Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011 in Games

These are the games I played in 2011. In that year, I was about to finish my last projects and looking forward to get a Bachelors degree. Gaming-wise, it can be summarized as "I played even more racing games, RPGs and tower defense" ;)

Space Pirates and Zombies

An easy-to-grasp, funny, short and plain entertaining space shooter. Some parts of the game are too much about grinding until you can afford a ship that can deal with your foes, but that was to be expected. Really nice indie title.
Rating: 7/10

Football Manager 2010

For me, since I love football, FM is the kind of game that keeps you awake the whole night because you "just want to finish the season". Lots of tactical depth here compared to the Electronic Arts counterpart.
Rating: 9/10

SHIFT 2 Unleashed

A great racing game that would have been even better if it was less "arcadey" and had proper wheel support out-of-the-box. With mods, it is nearly on par with Forza.
Rating: 7/10 (8/10 with mods)

Fallout 2

I always had a soft spot for the old Fallout games, thus I decided to play Fallout 2 again, this time with the "restoration project" patch which adds lots of features to the game that were meant to be in it from the beginning. Fallout 2  is brilliant. Everything in the world feels right. In every place you can feel that it is a setting that makes you fight hard for your right to live and has some nasty surprises for you. Also this means that the difficulty is mind-crushingly hard if you are not used to these kind of old RPGs.
Rating: 9/10

Empire: Total War

A game I tried to like because of the tactical depth, but can't do so since it feels sterile and plays like a mass chess simulator.
Rating: 4/10

Battlefield 3

This was a surprise to me. BF3 played nothing like BF2 and was still a great game. The non-stop grind to unlock the next class or weapon upgrade, however, sucked.
Rating: 7/10

The Witcher: Enhanced Edition

A refreshingly different kind of RPG. Geralt is a cool guy and the whole roleplaying part of the game is very believable, including the point where he tries to pick up every lady in town. The combat system in this game is a bit of a mixed bag and you will love it or hate it or both, also depending on the combat talents you pick up.
Rating: 8/10

Crayon Physics Deluxe

Just a nice little game based off a cool idea. Perfect game for kids, too!
Rating: 6/10

Revenge of the Titans

A tower defense game, with the twist that your enemies will not blindly follow some path but just attack your towers if you are building too close. Probably the best Java game (there, I said it) I ever played.
Rating: 7/10

Mass Effect

Underwhelming, both as an RPG as well as a shooter. Every little thing in the game world felt so long, disconnected and strange. Not in a thrilling way, though. The exaggerated depth of field in every other scene nearly killed my eyes. This is a perfect example of a game that you should play before you read any reviews.
Rating: 3/10

Global Agenda

A decent MMORPG I started playing with my brother, but stopped after a couple of hours because there was little to do but grinding levels. Nice combat system, though.
Rating: 5/10

Test Drive Unlimited 2
I had high hopes for it. While TDU1 was a great game with stunning wheel support, TDU2 was a joke of a game without any real wheel support. Instead of car physics, it had features like an "in-game casino" and "build your own house". No joke. Here, I learned the hard way to never pre-order a game again.
Rating: 2/10

Defense Grid: The Awakening
One of the best tower defense games I played so far.
Rating: 9/10

Tropico 3
A solid city-(on-an-island)-builder with a great sense of humor. Becomes a bit repetitive after some play-throughs.
Rating: 6/10

Mother 3
If you read this, you probably do not know this game. And if you know this game, you know by heart that it is a god damn masterpiece.
Rating: 9/10

Monday, October 31, 2011

Fix for problem with Battlefield 3 launch error

If you get an error message from Origin while starting Battlefield 3 which looks like
"There is a Problem with your game setup. Please reinstall your game." in your local language
(german installation: "Es gibt leider ein Problem mit dem Spiel-Setup. Bitte installieren Sie das Spiel erneut." et. al.) you can try the following to fix the problem:

- Install Microsoft Internet Explorer 9! BF3 will most likely not work without IE9, especially on Windows Vista! This is actually the most common fix for people who "did everything right".

