1893: Less of a Mystery
Just back from a longish holiday, but before I left I managed to make it most of the way through
1893: A World's Fair Mystery. By 'most of the way through', what I mean
is that I recovered all of the stolen loot, which as far as I can tell amounts to about 80% of the gameplay. There
is still the remaining task of figuring out who was responsible for the theft and helping the authorities to
apprehend them, and I'm in the process of deciding whether I have sufficient interest remaining to finish it off
completely. The game plays through over the course of a week (in 1893, that is) and I got as far as I did by
playing from the start in three separate saved game 'slices', ignoring the bits that didn't have anything to do
with recovering the stolen property. And... I made a lot of maps :-\
I must say, everything about this game is top notch, making it the best piece of interactive fiction (IF) that
I have played to date. The puzzles were superbly ingenious, and the descriptions of the fair are marvellously
detailed. A real slice of U.S. history. Having said that, those were different times when the question of
sustainability of our western lifestyle was obviously not so much an issue as it has become nowadays. The amount
of wealth on display was staggering (but so was the sheer amount of waste), and there were quite a few times
I wound up shaking my head and wondering to myself: "What were they thinking?"
So, where to next? I'm thinking I might stay on the IF kick for a while. Perhaps
Tuesday, 13th January, 2015
I suppose it's only fitting that since my previous post was concerning the then imminent release of Tex Murphy:
Tesla Effect, those of you seeking closure in this regard have now found it, in the form of a
review of same.
Meanwhile, about a week ago I stumbled upon an intriguing interactive fiction (IF) site authored by a very
accomplished Norwegian chap Texan ex-pat by the name of Jimmy Maher, who now lives in Norway.
Since 2011 he's been chronicling the history of IF all the way back from its roots in Crowther and Woods'
seminal Colossal Cave Adventure. My own roots in computer gaming go back almost as far. In 1985, my company
bought a DEC MicroVax to run an Intel 8085 cross-assembler on, and what was on it but only Dungeon, the prototype
for Zork that the Infocom founders wrote when they were students at MIT! Maher's site is here:
And so, I've decided to park the graphical adventures and big RPGs for a while, and return to my roots. I had
purchased a copy of 1893: A World's Fair Mystery when it first came out, and had got only a few hours into
it before something no doubt more shiny came along. But I see that it made the IF top 50 list too, so I'm going to
dust it off and crank it up again...
Wednesday, 23rd April, 2014
Tex getting set to ride again
The latest installment in the Tex Murphy series, Tesla Effect, was slated to ship yesterday, but the release
has now been delayed 2 more weeks until 7 May. The creators seemingly want to give it a bit more polish. As someone
said, we've already waited 15 years; we can wait another 2 weeks.
Seeing as The Pandora Directive was probably my favourite adventure game
of all time, I am really looking forward to this one out of all the recent Kickstarter-funded games. To tide you over,
here's a little teaser in the form of the latest trailer:
Jane Jensen's Moebius: Empire Rising has also shipped recently, and is garnering mixed reviews. I'll probably
try to source that one and get playing it in the meantime...
Wednesday, 26th February, 2014
Hey, Virtual PC 2007 works fine in Windows 8 too!
There's a small number of very old games that fall in between the cracks, so so speak, of techniques that can be
used to get them running on modern operating systems. They were all made in the 1995 - 1998 time frame, when DOS
was on the way out and Windows 95/98 was starting to come into play as a gaming platform. One of these games is
an obscure yet fairly respectable adventure game, AMBER: Journeys Beyond.
It depends on an ancient version of QuickTime, and also on an old scripting language. So you really need to be
running Windows 95/98 in order to accomplish this. And that means you need either a very old PC, or virtual OS
In theory, you ought to be able to employ the latest in virtual machine technology to solve this sort of
problem in Windows 8, a thingy called Hyper-V. But the catch is that it will only work with hardware that was
developed in the last year or two. Since my PC is more than 5 years old, well... might as well fugeddaboutit.
