Top 10 Games of 2010 that I Haven’t Played

December 27th, 2010

It’s the end of the year, and that means loads and loads of top 10 lists of various kinds. Top 10 indie games of 2010, top 10 RPG games, top 10 porn movies, etc etc. I decided to go for something completely different: I’m going to list the best games of the year that I haven’t played…and why.

Let’s get on with it! Here’s a list starting from the game I’m most likely to play (but probably will not), to the ones I definitely will not pop into a console or PC.

10 – Minecraft

This weird little indie title has conquered the world. Everyone loves this one-man project that has sold millions and millions, and people keep making movies, build complete working ALUs (and CPUs) and generally muck around in this free-form 3D adventure game that doesn’t contain a storyline at all – instead it relies on emergent gameplay and the users’ imagination to create user-generated narratives.

Personally, I can’t be arsed with it. Yeah yeah, I get the idea: it’s fun to build with LEGOs, and this is essentially LEGO but with monsters, collecting things and exploration mixed in a gigantic bowl. The possibilities are endless. There’s countless hours of fun in this game. And that’s the problem for me. I don’t want countless hours of fun – I want a nice and entertaining game that won’t take too much time off my hands. And I definitely don’t want to learn how to play, or spend time finding out what exactly I want to do with all the possibilities in the game.

However, since it’s PC based and seems to be fairly easy to get into I still might, just might, try it sometime. I highly doubt it, though.

9 – Limbo

Limbo intrigues me. Who wouldn’t like an artsy black-and-white game about a little boy that gets stabbed to death and ripped in pieces over and over again? To me it sounds very much like the concept of experiencing the same day over and over again, until you figure out what you need to do to break the curse. Always liked stories like that. They contain a lot of subtext about guilt and punishment, as well as atonement.

However, from what I can see in the screenshots this game looks like it requires a lot of dexterity. I’m getting to old for that stuff – I’m not going to play a game that requires split second timing while solving puzzles and avoiding giant spiders and whatnot.

Not to mention that reviewers seem obsessed with that giant spider. As an arachnophobic, this game seems like a horror game to me. And not in a good way.

8 – Starcraft II

I was pretty excited about Starcraft II a while ago. I loved the first one; I liked the story and the general polish of the game, and the thought of a sequel made me smile. But once the sequel came out I found myself…disinterested. It’s like I know what it’s going to be like without having to play it.

I’ve loved RTS games, from Dune II to Warcraft to Total Alliance, Command and Conquer, World in Conflict, and many many others. But maybe it’s all come to an end, because I simply don’t feel like building another base, clicking and selecting a bunch of troops, and marching them off to their mostly-certain doom. Been there, done that.

I like strategy games, but turn-based ones are much more appealing to me. That’s why you don’t see Civilization 5 or King’s Bounty: Crossroads in this list of games I haven’t played.

7 – Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect was a nice game. Good dialogue, cute quests, nice gameplay. I thought I’d be playing ME2 as soon as it came out. But hell no, they’ve gone for a real-time approach in the battles. “We’re trying to reach a broader range of customers”, “we’re trying to appeal to both RPG fans and shooter fans”, “today’s games require a more intense experience” – whatever, I’m not playing it.

There’s simply no way that I will spend time on a game that requires motor skills. I even ditched Fallout 3 because it was too shooter-like for me. If I’m going to invest time in a game I demand that it rewards me with fun most of the time – not hard work and frustration. I guess I could go for a game that had auto-aiming and auto-hiding. A game in which your character’s attributes determine whether you hit or not, and whether or not you’re getting hit. And that would include not being able to aim better than your character – otherwise the difficulty would automatically be upped in order to compensate for most players’ agility.

But Mass Effect 2 is not that game.

6 – Red Dead Redemption

Grand Theft Auto was pretty fun. You rode around this 2D city, stole cars, avoided the cops and acted as a glorified errand boy. Then something happened… I think there was a GTA3, and some sequels to that one, and then there’s this cowboy game that people refer to GTA with horses. Oh right, Red Dead Redemption. As you can tell I’m not one of Rockstar’s biggest fans.

