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Month: April 2013

The Sims

I never got into the first Sims, I only half paid attention to it’s plethora of expansions or the sequel Sims 2 and it’s additions.  I had friends what played briefly and I never saw the attraction.

It wasn’t until my roommate was playing one day, the 3rd day in a semi seasonal binge, that I started paying attention.  I asked some questions and soon found myself playing my own copy of Sims 3.

I can tell you some things about Sims.  First… try it.  It’s cheap now and if you like Simulations you might find yourself telling stories sooner than you think.  But make no mistake, this is a Simulation.  You can attain a level of direct control but many of the facets are randomly generated from the game itself.

Second, get the expansions.  The core ones at least.  The Stuff Packs are just stuff, naturally.  The full expansions add content such as new careers, places to explore, venues to socialize.

Third, check out the forums or fan pages.  You can download a disgusting amount of additional content for your game for free.  Dresses, couches, house plans, makeup, etc.  I only briefly skimmed one page and saw more than I would ever probably use.  My roommate spends an hour or two there each month picking up new things for her collection.

As for the game.. You start with a single Sim during what we’ll call Character Creation.  You can make this sim tall or short, fat or skinny.  You pick traits like personality, favorite foods and life goals.  You can expand your sim to a full family adding children from toddler to young adult, a spouse.

Gameplay focuses around tasks like cleaning up around the house, watering plants.  A context sensitive menu appears on each thing you click on to offer you options.  More options open if you have certain skills.  I once had a sim who could fix the TV when it broke and managed to modify the Oven to be Self-Cleaning.  Of course, this didn’t mean jack when he tried to fix the teleporter after a rigorous workout and wound up electrocuting himself and died.

On the Sims in your immediate family are within the range of your control, a green gem called the plumbob hovering over their head to signify focus.  You can meet other sims, call them up for chats or invite them to parties.  If you manage to woo them into your family as a married partner then you get them and all their assets to command as you wish.  Similarly, if they leave your family you them and their possessions.

Sims have goals, dreams and desires, that they can sometimes complete on their own.  “Gaze at the Stars” is easy if you have a telescope and the sim will accommodate themselves at their earliest convenience.  In fact the games’ automation can make for an interesting ant-farm approach with you only having to perform a minimum of dialog choices.  Chief among the choices you’ll have to involve yourself in are purchases.  Sims go to work, they make dinner or order pizza, they’ll bath and clean but one thing you will have to do is buy them stuff.  Couches, bookcases, Computers, etc.  Sims will develop Wants about having a thing and you will have to involve yourself to buying that from the shopping interface.

That being said.. you might wind up spending a lot of time here.  This same interface lets you modify the layout of your house, add rooms and decorate.  A function that’s important as a house without a smoke detector is liable to kill a sim.  Add a clock and a picture, raising the decor and relaxation value of the room.  A sparse house isn’t very relaxing and your sim won’t want to spend time there.

This is a game where you can lose days playing and telling the stories to friends about your fake people.  The ridiculous dramas and exaggerated reactions.  I’ll leave you with my recommendation: Buy it, play it, see if you like it.  If you do, get the expansions and drop me an email.  I’ll link you to a website where you can get some mods i’m told “Make the game work.”  I never had problem with the base unmodified game but I hear the mods make the game loads better.

My first Sim was a guy, technically apt and aspired to the Engineering career.  He met his wife socially on the street and married her in short order.  Their daughter aspired to be amazingly famous from day 1 and spent all her time after school playing guitar on the steps of City Hall.  This went swell until Dad died one day and Daugher spent every waking moment in mourning for 3 days.  Get out of bed. Cry. Go Pee. Cry.  Take Shower. Cry.  Make Sandwich.  Cry.

It was barely over when mom died of old age and the process began anew..


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Questions? I can help!

If you have a question about anything and would like my opinion you’re welcome to email me:

Start your subject with “Query” and I’ll do my best to respond in a timely manner.

If you don’t follow these instructions I can’t make promises what will happen to your email.  I have ravenous attack filters what are likely to devour poorly tagged email.


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Monaco is out

And I think most of you should get it.  PC and XBox.  Fairly cheap, 15 bucks apiece, 45 if you’ve got three other friends who want to play.  I haven’t played yet though my mind is getting crushed by the idea of getting home and trying it out.

Brief reviews I’ve skimmed all say great things about it.  It’s got some kind of campaign that tells a story, amusing and interesting gameplay and the screenshots don’t do it justice.  We’ll talk about it later, once I’ve burned a couple of hours into it.

On a side note, i’m setting up an email point where you could ask me about anything and I can talk about it here.  I’ll do a whole post about it so it’s clear and easy to spot.

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Werewolf: Verona

I’m a geek of varied feather.  I play games, obviously, more often than I care admit sometimes.  Among my interests are Tabletop RPG’s.  Y’know.. the ones where you sit in a room and roll some plastic dice and drink Mt Dew til dawn rears it’s ugly head.

