Category Archives: games

Puzzle Games

I really enjoy puzzle games. Here’s a list of some I’ve enjoyed:

  • 3D
    • Antichamber
    • FRACT OSC
    • Kairo
    • Portal (2)
    • The Talos Principle
  •  Platforming
    • Braid
    • FEZ
    • The Swapper
  • Pure
    • Hexcells (Plus / Infinite)
    • Picross 3D
    • Slitherlink
    • SpaceChem

All of these are well worth buying.

Gone Home

Gone Home peaked my interest when I saw the trailers and reviews on its release but the asking price seemed a tad high, so I put it on my wish list and forgot about it. A few days back, it popped up in a Humble Store flash-sale and I went for it. In retrospect, I would’ve been happy paying full price, but it’s not as if waiting did any harm.

I really, really enjoyed it, but I can see why people dislike it (or think very little of it — in game terms). It uses many of the usual “tricks” for evoking emotion (great voice acting coupled with musical “riffs”, strong nostalgia, …) but despite knowing these things were used on me, they worked just fine and affected me. (As an aside: I also played The Stanley Parable, which seemed like it tried too hard to be clever, then you realise it actually is cleverer than you gave it credit for, but it remains an entirely left brain experience — sort of the opposite of Gone Home.)

Gone Home is like a puzzle game where you slowly assemble pieces of the story in your head from hints scattered around the house. While the main thrust of the plot is very “in-your-face” (but still well done), you might miss entire side-stories in the puzzle, but they’re there for you if you pay attention (and they make the game better by providing a more complete, internally consistent picture). The developer commentary is also interesting, especially how they’re coming from the “1st person interactive simulation” school of game design (e.g. Looking Glass’ classics, * Shock, Deus Ex, …).

I recommend it highly, but I’m not sure how much of my enjoyment of it stems from 1990 nostalgia of my own teenage years, so buyer beware.

Tomb Raider (Re-reboot?)

I received my copy early and have been looking forward to playing it over the last few days a whole damn lot. I ended on 91% completion, then came back and got 100% (which I do rarely – two challenges are a real bitch (Mine Sweeper and Sun Killer)).

Really enjoyed it, and it looks awesome (especially considering how old the 360 is by now). Combat feels good for the first time in a Tomb Raider game, but I’d still prefer more tombs / temples / puzzles. When I got the achievement for “All Optional Tombs completed!” I shed a little tear, because reviews said later tombs were better and I expected a few more, but they were all short single room deals. I could also do with less semi-QTE scrambling across disintegrating bridges / burning buildings / whatever. Leave that to Uncharted.

Somewhere between an 8/10 and a 9/10.

Antichamber

I quite enjoyed this. I think in parts it tries a bit too hard to be ‘artsy’, but it is a compelling, mind-fucking first person puzzle game. The art mostly screams ‘coder art’, but it kind of works.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose the progression path and (re-)find the place where you’re expected to progress now, and I’m sure I completed some puzzles by accident (or because of bugs) that I wasn’t meant to be able to complete yet.
Also, controls can be iffy due to the first-person nature (e.g. distinction between drawing into the ‘away from you’ direction and up/down).

Took me about 16hours to reach the end (without having completed everything obviously). 9/10 for me.

Halo 4

Some thoughts on the single-player campaign (because fuck paying for Xbox Live Gold with the amount I’ve been playing the Xbox recently):

  • Great art and rendering technology
  • Impressive engine cut-scenes (especially characters and skin-shaders / lighting)
  • Difficulty was manageable but quite frustrating on Heroic (yes, I’m terrible). After switching to Normal I actually had some fun. The shield scaling for Heroic feels slightly off, everything just takes way too many hits to kill (I’m looking at you, Watchers). Also, it feels as if the AI cheats and moves enemies as soon as I have a nice shot lined up. Heroic and Legendary would probably be fun in coop though.
  • I never thought I’d say this, but I feel that there’s too many weapon options. Human, Covenant and Prothean versions of pretty much everything. Of course there’s subtle differences between them all, but a lot feel rather pointless.
  • The levels themselves were not particularly memorable, but the reconfigurable geometry was a nice idea (although I’m not sure it really added anything). The Forerunner architecture reminded me of the style of P.N.03, a game I still dearly miss a sequel to. Too often the flow degenerates to “Go somewhere for some reason that only makes sense if you played all games 5 times and read all the books, and then do the same thing 2 to 3 times to progress” (go through portals, push buttons, activate light-bridges). Mostly push convenient buttons / Cortana insertion points.
  • As alluded to in the previous point, it feels to me as if the story is getting worse and worse with each game (ODST and Reach sort of aside): Halo 1 and 2’s was fine, simple Humans against aliens (with the Flood sort of popping up) and some mystery as to the forerunners / Halo rings. Now we have all sorts wawa that feels more like Matrix 2 and 3, instead of 1 (Reclaimer, Mantle, Composer, Didact, Librarian, …). All this Jesus-complex, 1000s of years leading up to Master Chief (and his armour!) and then on-the-spot gene-manipulation bullshit just went over the top. The mystery (and awe) is sort of gone.

