Retro Gaming: Planetfall part 2

(This is part of my journey going checking out Planetfall. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

c1Yesterday’s adventures in Planetfall left me thinking about how interesting it was that even though this was a turn-based text adventure game, the whole sequence with escaping the ship (and then the escape pod) was tense and gave the impression of a clock ticking down.

But now the immediate danger is over and silence reigns. I’m on an island on an alien world, standing in the middle of a courtyard with only a few meager possessions — a survival kit, a watch, a towel (’cause you should never leave home without a towel), and an ID badge.

So what is this place? It’s a huge castle, although it has elements of higher technology (including a moving walkway). It’s somewhat in ruins and obviously deserted.

c2Jackpot! It’s a storage room full of… stuff. I recognize the oil can. I do not recognize “bedistor” or the rest of the junk. But hey, it’s an adventure game, so you know it’ll all come in handy.

So fun — well, not really — Planetfall fact. Apparently the game has a rather limited inventory of six items, which might be realistic but it’s also incredibly annoying. So to make progress, I guess you have to keep dropping stuff to pick up new things. That bugs the part of me that loves to collect EVERYTHING in adventure games.

Another fun Planetfall fact (not really) is that your character has an internal hunger/thirst timer that’s always counting down. Once the game starts telling you that you’re hungry, you better darn well eat one of the three globs of goo from the survival kit soon or that’s it for you. What do I do when I’m all out of goo? Goo ‘R Us?

c3Can’t say that I’m too fond of this castle so far. There’s not a lot happening to entertain me here, so mostly it’s wandering corridors, picking up and dropping stuff, and trying to set events into motion so that I can progress.

But hey, magnet gets the key. Gotta be something good, right?

c4This game’s a complete jerk to me.

What’s kind of weird is that there’s lots of labels and numbers here that are in semi-English, like “spam and egz” or “sistums moniturz.” What’s that all about?

c5Another thing that must occasionally be done is to sleep. Which you can only do in beds, of course, and this game is very finnicky about how you go about doing it (you can’t say “sleep in bed,” you have to get into the bed first and then type “sleep”).

Oh you know what else Planetfall does? It strips you completely when you sleep, meaning that I ended up waking up then walking around naked for a while until I needed to use something and discovered I had no inventory. All of the items were neatly piled up in the dorm, probably applauding sarcastically when I came back to get them.

After getting up, the game informs me that I’m feeling “weak and slightly flushed,” which I’m sure marks my imminent doom. Radiation poisoning? Who knows.

c6I fill up my canteen from the kitchen’s goo faucet (it’s high protein!) and then explore around some more. I come across a robot room, where there’s one whole specimen that’s waiting to be activated. And activate it I do.

Hi Floyd! Good to have a companion at last!

WildStar: Interior decorating

Because I continually* get requests to show off my WildStar housing project, here’s another EXTREME** INSTALLMENT of Syp’s interior decorating!

flowerActually, I’ll start with the outside because I’m kind of proud of this. I had a bunch of greenery I didn’t know what to do with, so I decided to build a flower garden outside my front door. Wish I could fill it up with dirt so that the grass doesn’t show… maybe there are brown rocks or something I could resize. Work in progress!

kitchenKitchen area. I am very pleased with the decision to turn the lighting in the house to dark, since it allows the light fixtures I do use to “pop” more than they would otherwise. I still have some more work to do here, but I am glad how well the rug works as a way to visually separate the kitchen from the rest of the pad.

living1Turning to the right a bit is part of my living room. There’s that window with the lighting fixture behind it to provide those beams of light I talked about a while back. Always love that fireplace, and I put a sleeping hoogle on top of it because why not. The glowing column there spans both floors of the house, as you’ll soon see.

I really would love to get a few nice pieces of furniture for the middle of the floor — a sofa and a highback chair, perhaps.

living2Rotating more to the right is my display area. I have two shelves stuffed with plushies that this game seems to love rewarding for everything. I recently got that Aurin orange window, which I gladly put up to add more color into the room. Not sure if I’m going to keep the pressure divider there, tho. Trying it out for now.

stairsI spruced up my sad stairway with a couple of scones and three pictures. Really happy with how this looks. All stairs need pictures hanging by them, right?

cave1Top of the stairs, second floor. There’s the rest of that glowing column (the lights keep moving on it, I love that). I’m particularly fond of this trophy cabinet, as it has twinkling Christmas lights. I really should look into if there are strings of Christmas lights that I can get. I’d do up this entire room with them if I could.