Cowboy themes are cool but I don’t care much for sandbox games these days. It’s too much freedom for my taste. I’m certain that the story is excellent in RDR but I have a suspicion that it’d be like wading through frustrating and boring bits just to see bits and pieces of excellent dialogue. If I have the choice I’d much rather watch some Clint Eastwood flick.

5 – Super Meat Boy

I know surprisingly little about this game, except that the protagonist is a dude with no skin, he is fairly pissed (maybe because of aforementioned lack of skin?) and that it’s a platform puzzler. I used to love platform games. I got 100 exits on Super Mario World, yo. But maybe the honeymoon’s over and the magic’s gone.

This game interests me in the same way Braid did. It’s a game I’d like to play and would like to like. But I tried Braid and I couldn’t feel gripped by it. I have the feeling that it’d be the same thing with this game, so to save myself time and effort I simply won’t try it.

Beside that, it’s been way too hyped. “Ooh, look at this quirky little indie title! It’s a masterpiece!” Bah, I don’t believe in masterpieces. There are good games, there are bad games, but anything that people try to sugar coat too much is bound to taste like crap when you get through the sugary outer shell.

4 – Rock Band 3

I’m not going to write a long piece about the qualities of this particular game. Instead I’ll just put it in four simple words: music games are passé.

Don’t get me wrong! They’re still awesome at parties and it’s still fun to mash buttons on plastic guitars. I just wouldn’t play it by myself anymore. And if I’m not going to play it except at rare occasions it’s not really worth buying, is it?

The songs are pretty nifty though. Everything from Dio and The Doors to Metric. Good setlist.

3 – Halo: Reach

Cinematic space opera shooter. A lovely combination of words. I think they’re relatively applicable to Halo: Reach. Unfortunately there’s one word in there that I don’t like. Can you guess which one?

Indeed, shooter.

It’s not that I don’t like action games. I do like them! And I do like the satisfied feeling of shooting down an enemy or watching a big explosion. The problem is just that they’re suited for the next generation. Sure, there are people in their 30s playing these games, but those people have been playing them continuously for years and years. I was pretty sucky at Quake 2 but I did play it online a bit. I played Unreal, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Half-Life 2 and many other games. But they’re all just too hard for me – I flail around like an epileptic with my mouse and send off rounds into everything but the enemies I’m supposed to hit.

I’m sure that I can train my skills if I put my mind to it. But why would I want to? I play games to relax and have fun.

2 – Call of Duty: Black Ops

Come on, after writing about Halo, do I really have to write anything at all here? Yes, come to think of it, I think I do. I can mention something about run-and-gun, cover-based gameplay. It’s natural to let shooters evolve into cover-based games, requiring you to add some strategy and planning into your gunning. The problem with that is that developers seem to assume a very high entry level skill.

Let me make an analogy with driving a car. I never got a driver’s license when I was young; no money, no one to drive with. Later on I was simply too lazy and didn’t see a need for it. Now, at the ripe age of 32, I’ve finally gotten my license…and I’m noticing an interesting thing: people who’ve been driving for years have no understanding about the problems a new driver have.

Driving a car requires a lot of coordination, decisions to make, and things to notice in the surroundings. I’ve had my license for some weeks but I still get…confused…if there are too many things happening all at once. Especially if I’m upset or irritated too. It’s pretty much like that with action games: people who’re used to the concepts of running, aiming and looking for cover all at once see all these things as natural, but for me it’s like trying to juggle while tying my shoelaces with my toes. Bloody hard, is what it is.

So, no thanks to Call of Duty. I have enough work, learning to become a better driver.

1 – World of Warcraft: Cataclysm

I tried WoW for a couple of days because my ex had a trial account and nagged me into giving it a shot. I created a shaman, killed innocent creatures, got killed a few times, met some annoying people and got my character up to level 10. That’s when I thought things would start for real.

