Adam Beckett

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About Adam Beckett

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    Advanced Member
  • Birthday 09/12/1967

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    AAAS Science and NPG Nature - weekly science mags - are my Playboy & Penthouse for the last 30 years.

    People say, I have no sense of humo(u)r(es).

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  1. Episode 418: They Are Billions

    Another installment of "What is new in the world of 'hot new things' video game reviewers got their free Early Access keys for?" You lost me after 3 minutes. A video clip of the game lost me after 2 earlier this week. Have fun. See you next time, when you might play something that is a) 'released' as in game developers telling me "this is what we made. I hope it is worth your time" and b ) a ... strategy ... game, beyond Tower Defense SimCity/Settlers with Zombies. No matter how much 'buzz' it got from I don't know who...
  2. Far Cry 2

    Far Cry 2 is my Westworld! ... it just dawned on me, while playing ... and losing all sense of time, immediately. Not Red Dead Redemption, not GTA V, not any other game previous or after Far Cry 2. And, if you are reading this, it is the same with you, I assume. I can not play it for months and even years, but when I come back, it certainly feels like 'home'. And unlike many games, which 'age not well', nothing about the gameplay or stunning graphics loses it's grip on me. I still might 'miss' the lack of hippos or crocodiles while cruising on a boat down the river, but nothing about 'repairing your car' or a jamming pistol while cleaning an outpost, or getting the shivers from Malaria during a frantic fight, gets old or 'boring'. I'll stop here, not trying to waste more of all your time. Just somebody mentioning "Far Cry 2" can uncontrollably start up the game. I know... Turn off the music and inject the soundtrack from Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now! Conrad's Heart of Darkness becomes alive?!
  3. Total War: Warhammer II

    I can attest to that. CA made many tweaks and improvements, from what is visible and my experience so far. As for the game engine. I am always impressed by the senior Creative Assembly game engine team, still led by the original guy who started on Shogun 1. CA was always among the first to implement new, interesting technology. They were among the first triple A studios to embrace DirectX 11, for example. All to the point to re-writing half of Shogun 2 and retroactively implementing those features (mostly, technical background stuff, players don't get to 'see'). I am currently running the game on an old CPU: AMD FX8350 (8x4.0GHz - not a 'real' octacore, compared to Intel's superior CPUs) and a new Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB mid-level GPU. I get 40-ish FPS with everything on ULTRA in 1080p, 1440p and above. I could get 60FPS easily, but chose "Shadows" in "extreme" settings (the only option in the settings which is above Ultra, only for shadows). Otherwise, the game scales very well, as usual, all the way down to low-level PCs and those mythical, 10-year old 'gaming notebooks', everyone else is apparently using. I used to run TW Rome 2 on a then 3-4 year old low-level GPU (Nvidia GTX 650 Ti BOOST) in ultra-widescreen on release day with no problems, while many others seem to have had their usual problems. I DO though have interesting frame drops, when using the highest shadow settings in Attila - but only on the campaign map, not in battles. One notch 'lower' and the campaign map runs smooth again. Must have been a driver (or drawcall) issue, which will never be solved. Warhammer I for me has had no issues whatsoever. But the overall performance never hit 60FPS on highest settings. Only when dropping down some features. If you select DirectX 12 you will see the same 'worse' performance, the way it is in Total War: Warhammer I. There is just no way, it seems, to make the necessary adjustments for DX12 to out-perfom DX11. No matter if AMD or Nvidia cards. (I tested it with Radeon RX 480 8GB and Nvidia 1060 6GB). They would have to probably write the engine from scratch or go through their base code for 6-12 months to make a difference.
  4. Total War: Warhammer II