But even though Microsoft are trying to push Hyper-V as their latest and greatest virtualisation solution,
and it seems that Virtual PC 2007 falls over at the first hurdle and refuses to run in Windows 8, there is
a very simple way to get it running. After installing Virtual PC 2007, all you have to do is rename the executable
file from VirtualPC.exe to something like VPC.exe and away you go. Windows was only
checking that the file name wasn't on some list of deprecated programmes it didn't want you to run any longer :-)
I've updated the metzomagic.com
Virtual PC 2007 FAQ
to reflect this information.
Bonus: two posts in one day!
In our recent Diablo II review (granted, that review is already a year old,
but that is recent in metzomagic.com time frames) I said the following regards the Lord of Destruction expansion set:
Though very tempting at a mere $9.99 and still available to this day, I have so far resisted getting the
expansion set. Life is too short.
Though that statement was true up till this past weekend, it is now a fait accompli as I finally broke
down and downloaded it from battle.net. Well worth it. After installing LOD, you have to patch it to at
least v1.13 before it will run full screen in Windows Vista/7/8, and you also need to run D2VidTst.exe
(in compatibility mode for Win 98) and change the graphics from 3D to 2D, else it runs really slow when you have
a lot of enemies on the screen. So once again I am having a blast with Diablo II, and I'll write up the
LOD expansion set after my first run through.
Thursday, 23rd January, 2014
As Grim as ever - and in this case that's no bad thing
So there's this new utility that allows you to play Grim Fandango in all its
Sure, it's a bit of work to copy over the files from the game CD, but probably worth it in the end because you
can avail of the engine they have developed to run the game with 3D acceleration turned on. However... last night I
decided to see if I could get Grim working the old fashioned way with a bit of the ol' hacking, because:
The graphics, which are from 1998, look just fine to me in software rendering mode. Nostalgia!
I obtain more personal satisfaction through making it work myself, with just a small bit of effort and ingenuity,
i.e. the Nerd Factor™.
Grim is one of those games that, since being developed before XP even came out, can't handle thread-switching
on multiple cores. But all you need do is run this handy utility called imagecfg - that's been around since the days
of Windows NT - on a game's .exe file, and you can bind the application to a single core so it can't thread-switch
between cores and freeze the game on you. To get it to work on XP, all you needed to do was use imagecfg on the game's
launcher, Grim.exe, and that did the trick. Didn't work in Windows 8.1 :-\ I tried a few other things and
was about to give up when it occurred to me to un-install the game and try applying imagecfg to the main executable,
GRIMFANDANGO.EXE, instead and... all of a sudden I'm lost in the LucasArts magic once again, and had to
drag myself away from it to write it up.
And so XP finally buys the farm
Windows XP is 12 years old already, and patches for it will no longer be released after 8th April, 2014. So over the
Christmas break I bowed to the inevitable and upgraded to Windows 8.1. It went a lot smoother than I anticipated, and
I'm delighted to report that the two most important tools of the trade for running very old games on new systems,
DOSBox and ScummVM, work just fine. The only caveat, and it's a real important one, is that since every Windows
operating system since the dreaded Vista features Unix-like security, you need to make sure that you install all your
old games in a place where you have administrative privileges. For me, that would be:
Naturally, your name may vary :-) If you don't put your old games somewhere underneath there, then you won't be
able to create and edit batch files and the like and you probably won't even be able to save games. I have updated my
DOSBox and ScummVM guides to reflect these important changes. I'm going to have to take a deeper look at how you could
actually get something like Windows 98 running in a virtual machine in Windows 8. That might take some time.
Oh, and almost forgot: had to rename these pages to "Steve's XP Legacy Games Corner". Didn't
change the URL though, as people may have it bookmarked... you do have this place bookmarked, right?
