chanman

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  1. Three Moves Ahead Episode 480: 1999

    There was just something about the flight dynamics of the ships in XWA that made them feel a bit more lightweight; a bit less tight than in TIE Fighter or X-Wing. I don't recall playing X-wing vs. TIE Fighter, so maybe the change happened around then. Yes and no. If you hire all cheap mercs and play on easy, your experience will definitely be similar. 1) In JA2, high-level mercs no longer require you to have a proven history before working with you, so you can start off with some high level mercs 2) The optimal strategy is to hire at least a couple high-level mercs at the beginning for 1 day (possible even on the highest difficulty level) so that you can get their gear (Gus Tarballs with his G41 or anyone with a Mini-14 will give you a huge range and firepower advantage over pistols and SMGs) 3) If you play on higher difficulty levels, the enemy weapons will get better faster, letting you salvage better weapons and ammo sooner and in greater quantities 4) Using melee to disable enemies and steal their weapons is not only viable but often important in the early game. Ambushing a lone enemy or two behind a blind corner or inside a building works best.
  2. Three Moves Ahead Episode 480: 1999

    Between Jagged Alliance 2, Alpha Centauri, Close Combat 3 (released New Year's Eve 1998, so...) and with shoutouts to X-wing Alliance and Homeworld, I've not only spent more hours playing games from this year than any other, but I could probably give up new games and just continue playing these games for many more years (assuming they continue working on newer OS'. JA2 has been finicky and hates alt-tabbing)
  3. Yeah, I have the same complaint as _bloomy_. This is also an issue with the previous episode, where everyone other than Rob sounded a little muffled, but Rowan's volume is especially uneven in this episode. He ranges from being almost as clear as Rob to being almost completely inaudible
  4. I'd still love a remake or a new Crimson Skies, but looking it up, the games were kinda flops which probably explains why that IP has been dormant since the original X-Box
  5. Having replayed X-Com and TIE Fighter just last year, I'd say they both hold up very well. TIE Fighter (and X-Wing) just has a responsiveness that I feel greatly helped immersion to a degree that other games (including the later X-Wing Alliance) never really matched. The original campaign in TIE Fighter (especially the early ones) were the real stand outs though. On top of creative mission design, they went a long way towards making you feel like a part of a larger operation that most other flight sims/space games didn't manage to do. (In fact, the TIE Fighter expansion campaigns also fall into the same trap, often pitting player and a handful of wingmen against seemingly endless waves of enemies). My own 1994 shout-outs would have to include Raptor: Call of the Shadows for reasons of pure nostalgia. Playing it now, the small size of the studio (6 individuals in the credits) is apparent in details like how few frames of animation there are (only the player's craft and a small number of enemies actually have any animation at all), but at the time, the detailed SVGA sprites on our 486 blew my 10-year old mind. Shout out as well to EA's US Navy Fighters, one of the then-popular accessible 'survey' flight sims (the engine would be re-used under the Jane's branding for ATF and the Fighters Anthology collection) and the only one in its family to make use of FMV. Also an interestingly topical setting because the campaign depicts... a Russian invasion of the Ukraine, including seizing the Crimea and Ukrainian vessels of the Black Sea fleet. Another minor omission is Bullfrog's Theme Park. And yes, I'm well aware that the definitive RollerCoaster Tycoon combines the uh, Theme of Theme Park with the developer (and seemingly a good chunk of the engine) of Transport Tycoon.
  6. Speaking of possible mods/alternative game modes for an expansion, one pet peeve of mine is that all the work put into certain scenarios is never reused or available for use in non-scenario games. For example, the setting for the Empire of the Smoky Skies steampunk scenario from the Civ V Gods & Kings expansion. That said, I'd love an Xcom scenario played out as a diplomatic/proxy fight between Xcom and the aliens trying to sway existing factions the way you would try to line up city-states in a normal game.
  7. People's General is stuck in my mind mainly because the PLA Engineer units were so intensely overpowered, plus supply units could be deployed from supply units, leading to first turns that could sprint across the map provided you had enough units to steamroll any obstacles (see first comment about engineers)
  8. I think Uprising had a similar schtick to Battlezone a year earlier, but it isn't as well known.
  9. Episode 426: Into the Breach

