A Swarming Alien? Shoot it in the face!

A little while ago Steam hired the team behind the original Alien Swarm which was an Unreal mod (not to be confused with Ben 10: Alien Swarm). In-between working on Steams other big titles L4D2/Portal2 it seems they managed to move the game onto the Source Engine and use the Steam platform, Plus they have released it for free.

Now there are a few things that instantly make this game appealing to me and it appears to many other gamers do too judging by the number of players it peaked on the Stats.

  • The first thing has to be the historical link to games like Alien Syndrome and Alien Breed, which spawned wave after wave of similar games across multiple platforms during my gaming lifetime.
  • Games of this genre,theme and style can make numerous film references which I can’t help but find funny
  • The Co-op is the element that ties the game together and bring it to life, the built-in Voice Communications means you can instantly liaise with your team mates quickly. Which when there are Xenos breathing down your neck it’s a good thing.

On the other-side of the coin there are a couple of niggles that I’ll mention, but certainly nothing that I would say should stopping you giving it a go.

  • At certain times you need to equip an object, dropping your current equipment. We’ve had this glitch and the dropped object isn’t retrievable.
  • I know it’s a free game there is only 1 campaign with 7 missions. I hoped there would have been 2 campaigns slightly smaller, as a complete run through of the campaign requires a fair chunk of time by all players.

I have more to write but it’s going to wait for a follow up post.

The steam store is http://store.steampowered.com/app/630/
Direct download if you have steam is steam://install/630

Free-to-play Laser Squad Nemesis?

If you are of a certain age the the name Laser Squad will be familiar to you, either vividly or a vague recollection stored in the back of your mind somewhere.

The history blurb. The name Laser Squad was that of a computer game that was released in the late 80’s developed by a Team lead by Julian Gollop at Target Games, who  was part of the Mythos Games team and delivered those Chaos, Rebel Star Raiders and of course the famous X-Com games.

After alot of difficulties around the IP of X-Com, the Gollop brothers decided to create the wonderful Laser Squad Nemesis. You can read more about the History here. I had the opportunity to meet Julian at one of the Player meet-ups and he’s a great laugh and I didn’t once blame him for the hours of my youth I lost playing his games.

The game as been in caretaker mode for some time now as the developers seek other interests and opportunities. The latest announcement on the forums by Julian is a rather sad one but shows that the potential to ensure the games future is still there.

Here is a small video I made a long time ago, but it still shows off the games unique features even if it is turn-based.

Originally spotted : http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/07/13/gollop-may-make-laser-squad-nemesis-free

Going Rogue Soundtrack

I was rather happy to see and announcement that there is a soundtrack purchasable for the upcoming City Of Heroes expansion Going Rogue. The music has been composed by Jason Graves who I feel as capture the features of the existing  game music, enhance and twisted it to reflect the new world that is fast approaching.

The track list is as follows:

  1. Welcome To Nova Praetoria
  2. Just Another Day In Utopia
  3. Run Resistance, Run
  4. Chasing The Dream
  5. Beyond The Horizon
  6. Shadow Of Doubt
  7. Building A Better Tomorrow
  8. Very Dark Places
  9. The Dark Side Of A Perfect World
  10. The Tempest
  11. Stepping Into The Void
  12. Ghost In The Machine
  13. The Hamidon Wars

As you can see the titles have some reflection of the new content and how it is going to feel, Well sound (music-wise), to us players.

If you are fan or just interested I’d head over to Amazon and sample the previews. And don’t worry the second song isn’t a Phil Collins cover.

Patchy at best

Hurrah its time for another ranty post. This week my chosen subject is MMO client patchers.

For those of you that don’t play MMOs, they tend to have continuous updates released for the game, which automatically patch your files to the latest version when you start-up the game client. At times it can be frustrating but if you regularly playing a game, patches are normally small.

But my main annoyance isn’t at the patches nor at the patchers, it’s more where within the games start-up sequence they sit.

Example 1

I recently tried to start playing Planetside again, (flocking with my old outfit), the only issue is that SOEs method of patching won’t allow you to update the game files without an active subscription (or free-play if they have one running). This means unless I subscribe I can’t get the latest version of the game.