Saturday, 4th January, 2014
Plus ça change
Heh. My bright idea to track those new Kickstarter-funded games through development back in last July didn't work out
so well, did it? I suppose when you are creeping up on the 60-year old mark like I am, computer games inevitably start
to lose their appeal. It's mostly due to the long hours you need to put into the type of games I generally play, big
RPGs, to reap any kind of substantive personal reward from playing them. The biggest problem is that if you don't finish
them in one go, you lose weeks to months worth of hard-spent graft because you forget what you're doing if you put a game
down for too long. I've had to start playing Mass Effect (yeah, the first one) from scratch three times now
because of this. And the best I've managed is to get about 2/3 of the way through, from what I can surmise.
This isn't about making a New Year's resolution to do better at maintaining the site. Rather, it's about learning
to accept where I am at this stage in my life and career. Over the holidays I did manage to get a bit stuck into
Skyrim, which was purchased and sitting on my shelf untouched for a year until now. Have to say that I am enjoying
it immensely. Part of the reason for that is that I'm not having to worry about writing a guide for it. One person just
can't keep up with the wikis that have sprung up in the past few years, with hundreds of contributors helping to flesh
out the very last detail of even the biggest world-as-your-sandbox game. So my last legacy to the gaming community in
this respect will probably be my
guide. In the end, I actually managed to contribute to that particular wiki.
Another factor in my lack of time for gaming is my current de facto hobby: the science of anthropogenic global
warming. I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about this topic since about 2009 or thereabouts. Most of my
time since then is spent up on various fora, trying to persuade various people who are probably never going to be persuaded
till the cows come home that we need to take action to avert what is probably humanity's most pressing impending disaster
to date. Several times I even contemplated turning this blog into a science blog but... nah. Maybe next year. I am really
looking forward to playing the new Tex Murphy game :-)
Monday, 8th July, 2013
Can crowd-funding help bring back the glory days of computer gaming?
Over the past two years or so, there has been a plethora of successful Kickstarter crowd-funded projects by high profile
developers from the days of yore (in my case, 'yore' would be referring to the 80's and 90's). In no particular order,
I suppose it is a sad commentary on the state of today's video game industry that developers who were once
responsible for making some of the best games to ever grace our screens can't even get a look-in from modern publishers.
But the current situation can for the most part be explained by the entertainment industry's obsession with the global
teen demographic, and by the perceived necessity that each new production be 'blockbustier' than anything that has come before
it. This phenomenon is well documented by my erstwhile colleague Gordon here: In
the Shadow of the Monster: Adventure Games and Market Forces, and that's not what I'm intending to write about today.
Instead, what I'd like to do is kick off a series of articles following the development of the games listed above. The people
behind these forthcoming games: Brian Fargo, Jane Jensen, Chris Avellone, Ragnar Tørnquist, Chris Jones and Aaron Conners,
Tim Schafer, et. al., be they developers or producers, are among the most famous people in all of computer gaming history (well,
they are if you're into adventure and role-playing games like I am. And you are too, or else you wouldn't still be reading this article).
It beggars belief that they would have trouble getting publishers on board, but there you go. I guess we just have to accept the
fact that we're a niche market, where selling millions of copies of a game isn't going to happen any longer (Bethesda and Bioware
being exceptions to the rule). But as long as the devlopers can enjoy what they're doing, make a decent living out of it, and
produce memorable games as a result, then that's all that matters.
It's very early days yet in the era of the crowd-funding model. It will be interesting times ahead seeing how things pan out.
Speaking of which... at the time of writing I've just learned that Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure project may already be in
trouble before it has barely gotten off the ground. Even though $400,000 in funding was originally sought, and the campaign exceeded
this figure by almost $3M, Tim is now saying that this may not be a sufficient level of funding to develop the game he had originally
envisioned. So I'm going to wait till the dust settles a bit before I bother to write this one up. Maybe it will be a post mortem,
though hopefully not.
As far as I'm aware, none of these titles are due for release any time real soon. So we'll start with the first one on the
list, Tex Murphy - Project Fedora, once I've had a few days to research it. Each of these articles will consist of three main sections:
The Pitch, The Development, and The Reception (once the game has been released). Interesting times ahead, indeed. I'm really looking
forward to playing all of these titles.