Friday nights are an open-mic night at my apartment.  Among the regular attendees one of us runs a game until we get bored or we need a break.  For a brief time it was a quiet TV interlude.  For the past few months it’s been Vampire in one capacity or another and very soon it’ll be Werewolf.

My roommate has engineered a diverse social structure for a fictional city set on the East Coast, one where all her games are based leading to a kind of familiarity you don’t often see in RPG’s.  You could talk to her for hours about the people in this city, what they’re up to and who pissed off whom.  Her and I often talk about npc’s in previous games and what we did or didn’t like about them.

Among her and my favorite was Alexi.  We’ll talk about characters later, I have so much space and so much time it’s bound to happen.

Lexicon for the Uninitiated:

Werewolf – Werewolf: The Forsaken (

Vampire – Vampire: The Requiem (

RPG – Role Playing Game

PC – Player Character (participant)

NPC – Non-Player Character (everyone you’re going to talk to, shoot at, talk about, bargain with or otherwise interact with all voiced and operated by the GM)

GM – Game Master (Also the Dungeon Master [DM], Moderator or Storyteller)

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I watched Looper over the most recent weekend.  I liked it.  I liked how it didn’t move at the speed I expected it to.  I liked how it was a movie about Time Travel even when they dance around the topic.

I can’t say much without spoiling the movie, of course.  I thought the acting was top notch.

We won’t put this in the same box as Primer as that movie is more of a thinking man’s movie and almost requires a chart to understand completely.  I certainly benefited from reviewing a timeline post-viewing.  Instead we’ll put this in with other movies that happen to be well-written dramas that happen to feature a weird thing that isn’t non-integral to the events in question.

When I find an example of another movie of this type, i’ll let you know.

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The Stars are Right: 4X games and I

Among my Winter Season I crossed many games.  Some of these inspired by my recent viewing of Star Trek: Voyager.  I played some games I’d played before and some new ones I’m about to talk about.  As a introduction I’ll go into the short and narrow of what a 4X game is.

4X stands for eXplore, eXploit, eXterminate and eXpand.  In short you shoot some dudes, take their territory, take their stuff and poke your nose where it usually doesn’t belong.  Some games do more and less with this, naturally.  Some games run an incredibly detailed technology tree, others a varied and detailed world map with many kinds of resources.  Most games of this genre take tens of hours to see to completion.  These are games of empires slugging it out in old wars, of resource managing and “Just One More Turn” mentality.

Space Empires was my first large-scale 4X strategy game.  And like any first love, will always hold a place in my heart.  Space Empires (Iterations I-V) set you as ruler of a stellar empire starting on a small handful of worlds.  Each planet rated in terms of atmosphere (for colonization) and three resource values, form the economic backbone of your empire. Research is generated by facilities on planets buying into selected categories.  Ship construction, paid for and maintained by economic output, is accomplished first by selecting a ship size and then dragging components onto the design.  Combat is largely automated, but you can take manual control if you wish to put your fine touch on space battles.  In terms of depth you’re able to build Carriers, Troop Transports and Stellar Minefields.  You can create planets from rubble, explode stars and construct Ring Worlds and Dyson Spheres.  The whole game plays like a board game, being turn based and each ship having a number of movement points.  Movement between systems occurs via connected warp points and no ship has what might be termed FTL travel.  Each empire in a game can be a custom mish-mash of traits and abilities including efficient engines or Psychic abilities (the Allegiance Converter being my personal favorite).

Sword of the Stars varies on the topic by summarizing planets a little more succinctly.  Systems are summarized to one planet, the only planet of theoretical value.  They’re habitability identified by a climate scale and a cost to colonize (the cheaper, the more native to your species).  Empires are among the several listed with no option to customize traits.  the thing that makes SoTS and it’s sequel SoTS2 unique is that each race has it’s own technology for interstellar travel.  Humans travel along connected warp lines, another race uses a drive that teleports them across the galaxy at a cost for in-combat maneuverability.  The token bug race use travel gates that take years to establish but allow instant travel from any one gate in the network to another.  The tech tree suffers from being brief, but SoTS paints itself into a corner being a shorter overall strategy game and less of an eon spanning traditional 4X game.  SoTS2 changed the system layout and added additional planets at each location representing a real system, but otherwise kept many of the previous elements.  Ship design between both SoTS games is accomplished by selecting mission and ship components for the body as well as what weapons are on the hardpoints.

Endless Space being the last of our turn based offerings brings a large-scale space opera feel to the game.  You can earn heroes to lead your colonies and fleets.  The tech tree seems short while incorporating a solid amount of depth.  Planets themselves categorized by A) Environment and B) Natural features or resources.  It is possible to have a volcanic planet your colonists hate while having them able to produce ample food.  Trust me, that doesn’t happen often in this game let alone any other.  Ship design is simplified by picking a hull and then adding components to it like filling a basket.  The heavier, better components taking more space. Of the things Endless Space does differently are the natural resources.  Berries, flowers, magic oils or industrial elements, etc.  They’re -everywhere- and it’s relatively rare to find a system that doesn’t have some kind of trait modifying it’s base values of Food, Industry, Dust (money) and Science.

