WazHack : Initial Review

I had dreamed of a game like this once, while hallucinating and battling a gelatinous blob as I randomly teleported around a level, desperately searching for food, or some way to take off cursed a ring of levitation so I could finally descend further into the dungeon.

Games come in various levels of difficulty. Nowadays, this constantly shifting difficulty level is a feature of many top developers (witness Diablo 3 2.0). Back in the old days it was different. They didn’t have billions of processor cycles and trillions of bits upon which to store their results and speculations. Processing power was costly, storage was scarce and slow, and limits like those create difficulties that a sliding scale can never match.

Nethack is a game that is nearly as old as my sentience, the former having come into existence three years after the latter. [ http://www.nethack.org/ ] It’s one of those games I turn to when nothing else was particularly interesting, or I needed a bit of humbling. The first few trips down the dungeon end badly for you. There’s no way around that. After ten or twenty tries things start to make sense, and you start to develop strategies on how to stay alive. How to decide what potions to drink and what scrolls to read…remembering quite vividly the characters you lost to recklessly imbibing everything you came across.

Sure, that amulet you just found *could* be an amulet of regeneration, or even one of resurrection…but it could also be a cursed amulet of strangulation, both impossible to breath through or take off.

Such were the conundrums of Nethack, which is why I have always described it as “Diamond Hard”. There’s no easy level. There’s no “beginner”. No “I’ve never played an RPG before”, or “I’ve played a couple RPGs” mode. Or even “Nightmare” or “Bring it On” option. No, back in the day it was simpler.

There was only life and death. There’s only one mode…Nethack. You have one character. You play it until it dies. No “real time” or any other nonsense, the game doesn’t move until you do, but the game does move *every time* you do. If you can run faster, you can run away. If you can’t, you die. You get to sit there, and think about it. Think about *every thing you do*, knowing there is *probably* a way to survive, but most likely you will die.

And eventually you do.*

Then you decide if you can face the emotional toll again to start over. All those decisions, and even then you couldn’t save him/her from the perils of the dungeons. If only you had, or you had that, or had gone this way, or read that, or who knows what. If only….

When I *can’t* face that loss again…that’s when I set Nethack aside for a while. Sometimes it is just too hard to play. Sometimes those simple decisions that served you well in the past just got your character killed.

Such is life, such is Nethack.

So now you are saying…wait…RPN…I thought this was supposed to be about “WazHack”, or something…why are you talking about a nearly 30 year old text-based game?

That’s because “WazHack” is a modern retelling of an ancient (by gaming standards) story. Because WazHack gets it right. Because it has better graphics (relative terms), and now I know what a “rothe” is supposed to be. It’s not like I haven’t tried clones before…I have whole “Nethack” directory on my gaming page on my linux-based palm computer (calling it a “phone” is such a misnomer at this point)…but this one NAILS IT.

If you have ever tried or enjoyed Nethack, WazHack is for you. If you like HARD games, like “Diamond” hard, WazHack is for you. If you wonder why any game has anything *other than* a Hardcore mode, WazHack is for you.

It’s not for everyone, but if you like this kind of thing, WazHack is the one you want to spend your time exploring.

* or you Win…which I have yet to do with Nethack.

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Playing Any PC game on your Phone? Coming Sooner than you think…

The application is called Kainy and was brought to our attention in a comment on the Minecraft: Pocket Edition update article we wrote yesterday. This application is a 2 part program, one part being the actual application for your Android device (the client), and the other being for your PC which streams your games to you as it runs them (the server). Essentially this is your own OnLive network for your own PC games to play on your Android devices.

via Meet Kainy, the application that lets you play PC games on your Android device anywhere.

This is pretty dang awesome.  Letting your phone act as a simple terminal means mostly what it wants is bandwidth, which wifi and/or 4g can bring in spades.

Testing report coming soon…

Battlefield 3 : Unboxing, Downloading, and Hardcore Mode

RPN is officially up to spec when it comes to games.  It has been something of a struggle to keep up in the ever crushening economy, but as per, it’s worth it.  Proof of point is in the following two videos.  This is significant as to the level of “virtual reality” 12.4 GHZ of processing power tied together with 8GB of superfast memory (2 of it dedicated solely to drawing and physics) can create in real time (for under $1G, mind you, 27″  monitor included ).   Computers of similar abilities will cost about half this much in 18 months, and be called consoles once again.

But enough preamble, RPN Gaming is live once again.  Here’s the proof.

Normally I like to try and finish a game before doing a full review. In this case, if you think about war as hardcore mode.  Here’s my full Battlefield 3 experience.

