As a follow-up to my review of Quake Live, I'm going to share a few observations on how people play. Take it for a strategy tips list, or if you don't muss your hair with such matters, a glimpse into the world of people who waste their time with far more commitment than you do.
There's more noobs than you think. When you're first starting out in online play, you might think that everybody must be better than you, since you're getting smeared as soon as you spawn. Actually, if you're even playing, you're ahead already. Drawing conclusions from the stats on the awards page, 35% of players have never completed an online match (not win, mind you, just finish one), 89% have not played more than ten total hours since signing up, and only 36% of players have ever won a single online match, ever.
Using the gauntlet exclusively is not a winning strategy. The gauntlet is the glowy spinny buzzsaw thingy that is everyone's fall-back, ammo-free weapon. It's a close-combat weapon only. I see a lot of players whose strategy is just to run pell-mell through the map with the gauntlet, trying to rush everyone. I laugh when I see one coming, because (a) gauntlets make noise, so it's impossible to sneak up on anybody, and (b) all I have to do is move away and shoot with anything I have on hand.
Everyone complains about lag and ping. But if you play on a server within your country, ping shouldn't be a problem. Try playing a practice mode with bots, where the game is local and guaranteed low-ping. If you play against four AI opponents on Hardcore difficulty and can't at least dominate there, then ping is not your problem.
There's less cheating going on than you think. If you think a player is using a cheat, trying following them in spectator mode. You'll find that they just have good strategy, at least as far as I've seen so far. Most of the best players simply stay on the move all the time.
Camping is not cheating. Camping is a strategy. Every map has some good spots to hang out, where cover is good and weapons, health, and armor spawn frequently nearby. By all means, do whatever you can to make a camper's life more uncomfortable! Finding camping areas and kicking the camper out of their comfy little nest is part of the fun.
Run the maps in practice mode, solo. You can select the option 'just me' in the customization part when you're starting a practice match. That way you can run a map and discover all the secrets, item spawns, and ideal strategic points. Make sure you know how to get to an important area quickly from anywhere. Explore. Find good camping spots, sniper's nests, and fast escape routes.
For those of you bored out of your minds at this, I'll get back to my regular content eventually. But hey, it is sometimes also important to show that, yes, Linux can be an enjoyable gaming platform, and Linux geeks can enjoy ourselves like normal human beings once in a while.
I'm a little hesitant to come out boldly for this opinion... but when I weigh the pros and cons, it makes sense. In summary, it's my "Tools vs. Toys" philosophy. I think games, as in video games for computing systems, should not be held up to the same standards of FOSS freedom as other kinds of software.
Tools are different. Tools are compilers, editors, web browsers, servers, drivers, platforms... in all of these cases, I have seen that consistently the Free/ Open Source development model not only makes maximum liberty possible for everyone, but produces a higher quality product.
But I see that it's not necessarily so with video games. In games, the results seem to stack up at random. I know some Free/ Open Source games that are better than many commercial/ proprietary games, and I know some commercial/ proprietary games that are better than many FOSS games. Some win by engineering, while losing on media quality, and vice versa.
The Linux blog world has been buzzing a little about the game market on Linux. Unfortunately, the current examples cited in that link just happen to be products that the Cult of Helios is shilling for, so, ugh! Can't touch that with a ten-foot pole. As it is, simply because they happen to be focused on games right now, I can expect the flamin' hot-pants idiot brigade to descend on my comments section like a plague of locusts. (And H. goes from never mentioning games once in all his years to suddenly talking about nothing on his blog but these games for six months? The money's going in his pocket, bet your fur.) The Cult of Helios craps on everything. But oh well.
Notwithstanding those examples, the big picture is that yes, Virginia, there is a market for Linux games. And I think encouraging that market is a good thing to do. As I rediscover with both excellent FOSS games (like Neverball), and excellent proprietary games (like Quake Live), there is no reason that Linux cannot be as good a gaming platform as any other system.
But I just think that making all games for Linux have to be licensed as FOSS isn't that important. I will carefully lay out my reasons:
Games are not mission-critical. The world will not come to an end if you can't patch a game. It's not like you have a printer that won't print and you can't fix it because the license is closed - the example which famously prompted RMS to create GNU.
Games are more about the artwork than the code anyway. If you're talking pure engine over visual, audio, and interface appeal, heck, Nethack beats everything. But the Diablo series is very similar in playing style to Nethack, but whoops butt on the sound, video, and interface department.