- uninstall Origin (backup your download folder before), download the latest Origin version from EA's website and reinstall in a directory without special chars (blanks, exclamation marks, non-english characters, etc.). C:\Origin should work.

- Right click Battlefield 3 in Origin and choose to repair your installation. It will take some time and the installer will download corrupt files again.

Or the usual:

- Install the latest Windows Service Pack and updates via Windows Update (Start->System Settings->Windows Update). BF3 requires Service Pack 2 on Windows Vista x64 / x68!

- Install the latest drivers for your graphics card from their website

- Install DirectX 11 from microsoft.com

If these solutions don't work for you, you can still have a look at C:\ProgramData\Origin\Logs and read the log files. You will find most errors marked red in ORIGIN_Core_Log.html.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sad game: The Company of Myself

Incredibly sad puzzle platformer :(


Monday, January 10, 2011

Speedrun Marathon raising money to prevent cancer

Watch some awesome LIVE speedruns (Live stream on their website), donate some money for cancer prevention.
Win-Win situation.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 in Games

The year is nearly over. These are the games I played in 2010.

If you have posted your own "2010 in games" post somewhere (preferably with screenshots), feel free to post a link in the comments!

Disclaimer: These are the games I played 2010, not necessarily the best games 2010 (release date):

League of Legends

Never before did I have more fun in a free 5vs5 game (except for the HL:CounterStrike Beta maybe). Yes, it's easier than DotA. No, that's not a bad thing.

Lots of people complained about level grinding and RPG elements (runes, masteries) but I actually think it's a good thing: League of Legends allows you to understand the game while you're playing. It's "noob-friendly" (although your team mates will still call you names if you die too often).

The integrated matchmaking system will make you fight against equally clueless and underpowered players in the beginning. As levels proceed, the different character classes (caster, assassin, tank, etc.) become more and more distinct from each other.
Two Casters will for example deal much more damage to each other in the later levels. You kill faster, you die faster.
That means individual mistakes in a level one game are not nearly as devastating as they are in a level 30 ranked game.

The game is "100% free to play" so you can unlock all content (minus custom skins which are just visual enhancements) just by playing. I'll probably keep playing this for a long, long time.

Rating: 9/10

Dungeon Siege 2

I always wanted to play Dungeon Siege 2 after playing the demo back then in 2005 and never got to play it until this year.

Clearly, graphics are sub-par even by 2005 standards but the game still has a unique feeling to it. It's the small ideas which make the game unique:

It was one of the first major RPGs to use a natural skill tree (you level up skills by using them, not by clicking "+" buttons; full hybrids ARE possible).

A fun feature is that you can hire minions which grow by "eating" loot and get bonus stats according to the equipment they eat. If you let your minion eat everything you come along instead of using the gear yourself, it will become much more powerful than you in the early levels.

Obviously, the game is much more than a D2 clone which is mainly due to the freedom it offers. From an Oblivion-like solo experience (caster/meelee/archer specialists as well as hybrid builds are equally playable.
You CAN be a healer AND tank AND archer if you desire, although you won't deal as much damage as a pure archer) to a huge party everything is possible.

The main quest is about as long as the Diablo2 quest line but there are dozens and dozens of secondary missions available. Those side quests which are spread all over the game allows you to easily pass the 50 hours mark WITHOUT ever replaying a single mission in a higher difficulty (think: Diablo2 nightmare, hell).

And then there is online co-op play, mods, etc. etc. - I hope Dungeon Siege 3 will be as good as this game.

Rating: 8/10

Civilization IV

There is not much to say about Civ4. Playing huge world maps against dozens of other civilizations is recreation at its best. I didn't even have a look at Civ5 yet because this game is still awesome.

It is one of the games I would take on a lonely island for sure.

Rating: 9/10


This is a 3D remake of one of the best PC games of the early 90s, Mad TV.

As the name implies you are managing a TV station which includes producing talkshows and TV movies, organizing your program and ad blocks, etc.

The game is cute and funny, like the original. It only has two big problems:

1) The AI goes like IDDQD in free play mode. Starting on Day 2, they will magically be able to afford 3-star rated productions which attract way more viewers than the measly 1-star movies you can buy. That is at the lowest difficulty.