    Let's start the thread, because it might take a while until the 3MA Podcast will be up. I hope Zacny, Frasier & Co. will take their time. If you are a 3MA listener and not playing Total War: Warhammer II right now, what are you even doing?! (Aside from going to work, raising children, changing dipers, studying for med-school, etc - you are excused, obviously) I learned to hate Elves, over my decades of D&D and Fantasy RPGs. They are just too much for my working-class, Marxist uprising. But I am now six hours and 50 turns into my first campaign as "High Elves" and enjoying every moment of it. The game 'flows' very well. It feels like the most polished, most accessible (for new players), most focused main Total War campaign, they made. Read the reviews. From game design, game flow, storytelling, to gameplay mechanics, UI elements all the way to the technical parts (amazing animations, 3D models and art, voice acting, performance, et cetera). For some weird reason, the campaign map - with all the Elven rainbows and unicorns remind me of the old "Heroes of Might and Magic" - only, now in 3D, fully voiced and animated. What do you guys think so far, fellow @3MA'ers? Please, share ...
  5. Picking up on something hinted in the show, something that always gets dismissed in these "Best of ... " end of the year discussions - yet is on everyone's mind - are the PATCHES/DLC of already existing games? I like to mention Starcraft II in 2016. It was the most balanced of the Starcraft 2 years. And don't take my word for it, but Artosis and Tasteless, the legendary English language commentators of the Korean Starcraft scene, said themselves, they had never seen better Starcraft 2 play than this year, culminating in the GSL Code A Season 2 and the BlizzCon Grand Finals. And yet, Korea dissolved two of the three Starcraft leagues, leaving only GSL for 2017 and it might be the last year of professional StarCraft in South Korea! Another well known game, which had a miraculous year is DOTA 2 in 2016 (before the 7.00 patch). The game reached a pinnacle in 2016, with the tournaments in Manila (Manila Major), StarLadder 5 all the way to TI 6 and the Boston Major. Tournaments in which the teams chose between 100 different heroes(!) out of 111 available strategizing and counter-picking, trying to win those millions of Dollars prize money. The game was in such a sweet spot, that I - as a viewer, not a player - would understand coherently the three different stages of the early, mid- and late-game play, as the chess-like opening strategies, or the minute-by-minute individual gameplay, culminating in team vs team back and forth battles. If Starcraft is the mechanically most demanding game, Dota 2 - in 2016 - was the highlight of what a RTS game can become. The game showed me this year especially, how it is (speed) chess-like in one way and so much more beyond it. It was a beauty to watch ... until Valve decided, towards the end of the year, with their 7.00 patch, to throw it all out and reboot the game. A third game that comes to my mind is Crusader Kings II in 2016. Everytime I read about new DLC, it sounds like this game NEEDED this addition. It made sense to add CONCLAVE or THE REAPER'S DUE to the base game (just like the upcoming "Monks & Mystics" DLC). Ever widening an incredible game. I am sure, all of you Gents, have your own games, that come to mind? In addition, I discovered for myself lately more and more mobile games, offering some form of Strategy/Tactical game elements and mechanics. From "Birth of the Empire" (Android) which is a formidable 4x clone of MoO2 and Star Trek: Birth of the Federation, to "Clash Royale" which was mentioned by Gamasutra as not just one of the best-selling games of 2016, but also something game developers should take a look at, to Creative Assembly's Total War Battles KINGDOM (also on Steam/PC), to "Conquest 3 Kingdoms" - a new mobile Android version of "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", to many more. Even if the "strategy" part might look shallow, I find many of these games appealing. (Honorable mention "Moveless Chess", which is more of a puzzle game, but the idea is brilliant!)
  6. Episode 377: Warhammer, Glorious Warhammer

    Not to repeat previous conversations, forum-posts and threads, and - just for the sake of it - let's forget for a moment how SILLY it is to have ORKS IN SPACE(!) [I guess, those Warhammer creators must have watched too many episodes of The Muppet Show and PIGS IN SPACE!! (anybody old enough to remember those?)], but, I too, want to defend Relic's "SPACE MARINES!!!" game. It was my favorite "Ork Killing Simulator" - before Monolith created "Shadow of Mordor". Space Marine was fun, because it embraced the one thing that it was meant to do: make you kill Orks as a Space Marine. Lots of them. It felt visceral. It felt great (with a gamepad). And yes, the fascist Brotherhood (or what it's called), had a Gestapo touch to it. And NOBODY can escape the power of MARCUS STRONGUS! It was also interesting to see the Relic RTS engine, doing a FPS game (which explains certain technical limitations, but it did the job quite well). Having played more Warhammer games over the years than I like to admit, I am STILL not interested in it enough, to care about who is who and what is what and lore et cetera, et cetera. For every moment I can spend reading anything about Space Orks (and the proper spelling of "ORK" vs "ORC" and how one is not the other (check out Wikipedia. It is hilarious! Seriously), I could re-read Tacitus, Livy or Seneca in Latin again. I say this not to brag, but to put this in perspective. At least, for me. Carry on...
  7. Episode 374: Civilization VI