Diablo II review up
Well produced games have this innate abilty to draw you in and keep you playing for much longer than you really should...
at my age, anyway. All of a sudden it's 2AM, and: "Sorry honey, I can't come to bed just yet. EVIL HAS SURVIVED!"
Enough already. We bring you the long over-due metzomagic.com review of Diablo II.
Sunday, 10th March, 2013
A different kind of puzzling altogether
For the past 5 years or so, my Sunday Morning Solace has been the solving of 'killer sudoku' puzzles. Believe me,
once you get a taste of these, the classical ones look sorta 'meh' in comparison. If you absolutely don't know
what I'm talking about, have a gander here:
If, on the other hand, you do know what I'm talking about, then you're already hooked :-) Seth, who is
as far as I know still the puzzle designer there, helped me out with a Hard puzzle when I was just beginning to
come to grips with them. He told me that the tougher ones couldn't be solved without pen and paper. Man, was he
Wednesday, 6th March, 2013
Interview with Dag Scheve, co-writer of the upcoming Dreamfall Chapters
Funny that in all my years as a games journalist, from my adventure and RPG section co-editing years at the venerable
Games Domain Review, and all through my time helping out Rosemary and Gordon at Quandary, I never managed to
personally conduct an interview of someone in the games industry. Well, all that changes today:
I can't believe this
Somehow, I find myself playing through Diablo II again. The game was released in 2000, and I first played
it in 2006 or so. I was going through top 100 lists from IGN, PC Gamer, et. al. trying to decide what to play next
from my burgeoning backlog when I noticed that Diablo II featured very high on all the lists, so I dragged it
off the shelf and loaded it up. Tip: you need to patch it to the latest version, 1.13, in order to get it to work in
XP. And then, 20 levels later...
Ankur the Necromancer surveying the spoils of his latest conquest
My favourite character type is Necromancer, where my minions get to do all the hard work and dying, leaving me
free to pick through the treasure even in the midst of battle. I'd always had trouble getting past the poison spewing
boss Andariel in previous forays through Diablo II, but this time I made sure I had a Blood Golem and 3 Skeleton
Magi in tow and got her on the first try. Might do a review when I finish this time. We'll see.
Wednesday, 2nd January, 2013
The Secret of Monkey Island Walkthrough
I never got around to playing this now 22-year old adventure game before, because I thought it would be too primitive.
Turns out I was wrong. It's every bit as good as its sequel, Monkey Island 2:
LeChuck's revenge. And, since it was re-released a few years ago by LucasArts as a talkie with updated graphics
for the PC, iPhone, iPad, and XBOX 360, I figured it was finally worth playing it and writing a walkthrough for a
new audience. So, here it is.
Monday, 24th December, 2012
Secret Files 3 Walkthrough
Walkthrough for Secret Files 3 is up. Review to follow in a few days time.
Meanwhile, I've begun to play the original Mass Effect for... like the fourth time, this time in earnest,
and hope to finally polish it off this holiday season, with a view to writing a review in the New Year. Speaking of
which, a very happy holiday season to all of you!
Monday, 10th December, 2012
Puritas Cordis review
Also as promised, the Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis review is now up.
Review and walkthrough for Secret Files 3 coming sometime around Christmas. And then... I have to finish
Fallout: New Vegas. About 2/3 of the way through it. Just ran out of steam.
Sunday, 2nd December, 2012
Yay! New article
As promised, the walkthrough for Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis
is now up. Review to follow shortly.
Thursday, 22nd November, 2012
Purity of heart
Finally managed to get through an adventure game, my first this year. Last night I finished Secret Files 2:
Puritas Cordis, the 2009 sequel to Secret Files: Tunguska. It was
an enjoyable puzzle fest that lasted about a week (in fact, the game informed me that I had spent 1190 minutes
at it, or just about 20 hours). So this evening I sat down with the best intentions of writing a review and...
decided to do a walkthrough instead, as the puzzles were challenging. And I could use another run through the
thing anyway to concentrate more on some of the aspects of the game that I failed to take note of while I was
concentrating so hard on the puzzles. Not to mention that procrastination is my raison d'être.
