20 Questions

My favorite 20 Questions experience was when my friend Dave was answering. He had picked some sort of video game protagonist. We almost had it, with one question left and then a final guess. We narrowed it down to most likely either Duke Nukem or Mario (I don’t remember how…), although we weren’t positive we hadn’t missed some obscure character.

So, the question we decided to ask to choose between the two was “If you replaced the character with a flesh-eating alien, would it affect the plot?” Our reasoning was that Mario was a plumber in love with a human princess with a human brother, whereas Duke Nukem was just a device to shoot aliens. We got it right — it was Duke Nukem. Although the question is admittedly vague enough to warrant argument over exactly how crucial someone is to a plot, we all got a kick out of it.

A runner up favorite is “If you poke it, will your finger then have liquid on it?”

Kingdom of Loathing

If I died tomorrow having never told anyone how awesome Kingdom of Loathing is, it would be a total dick move.

I’ve been playing it for about a week, after Swifty showed it to me. It’s a simple online RPG in which you are allotted a certain amount of adventures every real-life day. You can spend those adventures in the game to go on quests, craft cocktails of incredible splendor, or blow wads of meat, the common currency, in the casino.

What makes the game for me is the great sense of humor. For example, a monster scientist will attack you and you may see He tries to blind you with science, but you dodge like poetry in motion. There will be all sorts of references to NetHack and D&D mixed in with puns and limericks.

In exchange for showing off its own creativity, the game asks you to lay some on the table. There will be puzzles and quests for which you may be told you need a certain characteristic, like not minding a very bad smell. It is up to you to figure out what item you need and how to craft it. Laid on top of all that are various missions and tasks that give a sastifying Progress Quest feel.

It’s free and addictive. What could go wrong?

Mega Man Legends 2

My flatmate Dave, the dear, bought me Mega Man Legends 2. This is not so important for my own edification, of course, since I have an S Rank. It is, however, an opportunity for all my close friends and passers-by to attempt to aquire an S Rank while I mockingly deride them over their shoulder.

Or, more likely, for them to earn one with ease as all my lavishly built up expectations crumble in tears.

Point is, I have an open invitation to my friends to play through Mega Man Legends 2 either at their own leisure or with me. I don’t have a Playstation, however, so it will be strictly BYOP.

Privateer Remake

In my formative years, I possessed a great fondness for Wing Commander: Privateer. For those unfamiliar, it uses the usual Wing Commander engine but throws out the linear plot typical of the series. You can be a merchant, pirate, or… Well, just a merchant or a pirate, I guess.

Point is, the game is awesome. Thanks to Slashdot, I discovered that a reimplementation of the game has been released. It seems to use all the original art, but with a more modern engine underneath. The legal status of that is not clear to me, but I presume this goes beyond fair use. I’ve played it and it’s very, very faithful to the original.

There are versions for Windows, Linux, and Mac. If you’re looking for a good waste of time, try it out.

We’re Coming For Ya

My friends and I would like to go swimming occasionally at the university pools. We’re casual swimmers and did it mostly for the excercise. Being gamer addicts, we couldn’t help inventing various games to play with the lanes and balls we brought with us. We were considering penning L balls, M lanes, N people, a book of pool games indexed by resources in terms of balls, open lanes, and people present.

One of our favorites was a game called We’re Coming For Ya for five people, two lanes, and one ball. You will need a small ball, about the size and consistency of a racquetball. There are two rotating teams of three and two people. The team of two (the defense) guards one end of the lanes. The team of three (the offense) starts halfway down the lanes.

Only the offense can score in a round. Their goal is to touch the guarded end wall with the ball. If the ball is ever free floating or is held by someone whose head is underwater, the offense loses that round. Players are not allowed to hold onto the sides of the lane. The offense announces the start of a round by shouting, We’re coming for ya!

Gameplay ends up being a sort of water American football. The defense tries to viciously dunk the offensive line, trying to bury the person who is holding the ball. It is not always clear who has the ball, since it can be held underwater. In fact, it is to the offensive team’s advantage to obscure the location of the ball by holding and passing it underwater. If a thrown pass is missed, the offense loses the round, because the ball will be free floating.

At the end of a round, teams rotate. The person who actually scored the point for the offense stays on the offense and the other four people change teams. If the defense won, the person who is directly responsible for dropping the ball is on defense along with one of their teammates chosen randomly (we usually played RPS). Anyone on the offensive team when they score gets a point, and at the end of the game, the individual who earned the most points wins the coveted MVP award.

Blast from the Past

I randomly stumbled upon PlanetQuake the other day, and it reminded me of an old project of mine. Back in 1999, while in high school, I wrote a mod for Quake II called RPS. It was the shit, let me tell you. Or, I could let my 16-year-old self tell you.

When I started that project, being offered hosting on PlanetQuake was like going pro; I felt on top of the world. I went by the tongue-in-cheek handle Stalker and waxed awesome about a never-to-be-completed bot AI. Being a kid was great. The game never caught on, though (I was ahead of my time).

Around that same time, I was a member of a mildly successful clan for Action Quake2 called CJW. I later formed a short-lived, concurrent clan specializing in throwing knives called KGB. The Quake II era was kind to me.

I Have An S Rank

One of the great disappointments of my life is the relative obscurity of Mega Man Legends 2. You see, in this game, you can aquire various badges, or ranks, that grant access to dungeons in the game. These dungeons generally contain special items or weapons as a reward.