NOTE: The above video is also a nod to the curious, and some may say “flippant” nature of the curious crossover of the content of this site…that is…international politics and video games.   While the events portrayed and the re-imagined in the gaming world are never to be confused as the real thing, they can often offer a visceral insight into the nature of certain real life events.

Hardcore mode…IRL there’s no turning it off.

SIDENOTE: For some damn reason EA makes you install Origin (their “Steam-alike”) in order to install and play Battlefield 3.  This is, IMHO, utter crap.  It crashed updating, and wouldn’t let me install from the DVD’s forcing a 5-hour download of  a game I bought at the store.  Not to mention that, as present, Origin is in freaking BETA.   For those not familiar with software code words, that means “it crashes a lot and for no apparent reason, use with caution.”  As that software is the foundation of the B3 experience…right now it sucks.

I’m Still Trying to Come Up With a Title for My Book

I just thought of another good one, “Philosophy is an Action.”

If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.  I’ve already written down some predictions of what people will think of it, and I want to check my work.

Joel, you first.  🙂

Throwing Shoes at Bush: The Video Game (Updated: Play as Bush and Read the News)

Right over here. {Official Game Title: That Time That Guy Threw A Shoe at President Bush: The Video Game}

Be warned however, Bush can dodge like an Agent….

Bush Can Dodge

I talked about this event, and some other stuff surrounding it, here.

[not my photoshop, thanks to the folks at Fark for teh funny]

UPDATE: Here’s one where you to play as Bush.

bOIng BoinG also has a collection of some good animated .gifs.  Gotta love the Monty Python one…

This guy has quickly become a cult hero in the Middle East, and I’m not talking about Bush.

BAGHDAD — Calling someone the “son of a shoe” is one of the worst insults in Iraq. But the lowly shoe and the Iraqi who threw both of his at President Bush, with widely admired aim, were embraced around the Arab world on Monday as symbols of rage at a still unpopular war.

In Saudi Arabia, a newspaper reported that a man had offered $10 million to buy just one of what has almost certainly become the world’s most famous pair of black dress shoes.

A daughter of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, reportedly awarded the shoe thrower, Muntader al-Zaidi, a 29-year-old journalist, a medal of courage.

In the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, people calling for an immediate American withdrawal removed their footwear and placed the shoes and sandals at the end of long poles, waving them high in the air. And in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, people threw their shoes at a passing American convoy.

“Although that action was not expressed in a civilized manner, it showed the Iraqi feelings, which is to object to the American occupation,” said Qutaiba Rajaa, a 58-year-old physician in Samarra, a Sunni stronghold north of Baghdad.

But many more expressed undiluted pleasure. “I swear by God that all Iraqis with their different nationalities are glad about this act,” said Yaareb Yousif Matti, a 45-year-old teacher from Mosul, in northern Iraq.

Mr. Zaidi, who remained in custody Monday, provided a rare moment of unity in a region often at odds with itself. Glee, even if thinly veiled, could be discerned in much of the reporting, especially in places where anti-American sentiment runs deepest.

Now I’m not at all for the anti-American glee thing and I know the right winger nutters are going to say that anyone who doesn’t want al-Zaidi executed is a terrorist, but this whole incident is just too damn funny….

…until you realize what led to the desperation…

As Mr. Bush was speaking, Mr. Zaidi rose abruptly from about 12 feet away, reared his right arm and fired a shoe at the president’s head while shouting in Arabic: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!”

Mr. Bush deftly ducked and the shoe narrowly missed him. A few seconds later, the journalist tossed his other shoe, again with great force, this time shouting, “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!” Again, the shoe sailed over the president’s head.

It should be noted that al-Zaidi had told others of his plan to make a statement.  He even made sure to be wearing Iraqi-made shoes when this went down.

Another thing to think about is what this might be able to do for the Iraqi psyche, first tortured by Saddam and then liberated through fire by Bush.

A number of Iraqis said they were dismayed by what Mr. Zaidi had done. Ahmad Abu Risha, the head of the Awakening Council in Anbar Province, a group of tribal leaders that started a wave of popular opposition to fighters linked to Al Qaeda, condemned the move.

“The American president is the guest of all Iraqis,” he said. “The Iraqi government has to choose good journalists to attend such conferences.”

Mr. Zaidi, who has not been formally charged, faces up to seven years in prison for committing an act of aggression against a visiting head of state. It was unclear whether his popularity would prompt Mr. Maliki’s government to lighten his punishment.

Mr. Zaidi’s hero status continued to grow on Monday.

In Damascus, a 34-year-old shop owner, who gave his name only as Muhammad, said he was on his way to celebrate the shoe-throwing incident with friends.

“This is like a holiday,” he said. “This is just what we needed for revenge.”

