Tag Archives: Gaming

Biting into the GUI center

We’ve all had that annoying moment when the way we’ve always done things changes. If you’re a Facebook user this is pretty much a de riguer experience. Even something as simple as pasting a link from your blog can change on a day to day basis: what screenshot does it find, can you replace it with a file from your drive, does the URL show or not?

I’ve got a guy a work  (actually several) who apply skins and themes to make their Windows 7 machines look like gray box Windows 2000 machines. Not XP, 2000. Another likes to take his text editor and put it in VI style (green text on a black background). These anachronistic choices aside, at least they have the option of keeping the things the way they have always known. For many things online, it just is the way it is and there’s nothing we can do about it.

I’m a browser switcher and my current favorite is Opera. It’s fast, it’s simple, and it lets me make my own start-page. But because programmers always have to have something to do, it has become slower over time because of all the new features I’ll never use and don’t want, the location of bookmarks has changed several times in the last year, and the nice big start page boxes have been shrunk to mimic Chrome. The reason I switched to Opera is that Chrome had shrunk its link boxes to a tiny fraction of page real-estate in favor of a large search area, and now Opera has matched them. It’s gotten a little better since the initial release of version 29.0. Opera fixed a text overlay so it is under the box and not over it, making up for some of the clipping and size problems, but it’s still not what I was used to and had grown to like.

If I didn’t like the change my options were to go back to a previous version (not the easiest or most secure procedure), switch to another browser that had features I liked from Opera and nothing else, live with the problem, or write my own browser. I’m increasingly becoming convinced this last option is the best one. I can use Chrome’s rendering engine and just slap the simplest possible GUI on top. Ah, if only.

Other sites with unwelcome “better” changes:

  • The Internet Archive – Admittedly its old interface looked like something out of the 90’s, but the new look makes it harder to find what you need and takes up more space on screen. Not a good set of characteristics for the internet’s library. You can go back to the old interface, but only after sitting through the new one and who knows how long that’ll be an option.
  • Indie Royale – N0t every gaming site needs to have a black background. You were doing your own thing with tan and hand-drawn icons. The purchase bundles interface has never been right either.
  • Netflix – Took an easy to organize list and made it a jumble of icons. More visually appealing, but annoying for those of us OCD people. Why can’t we sort what we want to watch?

I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this as well, all of us programmer’s are. Sometimes we remove a feature to solve a problem with a new architecture. Sometimes we try to simplify to make it easier to find what we think you’ll need. Or we add something new because we think it is really cool. We talk to customers and we try to make the best engineering decisions. But the internet, and internet software is different. You expect changes with new OS’s or new versions of purchased software, but browser versions have largely shifted into the background, and websites are constantly changing. And it can be annoying to feel like you have no say when something you like doing one way, suddenly has to be done another.

What site or software change has annoyed you in the past?

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AGFV: Calling All Adventurers

The first games I ever played were adventure games, long before shooters, RPGs, RTSs or other three letter abbreviations held my interest. As a PC gamer adventure games were a staple, one that never quite saw the same penetration on consoles. Adventure games are all about story, about exploring your environment and trying to solve puzzles. And most are also about humor. The best games in the genre are the ones where you’re clicking to hear every hilarious answer to a question, or seeing what something smells like. By the mid 90s the adventure genre was declining in popularity, with the advent of more sophisticated shooters and tactical games, but has been experiencing a kind of Renaissance in the last few years. For today’s edition of “A Game Forever Voyaging”, I thought it would be fun to share five classic and five neo-classic adventure games (one that just came out this week!).

The Classics

1) The Secret Of Monkey Island – Grab a mug full of grog (or one from the machine), there’s evil pirates to fight (or join). With countless sequels and remakes this is probably one of the best known LucasArts properties that isn’t Star Wars. LucasArts adventure games are friendly, you’ll never get stuck where you have to restore from a save, and you’ll never die. You just might wander around aimlessly for a while, but there are plenty of clever quips and environments to keep you interested along the way. Monkey Island follows the journey of Guybrush Threepwood as he seeks to become a pirate, and then rescue his future love from the clutches of the dread (and dead) pirate LeChuck. Being a pirate is more about attitude than competence (you duel with insults just as well as swords), you’ll get souvenir t-shirts to commemorate some of your early quests, and you’ll get shot out a cannon with less than ideal headgear (and this is just the first chapter).

Secret Of Monkey Island

2) Space Quest Series (Space Quest V) – The Sierra series of “Quest” games are decidedly less friendly than LucasArts but no less entertaining.

The Space Quest Series follows the adventures of janitor turned space jockey Roger Wilco as he attempts to save the universe from the evil Sludge Vohaul, or just keep the decks clean. All of the Space Quest games heavily parody the sci fi genre, from 2001 to Star Wars to Alien and Star Trek. My personal favorite of the series is Space Quest V, second of the VGA variety of the games and the last before switching to a more cartoonish look (as Sierra did with Leisure Suit Larry and King’s Quest as well). Space Quest V is straight out of Star Trek, down to your chief engineer being insulted when is ship is called a garbage scow (except it is).

Space Quest V

3) Nord And Bert Couldn’t Make Head Nor Tail Of It – It’s virtually impossible to choose the best Infocom title, so I thought I’d choose one of the weirdest. Nord and Bert isn’t an adventure game in the classic sense. You travel around to various areas and have to solve puzzles to gain a password that will give you access to the final area. Solving puzzles in each area requires a clever use of wordplay, whether its turning a Brat Child into a Brat sausage, or using spoonerisms thray plough, you’ll be racking your brain for hours to think of a clever way to escape.