2) Due to bad programming, a memory leak crashes the game once you have played long enough. Even saving and loading won't help you. This bug will not be patched anymore, thus decreasing replayability to zero.

What could have been a great title is now a game I would not recommend to anybody but code reverse engineering specialists who want to patch to memory leak to become the hero of tens of thousands of unlucky buyers.

Rating: 1/10 (8/10 without bugs)

Dyson (Eufloria)

I picked up Dyson as a free copy when it was part of a developer contest.

Dyson promotes a calm way of gaming, much like a Zen experience. It's not a game that you can beat by clicking faster, shooting harder or planning your strategy better. Instead, it honors the time you take to play it.

You control seedlings which can be used to plant trees on a core. Over time, the number of seedlings increases based on the number of trees. Finally, you can move your seedlings to a near core and expand there.

Dyson is a great experience in that it is not important anymore to "beat" the game fast, or at all. In some levels I even slowed down to enjoy the athmosphere.

You can still find Dyson as a free download if you look around or you can pick up Eufloria as a better, more polished Dyson for ~$20.
I'm not sure if it's worth the money but even if you are not getting Eufloria, be sure to give Dyson a try the next time you need some stress relieve.

Rating: 7/10


There are many reasons why I play Oblivion in 2010 and not 4 years ago.

2 official add-ons, lots of official DLC packages as well as thousands of inofficial mods were released in the meantime.

You can have the best of today (brilliant visual mods and sound enhancements) without the worst of yesterday (hundreds of quest bugs were patched in the meantime).

Inofficial mods also fixed what most people found to be the most obvious flaws in Oblivion's game design: Improper level scaling and the complicated skill system.

Quoting from an Oblivion skill guide:

Picking major skills incorrectly or based on preference can end up hurting
your character and therefore hurting your experience. The system is somewhat
counter-intuitive as if you think about it the best descisions for picking
major skills are usally comprised of the ones you don't want to use.

Did that make sense for you?
Great, because for me it did not.

In vanilla Oblivion, roleplaying a character (as in "starting with major skills you want to use") meant playing a much harder and often frustrating game. On the other hand, choosing bogus skills as your main skills was the way to a powerful character.

This "feature" often led to less immersion and an overall diminished experience. By installing mods you can fix it with ease and play Oblivion like it was meant to be played: Without thinking about hidden game mechanics!

And in case you haven't read any reviews in the last 4 years: Yes, it is an epic journey and can easily take you 100+ hours.

Rating: 9/10

F1 2010

Possibly the best Formula1 game ever. With mods and without applying the "I want a hardcore F1 simulation" attitude that is.

Monaco in heavy rain is gorgeous. Most of the game is beautiful, except for the dull 3D models in press conferences.

Controls are pretty weird up to the point that an Xbox 360 controller can be faster than a G25 wheel because of input stabilization issues. Lots of racing games suffer from this problem in order to satisfy casual Xbox gamers sadly (PGR, Forza, GRID, ...). The right wheel settings make G25 racing a blast, albeit with less wheel feedback than the rFactor F1 mods deliver.

AI is sort of a mixed bag but it's still bearable. In the end, you are supposed to race online anyway.

Rating: 8/10

Need for Speed: SHIFT

Much better than other NFS releases (Underground, Carbon, Most Wanted, ProStreet, Undercover, ...). Almost as good as NFS: Porsche Unleashed.

Another title with stupid default settings for wheel use. The right settings, mods and a powerful PC make this a great racing game. Oh yeah, and drift mode is unrealistic and plain sucks.

Rating: 7/10


Brainless off-road fun. It's all Codemasters promised, it's all they delivered.

Rating: 6/10

Minor appearances:

- RACE07 (+Race On, STCC, GTR Evolution). Still amazing online fun, especially in organized leagues. 9/10.

- Resident Evil 5. We finally finished the co-op campaign. Weird ending but well worth the time. 8/10.

- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II. Still playing the campaign which is good enough to keep me interested. Also, stunning visuals at highest settings. 8/10.

