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About EmperorNortonI

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    Memoir 44, and strategy games in general.
    Check out my WordPress blogs -

    Something Interesting - http://somethinginterestinger.wordpress.com/

    Memoir '44 Fanatic
  1. Three Moves Ahead Episode 480: 1999

    I'm always happy when a new 3MA comes out, keep it up guys! I wonder if I am the only one who remembers this era of PC gaming as "the years when Microsoft and EA teamed up to kill PC gaming." A lot of the "genre pushed in odd ways to tech up, and failing in the process" and "genre killed and left in a ditch" sort of thing was, in my mind, quite deliberate. Leading studios were bought, subjected to grotesque surgeries in order to make them fit the new console future, and then summarily executed when the resulting entity was a failure. Mid-sized companies were not allowed to continue making text and sprite heavy games, regardless of their performance, because the big players did not want them to continue to succeed in the old style. For RPG's, in particular, the push for full voice acting by the industry leaders more or less broke the genre. It was not possible for companies of the time to fully voice something like Torment, and publishers would not let anything without voice acting survive. I hated this with a burning passion. I hated, hated, hated voice acting, and 3D graphics, because I always saw them as an unfair imposition upon my favorite studios and genres that was intended only to make them die. Ultima 9 could never be an Ultima in the old sense because it was fully voiced, and they simply were not going to fully voice the old-style meandering conversations that had always made that game special. There was just so much text, so much back and forth, so many odd paths you could follow in something like Ultima 6, and it was obvious at the time that the genre was impossible with full voice. This is just as true today as it was back then. Games that really try for the old-school depth of conversation - Wasteland 2, Numenara, etc. only use voice in a few places, and that frees them to be what they need to be.
  2. Episode 312: Historical Accuracy

    Regarding Red Orchestra, the developers really seemed interested in historical fidelity, and did a good job with it. Yeah, the German MG's were just better than that crap Russian MG, but it's totally cool beause those were faithful simulations of those guns. The Nazi fetishism came up from the fact that it seemed like every other clan was the "Waffen SS somethingorotherdivision." That was just creept. And, as mentioned, Company of Heroes 2. That crap really drove me up the wall. Okay, in CoH 1, it was entirely appropriate that every German tank was, generally speaking, better than same-tier American and Brit tanks, because shermans were awful. However, the T34 was a pretty damn solid piece of engineering, and at various points in the war it totally outclassed the standard German counterpart. In 1941, the T34 absolutely terrified P3 and the under-gunned P4 crews it encountered. Given that the P3 was the standard German tank until Kursk, this was pretty damn significant, yet somehow games never engineered showdowns between P3 and T34's, while they were happy to engineer similar showdowns between upgunned and up-armored late-war P4's and stock T34's, or Panthers and T34's. Yes, there were situations where German super-weapons outclassed Western and Soviet tech - but they were pretty sporadic. it's not nearly as interesting, but it mattered a whole heck of a lot, that just about every Amercan unit had a radio, and this radio network was tied into their artillery system to give the Americans a brutal fire superiority in most engagements. American engines were more reliable, and jeeps and trucks were vastly more numerous, giving Western forces an incredible advantage in supply mobility and repair. These are not sexy, but they mattered a whole heck of a lot more than the superior armor of the Tiger, a tank which had to be pulled around half the time because its engine and drive train was so unrelaible.
  3. Episode 312: Historical Accuracy

    When the discussion veered towards the tendency of games to model history in a way that "seems" correct to its intended audience, rather than following the most modern scholarship on the subject, it really seemed like the entire panel took an enormous step back, consciously, from the obvious elephant in the room - Nazi fetishism in WW2 gaming. A large chunk of the audience wants to play the invincible warrior-elite Nazis, and don't want to have their serious flaws and failures pointed out. When German tech and German units aren't ineffebly better in some way, a chunk of the audience is unhappy.
  4. Episode 310: EU4Ever: Common Sense

    I was quite intersted to hear this discussion. I've long been in the camp that says the EU games need more roadblocks in the way of anachronistically huge early empires, so the improvements to rebels and especially forts seems like a great idea. I am interested to ask, do any of the regulars play with any start date other than the earliest possible? I find the 1400's' boring, and have always felt that the early starts never result in anything like the historical world I'm actually interested in seeing. My last few rounds of EU4 (admittedly, sometime early last year) were all set to begin after the reformation, because I wanted to play around with that particular setup.
  5. Study programming, 3D graphics, or neither?

