With my lady being away visiting friends in France this week, I've predictably made quite a bit of progress with my two main WoW characters. Yonn is now in Outland, and about halfway up to level 61, thanks to the truckloads of experience points the game chucks at you in Hellfire Peninsula, and it's quite nice revisiting some of the quests I did a smidge over a year ago when The Burning Crusade first came out.
Shareth is also doing pretty well for herself, as I sold a few high level items at the auction house, and I'm now less than 600 gold short of the rather extortionate 5000 gold sum it takes to train the Artisan Riding skill. A month ago, I would have thought that this would still be a daunting prospect to try and grind, but now I know that it actually represents half a dozen hours' play over the course of a few days, I'm curiously reluctant to just get my head down and do it. So last night, rather than knocking another 200 gold off my target, instead I downloaded the Freespace 2 Source Code Project Installer and a whole load of assorted Freespace 2 mods, including the Freespace 1 total conversion.
Why, you may ask. Well, I was reading a post on RPS about some chap who'd done a Planescape: Torment speed run in about an hour, and one of the links in the comments thread lead me to stumble across a quite amusing, screenshot-punctuated account of someone completing Freespace 2, with the screenshots clearly showing that the enhanced texture packs from the SCP have been installed. And boy, do they look tasty.
Freespace 2 was one of those games that I absolutely loved, but never completed. I never could beat the Bearbaiting mission, where you're given a slow bomber, thirty enemy fighters, a useless wingman, and you have to knock out all four of the Sathanas's beam turrets in the amount of time it takes you to knock out three. I must have tried that mission thirty times, and I found it bloody impossible, so I'm hoping to have a better time with the SCP installed. I'm currently doing The Sicilian Defense, which isn't so bad, provided you're not getting nailed by friendly beam cannon fire... my fault for lurking too close to the hulls of enemy cruisers, I guess.
What's really impressive is not just the sterling job the Freespace community have done in updating the game - it almost looks as good as something like X3 - but that the game still stands up beautifully, and Freespace 2 is, what? Nine years old now? The original Freespace campaign is worth a replay, too, as that's even more challenging, since your craft don't have shielding for the first half of the game, and with the SCP texture packs, it looks pretty awesome. They're as good an excuse as any for cracking out the force-feedback joystick and annoying your girlfriend with the noise from the feedback motors, anyway. They've certainly aged better than the X-Wing games, which mostly refuse to run for me these days. There is an upgrade project knocking around for X-Wing: Alliance, but it doesn't seem quite so well-accomplished as the Freespace 2 one, which seems pretty odd, as you'd expect Star Wars to have a much bigger geek-base. I guess it was the decision to release the source code for Freespace 2 that really got the modders excited, which is why it's got a much more active community. Well, that and the fact it's a better game... heresy as that may be for Star Wars fans, it does pain me to admit it's true.