Over to the left there is a floating TV set. Seems like that frame would get in the way of seeing what was broadcast, but it’s futuristic, so nevermind.

cave2General (wo)man cave stuff. Desk. Dragon with swords in its head. A Lopp fireplace. I just like how cozy all of this feels.

cave3And here’s where I hang out, on this ratty couch underneath a blinking beer sign. Classy!

So obviously lots more to do with all of this, but it’s coming along nicely and I enjoy visiting my house at the end of a session to adjust and add in an object here and there.

*Never

**Lazy, what-the-heck-am-I-going-to-post-this-morning

Retro Gaming: Planetfall part 1

(This is part of my journey going checking out Planetfall. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

planet1It’s been a long, long time since I tackled a text adventure from my GOG library — Zork, to be precise. I remember being really excited to play it and then disheartened when it was confusing and lacking any real narrative thread.

Still, it’s been weighing on me that I really needed to give another text classic a try: Planetfall. This was one of the most famous of the Infocom titles, created by Steve Meretzky back in 1983. It was quite influential for several reasons, using humor and a well-written companion to create a memorable impression on players. The lead character as a space janitor was clearly an influence on Sierra’s later Space Quest.

Yet I’ve never played it. It’s on my gaming bucket list, titles that I feel I must at least try sometime in my life.

planet2Love this ad. This was back when you sold games to players with a MIGHTY WALL OF TEXT. Of course, it’s a text adventure game, so what better way to appeal to your target audience?

So here I go with Planetfall for the very first time. Time to start drawing a map! I expect that this will be charming for the first two sessions and a pain in the butt thereafter.

pf1Behold! Advanced computational entertainment!

So I begin my adventures as a janitor — sorry, “Ensign Seventh Class” — scrubbing the floor of a ship. After typing “scrub floor” a few times, a slimy alien ambassador slithers by, mucking up my beautiful work. ARGH.

pf2OK, that genuinely made me laugh out loud. Sorry, 1983-era game. I didn’t me to disparage you. Of course, a list of usable parser words would be helpful. Hm, help. Wonder if typing help will pull up a list.

pf3Let me hop into my time machine and make that order happen!

I pause and look up a copy of the manual, since this is the internet and everything is on here. I do find a PDF of the 47-page (!) book and print out the page that has some common commands.

I want to say that it’s more than a little disconcerting that there’s a “MOVES” counter at the top of the screen that’s constantly ticking down with each command I write. Currently it’s at 4,518, so I think I’m good for a while.

The alien ambassador makes a few weird comments, offers me some celery, and then slithers off elsewhere. In comes my boss, Ensign Blather, who is a total dink:

pf4You can’t blame me for trying, right? Also, I don’t know what kind of outfit I’m part of, but this guy straight-up murders me in a serial-killer fashion for hitting him. That calls for an investigation.

I reload and start exploring the ship, which really ticks off Blather. After screaming at me and making me do push-ups, he throws me into the brig. Smashing. At least there’s graffiti on the wall to read, most of it limericks about Blather. Guess he’s not very well-liked.

Wow. This is boring. Hm, what to do… what to do…

pf5I miss boring! Take me back to boring, please!

Ah crud. I’m guessing my survival rate is not going to be high, sitting here in this cell. Sure enough, a couple of explosions later and I’m toast. Two deaths so far and I haven’t even left the ship!

pf6From now on, I’m making it my mission to smell everything in this game.

I’m having a devil of a time getting off this ship. So if I go anywhere, Blather accosts me and I run the risk of getting thrown in the brig. I have to stay near the escape pod for when the explosion happens and get in before the bulkhead crashes down. The game won’t let me in there before the explosion happens, so there’s a timing issue here.

pf7It takes me a couple of tries, but I make it into the pod in time. I take note of the game’s description of the safety webbing, something I should probably use before this thing gets moving. Tied in, the pod automatically ejects and starts searching for a crash landing site. Why the pod can’t just float in space and issue a distress signal is beyond me. Guess that would make for a boring game.

Long sequence short, the pod crash-lands on an ocean planet with very few islands (fortunately we get near one). The pod teeters on a cliff as I struggle to get out of the webbing, grab the few supplies in there, and get out. Of course, by now it’s fallen into the ocean and I have to swim out and then climb up a cliff. No sweat.

All alone, I stand shivering on a balcony of an alien world. What have I gotten myself into now?

Villagers and Heroes: Syp, Coward

vah1If it’were possible for one to fall in love with a game from its character creation process alone, then Villagers and Heroes would have had me from the very first screen. Of course, character creation does not a game make, but I genuinely had more fun making a new toon in this game than I have in most MMOs to date.

Bhagpuss has been talking up V&H for a while now, and that coupled with some others’ word-of-mouth testimonies about this indie title convinced me to load it on my hard drive. It looked like a relaxing, colorful title to enjoy in small chunks. Plus, V&H just updated to a new version — Reborn — which is its third, I think, so it felt like a good time to check it out.