Distant Worlds is the last game I’ll talk about today.  It deviates from the classic 4X design by being real-time.  It also delegates almost all it’s tasks to automation at first.  Your combat ships will defend transports, your construction ships will set up mining locations, colonies get planted, research gets managed, etc.  The game is divided between State and Civilian ships, the latter getting built automatically to handle the needs of the industrial backbone.  The game map is laid out like a sparse representation of our galaxy with your homeworld(s) located among nebulas, black holes and exploded stars.  Each star surrounded by planets, moons, asteroids and derelict fields or ships, some of those having resources your industries will harvest to fuel your ships or enable construction.  Occasionally advisers will offer suggestion on what to build next be it a defensive structure near a critical colony or additional exploration ships.  Alien lifeforms lurk around the planets and pirates inhabit stations hidden in clouds and systems simultaneously offering to help you with information or special projects at a price or raiding your supply centers and making a general nuisance of themselves.

I can’t tell you how many days i’ve wasted into the genre.  From Civilization 2 back in the early days of my interest all the way up to spending hours watching my ships flit back and forth in Distant Worlds in the recent weeks.  There’s a satisfying feeling when you watch a carefully organizing military campaign produce results.

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There and Back Again: The Winter Process

Following on the heels of my week of Star Trek Online revisited Guild Wars 2 for a few weeks.  All told, I spent more time talking to my father about GW2 than actually playing it.  A friend said it best.  The problem with Guild Wars 2 is that you’re always the same.  Same powers, same buttons, same equipment visiting some of the same areas.

That’s actually one of the things it does well.  They (ArenaNet) built a wondrous structure that means I can hang with friends new and old in places high and low without fear of overshadowing their efforts.  The downside is that no area feels different enough from another.  Bats, rats and Cave Trolls are always a threat.  Always.

A friend talked me into Mists of Pandaria.  I bought it, played it for a couple weeks.  I got my roommate playing again, for which I almost regret.  We finally turned off our EVE accounts, realizing that while it’s a great sandbox experience, we likely won’t go back anytime soon.  I like MoP, but my understanding of WoW changed considerably.  I view it less as an adventure game with endgame to achieve and more as a themepark experience to be had.  You pay your fee, you pick up your foam sword and go bop foam monsters on the head until you get tokens for the Cotton Candy vendor.  And then you do it all again.  Once I figured that out, I found I was able to objectively enjoy World of Warcraft even after recently having gotten as frustrated as I was.

A handful of clever phone games caught my attention.  Pixel People, Tiny Tower (again), Ridiculous Fishing and just recently Strategery (again).  All while I waited for SimCity to release which it did and I played and I moved on to watching Star Trek: Voyager.  This started a chain reaction culminating in playing Star Trek Online again.  Between one and the other I played Endless Space (Now fully released), Sword of the Stars 2 (Awww.. what did you do?) Distant Worlds (Yeah, just as chaotic as before) and a game called Stardrive (beta).  I dabbled in Civilization 5 for about an hour and now I’m back to Star Trek Online.

I’m of this opinion that if you stripped off the Star Trek, you’d have a great science fiction game.  I like how you aren’t just one character.  How you have a crew and team members who join you for missions, how you have officers who will fill roles for you without providing active abilities.  Case in point, my chief science officer can create a short-lived Gravity Well what truly messes with whomever it hits while my Duty Officer gives me a chance to spawn 3 more of those as the power winds down.  On top of that, I can send some of these officers on missions to earn me rewards.  I don’t just have a ship.  I have a represented crew.

BioShock Infinite hit store shelves and so far everything I hear is “This game is great”.  I’m giving it another week before I start looking for reviews.  Surely someone will have something negative to say, for context.

I’ve dabbled my hand at a few F2P action games recently.  I put some time into MWO which I really enjoy for the sheer nature of actually feeling like i’m lumbering around in 80 tons of steel and death.  Warframe is new and I haven’t given it much more than 30 minutes.  So far I can call it a Cooperative PvE 3rd-Person shooter.  I don’t think there’s pvp yet and what little time I spent with it I only had a broad idea of what was happening.  And by that, I did some shooting and aimed for what I thought was the head.  It’s a time-honored strategy that got me through many games.

A friend talked enough about Mass Effect 3 multiplayer that for 20 bucks I took the plunge.  Yeah, it’s fun.  In a nutshell you do a mission, complete some random minor objectives and shoot some dudes.  For your efforts and based on how well you did you earn credits you use to buy packs of random gear.  More credits, better gear.  But random.  Including alien race/class combos.  On one hand, I like this.  I could drop real money and get special points to buy those packs, but I can’t just buy the gun or class I want.  Limited smartly, I think.  Else the game would spike briefly as people dumped 50 bucks and bought what they thought was the best class and moved on.  I’ve played several hours.  Probably less than 10 and I can see where it would get tedious or old, but taken in moderation I’ll likely play well into Summer.

WildStar popped onto my radar recently.  While it’s still in beta there are a number of features that put this squarely on my “Wait and see list”.

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