And that’s also when my ex told me that I need to start playing with other people to get anywhere in the game.

I like cooperative gaming as much as the next person. I had a lot of fun in Gears of War (even though I suck), and I like the thought of grouping up to kill large horrible monsters. But WoW seems way too planned. I like the Diablo 2 multiplayer: get online, check for an open game, and go mess up Diablo’s rear end. Quick, simple, no socializing. In WoW people seem to want to talk about things and join guilds and plan raids and….snore.

Wake me  up when Diablo 3 gets here.

Extra Extra! Productivity in Sweden Plummets

December 15th, 2010

Yesterday I posted a link to Damn You, Auto Correct on Facebook, and it was received by quite a few comments on how that afternoon suddenly became less devoted to work, and more devoted to giggling at hilarious auto corrections.

Here are a few examples:

I love that site!

Spandex Force Online Accounts

November 18th, 2010

One of the new features I’m adding to Spandex Force: Superhero U compared to the original game is online accounts. Now, now, don’t be alarmed! I’m not aiming for a draconial Ubisoft-like “you’ve got to be online to play my game” approach. Instead, I’m doing this to leverage new technology and new platforms.

The first three platforms that I’m targeting are:

  • Windows – standalone 800×600 resolution application
  • Mac – standalone 800×600 resolution application
  • Web – 640×480 Flash version

In order for the web version to really make sense, the next logical step is to have centralized accounts. That way you can start playing the game on the web version and then download a standalone application and continue right where you left off. Or for that matter, you can play the standalone version at home and then use the web version when you’re out and about. Or at work, even though I wouldn’t expect anyone to play games at work of course! Tsk tsk.

I’ve also been eyeing iPhone and Android, since that would be completely awesome. Do some leveling up while you’re commuting, and then move on with the storyline on another platform when you have more time – or something like that.

In order to support these online accounts I’ve created a minimal API. I had a look at stuff like OpenID as well, but that’s just complicating things in absurdum. Instead I went for the simplest method I could think of that’s still reasonably secure: use your e-mail address and a password to log in.

Now for some technical mumbo-jumbo.

My API defines the following actions:

  • Seed (input: e-mail) – Generate a new seed value for this e-mail address (i.e. this user)
  • Login (input: e-mail, hash) – Authenticate the user
  • Password (input: e-mail, scrambled password, hash) – Set the password for the user and login
  • Heroes (input: e-mail, hash) – Get a list of this user’s heroes
  • Save (input: e-mail, hash, revision, hero data) – Save a hero
  • Load (input: e-mail, hash, hero name) – Load a hero
  • Delete (input: e-mail, hash, hero name) – Delete a hero

So… What happens when a new user creates an account?

  1. Enter e-mail and password
  2. Call “seed” and get a new seed value. This causes the server to generate a random number and connect it with this e-mail address in the database
  3. Combine the seed and the scrambled (MD5-hashed) password, and use MD5 to generate a hash
  4. Call “login” with the hash
  5. The server notes that there’s no password set for this user, so it requests a password
  6. Call “password” with the e-mail, the hash and the scrambled password. This is the only time the password is communicated from the client to the server – and even then it only sends a scrambled password. I.e., the clear text password will never be stored anywhere
  7. The server authenticates the hash and logs in the user

Of course, after this the normal login procedure skips 5 and 6.

So, essentially: I’m trying my best to protect the user’s password, and I’m adding a server-defined seed to make sure that the server always has control over the login procedure. This ought to give decent security combined with an API that works from any client and is as simple as possible. The only thing needed is an e-mail and password.

The seed could be rationalized away, and only the hashed password could be used instead. But I’d prefer to not send that over the ‘net more times than are absolutely necessary – which is exactly once after you’ve created your account.

The only downside to this API is that any client can create a new account… Essentially, this opens up for DoS attacks that create thousands of new “dummy” accounts, filling up my database. That’s why I have timestamps and the possibility to prune the database from empty/unused accounts regularly. Then again, if this does become a problem I can always require a valid e-mail address before an account is activated. See, that’s why it’s clever to use the e-mail as the username.