So! The character creation. I know that this is one of the systems that received an overhaul as of late, and I must say that the team knocked it out of the park. It’s a rather lengthy series of selection screens that encourage you to take your time in molding a character rather than choosing a head, a class, and hitting the “PLAY!” button.

Choices are key here, and some fairly nail-biting ones. If I have a hard time picking between options because two or more sound fairly desirable, then the game’s done a good job in this area.

Right at the start, I had to pick a personality for my character which was mirrored in his or her stance. I was tempted, oh-so-tempted, to pick the coward option, because how many MMOs let you be a coward from the first get-go? I still may go back and do this, but instead I chose pious, because what else should a pastor pick?

vah2While I was making my selections, the game entertained me in the audio department with somewhat pleasant music and a droll narrator who both commented on my picks and provided a bit of the background to the game world. Gotta say, I love me a good narrator.

OK, so character creation. The next stop was choosing my character’s homeland, a choice that came with a small pile of gifts. I went with Stormhold because it gave me a magic helmet that supplied some extra run speed. I was less thrilled with gifts that said they’d be recalled in 30 days, although I suppose that’s more than enough to give you a good head start in harvesting and crafting.

Then it was on to choosing between one of four generic classes (warrior, priest, mage, and thief/archer/ranger… I forget the name of it). I went priest, because what else would you choose with a pious background? I made him a dour-looking bald guy. Then you get to choose a sub-class of sorts, although I suspect this is more just for starting gear. Finally, there are picks of initial spells and proficiencies (talents). I gravitated to giving my guy a nice DoT.

vah3After all of that, I thought I was done, but oh no — that was only half of my character. The game’s name actually means something here: your character is both a hero and a villager. So the second half of character creation has to do with your avatar as a commoner — what crafting/gathering skills does he/she have? What type of house (each with a specific buff) does she/he live in?

I went with Jack’s House, because it had a nice spread of bonuses with no standouts (jack of all trades, natch), although I was really tempted by the Spooky Safehouse.

Anyway, with all of that done and my character creation needs fairly sated, I had a few minutes to get into the game proper. There’s an introductory fly-through with more narration, talking about a bad wizard who was super-bad until four elders killed him (OR SO THEY THINK). Then I was plopped down in a valley and told to go attend a festival.

Villagers and Heroes most definitely reminds me of early World of Warcraft, with a dash of RuneScape thrown in. Its graphics are more simplistic, with that chunky, colorful, stylized approach. But there’s the same floating shield on my back, the same auto-attack/special skill combat system, the same exclamation marks, etc.

And you know what? That’s not a bad thing. It felt comfortable and inviting. I spent some time poking around the various menu options before doing a couple of quests. Nothing astounding, but nothing off-putting either. Going to need to pour more time into this later on!Oh! One last thing because this amused me. There’s an achievement screen that gives you little presents every time you fulfill one. I got one in the first second for creating a character. Thank you, thank you. I need the validation!

Retro Gaming: X-Wing part 4

(This is part of my journey going checking out X-Wing. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

x1X-Wing’s approach to immersion is a mixed effort, I find. On one hand, after three or four tour missions, there’s barely enough story here to qualify as a passing anecdote. On the other hand, the game provides so many neat little touches between logging in and getting to the actual mission that it still feels like you’re a pilot making his or her way to the battlefield.

Sprites away!

x2After a few missions, I feel as though I have a handle on what still works for this game and what does not in 2015. Let’s start with the negatives, first.

I will concur with those who say that the only way to play this game is with a joystick. A mouse just doesn’t work and ends up being a much more frustrating control scheme as you try to flip around and keep track of enemy targets.

The low resolution is a strong drawback as well. Unless I’m literally on top of an enemy target, it’s so hard to make out what I’m seeing in the distance. Several times I’ve been elated to find a target and fire away at it, only to discover that this particular blob was an ally who is now quite perturbed with my combat skills.

The MIDI music, the HUD shortcomings, and the incredibly annoying juggling of shield/engine/laser battery power (especially in my case on a laptop keyboard) help matters not one bit.

x3However, there’s a lot that still works — very much so — with X-Wing. The sounds are spot-on, from the whump-whump-whump of your cannons to the TIEs screaming by. It’s so dang satisfying to nail an enemy fighter and see it break apart and explode.

Mouse aside, the feel of flying the X-Wing (and company) is terrific. There’s some good speed to be had and I love sending the ship into a spiral.