Artwork is very seldom free. We saw this with idSoftware's previous releases of FPS games as open source. The Doom source code is now open, but you still have to pay for the levels packs, because the art, sound, and design is a separate matter from the code. Code, while being an art form, is also an engineering matter, and is so easier collaborated in the open method. Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow; but artwork, on the other hand, usually suffers in quality when it has too many hands involved. Ever seen a film where the script was written by a committee?
Art takes more time than code. I, myself, have offered a lot of artwork to the public for free. But I also do commercial work. I'll be the first to tell you, I put a lot more effort into graphic design when I'm paid for it. Code, on the other hand, doesn't take the same proportion of time. If I work for two weeks concentrating on just one project, I can design a major software application that possibly may be world-class and land me a spot in history, or I can draw a half-believable interior room that will get a few votes on DeviantArt, but will still not be as popular as a funny stick-figure comic.
Games are less satisfying to design than applications. By that, I mean that when you make an application that does something, you are giving the world a tool. I would far rather have been the author of something like sed than I would the greatest five video games made today, because the author of sed can know that generations of users will go on using his tool to make life easier for themselves, whereas games will have a brief following of fame that decreases as the game becomes outdated, eventually being forgotten by subsequent generations (not counting rare nostalgia/ abandonware nuts like me).
Game enjoyment doesn't seem to be impacted much by the source code being open or closed. As long as it installs and plays when you want it, do you care?
Now, I told you that this would be an exercise in careful reading. If you've made it this far without posting your flaming rebuttal, you know that the following misinterpretations are what I did NOT say:
...that all FOSS games are bad.
...that all proprietary games are good.
...that all games should be closed.
...that even all parts of games should be closed. Physics engines, for instance, might fare better as FOSS, so mixed licenses might do well.
...that FOSS games can't make money.
...that DRM is justified.
...that proprietary software companies like Microsoft and Adobe are justified.
...that proprietary licenses for video games don't also have problems.
...that a robust, profitable market in FOSS games is impossible.
I finally got curious as to what all the buzz is about, and tried out Quake Live. Running Ubuntu Linux and Firefox, I registered with the server and installed the plug-in. My expectations weren't very high, since I've seen countless attempts to run FPS and other 3D games in a browser before, only to find that the performance made them unplayable *anywhere*, let alone on Linux.
I was not just surprised, but amazed, thrilled, and tickled at how well Quake Live works on Linux! I cannot tell the difference between running it in a browser and running it installed on my own system. Every effect renders perfectly, from the laser-lights over the teleporters to the smoke from a grenade launcher, fog, rain, lava, water, and all.
Pardon the cop-outs with getting botmatch screen-shots, but it's kind of difficult to get everybody to pose for a group photo in your average deathmatch. "Wait, don't frag me, I'm taking a -" KABOOM!
Some tips: Pings are a function of where you are in relation to the server you're playing on, and there isn't much you can do. I find that any ping rate under 100 is playable. The best weapon is usually the lightning gun, and two people fighting with them will remind you of a lightsaber duel. It's amazing how often you can frag another player just by rushing them with the gauntlet. Practice that crazy strafe-jump technique they talk about in the training center; it will pay off. Switch the zoom and jump to space-bar and right-mouse, respectively, and your movement will be more natural.
I would say "Drop by to give me a friendly grenade hello!" but I'm rarely on. And I do tank at it, at least in comparison to those who make a career out of it!
Rather unsporting of GNU Chess right when I pulled two pawns ahead. GNU Chess, here playing black on the easy setting, responded by forcing me into perpetual check. Apparently there's no mechanism in place to offer a draw in the case of threefold repetition. Set up the board this way and try it yourself - the black queen moves back and forth indefinitely. Note that the king has two possible moves from g2; however, both lead to the same outcome.
I would make a feature request, but my finger's tired.
Oops! I just noticed that moving king to g1 allows me to block with the queen and break the loop (GNU Chess withdraws its queen rather than exchanging and the game proceeds normally). But the point of not having a draw offer on 3x repeat still stands.
Update I just tried the same position in xboard, and it did automatically draw on the third repetition! So this is the front-end's problem (glChess 2.26.1 - the default for Ubuntu/Gnome) rather than the engine (GNU Chess).
Also, I tried the situation with my white queen at a7. GNU Chess played no differently.
From here on out, game reviews for abandonware DOSBox titles should be in the fall and winter. Who wants to play video games when it's 76 and sunny out? But after the time change, when the sun drops dead as soon as you get off work and the frost is forming by six, that's the time when you want classic DOS video games. Because there's only so many hours you can spend reading the Internet before you go all Jack Nicholson on the snowbound household.