    I find that the writing and the setting of the game reminds me of a line from Rob when describing Brian Reynold's writing for the setting of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri - about being evocative without excess exposition. It's something I also appreciate in William Gibson's writing (the short story Hinterlands still gives me chills). In ITB, one thing that becomes increasingly obvious in the later islands is how much of humanity's predicament is self-inflected. Archive's worship of the past hampers their research into new technology - the generic pilots will make comments about how archaic Archive's weapons are or how advanced the player's mechs are in comparison. R.S.T.'s drive to deny the Vek any refuge has turned their island into a desert wasteland, and seems to be ultimately futile - new Vek burrow up from freshly terraformed sand dunes. In an ironic twist, Vek never burrow up from mountains, but some R.S.T. and Detritus objectives involve destroying mountains. Pinnacle's AI weapons and weather control tech goes haywire and endangers their creators Detritus Recycling's island is a toxic dump
  10. Episode 342: Satellite Reign

    Going to revisit this topic since I've just finished playing Satellite Reign over 30 hours while sick during the New Year weekend. 1) I never really felt as cornered as Rob seems to have felt as the AI is not particularly inquisitive and the energy reserves of your characters is often enough to outrun the sight radius of reinforcements. 2) There are many approaches to executing a compound infiltration, but I found that the first step was always to brainjack a guard for a very leisurely casing out 3) Cyberpunk is a multilayered beast - and the elite blackops teams coexist with lots of incompetent and corrupt forces and lots of more desperate ragged bands of ne'er-do-wells. Gameplay-wise, combat had a strange sensation of familiarity that irritated me until I figured it out: It's like Dawn of War 2. There's even a support/heavy weapon/leader/sneaky dude class breakdown, character levelling, and equipment. The only things missing (and would have added to the scavenger nature of the operation) were loot and squads (which captive drones/mind-jacked guards kind of fill in for). The open-world nature and ability to initiate combat at any time reminded me of Fallout 1/2, and the sneaky infiltration/heist timing is (as was noted in many reviews) reminiscent of the Desperados/Commandos genre (or the newer Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun). And that is exactly how I would describe it: An open-world real-time tactics game with a major in infiltration and minor in small-unit combat - referring to RPGs for the open-world nature, Commandos/Desperados for the planning and suspense, and DoW2 for the way the combat feels (reinforced by the way my Soldier kept blowing himself up with heavy weapons - the friendly AI is not very good at determining minimum ranges and what cover can be shot through)
  11. So a couple things I take issue with: 1) It's fine and all that time constraints and the meandering thread of discussion prevents in-depth research before the show, but the groping around for game release years was painful in light of the Internet being available 2) In the context of the time, Dark Reign was a far from mediocre release, often being rated higher than Total Annihilation. Total Annihiliation's claim to fame was probably the 3D engine and (seemingly) 3D terrain (I remember a 3MA interview with Chris Taylor where he reveals how much of a hack that was) - games that we remember fondly are not necessarily the critical darlings of their time. Remember that SimCity 2000 and Roller Coaster Tycoon both got solid but unremarkable ratings when they released 3) I've dug up an old PC Gamer magazine of mine (February 1997) at peak-RTS that had a massive preview section of games that might actually fill out your mediocrity list. A quick "What ever happened to..." a) Rebellion - Covered in an earlier podcast this year - a critical and sales flop, but a bit of a cult favourite and oddly engaging COIN game Army Men - Released early 98 and spawned several sequels. I seem to remember it being more of an action game though. c) Uprising - hybrid RTS/action game. Released late '97 I think this was overshadowed by Battlezone which released just 4-5 months later with far more publicity d) Starcraft - The juggernaut that seems to have frozen a segment of the genre in an 18-year time warp and annexed it for Blizzard for perpetuity e) Star Command (Revolution): By new studio Metropolis Digital, published by GT Interactive. Released in 97, I've literally never heard anything from this game afterwards f) 7th Legion - Developed by Epic Megagames and Vision Software. The preview notes that it was supposed to replace resource management with kill bounties. Attractive screenshots, but a common criticism was a lack of animation. Unlike Star Command, this is on GoG and Steam where the reviews are equally mediocre g) Battlemage - published by Acclaim. The wikipedia entry notes a poor reception due to cheating AI, poor