In summary, an above average single-player game with a convoluted story that grasps higher than it can reach, with slightly repetitive level design that is saved by excellent tech and me wanting to see the next cut-scene (even if it is mostly gibberish). Nonetheless, I still hope there’s more Master Chief (and Cortana). 🙂

Dear iPhone Developer

I’m sure all your existing customers really appreciate the incremental upgrades and new features you’ve integrated into your app over time. What started out as a simple thing is now a veritable feature-fortress.
But please, keep in mind the new-user-experience, for dudes like me who discovered your app 6 months later and who didn’t scrutinize the change-log from upgrade to upgrade and have no clue what the “Smooth” option in the menu actually does.
Go back to your introductory user experience / tutorial and make sure it actually does cover all the cool stuff you added in v1.1 – v1.3.1 instead of being eternally stuck at v1.0. Discoverability and help / documentation is a big deal for every release, even if it is at times difficult to have to ask Art Guy to come up with a new design instead of simply shoving a new, tiny, undocumented button into that free space on the bottom-right corner.

Sincerely, me.

Announcing WowPlot

WowPlot is a graphical analysis tool for World of Warcraft® combat logs (compatible only with the new combat log format introduced in version 2.4). Its main focus lies in evaluating time-dependant combat performance in a very free-form fashion, which is in contrast to the mainly statistical approach of other tools.
WowPlot Example Layout
WowPlot requires Mac OS X Leopard (10.5) and is a Universal application.

Useful World of Warcraft AddOns

I thought I’d do a write-up on the addons I use in World of Warcraft, and why I think they’re useful. Some of them communicate with each other, so they become more useful if more people use them.
Although there’s quite a few addons, my interface still looks largely “vanilla”, so I don’t need to relearn the game… 🙂

AuctioneerAdvanced (and Informant)
This addon can scan the auction house (which takes quite a while; about 5 minutes on Bloodscalp) and remembers a database of prices and other statistics that is displays in a nice tooltip if you mouse-over an item. It also tells you the vendor sell price (e.g. useful if you want to pick the quest rewards that sells for the most gold because they’re useless to you). Furthermore, it extends the auction house interface to sort the items by average price (compared to its scanned database), so you can see at a glance whether items can be snapped up cheap or are horribly overpriced. Also, it offers a nice interface for selling items there, which can sell multiple stacks and displays you the other sellers for said item, and price accordingly. Enchantrix is also part of the package and displays what constituents items can be disenchanted into.
The addon is currently only available as a preview version, but that is already very stable.

BigWigs (and LittleWigs)
BigWigs provides raid (and in LittleWigs’ case party) warnings for instance bosses. This included things like player proximity (e.g. Maiden or Curator), debuffs, sacrifies, etc.
If you want to reset its settings (maybe because you accidentally disabled some warnings), delete “World of Warcraft/WTF/Account/[account name]/SavedVariables/BigWigs.lua” and “World of Warcraft/WTF/Account/[account name]/[server name]/[player name]/BigWigs.lua”.

Cartographer (and Cartographer_Fishing/Herbalism/Mining)
Cartographer improves the built-in full-screen map. You can create and share (!) notes on it, create waypoints that show a little arrow with a direction you’re supposed to go in (helpful for disoriented people like me that don’t know where 10 o’clock is :)), it shows the position of other guildmates (that are also using Cartographer) in the world without being in a group and plenty of other things.
The Fishing/Herbalism/Mining bits extend Cartographer to automatically remember where you gathered resources nodes, which is very useful if you’re looking for a particular plant / metal / fish, or simply want to farm for materials.

ClosetGnome (and ClosetGnome_Mount)
With ClosetGnome you can create and swap between different sets of gear with a single mouse-click / keyboard button. For example, I have a normal “default” healing set, one with a focus on MP5 for boss fights, and another feral set (which I usually leave in the bank, though). This integrates nicely into FuBar (see later), but can also be used without it.
The ClosetGnome_Mount bit enables your gnome to switch sets based on mounting / unmounting, so you can equip your Riding Crop or Charm of Swift Flight.