You're not going to believe this, but Electronic Arts published this way back in 1989. Yes, the same people who brought you The Sims! This is a doodle toy, plain and simple. Click and drag backgrounds, props, actors, and speech balloons to create little frames, which you can animate and add music to and so on. There must be 100 Flash applications online these days that let you do the same thing in your browser, but in 1989 this made everyone who owned a 386 PC into the next Warner Brothers, as they, too, could now make up frames about dogs and their pet crows with crushes on cats, who had no idea, while a squirrel watched the whole scene with a mocking grin. Sadly, you could not make them get so wrapped up in cooking dinner that they peed blue puddles on the kitchen floor and then wept in shame. You'd have to wait for the Sims for that. Get it here, you wascally wabbit.
You haven't lived until you've heard the Jeopardy theme in 8-bit PC-speaker beeps! This early, CGA version is kind of crude, although it's hard to say how much in relation to others - I've played Jeopardy on everything from Super Nintendo to Windows PCs, and the interface is always clunky and you end up blowing a question by spelling it with a hyphen when it has none or vice versa. It's just that kind of game. One thing I notice on this version is that you will not have time to read the clue before one of your opponents rings in, even if you're Evelyn Wood. I've tried slowing down the simulation with Ctrl-F11, and it doesn't seem to help. The only way to make it a fair game is to pause it (Alt-Pause) and then you can read it slowly, go look it up in Wikipedia, call your friend, whatever. However, your computer opponents will suicidally ring in and blow questions sometimes too, so it's up to you. Find it here at What Is Underdogs?
Wheel of Fortune
Yet another CGA game show DOS port! These things were lousy common back in the '80s, lemme tell you! Not like these modern TV game shows where the only skills you need are lying, gossiping, and figuring out who's got an alliance going with whom until the final four. Anyway, this is actually quite playable and enjoyable. I'm kind of puzzled at its playing Stars and Stripes Forever after a puzzle's solved, but maybe that's the only song they could get a license for. Vanna in 8 bits rocks. I'm stalker-crushy in love with 8-bit CGA Vanna. Here it is.
Probably one of the best-kept secrets of early-1990s DOS gaming, LHX is an attack helicopter simulator. And it is outstandingly impressive for its time! The downsides are that the graphics are rather dated now and the controls take some learning, but once you master it, it will provide days of challenging play. Fly combat missions across terrain both desert and jungle, day and night, facing a huge cast of both ground-based and air-based enemies who have some pretty keen A.I. Lots of features to tweak with. Plus it has the realistic touch that when you're hit by enemy fire, it might take out one of your capabilities while leaving the rest intact, resulting in some dicey situations which are still winnable. Get this classic here.
Castle of Dr. Brain
Dr. Brain seems a rather eccentric character, with his peculiar taste in decor and fondness for locking everything with a puzzle. This is amusing fun for kids and kid wanna-bes, but doesn't have much reply value since the majority of puzzles are the same, or very similar, every time. Dr. Brain had a whole series out there. This is candy for old Infocom and Sierra fans, having some of the same flavor. The puns, for instance, made me groan about as loud as anything Sierra pitched at me. Will also require passing a copy-protection trap at one point; Abandonia has both the game and JPG of copy-protection codes.
Stunts gets special mention as the greatest driving simulator of the DOS PC era, certainly one of the better ones available on the PC, and possibly one of the best (but not realistic!) driving simulators ever, period! To deal with the nitty-gritty, I had the best luck playing the 'stunts_k.exe' version; when it asks you to enter a word from the manual (now lost in time) just leave it blank and hit 'enter' - the game should start anyway. That includes a custom-track builder, and you can also download and install custom cars and other player's tracks. Now then, if you want to talk to some real fanbois of this game, head over to ZakStunts, where you will be enthusiastically indoctrinated, and also check out the Stunts Wiki, for tips and reviews, and the Stunts racing portal for a jumping-off point to much, much more. That's right, this driving simulator from Brøderbund Software in 1990 still has an active, vocal, foaming, ranting, international fan club today! Join the cult when you download it here.
It's about time I paid attention to Linux gaming, isn't it? My fancy new machine with excellent OpenGL support can finally run games like Neverball smoothly and flawlessly.
Neverball, for those of you lagging behind, is a game of skill where you attempt to move a series of platforms and structures in such a way as to move a ball around collecting coins and then over a goal. Obstacles and perils lie in your path - you'll have to navigate catwalks, bumpy roads, bumpers, blockades, ramps, and every crazy path element you can possibly draw in GTKRadiant. Without falling off. This is much, much harder that it looks. Anyone watching you will conclude that you're drunk as a sailor.
