Monday, December 31, 2007

Quest for Glory 1 - EGA/VGA comparisons.

The original Quest For Glory 1 (a.k.a. Hero's Quest) was released in two formats: EGA (16 colors and other graphical and audio limitations) and VGA (256 colors and other upgrades). The EGA version was released in 1989, and the VGA in 1991.

For a remake, actually a good number of things appear to be changed in the second version. Here's a compiled comparison of different things in the EGA version:

The EGA version is limited to 16 colors, and nearly 95% of the game's screens are dithered (alternating colors each pixel, creating a criss-cross pattern). This allows the game to simulate more colors, but causes noisy, unpleasant backgrounds to look at. Besides that issue, the EGA version pulls off a great deal of backgrounds quite nicely using only 16 colors. Another thing that they should be applauded for is how they also managed to simulate night scenes using those same 16 colors.

The EGA version had midi, but it was less orchestrated.

Gameplay Alley:
In the EGA version, the most notable issue for gameplay, I think, is the increased difficulty. It seems much harder for each individual battle, and resting for the night doesn't restore any HP or MP (I think it did in the VGA version). Battles also seem to occur much more frequently, especially at night where you are guaranteed to run into a troll every other screen, which seemed like a rare occurance in the VGA version.
All of the puzzles and design are the same, except the player is using a text parser. As a general rule, the text parser is superior to point n' click (because it takes direct thinking input from the player, not mindless banter), but it's usability in many "guess the verb" situations kills that. With Point N' Click games, players no longer had to think, but they removed the "guess the verb" nonsense of the parsers. As long as the parsers were designed well and functional to the player, they were usually superior.
This is probably most apparent in dialog and shopping in the EGA version. You don't know what to ask with the keyboard, and you are unsure of the items you can buy in the shops. Without doing a little dialog-tree maze-completing, you don't know what to type in. In the VGA version, all you could do was easily presentable to you, which is superior for the common player.
The skills for the most part are raised the same way, but it seemed that magic was much easier to raise in the EGA version, and each spell had its own skill level, something removed from the VGA version, or at least hidden. Also, stealth seemed impossible to raise in the EGA version. Just using stealth mode in the VGA version would raise the skill, but the EGA version requires you to make use of it by dodging enemy encounters to raise it.

For a game released in 1989, Quest For Glory 1 actually seems like it was way ahead of it's time. It seems like the standard prototype for nearly all modern western RPGs. This game had a day/night cycle, RPG stats and skills, three character classes to choose from, real-time battles, many puzzles and side-quests, a huge land to explore with NPC schedules, and tons of treasure to uncover.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Palm Springs

Everybody loves Ratatouille.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bourne Ultimatum and Pirates of the Carribean 3

Bourne Ultimatum
Bourne is back to his former self in a new movie that explains the past movies in the first 10 minutes and then starts the next movie right after that and never stops until the end. The plot in these movies confuzzled me because I thought it went like this:
Bourne Identity: Some assassin loses his memory while failing to carry out a hit, gets tracked down by the CIA who wants to kill him, but then he escapes at the end with his girlfriend.
Bourne Supremacy: His girlfriend dies, so for some reason he goes back to fight the CIA and kills some more people. The End?
Bourne Ultimatum: He finally, once and for all wants to remember further back in his past of how this all started. A formidable goal, yes.
So anyway, I thought the first ten minutes were a little painful, but then the movie really kicked into gear and I enjoyed it throughout. The plot was interesting, the fight scenes were top-notch, and the spy tactics were awesome as always.
The Bourne Ultimatum: Way better than Supremacy, and probably better than Identity.
Worth Watching? Yes.
Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, the whole way Bourne is inducted into the secret project is a rip-off of my short story Room 96.

Pirates of the Carribean 3: At World's End
So, here's what happened in the previous Pirate movies:
1 - Curse of the Black Pearl: An angry crew of ghost pirates who want to remove their curse steal the governor's daughter who has the key to unlocking it, but then some people chase them, and they fight, and a whole lot of Pirate mythology is explained. A thoroughly enjoyable romp.
2 - Dead Man's Chest: Davy Jones (squid man) catches up with Jack Sparrow who hasn't repaid his debt. Jack must join Davy's crew for eternity, or replace himself with 100 other souls. Instead, he learns of a chest that contains Davy Jones' heart which he can destroy to save himself. However, this matter gets complicated as there are 4 sides who want the chest for each of their own complexing reasons: Davy Jones (protect his heart), Jack Sparrow (remove his debt), Will Turner (save his father), British man (restore his honor or something).
Anyway, the movie ends with Jack dying and I forget who gets the chest. Still an enjoyable movie.

FINALLY, now finally we can get on to the third film.
3 - At World's End
So the cast and crew (including the producers and writers) spend the first hour of the movie restoring the status quo (bringing back Jack) which is not a bad thing. Then however, the plot gets lost in a confuzzling of motives, pirate mythology, awkward plot elements, and a whole lot of backstabbing (not literally). Just about every main character has a different motive for doing whatever it is they're doing, which I can't really remember what that was. All of them are trying to do something different by doing something which whatnot I don't know nor have any idea what's going so the plot is like as confusing as this sentence.

