Friday, December 19, 2003

I'm off to France.



I'M ON HOLIDAY! Don't throw too many parties and piss on the carpet while I'm gone, okay?

A Special Mention



Remember that Historical Construction Kit I linked to a week or so back? Well, my friend Megan did this with it. Isn't this just the greatest thing ever?



Monday, December 15, 2003

Beware! *BIG* Spoilers within!



If you're playing KOTOR (or have any ambitions of playing it) and you haven't found all four Star Maps yet, turn back now. This post is going to be very spoiler heavy, so if you read something here that is going to ruin the surprise for you later in the game, it's not my fault. You have been fairly warned.


Seriously.


You don't want to read any more if you've not got all four Star Maps yet.


Look, just come back tomorrow when I'm going to rant about something harmless like Saddam Hussein being captured by the Yanks in Iraq.


Still here?


Right, it's *your* fault if you get spoiled, okay? I assume no responsibility.


Here we go, spoilers ahoy.


Other than my brief foray into work on Saturday, I've been playing KOTOR *all* weekend. If it weren't for the fact that I had to sleep, I would have been playing it for the whole 48 hours. This game has a Force Choke on my gaming affections at the moment. It's superbly superlative defying. I *have* to get this game completed for this time next week, as that's when I fly off to France for Christmas, and I don't want to leave this game uncompleted until the New Year.


What makes this game special isn't the graphics, the character animation, or the particle effects or any of those ephemeral, technical bells and whistles that seem de rigeur for every title under the sun these days, it's the characterisation, and the story.


I'd just completed the recovery of the third Star Map on Manaan, and was just off to collect the last one on Korriban when suddenly the Ebon Hawk gets captured by the Leviathan, Darth Malak's ship. Oh shit, you think. They can't force the final confrontation on you this quickly. Here's the spoiler - they don't. If anything, this is the beginning of your journey into the game.


Here is where all the subtle clues that have been placed before you in cutscenes, visions and pieces of throwaway dialogue suddenly coalesce into a truth so unexpected, so shocking, that I was physically blown away. I don't think I've ever been as shocked by a game before.


The game constantly paints a picture of Darth Revan as an evil monster - all the Jedi you talk to lead you to assume that Revan was killed when Malak turned on his master as Bastila and her strike team went to capture him. For you to confront Malak on the Leviathan and then discover that *YOU* are Darth Revan, that Bastila, and the rest of the Jedi you have met and have been made to trust have lied and misled you thoughout the *whole game* up to that point, it's absolutely mind-wrenching. It's also classic Star Wars, and I really should have seen it coming, but it's a testament to the writing, and the subtlety of the game's execution that I didn't.


*This* is how games should be written. I can't wait to go home tonight and seen how the rest of the game unfolds.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Jedi Nights, Sith Days



Much as I've been tempted to take a sick (Sith?) day or five to play KOTOR of the past week, alas, I've not had the luxury - as you'll have been able to tell from the paucity of updates in the last week. The fact I'm updating on a Saturday tells you that I'm actually at work, rather than at home, because the Delphi thing that I've been complaining about for the last month needs to be finished for Monday, and at 7.15pm on Friday, I still had a couple of hours' work to do, so I'm having to finish it in my own time over the weekend, as we've got a deadline for all development work to be finished by the end of the week, and I've still got another two tasks to do. It's going to be a busy week.


Thankfully, I've finished the major bit of work I wanted to do today, and it's pretty much ready for building, but I've just got a couple of minor bugs I want to iron out before I can go back home to Bastila, Mission, Canderous, Carth and the rest of the KOTOR crew.


The patch for KOTOR has really sorted out all the problems I was having with the game. I've had a couple of seemingly random crashes on Tatooine and the Yavin merchant's station, but no memory leaks or saggy frame rates at all. Whenever this is down to the patch or the memory manager I installed, but either way, it's enabled me to up the resolution up to 1024x768 and put on the x4 Anti-Aliasing, x4 ansitropy, soft shadows and all the other natty little graphical options. And it looks *gorgeous*.


Not that you should ever judge a game on its looks, but it all helps add to the atmosphere and the experience. I've got both my Scout/Jedi Guardian character and Bastila tooled up with modified double-bladed lightsabers now, and they really kick some arse. The combat animations for the melee weapons, particularly the lightsabers, are fantastic, right out of the duel scenes in The Phantom Menace - I could watch Bastila carve up Mandalorians all day.


Vice City was really something, but this romps away with my personal Game Of The Year award by quite a substantial margin. I'm twenty hours in already, I've probably played through less than half of the game, and considering that there are nine combinations of classes to play through as (Scout/Soldier/Scoundrel x Jedi Guardian/Jedi Sentinel/Jedi Consular), and you can play through these as both Light and Dark side, Male or Female, that gives you 36 possible individual combinations to play the game with. That's a not inconsiderable replay potential. So KOTOR is going to keep me busy for a long while yet.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

DIY WMD



This deserves it's own entry. If I had a garage, I'd make my own cruise missiles in it, too.

Memory Leak



Yesterday was full of slips of memory.


Firstly, Fleur forgot to tell me until I dropped her off at school that she was staying late for a Parent/Teacher evening.

I forgot that Time Commanders was on and forgot to tell her that the time she wanted me to pick her up at clashed with it.

Fleur forgot that she *never* finishes on time at these Parents evenings, and that her estimated finishing time of 6.45pm was about 45 minutes too optimistic (and coincidentally, the precise length of Time Commanders).