Example 2

I received an email from CCP to re-activate my account for 5 days. Great stuff, I boot up the game, which announces a patch is needed and it downloads the files and my client is update.
All of this occurs with-out me even going near a login box and infact the 5 days hasn’t even been activated yet because I would prefer to use it when I have time available.

I can’t understand why anyone would employ such a old style system any more and indeed recent MMO titles have taken this on board and understand that players don’t want to sit staring at a loading bar for hours of their subscription, welcome-back or even free trail time.

Alright Sunshine! Whats the word on APB

Well unless you’ve been living on the moon, or perhaps you were ill, or just out of contact with the gaming scene in some way, you will have seen that RealTime Worlds Multi-player Cops and Robbers game All Points Bulletin (APB) launched at the end of June/start of July. I should mention that I took part in the beta testing but dropped out as I couldn’t make alot of the schedule play-times.

In the last week I’ve been loading in to lay down the law in San Paro, after working through the tutorial which was rather familiar and playing a few 1v1 missions I headed out in to the Action districts to play for real. The selection screen for the districts is rather good and indicates the populates levels in each area. Additionally if you have any friends online you can see their location, allowing you to jump into the same one as them. I spent a good few hours teaming up with DokChaos while we got to grips with the missions and later on the guys from Kiasa, kicking ass for TheDepartment.

Whats on offer

This game certainly brings some new ideas to the gaming table. To avoid me blabbering on about nothing for a whole post I’ll attempt to bullet point those features which have made the game fun and enjoyable for me:

  • Customization – the game has nice customization system that some may argue isn’t that detailed, but I will say it’s got enough settings for you to get the starting elements of an avatar setup. Put it this way it got more options that Warhammer Online, yet fewer than Champions Online.
  • Teams – Grouping is rather simple and you can generally find at least one other person to group with, which in this game is better than running around solo.
  • Higher Ranks There is a problem in many PvP centric games in that the person who has played longest is all powerful and will have the best gear etc. Now even though there benefits from being a higher level it can negated by calling in backup and thus it doesn’t have a negative impact on my enjoyment of the game.
  • Unlocks – The unlock-able costume/vehicles/weapons seem to come thick & fast, I not once felt like I was just grinding out levels, the gameplay does a great job of distracting you from XP watching.
  • Fast Paced – If you want it to be the game can be pretty much non-stop missions and action, but it’s nice to chill out and redesign your avatar in the social zone.

What annoys me

This is a rather new game and it has some rather big issues that I feel it will need to be resolved if the game is to remain as a shortcut on mydesktop:

  • Memory – the amount  recommended for the game is 4GB which pretty much rule out any one running Windows xp 32 bit, which still appears to be the most common OS around for gamers at the moment. I have 2GB and when the game is in full swing I’ve encountered the Low on Virtual memory message in Windows.
  • 64Bit – The other option that recommended is that for the OS to be 64bit, a step that I’m trying to avoid as I’m not sure how many of my games/apps support 64bit.
  • Loading Zones – the loading times aren’t great. I understand that there is a whole zone to load, but I’m currently playing the game on the lowest graphic settings, do i need to load in all those High-Res graphic files that I have no urge to view as i aim to reduce my crash numbers?

Wrap-Up

The overall feeling I get from this game is that it wants to create a kind of drop-in environment that matches you with a group and allows you get into the missions and action without delay. Currently this is never a possibility as the zone loading times are so boringly long and number of crashes I’ve had to deal with means i see alot of those loading screens. I think something simple like purchasing ammo and equipment could be a mundane task that a player could perform while the game loaded their world and character. Thoughts?

If the memory leaks are resolved and us “run if the mill gamers” without 4GB of ram can start to last a few hours in game without a crash (windowed mode helps to regain control of your PC without a hard reboot), the potential is there for this to keep me coming back time and time again.

I’ve not mentioned the payment model as I hope to give a little more detailed reporting around that area in the future.

One last thing to note, given the rather simple control systems I think  that this game will certainly be distended for the Console market in the near future, even if it’s a cut-down version (zones/options) to suite the console hardware this is certainly one to watch in the next 6 to 12 months.