    I myself never had the Civilization 'bug' - not with the first, second, third, fourth nor fifth ... - I buy them, incl. DLC, play a bit and - unlike many other people, I stop playing. I am probably missing out, but - at the moment - I enjoy other games. In fact, I always seem to have enjoyed other games more. Upcoming Oriental Empires speaks more to me. It is CIV-like in many ways, but leaves out the a-historical kumbaya-world view (we talked about it on the forums), instead focuses on one *culture* and the history. It will not be the mega-seller and probably cannot compete with CIV. It's smaller in scope. That's okay with me. Still, always keen to hear knowledgeable voices talking about CIV games. Including this thread.
  8. Episode 369: The Banner Saga 2

    FYI UPDATE: The Banner Saga 2 is now available on Android and iOS. Check your favorite App Store. It's 5 bucks!
  9. Episode 369: The Banner Saga 2

    Oh, no! Now, I have to finish the game, before I can listen to this. I loved the first Banner Saga. The writing in this game is just exquisite! It holds up against my favorite, long dead, Fantasy writers (E.R. Eddison, Tolkien...). If a game makes you read the entries on the map with delight, you know, they are doing something right. An 'adult' world, without the usual cliches. The balance between dialog, travel and fighting has a nice 'flow' to it. And yes, the art ... the devs deserved every prize they received for their game. It is also amazing, what a few dedicated developers can accomplish together.
  10. Episode 365: Rimworld

    Another "Early Access" game. I'll pass. I get it. You all play video games as part of your profession. You most likely get free codes. You like the 'new' and 'fresh'. Something unfinished is so much more interesting to you, since it has the "potential" (= I hate that word in game reviewers vocabulary), to become what you want it to, in your heads. And a Dwarf Fortress clone "with a twist" most certainly is exciting ... to you. I myself, prefer a *finished* game (whatever that means today - interesting discussion in itself), not something in flux. I don't buy half-baked bread. I don't watch a writer over the shoulder, while he is still writing. I don't buy a car with three wheels. No offense.
  11. Episode 364: Pet Peeves