- Forza 3. Before I unplugged my Xbox, this was the main game. Great online fun as long as there are no wreckers (which is another reason why they should have released it on PC instead: less immatures!). Sadly, to reach the top leaderboard ranks you have to own a Wheel/pedals combination with a clutch pedal which is $500. 8/10.

- Batman: Arkham Asylum. Finally got to play it, a title which was one of the big surprises back then. Starts off GREAT (like "Game of the Century"-great), then after a while ways become longer, story and action slow down a bit and everything gets a bit dull. Still a good game which does many things right, including hand-to-hand combat. 8/10.

- Portal. Picked up for free on Steam and never regretted it. 7/10.

- Heroes of Might and Magic 5. Picked up at Steam during a promo and never made it past the third mission or so. Not as good as I hoped, but far from a bad game. 6/10.

- Alien Swarm. Free on Steam. Played the first co-op missions which were good, then realized that you had to grind your way up to the better weapons to even have a chance in the higher difficulties. 4/10.

- iRacing. A great simulation except from the ultra-boring license grinding. Plus road racing with the interesting cars (Corvette et al.) is pretty much dead during european times which sort of sucks. Currently not worth the horrendous subscription and content fees, even as an avid sim freak. 3/10.

- Battleforge. Used to be a solid game with both, PvE and PvP being fun. Now is a great example of a fun game that has been patched to death. They released new overpowered, completely imbalanced cards that make it impossible to win without shelling out $200 for the same overpowered cards. Not that it would matter because online PvP seems empty as well. Laughable. 1/10.

- Freedom Force: The one and only game so far I gave up playing during the tutorial. Weird controls, laggy input, stuttering, bad graphics, unfair enemies. You name it. Maybe I should give it a serious try again. Maybe not. 1/10.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

League of Legends: Game Design (Anti-) Patterns

By the lead designer of League of Legends, this is easily one of the best posts about (anti-)patterns in Game Design I've ever read.

Insane amounts of wisdom on a single page without you having the sift through all the self-praise and empty phrases you'll find in Game Design books.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Bye, Xbox! Or why I'm back on the PC...

I have just unplugged my Xbox 360. It will either move to a friend's place or Ebay.
From now on I will only play on my PC again.
This is probably my longest entry on this blog, explaining the reasons why:

Hardware issues: Ring of Death (ROD) and scratched CDs

This one goes without saying. "Console" implies that it just works, does not destroy games or itself. After reading all ROD horror stories on the web a couple of years ago, I was sure my Xbox would be the next to go red each time I started it.
That being said, my 2005 Xbox still runs today, even though with a different DVD drive. The old one destroyed some game DVDs which was very disappointing.

Custom Xbox hardware

The Xbox uses USB ports to connect its controllers (or not, if you're running wireless controllers). Wouldn't it make sense to allow any PC gamepads, wheels and mice to be used with it? Microsoft does not think so.

The most popular PC steering wheels are produced by Logitech. You can use those wheels on the PC as well as on a Playstation 2 or PS3 and experience 900 degree rotation and great force feedback which all adds to immersion. And on your Xbox? Forget it!

But players wanted to play Project Gotham Racing, Forza Motorsport, etc. with a proper racing wheel instead of a dull Xbox controller. Therefore Microsoft developed its own Xbox 360 steering wheel, with a $150 price tag. It was the only one with force feedback for 3 years. If you wanted force feedback in Xbox racing games, you had to buy it.

They played out their monopoly cards well on this one. The same could be said regarding the Wifi USB stick, et al.
Being forced to use proprietary software is one thing (Hi Apple!) but hardware is a different story.

"Game update" mentality and weak quality control

I remember playing games on SNES, Dreamcast and Playstation (1) that were practically flawless.

Nowadays, some Xbox 360 games already have patches available on Xbox Live (they call them "game updates" which sorts of gives you a hint at the mentality) before their official release date. Much like... PC games.

Microsoft controls game quality pre-release, but that's not enough obviously. Everybody who knows the business also knows that publishers tend to rush releases at all costs and I'm pretty sure that bigger publishers have weaker guidelines applied than small indie studios.

