A periodic blog about Games, Books, Movies, Pop culture, Technology and whatever else I happen to feel like writing about...

Monday, October 25, 2004

A long Day's Journey into Geekdom

For those of you that have read this blog before, you know that my roommate (and the guy that owns the house) is a guy by the name of Cim. Now Cim and I get along for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we are both geeks. I mean, this guy is a statistician at StatsCan!

Cim has an appreciation for the geekly arts, like games, sci-fi, PS2 and the like. He already had DSL running into the house, and a spare router that wasn't doing anything, so we hooked up the DSL in the basement, ran ethernet down from the 2nd floor to the router, and jacked my computer in as well. Of course, that left two ports open on the four port router, so what is a geek to do?

Well, you might have already read about the Star Wars Battlefront Online adventure, so you know that we ran another ethernet cable down to the router to fill up three of the ports. But what about number four?

Cim had a desire to build a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) for the living room home entertainment centre, and I had already experimented with the Hauppage Nexus-S satellite card. This weekend, he picked up a very nice looking Micro-ATX case, an Nforce 2 MB, ram, hard drive and video card with video out-in capabilities, and we got to building. Now, Micro ATX might look nice, but it sure makes building a lot more cramped. We eventually got the computer running XP SP2, after some earthy language, skinned knuckles and shifted cables. And, of course, for this system to be as useful as it could be, we had to run another ethernet cable down to make four, so now the router is full, as it should be.. 8-)

Cim joked that he just couldn't see an open port without wanting to plug something in it, but I digress as this blog stays away from the blue material. 8-)

I can already guess what most of you are saying. Some folks are saying, "Why the heck do they need all those networked computers, what are they trying to do, launch the space shuttle?" Others are saying "I wish I could do that at my house!" The rest of you are saying "Only four?"

Thursday, October 21, 2004

D&D and Baldur's Gate

As I mentioned in a previous post, back in the day, I played a fair bit of D&D. We also played some Traveller, Space Opera, Top Secret and The Fantasy Trip, but it was mostly D&D.
Now, the whole D&D experience could only be had in face to face games. There had never been a really engrossing computer version of D&D, since it relied so much on the actual role playing. I mean, if you really look at it, the core rules of D&D are juts there to give a framework for combat and magic, and to impose a system of levelling up to gain experience. The best parts of D&D were always the exploration by the group, the problem solving, etc. It was always nice to finally level up a character, to get the extra hit points, to improve your base to-hit numbers. It was also fun to find those coveted rings of protection +3 or the often talked about but never seen wand of automatic missile fire.

Over the last few days, Cim and I have been playing Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance on PS2. And while this will never replace a good game of D&D, it has been a lot of fun. The game is basically an updated version of Diablo, which is in itself an updated version of Rogue and Nethack, but it is fun.

The graphics are decent, the voice acting good, and there has been some thought put into the storyline, even though it is mostly an excuse to find new dark places to go and "roll monsters for cash".

Since everything is stat based, all choices have consequences. If you grab the heaviest armour that you can, you cut down on the other weight that you can carry. If you decide to add a point to Dexterity, you get an armour and a missile to hit bonus, but if you add it to Strength, you get melee to hit and damage bonuses. It is all very cool, and makes me remember the fun that I had levelling up my old low level characters.

We are in Act II right now, so Vohn, the arcane archer is kitted out in scale mail, with a decent magical bow, though he really needs to replace his mace of disruption +1 with something a little heavier duty for those inevitable hand to hand love ins..

Right now, the biggest disappointment is killing some wandering monster and not finding much gold or any cool weapons. As we descend into level 2 of the mine that the Drow took over, I hope to start seeing some much cooler toys. I would really like to find a good one handed weapon, like a good magical bastard sword, so that Vohn can keep his magical iron shield in play.

So, while this isn't the D&D I remember, it has some nice points, like the being able to save a game and come back to it later, the fact that it doesn't take me months to level up, and the selection of loot that makes me want to search around just one more corner to find the next great weapon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Die Fugger

In case you were thinking that I haven't been playing any boardgames, here are some thoughts about the excellent, somewhat overlooked card game, Die Fugger. Adlung has produced some excellent card games, most notably Verrater and Meuterer, which I recommend highly. Die Fugger is another small box card game that has bigger game play, though it is certainly a friendlier game than Meuterer and Verrater.

Die Fugger is a game all about commerce that uses a counter intuitive system of setting supply and demand. The deck represents goods, like wine,, cloth and salt, and each good is represented the same number of times as every other. When a card is played to the table, it increases the demand for the good, which might increase the price at the end of the round, but it is also a good that is sold by the player. While I can see, in game terms, why this is so, it doesn't make any sense, as goods which are rarely offered should rise in price. (The only game that I have seen so far to do a fair simulation of supply and demand is Cheapass's Parts Unknown)

The game plays well with 2, 3 or 4 players, but there are some subtle differences. When playing with two players, after each player has taken their action (sell a card face up, face down or draw), Jacob the Rich gets an additional face up goods card, making him a dummy player. This is not done in a three or four player game.
  • In two and three player games, Jacob also gets an additional face up card when a player makes a face down sale.
  • In a four player game, Jacob only gets the two face up cards from the deal, and never gets any additional cards.
A round ends in much the same way as Modern Art, when the fifth card of a type is offered for sale. Then, the three highest offered commodities rise in price the number of steps that they have been offered, and the two commodities that did not place drop in price by one. Cards that rise past nine bust at one, but dropping from one does not go to nine.

I have played a few times, and it is a very fun game, which has usually come down to who has made the best hidden deliveries for the end of the game. The hidden deliveries can only be made during the first two rounds, with a limit of one per player per round, and these count double at the end of the game using the last price set for the commodity.

Die Fugger is a very fun, accessible game at a very affordable price point. It is a great lunchtime game, and it is easy to carry around. You should give it a shot.

Monday, October 18, 2004

My Friends' Blogs

Some of my friends have blogs, and here are a couple of them. Karen, my girlfrend, is posting all about moving to and living in Brazil. Her blog can be found at http://caipirissima.blogspot.com/.

Cim, the dude that lets me live in his basement in exchange for rent money, technical support, board gaming and PS2 marathons, has his blog here http://cimeronryan.blogspot.com/.

So, head on over if you want to see the story from the other side..

Monday, October 04, 2004

PS2 Online, Star Wars Battlefront

Since Cim hooked his PC up to the home theatre system, we have had an ethernet cable running up near the TV. And since the PS2 has the online adapter, we figured that it was high time we tried out some online gaming, PS2 style. I rented Star Wars Battlefront (SW:B) to see how it was, and we played a lot of it this weekend.

I have only played a few FPS games, mostly on PC. The one that I have the most experience with is TFC, and I enjoy that one because of the varieties of the player classes, and the ways that a really effective team can work together. While playing TFC, I would play mostly Engineers, and sometimes Heavy Weapons Guys.

The classes in SW:B are, to my mind, less well divided. The Pilot class is the closest to the Engineer, being a combination Engineer-Medic, but it doesn't seem that great to me unless you can become a good pilot. And while I have had some success with the tank-like vehicles and ground speeders, I have been horrible with the Snow Speeder on Hoth.

I can see where the game has some faults, but, if you are a Star Wars fan, you will overlook them. The graphics and sounds are spot on, and you will really get the feeling that you are fighting a large scale battle. I would have liked if there were additional variety in the maps and missions, but it seems to be mostly kill the enemy and capture the command points. There are no capture the flag or rescue the prisoners missions.

Next on the list of games to try online is SOCOM 2, a game that I have read many good things about.