    I am from the "School of Thought" which takes teaching you to play a game as a priority, not an afterthought. Remember being a kid, playing with other kids or with adults, a new game? Part of the enjoyment is to learn, to understand, to try out the game and it's mechanics for the first time. If the game developer and designers are only interested in their 'own' enjoyment, understanding their idea of 'game language' from playing decades of video games, without any effort to teach new players, they failed miserably, in my book. Everyone defending those games has "Stockholm(sic!) Syndrome" tattooed all over their face. "What is obvious to you, is not obvious to me." Making a tutorial is NOT trivial. Should not be an afterthought. Something you find in a brief manual, or in random 'tool tips' or - the worst - expecting me to seek information online, making me watch YouTube Let's play videos. You do this as a game designer, you failed as a game developer. Period. Tell me something, show me something, make me DO something - one trick at a time. Companies like Blizzard and Valve are the masters of teaching you to play their games. I also agree on the first Homeworld game tutorial. Exemplary teaching - from camera controls to unit formations. You could skip the tutorial, but you could not skip inside the tutorial, until you did the thing that the friendly voice was asking you to do. It registered your input. Quite new, around 1999/2000. And the way Blizzard teaches you units in Starcraft 2 should be a blueprint for (almost) every game designer? Every Single Player mission introduces one new unit. The whole scenario is designed about showing you how this specific unit is useful. They also figured out a story for each unit, making them memorable, making them 'feel' unique. In doing so, sticking some neurons in your brain. Teaching at it's best. Beyond the 'unit teaching', you get to play multiplayer 'training' missions vs AI, at different speeds. If you click on building something too early, the game tells you that. It tracks your progress. It teaches you - over time - how to get better, and faster at the game. It prepares you for multiplayer vs humans. It has training missions explicitly teaching you which unit is efficient vs which other unit. You have a limited, specific amount of units vs enemy units. 'Beating' that 'mission' is like solving a puzzle game. Which units to use vs which else and how many are enough for an assault/defense. You remember it, because you played it. Paradox "Interactive" games are the opposite of that. [i will not talk about it. I could write a book about what they are doing wrong. It angers me to a degree that I want to quit my retirement and let them hire me to teach them how to make a proper tutorial or rethink their UI 'design' - not to let their 'new' CK2 tutorial mission, they crated, still overlap with the tool tip popups, etc, etc - or how to streamline their MS Excel spreadsheet UI data dumps on people.] Of course, 'real' strategy (not just tactical) games, especially strategy war games, on a bigger scale are a hard nut to crack for developers and for new players to understand. To show them what is possible is to play the game. Nobody anticipated the economic war games withing EVE Online, for example. But to play the game one needs to understand 'what' is possible, where the limits are. A 'guided' experience is especially hard, since the developer has to deal with game illiterates to expert Gary Grigsby players. Some - experienced - players just know what to expect, when they see a game the first time. They can just hop in and figure things out for themselves. It is their part of enjoyment. Other players prefer to be taught the 'flow' of the game and gameplay. A guided experience until they themselves feel comfortable enough to ride the bike, without the invisible, helping hand behind their back. There is no 'one' solution for all. But, to think about it, to think really hard(!) about it, as a game developer and designer is the least one can expect?
  12. Episode 354: Offworld Trading Company

    Today, I read the review Tom Chick wrote on "Offworld Trading Company" ... and suddenly, I feel the unstoppable desire to own this game. Damn, you, Tom Chick! Here's the link (but, I guess, everyone around here already read it?):
  13. Episode 354: Offworld Trading Company

    Very interesting podcast. I followed the development of this game losely from afar. Listening to prior 3MA podcasts, reading Soren's Gamasutra article about EA release. Reading Steam update announcements. I love the concept of the game. I do know, it is sadly not for me. But that's ok: "Hardcore Multiplayer Community..." (Quote from the Podcast) Three words, that define me not. While I am very glad to hear, there is a Single Player campaign, isn't the core of the game still PvP, which makes especially sense for this game? My backlog of 1000+ games is already smelling funny, so sorry. I am one of those old, lonesome, single player guys, who play strategy games like reading a book - in solitude. Solving puzzles, at my own pace. Using different strategies. Trying things out. Enjoying my own limits vs the game AI. Gladly, I am too dumb to outplay most of them (Wargame AirLand Battle campaign is still too hard for me), so I keep enjoying all these games, I already have. I do understand, human players are the 'real' challenge for competitive games. But I don't like the pressure of other people (even complete strangers, online) 'in my face', while I am alone, at home. And the people I know in real life don't care about 'video games'. So I cannot play with/against them. On the topic of "Darkest Dungeon" and Early Access = it was one of a handful of games I ever bought on Early Access. I only played an hour of it during the first week and ... left it. I knew, I would like the final product, so there was no need for me to 'play-test'. I see the value of player feedback for developers (esp. metrics/analytics), but - like them - I also see hazard. Players have no clue what the idea behind it really was, or what the final product should look like. Every player has a different idea of what the game "should be" (in their mind) and they tend to have very strong opinions early on (just like those Steam people, who gave Offworld a 'negative review' before last year's PAX, while KNOWING it was not finished, complaining there was 'not enough' content. How stupid are some of these EA-holics? You judge.
  14. Episode 350: Aging Gracefully