Should have the walkthrough up early next week, and then we'll tackle that review.
Monday, 21st May, 2012
Obscure Japanese video game leads to inscrutable number of hits
Since that last post concerning football wasn't exactly on topic for a gaming site, I figured I'd better write
something a little more topical, and soon. Because I was looking at the Google Analytics figures the other day,
and noticed that traffic was a down a bit. I mean, when you plonk yourself down at a gaming site, the last thing
you expect to see is some wailing and gnashing of teeth about a questionable Premiership refereeing decision.
As it so happens, my state-of-the-art (well, 4 years ago) video card gave up the ghost a few months ago, so
I haven't been able to play any recent games. Good time to tackle the 20+ game backlog, I thought, and so I fired
up Baldur's Gate: Shadows of Amn with a view to actually playing it the
whole way through this time, perhaps even doing one of my comprehensive RPG walkthroughs for it. So I decided to
check the site stats one more time and... whoa! WTF?! The traffic dynamics of the site had so completely changed
in just the past *two days* that at first I thought the site had flat-lined. But then I figured out that my
readership had increased by about 800% overnight, so Google had to change the scale of the presentation. But
the burning question was: why?
The last time something like that happened, it turned out to be Monkey
Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge having been released for the iPhone. Usually we get about 300 - 400 unique
visitors to the site a day, mostly because we have a pretty good selection of walkthroughs for popular games. In
this case, a very difficult adventure game had been exposed to a new audience that probably hadn't a clue about
how to solve those kinds of puzzles. So the readership went from about 300 to 1500 overnight, and stayed that
way for about six months. But what caused it this time?
Well, if you're reading this, you probably already know the answer: cracked.com recently posted an article
entitled "6 Japanese Video Games That Will make your Head Explode", and a very obscure game (and rightly so)
that was #1 on their list, "Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong-Nou" was reviewed by our very own Steve Ramsey.
It being so obscure, we were one of the only sites to review it.
Good illustration of the power of the web, and how inter-connected we all are nowadays.
Sunday, 6th May, 2012
Sometimes you forget that you have a blog, and that you paid the yearly subscription to your provider... and that it
doesn't always have to be about computer games. And that FTP is still a viable method of file transfer. And that
you remembered the password. This is one of those times.
Yesterday, what could have been a momentous sporting occasion was wrecked by a world-wide sporting association's
insistence that, despite using modern technology to bring the match to a world-wide audience (I could watch the thing
on my freakin' phone if I wanted to), important decisions be made using 1880's technology... or lack thereof. Yes,
I'm talking about the 2012 FA cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool, which descended into farce due to a single
person on the pitch not being in the right place at the right time to make a game-changing decision. So the world-wide
television audience of like a billion people gets to watch the re-play of an obvious goal that was dis-allowed, like
about 15 times, just to remind them of how farcical the situation has become. Hey, due to the wonders of modern
technology, you can even watch it again:
Back in the real world, perhaps the fact that the ball hit the cross-bar when Chelsea goalkeeper Cech dug it out
might even have been a valuable clue. But when the stakes are so high (Ireland lost out on a chance to participate
in the last World Cup due to an equally obvious Thierry Henri hand-ball that led to a last minute cheating goal for
France in a play-off), it winds up leaving a sour taste in the fans' mouths for weeks or even months afterwards.
<soapbox>So when are FIFA going to get a clue and bring in video ref at the professional level?
It works for other sports like rugby. OK, maybe 10 percent of the time you can't tell what really happened after several
replays, but it at least gives the referees a fighting chance to make the right decision. The main excuse for not
introducing a video ref so far is that it wouldn't be feasible to use at all levels of play, i.e. amateur matches.
But so what? Millions of dollars aren't at stake in some kiddies' Saturday morning match.
