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Games. [Mar. 15th, 2013|06:14 am]
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Detroit, MI, USA]
[In the Moment |gamey]
[Special Music |Skrillex - Bangarang]

When I get a chance to play some games, I go for the strategy games as of late. My buddy introduced me to Settlers of Catan. It's a quest to be the dominant civilization, and the first player to 10 points wins. You accumulate points over the turns via building settlements and cities, plus bonus points for things like having the longest road, or the most knights played. Each turn you collect resources to build your empire, and often you have to make your way by bartering with the other players, which makes for the intrigue. I have played Catan a handful of times, and I haven't won yet, but I've come close. We don't have our own copy of the board game, but I'm planning on buying one. Right now it's a popular game, so the price wavers around 40 bucks, which is a bit steep, but hopefully they'll start running more sales on it. 25 bucks would be the right price.

In video games, I've also sought out the strategy genre. I loooove Civilization V. This game is much like Risk, but with nation management. Like Settlers of Catan, you have to build up resources and occasionally barter with the other nations. My favorite nations to play with are the United States, France, and currently gaining ground among my favs, the Persians. Each nation has special perks that help in different ways. For example, US has a bonus tied into buying land, called "Manifest Destiny." With this perk, you get much cheaper prices for tile acquisition, thus making your territory expand quickly. They also have a unique flying unit, the B-17, which has a bonus damage vs. cities. Their unique infantry, the Minuteman, ignores terrain penalties, making it a more dynamic foot soldier. The cool thing is that if you build your unique units, as the game progresses, you not only can upgrade your units to the next standard, but you also keep the unique bonuses they held.

I installed an emulator for the SNES on my tower, and I picked up an old favorite called Romance of the Three Kingdoms III. It's a strategy game set in ancient China, and it takes its namesake after the famous historical account of the era. The goal is to unify China under your chosen ruler. I love playing as Cao Cao, who also happens to be one of the main people from the story. This game takes forever to play, easily the longest of the games I've played. I think it took me half a month to unify the country the first time I played it on the emulator. There are also city and province management features with this game, so like Civ V, it's not all about dominating your enemies on the battlefield. One of the tricks I use to speed up the game is to play with multiple players. I choose the maximum number of players, eight, and when the game begins, I slowly merge the different rulers together under one guy (usually Cao Cao). It's kind of amusing when you get warriors like Lu Bu under Cao's regime, because in the story, Lu Bu was executed by Cao Cao. If you play historical mode, however, the game takes into account the actual events, so less alliances and merging is possible. That's why I always go for fictional mode, so it removes the restrictions and writes a fresh narrative every time.

I'm thinking of purchasing Anno 2070 for the PC. It's a city-building game, but it's set in the future. In their scenario, the Earth has fallen into the global warming nightmare, and most of the land has become water-logged. So instead of big land masses, there's an archipelago, a few little islands here and there. The game got good reviews, plus I'm jonesing for a different city-builder game, but I have to double-check to see if my tower's specs are good enough to run this game.

Of the various city-builders that I've played, my current favorite is Tropico 4. It's basically Sim City: Banana Republic. You play as a 3rd world Carribean dictator, and the game runs a narrative via missions you have to complete on your way to world domination. Each mission puts you on a different island, and each objective highlights a set of win conditions based off of a few of the many features you have at your disposal. So as you're playing the missions, you're actually learning how to play the game better, which is a neat setup. Comparatively, there really wasn't any guidance or narrative with Sim City 4, so it's refreshing to have a strategy game not only teach you how to play, but entertain you with the story as the missions unfold.

Speaking of Sim City, the latest sequel, 5, is a total disaster. I figured it would stink, since Maxis isn't its own company anymore; Electronic Arts bought them, and they have become one of the major scourges in the video game industry. Most EA games these days are riddled with bugs and poor programming in general. SC5 is no different. Not only does SC5 have terrible AI (Sims don't actually follow a home-work-home pattern; they go to the nearest job and return to the nearest house), but there are bugs galore. Also, Digital Rights Management (DRM) that EA put into the game requires a constant internet connection. Naturally, their servers were incapable of handling the online load, and for days, nobody could log-on and play. Thankfully, I avoided that hot garbage.