Have I missed something essential?

Gamex 2010 Stockholm

November 13th, 2010

Last weekend I attended Gamex in Stockholm. This was the first time in 14 years that I’ve been to a gaming event, if you’re not counting a LAN party 10-11 years ago. It was surprisingly fun even though I did expect more. More what? More of everything!

The place wasn’t too crowded; full of gamers and kids mostly. The main topics seemed to be Call of Duty: Black Ops, Kinect, game development educations, and various LAN gaming areas. Not terribly exciting but combined it made for an interesting experience well worth a visit during Saturday and Sunday.

I’m a bit jealous at all the game dev educations these days. Kids have it too easy! They get everything served in silver platters – myself, I had to get a C128 (since it has a simple built-in assembler) and learn the hard way how to construct simple C64 games in assembly. Bah bah, grumble grumble. But on the other hand it seems like many of the game dev educations are quite short and focused on giving students some basic help in producing code/art…but not a stable foundation in Computer Science or similar “real” topics. So I might be better off this way anyway.

One of the high points for me was seeing Diablo III. I have a slight tingling sensation in my nether regions after watching the gameplay video. It felt extremely familiar at once – and yet so strangely new. I can’t wait!

Another interesting thing was Kinect. Aside from the pet-the-cat game (whatever it’s called) I didn’t see anything worthwhile, but the pet-the-cat game completely fascinated me. I loved the idea of taking care of cute pets and petting them using the motion control. Not enough for me to buy an Xbox360 right now, but…maybe later.

Little Big Planet 2 was also fun to watch, but not very impressive. The same with Donkey Kong Country Wii, and various other games. However, I tried Quantum Theory which was…strangely appealing, despite being a Gears of War clone. I don’t like action games but it was pretty cool! Street Fighter IV was also very good indeed. I’m almost, ALMOST, considering getting a second console aside from my Wii.

I was hoping to see more “new” things and get inspiration for KarjaSoft projects. No luck there, even though I found an interesting tabletop tower defense thingy which made me think of online tower defense…. I also had a brief chat with a company providing an acheivements API. I think I kept their business card, so I shall have to see what can be done about that.

All in all it was a good time; not very productive but fun!

Finally some crappy pictures: a general overview picture, a pic of Diablo III gameplay, a stormtrooper presenting The Force Unleashed 2, a Lamborghini and a cosplay competition.

November 5th, 2010

Work has been keeping me quite busy lately, so progress on Spandex Force: Superhero U hasn’t exactly advanced in gigantic strides these last weeks. I don’t have my latest build on this computer so I can’t show you the screenshots of the new gameplay modes, so I guess I’ll have to discuss something else entirely. Something else in this context means Stockholm, the city I just moved to.

It’s interesting to look at Stockholm as a newcomer. Swedish people generalize about the three largest cities something like this:

Stockholm – Full of busy, arrogant, distanced and ambitious people.

Gothenburg – Full of easy-going, pleasant but loud people.

Malmö – …I have no idea. What do they say about Malmö? Full of immigrants?

Now that I’ve moved to Stockholm I can’t really say that I agree with the stereotype. I find enough slow-moving laid-back people in Stockholm to satisfy anyone’s needs, and while the cultural attitude is a bit different I don’t think it’s…malicious or obnoxious or any other -ous word. People are people no matter where they live.

On one hand I wonder if that is due to my “accept all people for who they are” upbringing. On the other hand, maybe I simple feel more at home in a city that leaves some distance between people. I like being social as much as anyone else but damn it – I love being able to go to a bar and just have a beer without running into vague acquaintances too. Not only being unrecognized – being ignored by the others.

But enough of this asocial behaviour! Tomorrow I’ll be more social again: it’s time to visit GAMEX, a Swedish game expo, and then have dinner and a movie. I have some ideas for the future of KarjaSoft – maybe I’ll get even more inspiration tomorrow…