Nord and Bert

4) Star Trek: Judgment Rites – The Second in Interplay’s episodic Star Trek series, this is one of the last games to feature the full original cast in their classic roles from the Original series. Arranged in eight separate but interconnected episodes, Judgment Rites takes you to strange new worlds, or traps you in dangerous nebulas, with classic Star Trek sets, banter and puzzles. Between this game and it’s predecessor (25th Anniversary)  it’s like getting 15 new episodes of the show. A personal episode favorite of mine is the third segment of the game which sees the return of Trelane (The Squire Of Gothos) as a world war I flying ace.

Judgment Rites

5) Tass Times In Tone Town – One of Interplay’s earliest if not finest explorations into the adventure game genre was this weird contribution from the 80s. You find yourself in the cabin of your “Gramps”, an inventor who has mysteriously disappeared and soon find your self in Tone Town, trying to find your “Gramps” and escape while dodging the evil machinations of the raccoon snake Snarl. I played the old EGA (or maybe even CGA) version if this games with no colors but pink, blue, white and black, which is the perfect way to absorb this classic of 80s New Wave culture. Have your computer speakers turned up for the jazzy beats! It’s really Tass!

Tass Times

The Neo-Classics

1) Sam And Max Seasons – The Telltale Games revival of the classic LucasArts original is faithful to it’s source material, while benefiting from a new episodic way of distribution. Follow Sam (a 6 foot dog private detective with a nose for justice) and Max (a weird rabbity thingy) as you battle aliens, soda jerks, and Abe Lincoln (all while grooving to a great jazz soundtrack)! This is definitely and stop and smell the roses game for all of the hilarious dialog and weird worlds. Available for the PC, Wii, iPad and more, you should really play this game if none of the others. Some of the episodes are free including “Abe Lincoln Must Die” the 4th episode of Season 1.

Sam And Max

2. The Blackwell Bundle – From Wadjet Games comes the adventures of a would-be writer and journalist who discovers after burying her aunt, that her family legacy is a ghost named Joey. The two if you work together to help other ghosts pass on and solve mysteries in the real world. The music is a key feature in these throwback games, as well as clever and self-deprecating characters. The first few adventures are short but well worth your time. The second game is a flashback to your aunt, giving an even deeper sense of the family legacy, and eventual descent into madness that is your relationship with Joey. What’re you waiting for “Bright Eyes”.

3. Syberia 1+2 – This two part story from Benoit Sokol takes you to a weird city of auto-mata to the deepest reaches of Syberia in search of an eccentric inventor and woolly mammoths. Though a little older now, this title is still a staple of the genre, with lush environments, strange contraptions and a deep mystery that will keep you coming back for more.

Syberia

4. Resonance – The most recent offering from Wadjet Games takes you on a journey through the eyes of four people, whose lives intersect to investigate the strange death of a scientist and the experiment could mean the end of us all. This game came out Tuesday and has been one I’ve been waiting for with eager anticipation. The first few minutes of intro show you the disaster that is to come, and then throws you 60 hours into the past, into the lives of these 4 people, whose fates are intwined. Gameplay is a little unique. You have short term and long term memory which is necessary in talking to characters about certain subjects, and for making connections in your head. And the four character’s paths are rich and entertaining. What started as an attempt to emulate and revive the Adventure genre with “The Blackwell Legacy” has matured into a full-fledged adventure.

5. Fahrenheit – Most of the titles in this post have been for all ages, but Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy) is decidedly not. A mature thriller in which you watch helplessly as you are possessed by an unknown force to commit murder, then are left to pick up the pieces and find what happens. In this game you play both as the murderer, and the police chasing him, having to get close to truth without meeting up too quickly. The music and opening scenes are chilling. In order to complete some actions of the game you have to complete certain motions (sort of like playing bop-it) which can be frustrating at times, but the story telling more than makes up for any deficiency. Not for the faint of heart, but a tale worth experiencing nonetheless.

Fahrenheit

Any games you think I missed, or old titles you’d like to see? Leave ’em in the comments!

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Bonus Friday Post (Social Writing, Fallout, Finally Organized)

Enjoying a nice day off where I can post to you from the comfort of my home office. Couple of things to highlight:

Baby You Just Got Slapped

Brian kept us going with an experiment gone wrong and possible future slaps, but there’s still time to make your contribution to the story! All you lurkers out there I’m looking at you (writers or otherwise)! I’ll keep the post open until 4/13/12. We’re already headed in an interesting direction, let’s see where it will go!

The End Of The World

For those of you gamers who haven’t heard, GOG is giving Fallout away for free for the next 24 hours or so. For those of you who didn’t know it yet, I’m a bit of a fan of DRM free and gaming in general (though I promise I don’t love nuclear annihilation even if I write about it).

New Category Cloud

As part of the things you learn about blogging only after you’ve been doing it for a while, I’ve gone back and recategorized all posts on the site. It should now be easier than ever to find what you’re looking for, whether it’s the latest publishing news, short stories, faith or simple randomness. For those of you new to the site I highly encourage you to check it out. And as always I’ve updated the Best Of and You Might Have Missed sections.

Have a wonderful and blessed day.

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