BUT who cares! In the end, the basic ideas are understandable and the movie ends. My final opinion? Kind of the same as Spiderman 3. Not as good as the first two, kind of bad actually, but still enjoyable.
Worth Watching? I would say yes still.


Games that I played in 2007

It would be impossible for me to compile a list of the best games of 2007, considering I have only played about 1/15 of the major contenders. I will however, compile a list of the best games I played in 2007 (some of which are about 5 years old), which was actually a pretty good year for good games.
Starting off:

# 7 - Trauma Center: Second Opinion ::
I probably have more fun in Trauma Center than Crysis, but for something's sake, it has the number seven spot.
# 6 - Crysis :: Crysis - a fun, buggy, clunky experience that tries to imitate Halo and Half-Life and succeeds in most respects.
# 5 - Halo: Combat Evolved :: Yes, I played Halo 1 for the first time this year. It is a very good and fun game, though not on the same level as Half-Life.
# 4 - Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess :: A standalone game, this is one of the finest masterpieces you can ever play. As a continuation of the Zelda series, it's a boring, repetitive cycle of an overused formula beaten into game form yet again.
# 3 - Half-Life²: Episode Two :: Episode two contains the very best of the half-life formula to date, despite that fact that it's a 3 year old formula and only a small segment of a larger story.
# 2 - Resident Evil 4 :: Despite its problems, RE4 is a very, very fun game although it gets dragged on for too long.
# 1 - Portal :: Portal is just fantastic and the best thing I have played in a long, long time.

All of these games were actually pretty good. To sum up:

Portal > Re4 > HL²:Ep.2 > LoZ:TP > Halo > Crysis > Trauma Center

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The following is a tale of a lone man who endeavored to play one of the most graphically demanding games on a laptop that couldn't handle it, a game with a humble metascore of 91, which I only mentioned because I like to talk bad things about good games because it makes me feal analytically superior to the rest of the gaming race; also, I like long sentences.

Crysis (2007)
- Firstly, let's talk about the graphics, which is the main issue of Crysis. Even running on low-medium, the graphics still look excellent in most places while I was getting a framerate of (10-40). I ran on medium-ish graphics for the first half of the game and I was limited to less than twenty frames-per-second which was not a pleasant experience. However, despite the quality of the graphics, some things still look ugly and worse than half-life 2 on medium settings, and there were numerous graphical glitches (flashlights anyone?) and tearings that were just bad.

-Next, let's move onto the gameplay. The nanosuit is not a bad idea in theory, but every aspect of it has been so much more fun in other games where they are devoted to that section. And since you are so powerful, it's less unnerving when being chased by fifty enemies in the jungle. In Far Cry that was scary; in Crysis, you just turn on your cloak and run away.
And then there are a bunch of weird gameplay design decisions that are totally unfair and annoying to the player. For some reason, a ton of the enemies in the game have these special one-hit kills that kill you over and over even when you have 100 health. This would constantly be annoying as I didn't know what killed me, or how, or why it could when I had max health. And then there was that awkward alien level, which was a pain to navigate, and I don't see how anybody could have fun being disoriented for hours trying to find a locked door. There were also so many things that were unclear about goals, weapons, and what I was trying to do in each section. Remember what the dog trainer said: there are no bad players--only bad designers. Listening to the commentary for Half-Life, I learned the designers for that game tried to train the player in each aspect of the gameplay with specific sections. Crysis did no such thing really. It just threw me in after they told me I could do all this stuff and I forgot half of it and then I was left wandering in the jungle.
Finally, to top all that off, there were ridiculous amounts of game-ending bugs and odd things happening. I would die by touching a box, and aliens would freeze in mid-air after I killed them, thus not triggering the "victory event" so I couldn't continue into the next arena.

- Story: the story is bland, boring, predictable, and short. Here's the story: "Some high-tech commandos go to an island where they find aliens who try to kill the humans. The humans fight back but nobody wins. THE END!" And most of the characters and scenes in the game are just so cliche and melodramatic.

In conclusion, Crysis is a game with good graphics, enjoyable gameplay (if you can get a decent framerate), but a lackluster story, cliched characters, tons of bugs, unhelpful design to us newbies, a boring first half, and a great second half. But then the game decides to end without really finishing the fight. It was fun though.

Not as good as Half-Life, not as good as Halo, not as good as Call of Duty.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Story of My Life

Look at how shocked he is that there is no beef broccoli (with two Cs) left. But don't fret boys and girls, because T-Rex instead ate a ham & swiss cheese sandwich with the leftover bacon instead as a complementary flavor device!


Monday, December 03, 2007


This is the closest thing to a punchline I can achieve when talking about video games.

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