The highest rank is the lofty S Rank. My brother Steve and I had rented MML2 because we had nothing better to do and our standards are apparently lower than the rest of the planet’s. Being the anal gamers we are, we demanded nothing less than full completion of the game. So, we attempted the test for the S Rank.

This test is mother-fucking hard. This test requires you to beat several rooms full of enemies within a certain amount of time, an amount of time so limited that the game developers must have chosen it by having whatever diety was hanging around Capcom’s campus that day run through it and taking its best time. You have to perform flawlessly, discover ways to make every hit count twice, and carefully gauge every jump so as not to waste time in the air.

My memory of the night is hazy, but I think we spent about four hours running through these three or four rooms over and over again, discovering ways to be slightly more optimal each time. Our cousin Tony was watching us idly for a little while before falling asleep in his chair.

Well, I finally beat it and in an anticlimactic ceremony, was given the vaunted S Rank. After shouting in celebration and basking in the glow of fresh victory, we set out to find newly-opened dungeons to conquer and spoil.

We found only one or two. The only item I remember getting was a weapon that was strictly worse than weapons we already had. We were devastated and questioned aloud the quality of Mega Man’s ancestry.

In an attempt to make that experience meaningful, I have since searched for others who have played MML2, others that might appreciate my accomplishment. The game itself sure as hell didn’t. Due to its dismal sales, however, I have met with little success. If only Capcom had made the game a little better, marketed it a little harder, my life would have been slightly less wasted.

What About Triple Jumping?

One game mechanic that has always intrigued me is double jumping. It’s such a convenient device, giving players more control over their jumping in the absence of pressure buttons. It’s also often used as a reward, granted only later in the game to control where the player can go.

But double jumping is clearly ridiculous; the physical analog just doesn’t exist. I imagine it was first explained by giving the player a device like a jet pack or just inspired by Game Genie codes that allowed infinite jumping. Once it was invented, double jumping just took off though. It was everywhere.

I’m curious what game first featured the double jump, first made that historic leap of logic. I don’t remember seeing it in an NES game; I’ll wager it appeared around the time of the SNES or early computer games. Does anyone know this piece of gaming lore?

The Diplomatic Now Foundation

So the Long Now Foundation loves eras, tens of thousands of years, and such. I propose another method by which they can encourage people to think in grand terms: a new unit of time.

The Diplomacy would be defined as the mean time it takes to finish one game of Diplomacy. From my experience, this would be roughly 10 hours, after which players tend to leave to get drunk or find out what daylight looks like. Of course, that would be the English, or standard, Diplomacy.

The metric Diplomacy would be roughly infinity, because games are never finished. Ever. They just fade away.

New Axis & Allies

So, Dave, Ben, Eric, Matt, and I played the new Axis & Allies from Avalon Hill. It was very good; I liked the addition of artillery. However, we discovered a seemingly major flaw: a first turn strategy allowing Germany to take over the UK isle.

  1. Germany puts all their money (40 IPCs) into researching Long-Range Aircraft. Using the eight dice gives them a 76% chance of discovering the technology.
  2. Germany attacks the UK with all their aircraft (six fighters and one bomber) and their transport with a tank and infantry.
  3. Assuming nothing crazy happens with the antiaircraft gun, Germany has a very good chance of winning the fight. Each time we’ve done it, Germany has lost all their aircraft, but kept a tank to conquer the island.
  4. Germany optionally moves the submarine in sea location 8 to sea location 9, blocking an attempt by the US to help refortify the UK.

By taking the UK player’s capital on the first turn, you get all their money (30 IPCs) and prevent them from building anything the first round. They will likely liberate the island with their tank from Eastern Canada and bombardment from the battleships they have in the area, but they still can’t produce anything that turn. If the US’s fleet has been blocked by a German submarine, then it’s possible Germany could try and take the island again the next turn.

That 30-IPC boost plus the eight from the island proper and the various spoils on that first turn will give Germany roughly 80 IPCs to spend on their next turn. If Germany buys 16 tanks (80 IPCs and conviently the maximum number of units Germany can buy with their starting industrial complexes) on that second turn, by the third turn, they can storm Russia, who will hardly be prepared for it. Germany will have slowed down the UK enough that they will not build a complex in India and will be scrambling just to get back to where they were on the first turn.

This plan obviously has risks for the Germany player, but not too many. Again, the chance of getting the technology is 76% and the battle itself is pretty favorable. If the Germany player merely invested two dice in the technology, it would be a much safer bet. If he/she didn’t get it, the plan could be abandoned, and there would still be 30 IPCs to spend on equipment. If Germany’s researchers did discover the technology on such a shoe-string budget, Germany could put even more pressure on Russia.

It seems like a gaping flaw in the game to allow such a ridiculous series of events that are so crippling to the UK player. The only saving grace is that Russia goes before Germany. Russia can try to attack a territory that holds one of Germany’s planes, but most of those options don’t make sense outside the context of preventing the UK attack. Russia can also move a fighter over to the UK for defense. This would help UK’s odds a lot, but I’m not sure who the battle favors at that point. Even so, Russia would be going out of their way to prevent a hypothetical attack. Germany can always not attack if the fighter moves or they lose one of their own fighters. Russia is forced to stick its neck out rather than Germany.

So, besides that silly strategy, things seem pretty well balanced. I’m interested in what other people think and if anyone knows of a good way to stop Germany from succeeding with the above attack.