Yes, it would disrupt the flow of play, but injuries do that already (and the dreaded diving, another good reason
for it!). Why not give each team up to 3 times during the match when they could invoke it and, *shudder*, stop the clock
during the review? Instead of the referee blowing the whistle immediately for offsides, the linesperson could just hold
up their flag like they already do anyway. The whistle could then be blown for a review if a goal ensues.</soapbox>
Monday, 30 May, 2011
Finally, a decent adventure game graces our screens
And it's none other than Jane Jensen's latest effort, Gray Matter. Check out the linky to the left for the review.
Gaming-wise, this is the most fun I've had in a long, long time.
Sunday, 26th December, 2010
I was astounded to realise that I hadn't posted anything here since May. That's partly due to the fact that I haven't been
gaming much of late, or even following the gaming industry news on the dozen or so sites I used to read regularly. And I
wouldn't even be writing this now if our flight to sunnier climes for the holidays hadn't been cancelled due to the fierce
weather conditions prevailing in northern Europe. But there you go.
I did eventually manage to pick up a copy of Fallout: New Vegas, and though I've only logged a few hours on it so
far, I'd like to share my first impressions of the game with you. Firstly, as with all Bethesda games since Morrowind,
the graphics are pretty wow:
The Mohave Wasteland
I've only explored two locations so far: Goodsprings, the village where you start off, and a neighbouring town called Primm
that has been taken over by escaped convicts. You play this game as a courier that was waylaid and left for dead while trying
to make a delivery to a casino in New Vegas. I've got one lead concerning the possible whereabouts of the person that tried to do
me in, and that will take me to a small town in the middle of nowhere... if I can get there in one piece, that is. As with all
Fallout games, the wasteland is filled with dangerous critters. I've got my hands full right now with packs of Feral
Ghouls that are pretty tough to take on in this early stage of the game. But Fallout games have good balance, and invariably,
what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. So I'm sure I'll figure out a way to muddle through somehow.
The casino in Primm
There seem to be quite a few new weapons and ammo types in Fallout: New Vegas, and you can build a lot more things than in
Fallout 3, and even recycle things like ammo casings to make bullets, on the workbenches you find scattered around the place.
You can also create non-tech stuff at campfires. The quests seem pretty good so far, so I'm quite sure this game will turn out to be
a blast, as has been the case with all of the Fallout games to date. I'll be doing a review in a few weeks time, but have
decided to forego compiling one of my comprehensive guides for this one. I feel that I did a pretty good job on my
guide but these games are becoming so huge that it's not possible to compete with the likes of Wikia that have hundreds of
contributors on the case (I even wound up pitching in a bit on their Fallout 3 effort). Ah well, such is progress.
Saturday, 8th May, 2010
Music for a video game?
Regular readers here (I know you're out there... somewhere) may remember that a little less than a year ago,
most of my hobby time was being consumed by what is otherwise known in geekdom as The Project. The resulting
is ticking over rather nicely. But hey, *cough* shameless plug here *cough* these fledging sites need all
the help they can get. Anyway, I just put a new track up there called
The Monochrome Waltz.
The composer, my friend Ian, is aware of my penchant for video games, and thought this might make good
background music for a game. I concur.
Anyway, be cool if some of you headed over there, joined the site, and posted some comments on the songs.
If you want to take the lazy tack, that's fine too. You don't need to be signed up to download the songs.
Wednesday, 31st March, 2010
Completed the Agatha's Song quest in Fallout 3, and fleshed out a few other areas in the guide. A handy
side effect of completing this quest is... that in the process of finding the vault where the artefact you are
retrieving for Agatha resides, you stumble upon the locations of all the vaults in the Capital Wasteland :-)
More on these vaults to follow in the guide, but for now:
Fallout 3 guide updated
I finally finished the You Gotta Shoot 'Em in the Head quest. New areas thereby covered are The Republic of Dave
and Fort Constantine. Also, I stumbled across a really nice weapon, the Alien Blaster, that can be found in a crashed
saucer. Go for it:
Not so simple, Simon
Firstly, a Happy St. Paddy's Day to you all from jolly ol' Ireland.