I forgot that I'd forgotten that I'd missed Time Commanders, so when Fleur told me she was sorry I had, I was really rather annoyed. So annoyed, in fact that I had to spend the rest of the evening playing Knights Of The Old Republic up until midnight.


The only downside of that was that the slowdown I described yesterday is getting almost intolerable, particularly in the area transitions, where things slow down to a crawl, you try to move and suddenly you're halfway across the map. A quick bit of research this morning and I find the problem is being caused by - wait for it - MEMORY LEAKS!


Unsurprisingly, there's a patch already (duly downloaded and will be installed tonight) which apparently fixes the worst of them, and I've also found a hint that will help prevent these slowdowns. Using a memory manager (one of which I have handy from an old PCF coverdisk) to free up memory once it gets below a certain level will sort out these problems. I was a bit disgusted, because despite my machine being over 2 years old, it's hardly geriatric, and still surpasses the recommended requirements for the game in every respect.


However, if there are memory leaks in the game, it doesn't matter how much memory you have, or how fast a processor you have, as the leak just eats up all your system resources - which explains the performance problems. I have to admit I expected better from Bioware - normally they're pretty good when it comes to performance optimisation, but hey, this is why we have patches, I suppose.


Expect a report back tomorrow on the success (or not) of the patch and memory manager workaround.

Monday, December 08, 2003

A Hard Day's Knight Of The Old Republic



It's been quite an intense weekend. Christmas shopping, fending off overdraft limits, saving the Known Universe,... There's no rest for the wicked, y'know?


The game I've been waiting for well over a year for has finally arrived.


Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic.

Was it worth the wait? FUCK YES.

I barely know where to start in describing this game - it's simply wonderful. It's not hardcore roleplaying by any means, but it's Star Wars. Totally, utterly, incontrovertibly STAR WARS. Whilst this might not mean much to you poor, soulless creatures who've not embraced George Lucas's Space Opera with your entire corporeal being, for a life-long fan (read 'Geek') like myself, it makes *all* the difference.


Blasters. Lightsabers. Vibroblades. Body armour that makes absolutely no difference in a fight at all. Cannon fodder Sith Troopers. Dark Jedi. More aliens than you can shake a stick at. Everything you associate with Star Wars, bar greasy mop-haired farm boys and Jar-Jar Binks is in there. And it's wondrous, truly wondrous.


I've not been playing for very long, about six or seven hours, and I'm only now at the point where I can rescue Bastila (one of the lead characters in the game) from some vile criminal scum. Other than a few frame rate problems in the Upper City on Taris (where it's pushing an obscenely high number of polygons) and some teething troubles with the camera and control method, it's been great. The graphics are fantastic, and it plays more like a third person action game than a full-on RPG, though that's not entirely a bad thing.


For people who are stat-adverse, it's pretty much the perfect RPG, as it hides all the numbers if you want it to, and does all the dirty dice-rolling for you. On the other hand, if you really want to tailor your character to your each and every whim, the game allows you to do that too. The interface is absolutely inspired - simple, clean, and whilst it might take you a while to get used to the controls, once you do, it's the most natural thing in the world. KOTOR simply screams "PLAY ME NOW!". And you will. And you won't want to put it down.


Game of the Year? So far, *SO* GOOD.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Wheee!



From my State e-mail:


Iain,


Thanks for your inquiry re BREED. I have forwarded this on to CDV and while
we don't have any review copies at present, you will receive yours as soon
as they become available.


Cheers,


Christina


Christina Erskine

Bastion



MY FIRST FREE GAME!

Having a videogames website ROCKS. (Lawsuits not withstanding) That's just really made my day.

Flash! Arrrrrrrrgghhhh!



This is why AD&D and Flash animation don't mix. If that's not enough to make you click the link, it's a Baldur's Gate inspired tender love story between a Drow and her Rivvin.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Debug



Delphi is FUCKING RUBBISH.



This, however, is ace.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Special Edition



Fleur and I were in Richmond on Saturday, seeing our Canadian friends Chris and Tanya, who we'd not seen for nearly a year after Chris left Fleur's school in rather mysterious circumstances, which I won't go into here.


We had a really nice day, and got the chance to do a little bit of shopping. Fleur picked up an exceptionally exotic purple top from Next, and I acquired the Special Edition of The Two Towers, as HMV were selling it for £25. I finally had the time to get around to watching it last night, and whilst it was somewhat less impressive on my TV than on the big screen, it was a thoroughly enjoyable 314 minutes.


As good as the Helm's Deep battle scene is, my favourite moments of the film are with Gollum. The CGI work for Gollum is astounding - it's arguably the best performance in the film (though some people might say that's not very hard). Andy Serkis's performance is excellent, and probably my favourite scene in the film is where Gollum is arguing with Smeagol. The interpretation of Gollum/Smeagol is really quite clever - the stereotypical impression of Gollum is a deeply evil, corrupt figure. Here, whilst Gollum's corruption by the One Ring is plain, he's a much more complex character than that - tortured, self-loathing and tragic. Gollum is a truly pitiable character, and for the animators and CGI team to be able to get the audience to emote in such a fashion to a CGI character, is pretty astonishing. Compare Gollum to how most Star Wars fans treat Jar-Jar Binks, for example.


I need to watch it again with Fleur to get her ready to go and see The Return of The King with me, but I reckon that might not be until after the New Year, as we're sodding off to France for a fortnight over Christmas. Not that this really matters, it's hardly like it'll have disappeared from the cinema, is it?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Excitement



They had the promo boxes for KOTOR on the PC in GAME this lunchtime. So at least it's not going to slip another week. Three days to go. Hurrah!