To anyone who's looking for city-building, try Tropico 4, or just stick with the last Sim City version, Sim City 4. The modding community has a ton of cool stuff built for SC4, and it's far less buggy. The only problem you might incur with SC4 is getting it to play on a computer with a multi-core processor. The game will freeze or crash-to-desktop every so often on modern machines, so you have to tweak the settings to get the game to play for longer than a few minutes without the critical failures. This is actually a common problem on a lot of older games; some as recent as Fallout 3 have the same issue. In each case, you have to tweak the config files to get the games to stop failing with annoying frequency. If SC4 was never your favorite, then try Tropico 4.

On the topic of used games and piracy, I'm really tired of the industry bemoaning both of them. Sales have been climbing steadily, even with the advent of illegal downloads. It's a case of internal pressure, and greed, as I see it. AAA titles can cost quite a bit these days, and if a game flops, it can break a company. With this added risk, the companies would like more insurance against it, so they want to cut out any possible source of income loss. In terms of piracy, I am neither for nor against it, however the instance of pirating intellectual property hasn't destroyed any industry, no matter how much companies whine about it. Oftentimes, it seems like the companies lament piracy, and from their perch, it may seem like they're losing money hand over fist, but the fact is that they're inside the bird cage, and they don't see the room properly.

Game companies simply cannot expect to eliminate all income loss. It's a pipe dream. Every industry experiences income loss; they are no exception. In their world, it would be ideal if there was no way to copy the games. They also want to eliminate the ability to rent games by making each copy of a game with a unique code that would be tied to one's account. I have some bad news for you, game companies. You'll kill your whole freaking industry if you achieve both. Fewer people will be willing to buy a game they can't try. Even more people will be unwilling to pay full price for the games you make. Per-capita incomes have flatlined since the early 2000s. More people than ever before are living from paycheck to paycheck. People simply cannot afford to go out and get several games a year at the 60-70 dollar price point. Plus, even with beefed-up DRM, people will still find a way to crack and pirate the games. Put a better security out, and a better criminal will come along and circumvent your system, it's that simple. So stop with the fist-waving and stick with what you do best, which is making games for a tidy profit.

If game companies have to scale back budgets, then so be it. Nobody needs an A-list actor or actress voicing a character's dialog. Nobody needs eye-popping lifelike graphics. Nobody needs your giant freaking hairy budgets with the monkey-on-back pressure that comes with them. People do need entertainment, however. There's just a ceiling to everything, and if entertainment in general is hitting the ceiling in terms of sales and revenue, then it's not the end of the world. Focus on quality, more than anything else. We're all very very tired of clusterfucks like Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Singin' in the Rain ...

[User Picture]From: fsfwannabe
2013-03-15 05:07 pm (UTC)
I picked up Civ V about a month ago. Really not all that thrilled with it compared to earlier versions. I like the map system more, but the mechanics leave a lot to be desired.
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2013-03-15 06:48 pm (UTC)
What mechanics are bothering you?

The only issue I get is when I have a giant map with a lot of nations, by the end of the game it can slow down a bit between turns.
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[User Picture]From: fsfwannabe
2013-03-16 12:18 am (UTC)
without unit stacking, troop movement is ridiculously bad. Plus I miss annexation of fringe cities of weaker territories. The city-state idea is also annoying, anything that forces territory gain by attacking is not great.

Plus, it seems like diplomacy is brutal even on the easiest levels. I move a scout through someone's territory and they step up their aggression against me.
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2013-03-16 03:06 am (UTC)
I read about troop stacking, and tbh, that doesn't seem fair or realistic. I kinda like having 13 different mans in a horde loping through the countryside to make someone else's doom.

The city-states are awesome because if you build up the Patronage policy tree, you not only screw everyone else out of influence, but it makes your influence greater to the point that you can ally with several c-ses at a time, thus giving you a shitload of extra commodities to build up your own cities.

Certain NPCs are aggressive. If you so much as sneeze in Caesar or the Egyptian, or Aztec direction, they go buckwild. Build a city near them, and they're likely to start a full-on war.

Some NPCs don't get that upset. France can be moody, but if you generally don't antagonize Napoleon, he won't bother with you beyond a couple snide remarks and a 'guarded' stance.

In order to move anyone through anyone's territory, you have to be friends with them, either by being an ally or friend to a city-state, or being on friendly terms and having an open border policy. You can't get open borders until later in the game, because advanced diplomacy is tied into the technology tree.

One trick I find extremely useful - do not accept embassies with anyone. Ever. That also means that you're never utilizing open borders and research agreements, but they don't form opinions on what they don't know. Never letting them in your shit means they stay clueless to what you're doing.