I just returned from Goa a few weeks ago, and was having trouble getting back into Mass Effect. So
I decided to put that one aside for the time being, and go for something completely different... like a
17-year old classic adventure game: Simon the Sorcerer. The version
I have is the talkie CD one that was originally produced in 1993. But it was re-released in 2002, supposedly
having been reworked to be XP compatible. Well, not on my XP it wasn't. But never fear, I got it working
with ScummVM instead.
Since it had been so long since I last played it the puzzles were still fresh. And they're pretty
difficult to boot. So I wrote a walkthrough that includes instructions
on getting it up and running with ScummVM. You might want to check it out if you decide to revisit this classic
Monday, 11th January, 2010
Back in the saddle
Got my act together and started gaming again. What kick-started me this time was Dragon Age: Origins,
Bioware's latest effort in a genre that they have come to almost completely dominate since their 1998 debut with
Baldur's Gate. Origins features a unique backstory for each
race/class, 6 in all, that you get to play through before you come anywhere near the main quest. I sense that I'm
coming to the end of the backstory for my Dalish Elf rogue, and so far I'm having a blast.
And... I also started Mass Effect (also by Bioware) again from scratch. To be honest, I hadn't gotten
very far with it the first time because I couldn't come to grips with the combat. But now I've got it more or
less sussed due to a lengthy session this weekend, and managed to get past the place where I was previously bogged
So now I have a new dilemma: which one do I play through first...
Sunday, 29th November, 2009
And so I find myself in a strange situation, where after nearly 22 years as an avid computer gamer, I seem to
have finally burnt out :-\ A few months ago I began playing A Vampyre Story with a view to reviewing it
for the site, but ran into a show-stopping bug about halfway through that caused me to become disheartened to the
extent that I never finished the game. More recently I picked up a copy of the RPG Risen (by the crowd
that produced the Gothic games) because a few people over at one of the gaming sites I (used to) frequent
thought highly of it. But I couldn't get into that one either.
Lately, I've become something of an active skeptic, and spend most of my time visiting science blogs where we
debate with the likes of creationists, anti-vaxxers, homeopaths, etc. - in other words, science vs. junk science.
It's a very interesting way to pass the time, but in the end you wind up with little of substance to show for your
efforts, other than a fuzzy warm feeling that you might be helping to bring a few poor deluded souls over to the
side of rationality.
So that leaves me in a situation where I just don't know what to do with my free time. Should I take up the
guitar again? I was a keen player for about 30 years, before I gave that hobby up about 8 years back when I became
too busy with the gaming journalism. On the other hand, maybe after a break of a few months I could get back into
gaming again. I've got like 20 games sitting on my shelf that are either not started or partly finished (like
The Witcher, Oblivion, Bioshock et. al.).
I suppose I'll get myself sorted sooner or later. In the meantime, just wanted to explain why metzomagic.com was
stagnating. Still get about 300 visitors a day, but that's mostly for the walkthroughs. Thank you for your support.
Monday, 29th June, 2009
The Project, realised
Well, it finally happened. But only thanks to a last minute intervention by The Doctor. Check it out, if you will:
The Project was due to go live this weekend. But I was down in the maintenance pit with a colleague running some
critical last-minute checks, and to our horror we discovered that the levels were all wrong!
This is a rather serious setback, and it's likely something only The Doctor can fix. I'll keep you posted...
Sunday, 24th May, 2009
C'mon you Irish province!
So I grew up in New Jersey, and played American football, baseball, and basketball all through those formative years.
But yesterday was one of those life-defining days for me, and it happened to be associated with a sport that I've only
come to love in the past two years or so: rugby.