I think what impressed me most is how much is going on in the battlefield. Sure, it’s mostly scripted, but ships are popping in and out of hyperspace, capital ships trade fire, and you feel like you’re in an actual struggle instead of a rote dogfight.

x4So I think that’s about it for my X-Wing return. I will be looking into procuring a joystick at some point for the sequels.

For my final moments in the game, I charged the star destroyer, firing madly. It rolled and I saw the launch bay in its belly, so I aimed for that and saw two TIE bombers landing there. Right before I smashed into the wall, I blew them both up and cemented my legacy.

WildStar: Ghostbusters

ghost1Malgrave continues to impress and entertain me in WildStar, drawing off all sorts of wild west tropes for inspiration.

Yesterday’s adventures took place in the not-so-inspired town name of Gravestone. I guess the inhabitants didn’t take the title of the town as an ominous portent, as they stayed there until they were slaughtered by a gang of cowboys looking for some sort of treasure. Naturally, with Nexus’ weird voodoo in effect, both the townsfolk and the gang members have returned as ghosts, and it was up to me to put things right.

I enjoyed the details of the town design, particularly the gallows, the gravestones, and the falling-apart buildings. It really did manage a spot-on impression of a (sorry) ghost town. I took my time going through this; there were not only the quests, but a scientist mission and a challenge as well. The challenge gave me a terrific stocked trophy cabinet decor (with blinking Christmas lights!) that went well in my house’s den.

ghost2None of this was that challenging at all. I’m barely getting XP, as this is level 40 content and I’m already level 45 or 46. But I have no desire to leap-frog over stories and zones I haven’t seen yet, and I’m in no rush to hit the endgame wall. Unlike many of my guild colleagues, attunement is not a goal of mine.

One of the things I’ve noticed about WildStar is that the quest dialogue — as short as it is, with the “tweet-sized” philosophy going on — is quite entertaining if one takes the time to actually read it. Plus there are often those question mark side bars you can take for more details, which I’ve been doing. What I’ve discovered is that so many of the quest givers aren’t quite right in the head and my character has an incredulous and sarcastic outlook on their missions. Oh, she’ll do them, of course, but she’ll be rolling her eyes at why (for example) a bloodthirsty Lopp wants me to collect all of the feet of the bandits in the area. For a foot pile?

Did I mention that I got a Lopp deputy vanity pet from another Malgrave challenge? It absolutely made my day, and now I have this hopping pint-sized cowboy traveling along with me always.

I’ll leave you with this funny bit of discovered lore from Gravestone, which elicited a chuckle from me:

ghost3

The summer of cycling

BicycleNearly two months in, and I’m still biking on a regular basis. For me, this is a personal milestone of fitness, the longest run of exercise I’ve done since I was a kid. And I even look forward to it every day, which is not something I was able to say about my stints on the exercise bike and those Wii sports games I did for a bit.

After extensive scouting of the surrounding three or four miles around my home, I’ve figured out two good 45-minute routes that have decent sidewalks and aren’t plagued with sharp hills. This was trickier than I first realized, since so many of the streets in our fairly packed suburban city don’t have sidewalks at all. And because this is Detroit, drivers care not one whit for looking out for cyclists and thus I am not biking on a street if I can help it.

One sign of getting into all of this is that I’ve been gradually buying various accessories — new gym shorts, a new helmet, biking sunglasses (faux-kleys, I call them, since they were $8), and even a small pink MP3 player that I’ve loaded with mostly techno and fast BPM tunes. Yesterday for Father’s Day I was given the go-ahead to pick up a new bike too, a much lighter hybrid one to go along with my heavy-duty mountain bike.

I took the new bike down to one of our nicer parks for a ride last night, which ended up not being as enjoyable as I’d hoped. It was way too muggy, for starters, and trying to get a feel for a new bike while riding an unfamiliar course was stressful.

Sometimes getting out there is hard — I don’t have a lot of energy that day or the first couple of miles really hurts my thighs as I push up hills. But sooner or later I end up in this zone where my mind switches off and I’m just biking and listening to music and feeling like I could go on for a long time.

Weight loss-wise, it’s helped although it hasn’t been a stark transformation. I think I’ve lost around 15 pounds from early May (coupled with getting back to a strict low-carb diet). I feel… tighter, I guess is the word I use. A little more trim. I read that cycling uses a lot more than your leg muscles for a good core workout, so I’ll take it. In any case, I’m not totally embarassed when I see myself biking in store windows.

In other biking news (because you’re so starved for it, I know), I’ve taken the training wheels off my kids’ bikes and am trying to teach them how to ride properly. It’s been challenging. They don’t like to fall and I don’t blame them, so it ends up being a lot of encouragement to try again and me hunched over, running, while I hold their seats.