Right now I'm playing as the Persians, and I haven't had to fight a single war. I'm in the lead for overall score, so as long as the Iroquois don't take a big leap ahead, I should be able to win the game without a war ... I haven't had anyone denounce me, either, to my recollection. It's been a weird, but awesome playthru.

If you have Gods & Kings expansion, that's when shit gets fun. You can spy on other nations, and build your own wacky religion. Plus, I learned a trick about keeping their prophetmans from religibombing their stupid ideals on your own society ... just surround your cities with miltiarymans. They can't bomb what they can't reach (they need to be right next to the city for the prophetmans to do their magic).
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[User Picture]From: fsfwannabe
2013-03-17 03:15 am (UTC)
The problem with how they changed troop stacking is that it takes a lot of coordination to not end up with a unit pretty much stopped dead for a couple of turns depending on how the engine resolves which piece moves first through a place.

My issue with the city-states is that it bogs down movement in the game and it's suicidal to 'annex' the.'

I haven't done a warless run since CivIII. I tend to prefer playing a very expansion heavy game, which I feel like V has nerfed, but I think it's more a matter there of me not knowing the nuances yet. Am trying to find player guides for the Nook so I can tackle a lot of the stuff I need to figure out at work.

I think I may have to pick up the expansion when I get a chance and maybe see what sort of modifications there are. I kind of have had the feeling I'm either playing it wrong or missing something in my games. Considering that I have the entire Civ series available on disc here I'm surprised that's the case, but I also need to sit down and play more I think.
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2013-03-17 03:40 am (UTC)
I literally never set my guys on autopilot for multiple turns with regard to moving. Either the AI will move someone in the way of the path, or they'll move the wrong guy, like you said. I move them one by one, and that doesn't really bother me. Plus, because AI does things randomly, it gives me a chance to take a better flank or a different approach if I can see them doing something silly before I get there.

The Gods & Kings expansion is superboss. Just absolutely amazing work, imo. The espionage alone is intriguing enough. I'm still learning how to do it well - the CPU seems to be way better at rigging elections in city states and stealing tech from me than I am with them.

The mods are awesome too. I think I saw a mod for making the game into Game of Thrones, shit like that is pretty impressive. I'm more of a vanilla guy with the game but I recognize fertile and quality mod work.
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2013-03-17 03:43 am (UTC)
BTW I just got passed in total score by the Iroquois, so I'm going to have to either build up a couple more cities and jump ahead or start pwning some civnoobs. I feel like if I keep playing Ghandi with Darius's Persians, that the Iroquois are going to leap past me by a great margin, so keeping up with Hiawatha is going to force me to abandon peace, for sure.
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2013-03-16 03:10 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, now that I remember more about the city-states, they get ornery if you're not buds and you move through their land, but that slowly resets to zero (to 20 if you've unlocked the Patronage tree). But the damage done by trespassing isn't permanent.

Never, EVER take over the city states. If you conquer one of them, word spreads to all of them, and they effectively put you on a shitlist and make ally plans next to impossible. So if you're gonna do that, you better go for all-out war, and you better have every resource you could possibly need while you're waging your aggressive campaign.
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2013-03-16 03:17 am (UTC)
Also, I think my other gripe is the difficulty settings. Honestly, on easier levels, it is enough of a match when it's you vs 10-12 other civs. If I read correctly, on the higher difficulties, your civ keeps getting more happiness and other combat penalties, while the AI gets easy setting and more bonuses. It would have been way better if you were all punished equally, either by scarcer resources, happiness penalties, combat effectiveness, or all of the above.

One thing you can do is mod the game. Either via Steam or just a PC copy from Amazon, all the mods out there can help to make it a wholly different experience. It's a pretty active community, mod-wise.
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[User Picture]From: fsfwannabe
2013-03-17 03:23 am (UTC)
It's a typical workaround to limited ability to program AI, in every Civ iteration they've basically made it that as you went up in difficulty happiness was harder to come by (since it affects how fast you can build cities and to what size). On CivII and CivIII I got to where I could play the fourth level at an acceptable level, but I never pushed it too high in IV, mostly because I never really got into the nuances of the changes they made post-III (plus, I played the fuck out of II and III, I wouldn't say I was burnt out on Civ, but IV/V has been a shift from a very familiar formula).
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[User Picture]From: sauce1977
2013-03-17 03:36 am (UTC)
Yeah, the happiness factor becomes really tough to come by when you go up in difficulty. You have to time your cities and your moves just right or you'll end up in a tailspin.
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