[full story]

That works for me.  Can we call it even now?  We voted him out of office (kinda, his party, and the Neocons…which were a driving force behind the reason we decided to attack a country that hadn’t attacked us), and y’all insulted him to his face, maybe we can build upon this common sense of things and create a more peaceful tomorrow.

UPDATE: The Washington Post is reporting that al-Zaidi suffered a broken arm, broken ribs, and internal bleeding after the shoe tossing.  I know I’m in a huge minority of Americans here (as I was when trying to keep this particular war from starting), but I think a little shoe tossing can be forgiven when a fool invades your country on bad intelligence.  Bush should ask for him to be pardoned.  No harm, no foul.  At least to Bush.  Iraq is another story.

UPDATE: Really, Bush is cool with it.  Let the guy go.

A Good Sign Your Strategy Isn’t Working

Prospective investors should take note of the Timothy Plan funds’ records: Its Large/Mid-Cap Growth is down 39 percent so far this year (that’s ahead of 85 percent of large-company growth funds), and it has lost an average of 5 percent annually over the past five years. That return lags behind roughly 30 percent of its peers. Timothy’s Conservative Growth fund, which is about 40 percent bonds, is down 33 percent this year, and has lost an annualized 2 percent over the past five years.

via Faith-Based Fund Shuns Video-Game Stocks – Yahoo! News.

Probably should write a bit more about this one, but I found it rather funny.  Fallout 3 and Bioshock both scored very high on the “evil meter” (and in reviewers opinions regarding their quality as games), although GTA IV took the top spot (in the evil meter, not the review one).

The problem here is illustrated on the cover of the fear-mongering pdf, and that problem is bad parenting.  Kids shouldn’t be reading “American Psycho” and neither should they be playing games where they can virtually kill and get laid with reckless abandon (although Fable 2 does include an STD counter that one can get to move quickly by having un-protected sex with prostitutes).

This is a parenting issue.  And I’m somewhat worried that a few folks with too much time on their hands and money in their pockets want to make it a censorship one.

Fallout 3 and Fable 2 End-scene Mash-up (*Spoilers*)

I put together this video the other day to compare and contrast the ending sequences of Fallout 3 and Fable 2.

Both these games are pretty amazing in their own respects, I did a longer compare and contrast post here.

They also employ the same end-game-sequence creator theory, in that the final cut scenese (as shown below) are built and narrated based on the character’s actions in a game.  In the case of Fallout 3, the eulogy aspect of it is literal, while you get to live and keep playing in Fable 2.

Enjoy!

The XBox 360 3.0 Legal Experience

This is a short video of the very fun time I had playing the new game that comes with every XBox 360 upgrade, “Legal Agreement”.

Its a pretty basic down-scroller, build old-school text-only style.   I liked a lot of games like Zork and Hithchikers Guide to the Galaxy back in the day, but I figured with the upgrade you would get some cool new stuff.

Anyway, here’s a video of the gameplay.

Fallout 3: Inside the Heads of Raiders (bonus: Fable 2 and Fallout 3 Comparison)

Fallout 3 Comic

Fallout 3 Comic

 More available here.

FALLOUT FROM… FALLOUT

comic updated November 14, 2008

And today we venture back — back, through time, to continue the classic (old, actually) tale called forth from the hoary mists: The Otters in “True Crime Stories!”

So — not to brag, but guess who got featured on the front page of the Bethesda Blog yesterday? HMM? HMMM?

Which is pretty darned awesome — other people make games, Bethesda makes WHOLE WORLDS. And then sells them at a very reasonable price. In fact — and given how hyped up I was on the whole thing, this is a hard thing to admit — “Fallout 3” has turned out to be FAR more engaging than “Fable 2.” Not that “Fable 2” isn’t good! Just, “Fallout 3” is so much more… MORE.

Anyway, that’s notable enough for my day. Back to work!

Great comic and great game.  I think I have to agree about the Fable 2 thing, as well.  Fable 2 is a good game.  Maybe even a great one…but once I put in Fallout 3, I didn’t touch Fable 2 for a couple weeks.

This actually turned out to be kinda nice, because when I loaded Fable 2 back up, I got my back-pay of about 200,000 gold to continue building my real estate empire (side-note…Fable 2 has a LOT of fun things to do, building a real estate empire is but one of many…but the “style” of game is more…comic…and also much more raw [e.g. compare sex-scenes in Fallout 3 with Fable 2…both of which lose badly to The Witcher, but that’s a pretty high bar.] 

