Monday, August 07, 2006

Astro Empires

Some friends found my blog and someone from my guild in a game called Astro Empires noticed my blog. It all inspired me to post, since I've been a bit lacking here for a while.

Though I've played other games some in the last while, I've been busy, and my time limited. I tried playing Guild Wars, but got bored. I played City of Heroes and Villains, but my friends left. I'm playing Titan Quest a bit, as well.

However, a web game has caught my attention the most in the limited time I've had. Astro Empires is a simple space 4X online game. You explore, colonize and develop planets, and fight battles in space. The universe is vast, with hundreds of active players and tens of thousands of planets. I think it's the most fun I've had with this genre of web games.

A nice plus is that it's mostly free, with a few features being unlocked if you pay their (reasonable) free. The game is being actively developed, though. However, many good players play for free, so it seems the features unlocked aren't truly necessary.

If you do play, check out my guild, the Octopus Overlords (OO). We're slowly working our way up the guild rankings to compete with the largest guilds.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Player Lights mod

I made a mod for Oblivion. It's a tiny thing that changes the color of some lights the player can carry around. Particularly, I didn't care for the greenish hue the developers of Oblivion chose for the light spells and items in the game. So, I made it white (and a bit blue).

Player Light mod

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


The Elder Scrolls is one of my favorite game series, even though I've only played the 3rd (and now 4th) games in the series. Morrowind has a huge, open world with nearly infinite expandability from mods. It's a fun game to play even now, a few years after its release. The latest installment is Oblivion, the 4th game in the series. It's a monstrous game, filling a DVD with its content, and with some of the best graphics in a game to date.

Take a look at my character thus far. This screenshot would probably be better on a high-end computer, but I just have my laptop, which doesn't even meet the recommended requirements for the game. You need a modern machine to play this, but the graphics are amazing.

The best part is the modding. There are already over 350 mods for the game, which has been out about 2 weeks. I'm running 10 of them right now, including a simple one I made myself on a whim. I hope to see a lot of enhancements over the next few months.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Also: A Picture

I mentioned the game Galactic Civilizations 2 and its 3D ship maker. Well here's my favorite I've made so far. I didn't, of course, model out all the parts, just put them together into the shape I liked and added the engines, weapons, and shields. It's a lot of fun. Amusingly, on one forum I read, someone compared it to Barbie Fashion Designer for strategy gamers.

Cool "Mad" Science

This is one of the cooler things I've seen in a while. The crazy scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have created the hottest plasma ever seen by man, and hotter than the cores of stars, even if only for a moment. The picture in the above link shows the ridiculous levels of electricity used to create the plasma.

In other "mad" science, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently arrived at Mars and successfully completed its first burn to place itself in orbit. This orbiter will be aerobraking, which means that it will dip into Mars' outer atmosphere on each orbit to slow itself into a circular orbit. This orbiter will be mapping the surface of Mars a various spectrums and great detail, and has 10x the bandwidth back to Earth than any previous mission to Mars. It's not only a cool mission, but a Mars communications platform for the next decade (at least) of exploration there.

Also, NASA's popular probe Cassini has discovered what appears to be liquid water geysers on Enceladus, a small moon of Saturn. Unlike what some people in the media reported, this is not really evidence for life there, but only for a possibility of life as we know it. NASA's not asserting anything about life, so far as I can tell.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Turn-Based Strategy

It's been a while. I don't think anyone's reading this yet, but I figure I should keep posting at least for my own benefit. I've never been good at journals and such.

Recently, I've been playing turn-based strategy games. This is one of my favorite super-genres. I've gotten rather long play time out of many games in this category, such as Master of Magic, Master of Orion (2 mostly), Alpha Centauri, Civilization (3 mostly), X-COM, and so on. I guess I usually play 4X strategy games, which is what most of the above are.

So, a few months ago, I picked up Civilization 4, the latest in that venerable series from Sid Meier (sort of). It's really rather good, though it's taking a while for them to fix the bugs. It's got the best graphics of any of the Civ games, for however much that matters. It also seems to have decent battle resolution that makes sense, making tanks beat spearmen any day (except when the tanks are at <20% health). They've added better borders than the ones in Civ 3, and improved the government types.