Some tips I've discovered so far: Screenshots go to your "~/neverball/" directory. Go into the "~/.neverball/neverballrc" file and change the mouse_sense number to a lower number for greater sensitivity - I have mine to 100 for a bog-standard Logitech Trackball. Most of the time you want camera on 'manual,' because when the camera is on chase it will swoop around and change the direction of your ball with it. Most of the rest of the time you'll want the more precise control of using the arrow keys.
Even at that, this game is pretty darned challenging even if your reflexes are perfect. Except for the first eight or so of the tutorial levels, the level designs range from merely difficult to maniacally sadistic. I'd kind of like to see some granny levels made, where you could practice on tricks and stunts without worrying about falling out or beating a timer. I'm sure they're out there, I just haven't Sherlocked them yet.
Casual puzzle games are the unsung champions of the modern game scene. The blockbuster titles get all the attention, and yet it's the simple solitaires and brain-teasers that are in every PC's menu, on every mobile phone, and bookmarked in every web browser. These games have the advantage of being portable, simple to learn, fast to start and shut-down, and providing stimulation for your little gray cells in between more pressing tasks.
So this is Simon Tatham's Portable Puzzle Collection, which I just discovered as a Zenwalk package on the kids' system, and liked so much that I went to get my own copy. My Slackware compiled the tarball without a single hiccup. After inserting the games into my Fluxbox's menu file, I've been only too happy to become addicted to fiddling with them. Here's a review of all 27 of them, without too much butter:
I've never understood Black Box in any of its incarnations, and don't understand it here. Mysteries make Ogg nervous.
Just puzzling enough to keep you busy for a minute. Each two circles can be connected by drawing one or two lines.
Now this is unique! Roll the cube around, try to get a colored square on each side. Also has other shapes, but I have no idea where to begin with the icosahedron.
Infuriatingly harder than it looks. Not for the impulsive player!
You've seen it before.
A "just right" challenge of space management. Plus it looks like a crossword puzzle.
Lights-Out on a flat plane, also a standard.
"Divide the grid into rotationally symmetric regions -" whoa, any game that has big words like that in the description is too confusing for Pooh.
Can you guess? It's Mastermind again, the first game that every code-cracker got as a kid.
Close to being an action game, this interesting little puzzler hooks you in with being easy at first, but almost confounding when it comes to sweeping up that last seemingly inaccessible diamond.
A unique puzzle of placing lamps to illuminate a grid.
I understand this one, and have yet to solve even the simplest board. I am reduced to staring at a new board for a few seconds, hitting 'solve', and then staring at it some more going, "How does it do that?"
Ever since I heard of the four-color map theorem, I always said it would make a cool little game. Now it is one!
Minesweeper again. No surprises.
The network game that you've also seen many times, although it's not as old as other examples; I only remember first seeing these a few years ago. One of my favorites.
So here's a twist on the network game; you can't spin the elements, you can only shift them in wrap-around columns and rows. Way to make a previously undemanding game 100 times harder!
Merely looking at this colossal beast is enough to scare me off. It looks impenetrable.
The jumping-peg game you've been playing since you were a kid and your parents bought you the wooden version they were selling at that restaurant you went to on summer vacation.
Another unique puzzler. Math and geometry geeks will love it.
The same SameGame game, like any same game you can name. But not lame!
Some smart aleck took the 'fifteen' puzzle, added a tile, and made it like a combination lock where you rotate columns and rows to solve it. Find him and spank him.
Almost too hard to grasp, but I kind of got the hang of it after awhile. Probably the only puzzle game in existence where the solution is to draw a maze. Huh.
Soduko... or is it Sudoku? Or Sodoku? Or S[ou]d[ou]k[ou]? So I'm all in favor of changing this game's name to 'Solo'. But anyway it's the fill-the-number-in-the-grid puzzle that came out of nowhere a few years back and has now taken over the puzzle-book aisle.
Very, very unique. It's like something Martin Gardner would have thought of when he was in Boy Scouts.
Kinda difficult take on the numbers-grid puzzle, where you rotate four squares at a time.
I've tried this a few times, and maybe I was tired from the other puzzles, but Latin squares are difficult enough to figure out by themselves without following extra constrained rules.
Cute little spacial reasoning puzzle. I've only seen it once before as a Flash game.