Part of the problem:
Microsoft quality control can only check so-and-so much, thus "big games" (think: GTA) which tend to be sold by big publishers containing dozens of bugs can pass quality control. Even "Showstoppers" cannot be found because of the sheer size of the game and its possibilites.
On the other hand, finding bugs in a small game (think: Castle Crashers) seems more manageable.

Having an old Xbox 360 without WiFi in the livingroom, it has become a habit to connect the box to my LAN in another room and check for updates before starting to play new games. I'm not too thrilled about it but it's better than a corrupted savegame or buggy game physics.

"Offline Xbox owners" tend to have a very different gaming experience than Xbox Live users. Ironically not just because of multiplayer.

Game-changing Downloadable Content (DLC)

DLC is a different name for what PC users know as "Add-ons".
I'm all for adding new content to an existing game but some publishers take it way too far. Some DLC packages on the marketplace are literally game changers: If you don't own them, say goodbye to competitive online games.

Suddenly you are outplayed by people who just shelled out more for the game than you did. Not fun at all for casual gamers. I'm not much of a FPS player on consoles so I've only heard about "premium DLC" for FPS games that outshines the regular content .

Here is a better example from Forza Motosport:
After DLC release, the top ranks of the leaderboards were all filled by DLC cars. Suddenly that #1 lap time in time attack didn't mean that much anymore because there were much faster cars now easily beating your time, using the same leaderboards as the original Forza cars.

The whole story left a bad taste of "Want to be good at this game again? Pay for it!".

Questionable cheater policies

When Forza 2 came out, it was a mess. Containing more bugs and glitches than tracks, it was one of those racing games with a dubious Xbox Live experience: You never knew if you were losing to your opponents or to some lame glitch concerning game physics or controller behaviour. Often, it would be the latter.
A few weeks later, these bugs were patched. But that was only the tip of the iceberg since new "glitches" appeared everywhere and everybody used them online.
Leaderboards were filled by "glitched" laptimes and finally people found a way to manipulate their in-game credits through a bug which rendered the in-game car auctions useless.
There never way a way to get rich by racing in Forza. Now the only way to make some money was by using the exploit. The only way to beat inflation was to print some money yourself!

The money glitch was fixed by a patch but because of the ingenious game update system on Xbox 360, you could still "downgrade" your game, exploit the bug offline, update the game to the latest version and go online and spend some fake credits.
As far as I know, this procedure still works for every Xbox 360 game.

If you played Forza back then you had to deal with cheated laptimes, inflation caused by fake credits and patches that did not work. It had all become out of hands and the worst was yet to come.
The developer employed an "it's ok if it's not excessive" policy for cheaters. They were completely ok with you abusing their game mechanics as long as it did you gain you are #1 spot on the leaderboards or made you an in-game billionaire. Nobody had anything to fear by flying under the radar!

Cheating continued as if nothing happened, just less excessive.
The same policy is still used for all kinds of Xbox Live titles today (Halo: Reach et. al.).

The actual prevention of cheating remains a goal which is yet to be achieved on Xbox Live. On the other hand, accepting cheaters is very hard to understand for me.

Missing community support

Clans and teams exist as long as multiplayer gaming. They are a vital part of online competition on the PC.
Running a team of gamers includes the use of communication, schedules, leagues, member organization, trial memberships and such. Xbox Live supports none of that except for the LIVE messaging service.

You can change your gamertag to show the world your team affiliation and try to organize as much as possible using LIVE messaging. At some point you need to power off your Xbox and do the rest on the WWW. It's a split world: Organize on PC, play on Xbox.

Most big clans know the limitations of Xbox community support and have their own website.

If you're using your PC to keep in touch with team members anyway... wouldn't it make much more sense to just play on PC as well?

Old games are dead

There are lots of great games which are dead on Xbox LIVE simply because of their age and people have moved on.
On the PC, a strong community can keep a game active for a long time. Some games never die (Counterstrike of course, but also small games like SubSpace/Continuum or Need For Speed: Porsche).