interface, and imbalanced gameplay h) Dark Reign - the subject of the podcast and introduced many of the same AI options as Total Annihilation Some games mentioned only in brief in the same issue or that I ran across in other issues between June '96 and January '98: i) Myth - Only a description of the graphical differences and weather effects were given, but it was mentioned in the podcast j) X-com Apocalypse - I remember at the time that this got a middling reception and my own attempts to play it were badly affected by bugs. I never played it in real-time mode k) KKND - Released in '97 and warranted a sequel. Has favourable reviews on GoG actually. Metacritic and Gamespot have more mediocre reviews l) Baldies - A console port that was previously released on of all places, the Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn, and PS1. I could find literally nothing about the PC game m) War Diary - Published by The Game Factory as a discount title according to the magazine brief. Wikipedia has an entry that makes it sound like a Korean market game. At that price point, it may also have just been fad-based shovelware. It's hard to tell n) Dominion - mentioned only because I saw the ad in the magazine. Developed by 7th Level and published/finished by Ion Storm, released in 1998. I guess the ads just ran early. Another clone product it seems like o) Z - I actually loved this game - it presage many of the mechanics that Relic would crib for Dawn of War and Company of Heroes such as units being squads of soldiers instead of single units and accumulating resources by capturing and holding territory. The recent ports have been unmitigated disasters, but the core gameplay has a real CoH without cover mechanics or special abilities vibe to it. Evenly matched sides and arena theming made it a break from the usual story-based missions p) Mechcommander - Fasa Interactive/Microprose game using the Battletech IP (as do the various Mechwarrior games). Attractive graphics, but more puzzle-based mission design. I personally liked it a lot, but it was another one of those middleweight performers. IP acquired by Microsoft along with all the other Fasa IP, so we can only hope that one day they see fit allow commercial re-release. I think Mechcommander and Mechcommander 2 were both released as open-source by MS some years ago, but it's hard to find references to this now q) Did anyone remember that Lords of the Realm II had a RTS battle resolution mode? Or that Fallout Tactics, SWAT 2 and MAX 2 had both turn-based and real-time combat options, like X-Com Apocalypse? r) War Wind and War Wind II actually received some fairly solid reviews, but weren't enough for SSI to break into the RTS market s) More wargame than RTS, but Close Combat released in 1996, (the much nicer looking and playing) Close Combat II, and Sid Meier's Civil War games released in 1997/1998. SSI also had two RTS games of similar scale based on the Warhammer license t) Dark Colony - a sci-fi try published by SSI and developed by now-Take-Two Interactive (previously Rockstar Canada previously Alternative Reality Technologies). Graphically detailed, but another that would suit the mediocre title better than Dark Reign u) Earth 2140 - Polish developer, released '97, got two sequels in the mid 2000's - it seems pretty average to me, but it looks like it may have caught a wave in some European markets v) Syndicate Wars - One of the last of the DOS games - I get the impression that the game is more like a cyberpunk Cannon Fodder than a Command & Conquer x) Conquest Earth - Published by Eidos and generally just plain bad
  12. Episode 302: The 4X Genre

    As a side note, something jolted by a recent Idle Thumbs robot news... does the music in the Alpha Centauri opening right after the Conclave Bible quote remind anyone else of the (also apocalyptic) Terminator 2 theme?
  13. Episode 302: The 4X Genre

    Oh, that's another favourite of mine. I wonder what Reynolds is up to these days with Zynga being in rough straits.
  14. Episode 302: The 4X Genre

    Re-listening to this podcast again (one of my favourite episodes), I'm struck by Rob's description of Alpha Centauri. The way he describes it makes it sound like it has the same relationship with traditional 4x games that Watchmen has with superhero comics. I've always found the victory condition in Civ (or any other game) to feel rather artificial. I'm reminded of William Gibson's quip that the future is just... more stuff.
  15. Episode 312: Historical Accuracy

    This seems to be accounted for in the wikipedia article that the 3.7's were not as numerous, often attached directly to higher level HQs above division level, the system was much heavier than the 88, prolonged firing at low elevations were outside the design spec and strained the mounting gear. Not that they couldn't have developed the gun into an AT weapon (It actually ended up as the QF 32 pounder), but by late 1942 they had the famous 17 pounders available. In this day of multi-decade procurement programs, it's easy to forget how short the system development and deployment cycles in WW2 were.