ratio differences and the "free" antialiasing you got from CRTs (color tended to bleed between adjacent pixels, and artists took advantage of that), many of these titles now look objectively worse than they did on their intended hardware. In addition to that, though, there's been a lot of experimentation in UI in the last 40 years; we know a lot more about interface design than we did even in the 2000s, let alone the 1990s.
  10. I'm kind of inclined to think trench warfare may be one of those "some things will never make a fun first-person experience" things.
  11. I would have said that character-centric fantasy 4X games where your field armies are the focus can be dated back to the original Warlords, at the least.
  12. On the subject of Ruse, what killed it for me is UPlay. I'd go to play it, it would ask for my UPlay password, which I wouldn't have to hand, and then I'd go play something else instead. It's killed the Anno series for me as well.
  13. Episode 327: Kingdom

    It's... kind of the same, sort of? The mechanics are the same. The game now has levels, essentially, where you beat each level by building, populating and defending a boat. If you manage this, you ride the boat to the next level. The levels start out easier; initially there's only (IIRC) one enemy gate, so you only really have to defend one side of your castle. The difficulty ramps between levels as you'd expect, and even within a level things get hectic if you stick around too long. The main difference is psychological; the level structure makes you feels more like complete accomplishments: "I made it to level 3 and then was overrun" feels like winning twice, whereas "I survived to day XX and then drowned in lakes of blood" feels like losing. Practically speaking, they may amount to roughly the same thing, but with the level structure it kind of feels like you left a couple of successful kingdoms behind even if the third one got buried under monsters.
  14. I'm fine with After Dark episodes; game-specific episodes are interesting, topic-specific episodes can be even more so, but there are plenty of interesting things for 3MA to cover that don't fill out an hour.
  15. Episode 371: 3MA After Dark

    For Troy's "good iPad game" request: Slay. It's simple, but a fun little game. Just beware of the trees; they're more dangerous than they look.
  16. "Starcrat" sounds like an alternate name for a space 4x.
  17. The primary purpose of E3 was to sell games to distributors; WalMart, EB Games, CompUSA, and all those. The press was a distant secondary consideration, and the general public was barely ever a concern to them. What's murdered it is digital distribution; distributors are no longer relevant enough to bother with for the publishers. E3 has been gradually on the way out for years.
  18. Episode 352: Atlantic Fleet

    I'm surprised you mentioned Scorched Earth but not Worms, which was/is kind of a Scorched Earth/Lemmings mashup.
  19. Episode 350: Aging Gracefully

    For what it's worth, http://store.steampowered.com/app/414770/ is an attempt to make something clearly inspired by Battlezone. "Bionite Origins"; it was originally on Kickstarter a couple of years back. Not sure whether it's playable yet, but it seems to be on Steam greenlight...
  20. Episode 350: Aging Gracefully

    From a programming point of view there were *many* huge sea-changes in the 1990s: - VGA obsoleting all the old (CGA, EGA, Hercules) PC graphics modes - mice become something every PC has instead of something only spreadsheet people pay for - sound cards! - the move to 32bit CPUs - the point where C compilers could do enough heavy lifting that it no longer made sense to do everything in assmebly - VESA modes and support for higher resolutions than 320x200 with 256 colors, and the promise of true-color support - GUI-based operating systems make a market for better graphics cards - CD storage begins to replace floppy and cartridge-based games - the crossover point where everyone had floating point hardware that was faster than emulating it with integers - full-motion video becomes practical - the switch from 2D-centric to 3D-centric hardware - geometry offload coprocessors - the sudden plummet in memory and hard disk costs (memory was $50/mb in the mid-90s; adjusting for inflation that's heading for four orders of magnitude in price reduction between then and now) - modems are fast enough for gaming - OpenGL, GLIDE and DirectX - analog sticks on consoles - wavetable synthesis sound cards - 3D-centric hardware starts to suck less, with real Z buffers and perspective-correct rendering - quaternions, skinned models, and a lot of technical improvements in 3D tradecraft - gamepads start to move to PC - dial-up internet causes IPX to dry up and blow away - USB begins obsoleting sound card game ports - broadband internet - 2D graphics cards are dead in the mainstream - several orders of magnitude speed increase in CPUs over the decade, with several associated fundamental changes in what constitutes "optimized" code I've probably missed some, and that's not even getting into the sea changes that happened in publishing. Those were interesting times to be working in the industry.
  21. Episode 348: Civilization at 25

    I've got to say, though, when it comes to mechanics and UI, I prefer a game to borrow liberally from what works well elsewhere. The last thing we want is the game equivalent of "Well, Ford uses a steering wheel for their cars, so clearly we need some other way to control the direction our new car goes... foot pedals, perhaps, or something like a boat rudder?"
  22. Episode 348: Civilization at 25

    I think we did have a 4x dark age from the late 90s until Kickstarter and the indie game movement brought them back. I don't think the Civ franchise had anything to do with it; I think it was more the game devs who cut their teeth on 80s and early 90s games finally getting to a position to work on the games they wanted to, and going back to their formative gaming experiences for inspiration. It's the same thing bringing back all the other game genres (flight sims, 6dof shooters, adventure games, strategy games in general) that died (or at least got very sick) on the altar of publishers chasing the mass market.
  23. Episode 346: Silver Bayonet

    I enjoyed this episode too; it left me with little to say but lots to think about.
  24. Episode 343: XCOM 2

    That's not what Turrican said, though; he said "learn it first, then try iron man when you understand it properly". There's a whole argument here about whether "iron man" mode is a difficulty setting or a play style; I could imagine an iron man mode that showers you with enough resources that regular team wipes aren't a problem, or that simply makes the enemies easy enough that setbacks are rare. There's a fuzzy border there between "Iron Man" and "Roguelike". Turrican seems to be thinking of "Iron Man" as a difficulty level; the real challenge you tackle when you've mastered the game enough to take the training wheels off. You seem to be viewing "Iron Man" as a play style; a way of making a game into a narrative arc that isn't confused by backtracking and redos. I don't think either view is wrong, but maybe we need two different names for the different concepts.
  25. Rod was definitely good, bring him back as far as I'm concerned. I'd love to hear some episodes on different games' treatments of specific theaters in specific wars, and a "here's some interesting games that deal with the eastern front in ww2 in different ways" would be fascinating.