    Thanks, all.
  6. I'm looking into the abyss of career change and going back to school in the near future. I've always wanted to get into game development, but the sane and sensible voices of reason steered me into the safe and assured waters of academia. Well, that worked about as well as expected, and I'm at a bit of a crossroads, and I wondered what people here think. For reasons, I have to enroll in a college program of some sort next year. The question is, study what? There are sensible options, options which might actually lead to a job in the near future, and then there's the dream - learn enough to actually start making my own games, or at least be able to effectively contribute to a team. I'm considering a structured 3-year course in 3D art and design, or a 3-year course in basic programming. As a beginner who aspires to some ability to make his own games as a hobby (and, should that go well, maybe look for a job, or start my own company), which path would be more useful? Knowing how to do graphics and character design is always useful, but I wonder about my own art ability. Then again, the reason I didn't study programming when I was in college the first time around is that math is intimidating, and I don't know much. FYI, I'm 37, and have two MA's in History, and have taught high school for 6 years. I did mod scripting for Europa Universalis III a long time ago (I wrote the ComboMod, which was briefly the #2 mod in the EU Mod scene), and dabbled around with Neverwinter Nights back in the day, and learned a bit of the StarCraft 2 engine, but nothing too serious. I've also written a few stories, a lot of short history pieces to use in the classroom, and a few board games - nothing published, of course, but one of my games was distinctly playable. I know that the standard advice for people in my situation is always to just start making things, and I've tried a bit here and there. Work, life, etc. have made it hard, and as I said, I'm enrolling in some sort of course regardless. Anyways, thanks for any advice proffered.
  7. Episode 280: Have Fun Storming the Castle

    How's this for a different approach to the castle building genre. Instead of tacking castles onto a medieval economic sim, have castle building as part of a multi-generational family simulator. I am imagining the unholy spawn of Crusader Kings, the Sims, and a city/castle builder. You control a lord, you have a family, you have your vassals, and you have your serfs. Set it on a great big sprawling 3D ma, which is both the economic map and the battle map. Tell your family members and vassals where to live, build forts or castles for them, and give them serfs to watch over. Manage their marraiges, arrange a proper heir, deal with your neighboring lords, and muster your levies when the call to battle comes. Fend off raids, deploying your forces from the various places you've stationed them - in this era, after all, you most powerful military force are your family members, mounted warriors born and bred to war. As time passes, you can expand your lands, be betrayed by your family and vassals, and gradually build up your castle. Maybe it could start all Dark Ages minimalist, a wooden pallisade around a hill, and then gradually people learn to work with better materials and build better forts. Let the peasants take care of their economy. I suppose one could build a bit of a sim into them, but from the perspective of the lord, there wouldn't be much to do with them. That would be a good thing from a gameplay perspective, as plonking down waterwheels and dairy farms is not really the work of feudal warlords anyway. As a player, one's family, the military force they represent, and the fortifications and defenses you build for them, are the key things to worry about. It would be different, at any rate.
  8. Episode 250: More Than a Box

    Congrats on Episode 250! There were two points y'all made about Pandora that got me thinking. First off, unit customization, unit specialization, and unit diversity. I remember Troy talking about how it just got to be too much, keeping track of what units you might need and what effects they might have on which battles. The particular unit types he mentioned, anti-air and mobile-anti-air, got me thinking of another genre which has more or less already solved this problem - the traditional war game. Wargames assume that units above a particular size (say, a division) will be fairly general purpose. My typical World War 2 German Infantry division is going to have some anti-tank, some anti-air, some engineers, etc. It has quantities of all those specialists built into it. Games like War in the East keep count of such things, while more simple games like Unity of Command have ways of designating units with unusually large concentrations of specialist units via the Specialist Steps. If empire-building 4X games are going to have all these diverse bonuses and distinct specialist unit types available, it might behoove them to start taking some lessons from the traditional wargame about army composition and combat resoulution. This would also help deal with the "stack of doom" problem. Instead of having discrete units as in the traditional 4X games, build regiments or divisions, and group them together into a chain of command governed by clear and logical (and unpgradable by tech) limits and restrictions, and figure out how you want these to deploy on the map. This is largely a solved problem in wargaming, and so it would make sense for 4X games that want a heavy focus on the military to figure out if any wargaming conventions might make sense. Second, I was really interested in how y'all described the early-game feel of Pandora - it really feels like you're on a hostile world. I'm glad to hear that a colonization game has finally captured that feel, but I think there's another aspect to the "colonizing alien planet" genre that games have yet to really address - the critical importance of your population in the early game, and the fact that it's a lot more important than a generic point of population. If you think about any of the SF Novels that cover this terrain, maybe Legacy of Heorot by Niven and Pournelle and Barnes, the actual skills and personalities of the first (presumably small) group of settlers is a critical resource. The loss of a single colonist might mean the loss of basically irrelacable knowledge and skills - sure, you can train a genetic biologist to operate advanced welding and machining tools, but that's hardly an efficient use of anyone's time. Not only that, but there is the fact that human fertility and population growth cannot be assumed, and that the human population can reach a bottleneck from which it cannot recover. Instead of a world-spanning empire building game, it would be interesting to see a much smaller scale game which takes these issues into account, and where instead of building infantry divisions, you're trying desperately to build a machine shop or an irrigation ditch. It might end up looking a lot like King of Dragon Pass, but with bulldozers and shuttles and lasers instead of runes and heroes.
  9. Episode 247: Korsun Pocket