It seems like these games keep pulling more and more from Alpha Centauri. That game is pretty close to ideal, but with a somewhat crappy engine. I wish someone would make a new game more in that style.

I've also picked up Galactic Civilizations 2, which is a space-based 4X game, along the lines of Master of Orion. It's made by what seems to be a small, independent development house, which is interesting. It feels a bit more like Civilization than Master of Orion did. I'm not sure entirely what I think of it yet, as I'm only learning the game. However, it's got an advanced 3D ship designer that's pretty impressive. You can make just about any ship you want, visually or technologically.

And now it's time to go to work, where I'm bouncing between projects. More on that later.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Real-Time Strategy

After playing through most of System Shock 2 last week with a couple of characters on Hard, I decided to play some games that I bought but never played. I have a few games in that backlog.

I'm now playing the expansion pack for Rise of Nations, called Thrones and Patriots. Rise of Nations was a nice real-time strategy game, somewhat combining an Age of Empires-style RTS with elements of turn-based empire-building games like Civilization. I'm a big fan of the Civilization-style games, like Civilization 3, Alpha Centauri, and the like.

The expansion pack is fun. Like all expansions, it's not worth the $30-40 they try to charge at first, but I buy almost all games at a reduced price, either by finding a sale, or just waiting a while. I'm having fun, but it's not quite so enthralling as I had thought it might be. I've just played some Quick Battles, I should probably try out their conquer the world mode, kind of a Risk game with RTS battles where each conquest occurs.

However, I feel like RTS games have gone downhill over the past few years. Games like RoN are the only ones with enough new ideas and good execution to hold my interest. But I look back at Total Annihilation, and I wish there were more games like that. It just had a good interface, nice unit automation, a lot of variety, moddability, etc. Other RTS games since just don't hold up in comparison, and just push forward their niche of new ideas without managing many of the fundamentals.

I don't care for some of the lauded classics of the genre. Starcraft never held my interest back when I was playing TA, nor when I tried it in times since. Other games like Empire Earth, Earth 2160, and the various Lord of the Rings and Star Wars merchandise, didn't even hold my interest through the movies and demos.

The only hope in the wide swath of games called RTS are those which don't fit the mold. Games like Hearts of Iron (1 and 2) and Rome: Total War delve into real strategy and tactics and combine traditional RTS games with elements from other genres. I've seen some promise in games which combine RPG elements into RTS games, but I've not tried the recent attempts, and older ones just weren't quite there, yet; just not all that fun. I wonder what the next divergence will be, and if it will be fun.

So, I need to go back and play TA again, and try out some of the vast array of mods that various groups have made. I did hear recently that some company is making a sequel to TA, but I'm not holding my breath. Sequels are more often poorer than the original, and I'm sure they'll follow more recent trends instead of mastering the fundamentals and forging ahead into new ground.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Today I saw Serenity at the theatre nearby. When I got there, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I had heard good things, and I like the few episodes of Firefly that I'd seen, but I always try to not get many expectations going into movies.

I got there before the show began, and sat there with my friends, waiting for the previews to begin. I heard some people who sounded a bit obnoxious nearby, and preemptively was concerned that they would be rude during the movie. This was not the case. Except for a healthy dose of laughter when the moments arose, the audience was immersed, so far as I could tell.

It really is a great movie. I laughed at many points in the movie. I was moved to tears, and I tend to be the stoic type. I also was glad to see some real science fiction on the screen.

Now, I don't mind a bit of fantasy thrown in, but it's nice when the fantastic is limited in movies. I mean, the things shown in this story are feasible for the most part. The thing I noticed most, which I had missed in the TV series, was the absence of FTL travel. It's not a horrible thing, but most sci-fi assumes some form of faster-than-light travel. Many other things are plausible with future development in science, but our understanding of physics says that FTL is impossible, as I understand it. Many sci-fi books and short stories deal with universes where there is no FTL travel, but very few movies and TV shows do this, in fact, I can't think of any, off the top of my head..

In any case, I don't want to spoil anything. It's just too good to risk that. Just go see it. And save some money to see it again, buy the Firefly DVDs, and the DVD of Serenity when it comes out. I am.