On Xbox 360, good luck trying to find a lobby for PGR4.

No customization

I keep smiling when reading comments like "is this for Xbox 360?" beneath YouTube videos of the latest PES Bundesliga patch.
If you want mods, inofficial patches, edited databases, fan add-ons and all the little customizations that make PC games great, play it on PC.
Of course, this was something I knew beforehand.

Not being the typical Xbox player

When you start your Xbox first the first time, it asks you to create a "gamer profile". By playing games on it, you can unlock "Gamerscore points". A single game usually has 1,000 of those to offer.

Xbox gamers seem to play a LOT of different games (I've seen profiles with more than 300,000 points). They hunt for in-game "achievements" to drive up their score and quit games when they are finished (1,000 of 1,0000). Then, they move on to the next game. True "achievement whores".

After 5 years, I have less than 5,000 points. I can count the number of full-price games I bought on one hand. I think I can safely say that I am not the typical Xbox gamer.

Also see:
1 Million Gamerscore
Xbox 360 Gamerscore Leaderboard

But... not everything was bad.

I really liked the "insert and play" feeling on my Xbox 360.

There was no need to manually download any patches/drivers, no lengthy configuration dialogs, no multi-DVD installations (installing Forza3 on my Xbox HD that took an hour is a different story), no stupid "phone home" DRM like UbiSoft uses on the PC lately, no bullshit.

I absolutely loved Xbox Live Arcade which contained some great games you would not necessarily expect on a console.

Also, the Xbox exclusives were pretty cool (mainly Forza, but also Halo for some quick multiplayer fun).

Bye, Xbox!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

"8bits" animation movie

a brilliant animation movie about old vs. new games:

Fail some more, WCG 2010 Live Stream

In case you missed it: WCG 2010 Grandfinals are currently running.
And since "pro gaming" is doomed and will never find proper sponsors again which would pay for the whole circus, they found a better sponsor: YOU!

Now, I would have watched the Forza3 (spoiler: Daveyskills won) and League of Legends finals (spolier: CLG won against SK Gaming) at least, both of which require a proper resolution to be viewed painlessly. But there is no way I'll pay $30 for that crap.

In another news, Team Fortress 2 is currently sold for $10 on Steam. The good part: You could play that more than a day.

Friday, October 01, 2010


Minecraft is probably the best selling PC indie game of all times:

With 10,000 copies sold in the last 24 hours at a price tag of 10 € during alpha, the developer sits at $100,000 minus Paypal fees.

And that's just from the past day.
Overall, we're talking about 2,890,000 € or $3,965,000 in sales.

Dance Dance Fortress 2

...or easily the best Machinima so far:

FIA WRC 2010, F1 2010 AI discussion, Renault Truck Racing

Some minor racing game news:

- Black Bean Games released a trailer of their upcoming WRC 2010 title showing some old group B cars in action. They also announced the payment model for these cars:
While buyers of the PC version will be enjoying the Peugeot 205 T 16, Lancia Delta S4, Ford RS200, Citroën BX4 TC as well as the Renault R5 Maxi Turbo for free, the cars will only be available as paid DLC pack for Playstation 3 (4,99€) and Xbox 360 users (400 Microsoft Points).
Basically console gamers will pay 1€ for each car. The PC version will be cheaper and include free DLC cars on the other hand. Nice twist.
The game will be released October, 8th.
Here is a trailer:

- Codemasters responding to the "fake AI" criticism. If you don't know what they are talking about, watch this:

- A new 2010 version of "Truck Racing" by Renault Trucks is available for download. A free, fun truck racing game for some not-so-serious multiplayer races. It features 4 tracks to race on with either the 2009 or the 2010 Renault race truck.

100% free new version of TRUCK RACING by Renault Trucks including:
- new Renault Premium Racing
- 4 challenging tracks
- up to16 multiplayer races and online ranking
- integrated painting tool.

Windows XP/Vista/Seven - Languages: French/English
Minimum Configuration :
Processor : 2,4 GHz - 1 Gb RAM
Video card 256 Mb - Direct X 8 - Disk space : 1 Gb