    I have a recent example of "reverse" nostalgia? I never felt "the Force" with Supreme Commander, when it came out. I was too unexperienced as a "strategy gamer", too dumb to understand the mechanics or too overwhelmed with the unit count and too bored by the visual design. But after all the recent Ashes of the Singularity hype, I installed Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance and ... cannot stop playing it! It just took years of training with other games, to make me appreciate the thing, I missed out on. Equally, watching Korean Starcraft 2 Pro League made me a better player, going back to Starcraft 1, which I still play. It's not 'nostalgia', if you're still playing the old(er) games, is it...? I guess, it's only 'nostalgia' if your vivid memories of sleepless nights are stronger than the game itself? Which means, you had time to make a memento 'selfie', looking down on yourself, while playing - not paying attention to the units in front of you?!
  15. I finished the campaign the first week and loved every bit of it. Now, replaying all three chapters, from the start on harder difficulty. The over-the-top Protoss monologues between the missions reminded me of Shiny Entertainments , for some odd (sentimental? nostalgic? voice-acting?) reason. It sounds also like the Greek or Roman Gods, quarreling amongst each other over the fate of mortal humans. What Blizzard managed with their campaigns is to swing my attitude towards their factions. I never liked playing the Zerg, but then "Heart of the Swarm" came out and Blizzard made me play the Zerg, introduced me to their "one new unit, one new trick" campaign mission structure, making me understand the unit ... and making me fall in love with them. The same happened now, with the Protoss. I used to not care about "PvP" matches (in Starcraft slang: "Protoss vs. Protoss"). I thought of them as utterly boring. But, again, with the way they set these units up, giving everyone a story/lore element, I once again, fell in love with these Starcraft units. I started to understand the unit abilities and (meta) gameplay better. How the different play styles of each faction is a reflection of the underlying lore and even art-style is a testament to the series. Blizzard knows how to 'package' their game for their audiences. I watched this years BlizzCon and found it quite ridiculous, But, playing the campaign, alone at home, I found myself suddenly cheering in the same way (although not out loud. Not THAT crazy). Another great aspect of Starcraft 2 has to deal with Blizzard's commitment to introducing new players to the game. If you click on Multiplayer you will find the Training section, which step-by-step teaches you how to become a better player, for each faction. It holds you by the hand. It tells you what to build next. It detects when you build a new building earlier than recommended. It allows you to get in the groove, to establish a flow of (early) game management. It is as if you are . You get to understand the pace of the game. It makes you feel prepared before jumping to random multiplayer matches. And there are also so called 'Challenges' in the Campaign section to further improve your righteous clicking. As for watching Pro-Starcraft. It takes not too much time to understand the basics? If you watch the World Championship Series, you can get the gist of it in a few hours, thanks to the professional commentary. As for understanding the nuances and complexity of the game .... this can take a lifetime! I am watching American Football for four decades now, and with each game and each season, I am learning a new thing or two! (Ok, with almost each game). I find Starcraft eSports very 'watchable' and more often than not ! I also watch Dota 2 games, while never ever having played a multiplayer match of Dota 2 and can - after 10 hours of watching - follow the game and understand the metagame concept in Dota 2. I have now watched 100 hours of Dota 2 and would still not be able to understand which player is going for which build to counter a mid-game strategy of the other team, or how many hit-points which spell is taking to be effective against the opponents combo (like commentator Synderen does), etc, etc, but with the professional commentary offered in pro-leagues and at big events, I can as a viewer. The game loses me when the fights break out. It is too fast for me to follow, but the Dota 2 client allows to rewatch replays in slow motion and one can study the game. Sadly, though Starcraft 2 also has the 'Replay' functionality, their game client does not provide the same depth you can find in Dota 2. I keep wondering, if the popularity of Starcraft 2 would be higher, if Blizzard would have managed to build the same level of in-game functionality (easy replay downloads, real time live in-game viewing, etc). But, compared to Dota 2, Starcraft is a much 'easier' game when it comes to complexity. Overall, it will be interesting to see the longevity of Starcraft 2 after this 'last' installment. It is also ironic, while Starcraft 'invented' Lords Management, to see this game fall to it's own blade, it's own creation.