FuBar
Now FuBar I really like. It’s not really an addon on its own, but a system which other addons can use (and quite a lot actually already support it without you being aware of it). Essentially, it creates a small panel or bar at the top of bottom of your screen, in which other information or plugins can be displayed. This really cleans up the sometimes overcrowded ring of addon buttons around the minimap… I’m going to list the FuBar bits that I’ve found useful, but there’s quite a few more:
BagFu — Displays the used and free slots for your bags and opens them all on a click
ExperienceFu — Shows you levelling statistics like “how long to level”, or how many more mobs at the current XP, etc.
GroupFu — Shows (and allows to change) the loot systems. Also takes care of rolling (simply click on it) and recording the results.
MailFu — A “You’ve got mail.” sorta thing. Also records your AH sales.
QuestsFu — An alternative quest tracker (which can track more than 5 quests at a time and also tracks how your party mates are progressing (e.g. “Fungi collected 8/15 Naga Scales.”))
TrackerFu — Displays your current tracking mode and allows you to change it.
TrainerFu — Tracks which skills you can learn now (or at the next level ding) and how much gold you oughta be saving up to pay for them. Also includes trade skills.

HealBot
HealBot is a reasonably easy to setup “grid click-to-cast” interface, mainly for healing and decursing. It tells you the current health status of everyone (as well as incoming heals from other people using it, so you know who’s already getting a big heal) in the party / raid, and includes reminders for missing buffs.
As an example, I’ve set it up to cast my Lifebloom macro (which activates the Lower City Prayerbook) on a left-click, Rejuvenation on a right-click, Shift+Mousebutton is my bigger heals, Alt+Mousebutton is decursing (poison and curse). I let it sort party members by max health, which means tanks are usually at the top and easier to find / heal.
It also displays who has aggro (so you can get preventive heals off on that squishy that just grabbed aggro from the tank), and who is / isn’t in range (so you can tell them to get their sorry ass over here).
A few version were quite buggy, an old stable version is 2.3.3.2, but I’ve also found 2.3.3.10 to be fine again, and from the changes done to .11 I suspect that that won’t cause any new problems either.

MobMap
MobMap displays the patrols / position / occurences of ALL (!) mobs in the game, as well as their drops and droprates, so it can answer questions like “What mob drops [this item] and where can I find this mob?” or “Where is the vendor that sells [enchaning recipe X]?”. It can displays the mob positions on the main map (default) or on the minimap as well. The addon also integrates with your Quest log and tries to extract mob and / or drop names from the quest description and thus allows you to look them up with a single click.
This addon consists of two parts (which you need to download separately): The addon itself and the database with all the information. These are updated independently from each other.

Omen
Threat meter. Know it, use it, love it. That said, as a healer on multi-mob encounters it’s a bit useless, but a new version for 2.4 will bring a few nice new modes that help in this regard. Watch this more closely than your dps-chart, please! 🙂

RatingBuster
Adds another mouse-over tooltip to gear that enables you to compare them to your currently worn gear more easily and see whether it’s an upgrade / downgrade / sidegrade. Also does nice things like converting Spirit to MP5 (for priests, druids), Int to crit% and many more.
If you use this and Informant (from Auctioneer) there is a bit of overlap in the displayed information. I simply configured them to remove duplicate information so the tooltips don’t grow huge. Fully configurable, but comes with sensible defaults.

SpellReminder
This displays timer bars for HoT, DoT, Buffs, Blessings etc, allowing you to easily determine on which mob / player you need to refresh. It’s a bit verbose out of the box (and by default has two groups of timers, one informative and one for the ones that are about to run out), but it is easily configured to your liking.
In my case, I’m only using it for my HoT-spells (Lifebloom, Rejuvenation, Regrowth) and CC abilities (Entangling Roots, Sleep). I’ve given each of these timer bars a different colour (e.g. green for LB, pink for Rejuvenation, red for CC) and can thus see very easily what needs to be refreshed. It also displays the amount of stacks and the mob / player name.

Violation
Modern SWStats / DamageMeters-like addon with FuBar-integration and low overhead. Also communicates with other players using this addon. It also offers a few interesting stats that few other addons do, like aggro duration, for example. All these stats can also be displayed in one (or more) nice little live-updated window with graphs and such. Again, watch Omen more closely than the dps chart! 🙂

The Darkness (game)

I finished this the day before yesterday (on PS3). It is quite hard-hitting in a few places, and I did very much enjoy the story-telling (great voice acting!) and vibe of the game.

Definitely not perfect but excellent while it lasts…