    Interesting discussion. I've been privately fuming for a while about what Rob describe as "Panzer Porn," and the Nazi fetishism that seems to plague wargaming. One example that I know moderately well is Memoir '44. The game system itself is not in any way biased towards the Germans, but scenario design and selection seemed to lean a fair bit towards situations that favored the Germans. I felt the Mediterranean Expansion, covering the battles in North Africa, to be particularly odd in this regard. The Germans, obviously, lost the North African campaign, but you wouldn't know that from the scenarios presented with the set. The majority of them are stunning German victores, and a number of them so lopsidedly favor the Germans that they're not all that fun unless you're switching sides even map and comparing your German score. It's not always like this, of course. The first Campaign Book had a big Barbarossa Campaign that was actually pretty hard for the Germans to win. But you do see a whole lot of scenarios on the East Front featuring the big German victories, and not all that many about the big Russian victories, even though the Memoir '44 system is very well suited to simulating grinding battles of attrition that are won by numbers. I don't mind lopsided scenarios all that much when they accurately reflect the facts on the ground. Omaha Beach was a bloodbath, and the Omaha Beach scenario included in the original set is one of the most beautifully playable lopsided scenarios around. I love playing it as Americans, though, because victory always seems just out of grasp. What bugs me is when German losses are ignored consistently. All Barbarossa and no winter counter-attack gets my goat.
  10. Episode 246: Commentarii de Bello Gallico

    I've never played a Total War game. I didn't have a good enough PC for the first few releases, then I was busy, and now I'm region locked out - Steam won't sell them to parts of Asia, for whatever reason. However, the discussion of the tactical battles, and their difficulties, reminded me of a game which I quite liked, King Arthur. Anyone here play it? King Arthur had a turn-based strategy overlay and tactical battles, but also a bunch of fun RPG stuff. Well, the tactical battles in King Arthur were really, really fun. Different unit types mattered, cavalry was useful in some situations but not others, archers were deadly and set the form and pace of the battle, your heavy infantry got tired out if it had to run too much. Terrain was also critically important - some units were great in forest, others were crap, hills and slopes made a big difference in all kinds of ways, and maneuvering your units so as to start the battle where you wanted to start it was a big part of winning battles. One reason the battles were reliably interesting was that you were fighting on pre-created maps. Sometimes you got to choose the map, and sometimes you didn't. No matter where your forces were started on the map, their design was such that the battle had some interesting maneuvering. Of course, there was one great big problem with the battles in King Arthur - magic. Offensive magic spells broke the game, and rendered all the fun stuff pointless. I found a way around that - I just didn't spend points on offensive spells, and resolved not to use them, and instead put points into nullifying magic so the enemy couldn't spam lightining bolt and dark circle. However, this only worked on Normal difficulty, and it only worked if you were willing to bring Old Faith heroes into your court. Old Faith heroes had all the good anti-magic - which was totally bizarre, because that really seems to fit the Christians, thematically. Whatever. Aside from arbitary mechanics for map or terrain selection (defender chooses, for example), I'm not all that sure that the choice of the battlefield is something that's ever been simulated well in a game. I suppose this would be a place for abstract "spy" or "scout" units, and RPG-style general stats, to play a role. Depending on how they match up against the enemy force, you'll have more or less control over where the battle is fought. If you're really outclassed, this might allow the enemy to place hidden units in spots to ambush your forces. It might be interesting, at any rate. Speaking of the general lack of difficulty in Rome II, do y'all think it was more due to a dearth of creative and design attention, or that it was a deliberate decision to make the game "more accessible" in some way that only ever makes sense to the suits in marketing and finance? I mean, it's not like a challenging and diverse tactical battle engine has never been designed before.
  11. Episode 237: Night of the Card Hunter

    As they have been implemented, yes, I think you're right. Deep systems aren't made well enough to matter, and as Gormongous the APCCGNN commented, bland systems just lead to bland designs, which leaves you wondering why you bothered. However, I've always been one of the guys who fiddles with this stuff just because there's something intrinsically cool about it, somehow. I'll totally admit, I'm being won over by the theme, and it's made me put up with pretty marginal systems. In fact, this is the theme point that I find most compelling, and I spent a ton of time on ship design in MOO2, just because. More recently, it's much more interesting than "build science colony 14" or "bribe race Y" and "expand for no reason, because there's nothing else to do." Keep just enough of the 4X stuff to string battles together in a meaningful sequence, but not so much that it's the main focus of play - I'm imagining something along the lines of XCOM, actually. And for a game like that, the Card Hunter system would work great.
  12. Episode 237: Night of the Card Hunter

    I've also been playing a lot of Card Hunter recently, so this was an interesting talk. I wonder if the guys at Blue Manchu might have inadventantly hit on a possible solution to a problem that has come up several times on the podcast - ship customization in space 4x games. I think there might be a lot of potential for a space game (4x or not) where ship construction was a deck-design problem, research and tech development was a card acquisition problem, race selection modified the card library available, and exploration was a way to get wildcards. Each ship is a collection of parts, each one of which adds several cards to the deck. To keep the total number of ships low enough for this to work, maybe call them fleets instead - a low and hard popcap on "fleets" sounds much better than a low and hard popcap on "ships." The more cards you put in your fleet, the bigger it gets, which could be both good and bad for . . . um . . . reasons. This would make deck-destruction tactics incredibly thematic - taking damage cuts your options by forcing you to discard.