Ultimately, Fallout 3 gets the nod because it’s done with so much…how do you say it…”I don’t know what“….maybe it was just the story, and the GREAT humor (which Fable 2 has as well, tons…the “books” in the game are hilarious), and the realistic bits that drew me in so far (and of course VATS…but you get pretty close to VATS in Fable 2, including slow-mo decapitating head shots).

Regardless, it’s hard to go wrong with either game, but if you only have the budget for one…Fallout 3 is the way to go, IMHO.

UPDATE: Oh, and I got the comic off this blog.  Great stuff there for Fallout 3 fans.  Looks like that girl went through *everything* in the game and wrote about it.  Personally I try and avoid spoilers for the most part, unless I’m totally stuck and getting annoyed, YMMV.

UPDATE2: I realized just what that je ne sais quoi I mentioned previously actually was.  Sometimes when I’m playing Fable 2 I have to fight the camera, and it’s annoying as hell.  Take for example the Gargoyle Quest in Fable 2 where you have to find and destroy 50 stone gargoyles hidden around the world.  You always know when one is near, because they talk a crap-ton of shit to you in a very distinctive voice (yes, you get heckled constantly…it’s funny…and it takes a while before you learn to separate it from the regular chatter of Fable-folk).  To find them you have to look up and move around.  The problem is that when you move, the camera tries to move to it’s “natural” 3rd person perspective.  You tend to find yourself fighting the game in a functional sense.

Gaming is all about “beating the game” but you don’t want to feel like the game is making itself annoying.   It’s a fine thing to point out, because Fable 2 really is a very good game.  In Fallout 3, with its camera options and a UI that gives absolute and quick control to the player, the interface never gets in the way.  This is Fable 2’s little problem.  I have a video I’ll put up that illustrates it exactly (try buying and using 15 XP potions quickly), but it’s those bits that make the big difference.

Fallout 3 being a sequel built on the same engine as Oblivion obviously gave Bethesda a huge advantage here., but be that as it may, camera control and, frankly, frame-rate (yea…Fable 2 gets sluggish every now and again), are probably the two biggest differentiating factors in getting at the vast amounts of gameplay both titles have to offer.

Fake World Sales Skyrocket As Real World Goes to Shit

October/November 2008 was an absolute WATERSHED in gaming.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – U.S. sales of videogame hardware and software rose 18 percent in October from a year earlier, after falling 7 percent in September, as Nintendo Co Ltd’s Wii console sold over 800,000 units, market researcher NPD reported on Thursday.

Video machine makers said the results boded well for the holiday season.

“We feel cautiously optimistic (going into the holidays), we don’t see anything in this (NPD) data that leads us to believe there’s a pullback,” said Microsoft spokesman David Dennis.

Dennis said the release of the Microsoft-produced “Fable II” and Bethesda Networks’ “Fallout 3,” which ranked as the first and third best-selling games in October, helped increase the Xbox 360’s consumer attach rate. Xbox sales will get an even greater boost in December by “Gears of War 2” sales, as the game has already sold over 2 million copies since its release on November 7, Dennis added.

[full story]

This is happening for a couple reasons, one of which is good, one to watch out for.

First up…the bad part. Gaming is an industry now. A big one. An important one, that moves a lot of money. The timing of releases with sales cycles is very important. A movie might have a shelf life of a year or two before it hits big, games don’t work like that. Yes, there are gems and indies that make good, even great, games…but the economic of the situation are pushing toward the high end.

This means fall releases. These are the Christmas games. So all the AAA titles are going to generally come out around my birthday (Halloween)…probably from here on out for the next 10 years or so. And largely because of the linked story, strangely enough. It turns a lot of heads when you show big growth during a downturn. A lot of heads.

Now, that’s the downside. The upside….

Think for a second about your history as a gamer. My own started on the 2600 about the age of 5. It’s been somewhat consistent since then, ranging from consoles to PCs to handhelds and back to to fully realized Console/PC/Mobile situation where I can pretty much have a solid platform to play on anywhere, for anywhen.

There is a whole generation like me. Some of you even posted in this thread. Many of us followed different paths in life, usually with a PC around somewhere. Some of us ended up in that place….making those games we dreamed about.

This is the generation of game designers and artists and industry that is *just now hitting its stride*. This is my generation of game-makers, and we’re farking awesome at it.

Mainly because if we suck at it, we’re not afraid to register our frustrations on the internet within seconds.

And since we just elected a President who collects comic books and plans to do a weekly YouTube address to the world….we’re in charge now. The geeks done took control.

Yea, the real world might suck some time, but we’ve learned we have the power of gods to create worlds of our own. The power of gods to decide that our world is a good one.

And after having wandered around a few of the ones my compatriots have created, may I say, and say solemnly…good show, sirs.

Good shows, indeed.