Now, the games themselves are just the beginning. Because, you see, each game has different levels and layouts that you can choose, as well as a 'custom' feature where you get to set your own parameters! This adds tons of replay value, as you get to see what Mastermind would be like with eight rows and only two colors of peg, or what Peg Solitaire would be like with random-blob shaped boards, or whether Soduku will drive you insane with a jigsaw layout.
All in all, lots of bang for a tiny investment of time. I've known Nintendo DS cartridges that couldn't say as much.
Update In my Fedora system as of 2012, the package can be found under the name of "puzzles-9023".
Was playing KDE's Shisen-sho, because I'm probably one of the few who actually likes that one. And this happened. You ever get down to four tiles in this arrangement? I get this all the time, no idea how to avoid it.
Feel free to snarf for your own Demotivational poster fun.
Summer's going too fast, man. The kids are almost back in school, already, which makes this the perfect time for the grown-ups to huddle back to their simulated DOS directory and play at some goofy, childish fun. So once again, we crank up DOSBox and grab random stuff off the abandonware buffet. Sometimes for nostalgia, sometimes for thrills, and most of the time just for the endorphin rush from the masochism.
A little-known and hard-to-find Apogee classic, this game sports harsh Windows 3.1-era colors, buzzy 8-note beeps, and is doggone hard to play. This game is pretty low-quality for an Apogee title, and you get the feeling that they wrote it more to test an engine or fill time between blockbusters than for the game itself. The splash screen is the best part. But it still beats working. Because there's a man who leads a life of danger, and to everyone he meets he stays a stranger. With every move he makes another chance he takes. And something about odds. Get it here.
MicroProse F1 One Grand Prix / World Circuit
As far as I can tell, this game was doomed by having its name be too long. After that, it's a game of ups and downs. Ups: graphics, handling, realism. It looks fantastic for 1993. Downs: sound (minor) and controls (major!). The controls have a maddening default setup, and you will find yourself in nested-menu-maze hell trying to change anything. Well, what do you use to accelerate and brake? The 'a' and 'z' keys. So, with that in mind, you'd expect to steer with the arrow keys? No, you steer with the mouse by default - which is set to this slow tracking speed so you need to frantically spin the mouseball at Mach 8 to get the car to change its heading by one degree. Oh, so you shift with the mouse buttons? No, silly, it's space bar to shift. Oh, and if you try to steer it with the arrow keys, that will either (depending on mode) switch drivers (you have co-pilots in practice mode), or switch camera views, which will startle you when, without explanation, you teleport to the sidelines to watch your now out-of-control shark fly off the road and nerf a chicken coop. Here it is, good luck!
Barbie Super Model
Meanwhile, while we were all sitting around wondering why there aren't any girl gamers, the executives at Hi-Tech Expressions, Inc. were puffing their stogies around the big walnut table in their Star Chamber trying to figure out how to get girls to game. Their solution was to make games be all cloying pink hearts and diamonds and glitter and bouncy techno music. Barbie must train to be a super-model, which will involve riding a motorcycle through flaming hoops, wrestling crocodiles, beating a Kung-Fu master with nunchucks, and taking off her belt and using it to whip the flaming Jesus out of corporate game executives just like that big Indian dude did to Steve Buscemi in Fargo. You wish. Actually, it involves doing The Catwalk. You want to do The Catwalk? It's Alt, Down, Alt, Left, Control, Up, Control, Up. Better practice that a dozen times so you don't blow it in front of the crowd. Get it here, fer shure!
7 Colors is just the kind of quirky, one-of-a-kind game I go looking for when I go abandonware snarfing. Since it isn't given in the game, I'll say here that you switch colors along the row at the bottom with the 'z' and 'c' keys, and select a color with the 'x' key. Switch colors on your home group to match all adjacent groups, and your home group will absorb more groups and grow to dominate the board. Gain more territory than your opponent and win. This is a thinky game, with classical music and a set-your-own-pace playing style. It's more fun than you're thinking it is, and I could see it making a good casual Flash game. Discover it here.
In the category of "My God, I can't believe I'm playing this!" comes this ancient hoary relic from 1987. Yes, kids, they had computers then. To look at the screenshot, if I told you it was actually a LiteBrite board, you'd believe me. Anyway, the game is very playable, albeit some of the questions date the game severely. If anybody out there can figure out how to edit the questions files and update them, we could start a revival around this thing. But, see, I always sucked at F.F. and Wheel of Fortune type games, because when the question is "Name a specific food some people like with sugar and some like without." and two of the answers are 'coffee' and 'tea', I stand up and howl in rage "Coffee and tea are beverages, dammit, not foods!" And then I just tearfully flail at the ushers until they haul me out of the theater. You can have it if you want it.
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