Ireland, my adopted country for the past 23 years, is not a big place. Between the north and the south, it
amounts to all of 5 million people inhabiting an island that's just slightly larger than the state of New Jersey. But
these people have heart. A lot of heart. And so it was that yesterday I had the good fortune to be sitting in a pub
with a few of my good Irish friends watching Leinster (pronounced 'lenster'), one of the four Irish provinces, facing
off against Leicester (it's pronounced 'lester', and that's an important observation as we'll see in a moment), a
medium sized English city, in the Heineken Cup final.
They had to use four letter words to describe it
Unless you live in Europe and follow rugby, which is a minority sport here, you've probably got no idea what the
Heineken Cup even is. Let's just say that it is to European rugby what the World Series is to American baseball. It's
the club championship. In any case, they usually use three letters to represent each team up there in the info blurb
on the television screen when a football (that's soccer to some of you) or rugby match is being broadcast. But because
the two teams on this occasion are identical in the first three letters, the face off had to be represented as LEIC vs.
LEIN. And so it was that LEIN was eventually victorious on the day, for the first time in history, by a score of 19 - 16
after 80 minutes of nail-biting agony. I have a silent chuckle to myself every time I hear the English sportscasters
refer to Leinster as 'the Irish province'. But the explanation of why that is will have to wait for another day.
But Steve, what does this all have to do with video games?
You will have no doubt observed that metzomagic.com has been dormant of late, this being the first blog entry in six
weeks. But there's a good reason for this, and it's called: The Project. For those of you unfortunate enough to have a
geek as your 'significant other', you will know that The Project eclipses all other things in life, as it must do in
order to be successful. By definition, The Project never comes to fruition. But in this case, against all odds,
it has. In about two weeks I shall reveal all. And then I will be able to get back to the games...
Sunday, 5th April, 2009
Finally, some adventure games to play with
I'm sure you've all noticed the decreasing shelf space that's been allocated to PC games of general lately, and to adventure
games in particular (but hey, I'm not shouting conspiracy here. It's just that there are fewer adventure games being made
nowadays than there were in the heydays). In any case, yesterday's experience proved to me that making a trip to a shop that
only sells games, as opposed to DVDs, CDs, et. al. really does pay off. I was able to pick up two recent adventure titles of
note, namely: A Vampyre Story and Ceville.
So I'll be loading them up and having a go. You've no doubt also noticed that we've been somewhat remiss here lately
in providing reviews for topical adventure games. Well, hopefully that situation is about to change shortly...
Sunday, 22nd March, 2009
Fallout 3 guide updated with maps
Back from the hols and somewhat refreshed. I've begun adding World Map images to the guide as an aid to getting you to
areas which may be difficult to find by just wandering:
Still a ways to go for both the mapping and the guide, but at least it's a start...
Thursday, 12th February, 2009
Taking a break in the sun for a few weeks, so this will be the last update for a while. Added some new content to the
3 guide, so you might want to check it out.
One thing I've come to realise that needs to be added to the guide when I return: a map. It's one thing when you're following
the main quest and NPCs are putting map markers all over the place for you, but it's quite another thing if I tell you about a
place that's "in the NE part of your World Map". Yes, it's a big, bad world out there in Fallout 3.
Sunday, 1st February, 2009
On a lighter note... well, sort of
Wouldn't be so presumptuous (there's that word again) as to keep a Fallout 3 diary, but there are those moments that
you occasionally want to capture for posterity, clichés notwithstanding. Picked off this sniper by the name of Arkansas in
Minefield from near the maximum range of a Hunting Rifle with a 30% chance to hit the head in V.A.T.S., Sneak skill about
35%. Then went up to collect all his gear.
Arkansas head shot
Who needs a Sniper Rifle? ;-)
Thursday, 29th January, 2009
"Information wants to be free." But this is ridiculous
It's tough on the little guy, and I know life isn't fair. But what I found up there on the web last night has me very
disheartened. On what was heretofore (in my opinion anyway) a very respectable site, I found an extremely detailed
Fallout 3 guide. The amount and level of detail was such that in my estimation you'd have to be playing the game for at
least 6 months straight to amass that amount of info (in fact, that's what I'm in the middle of trying to do myself). And
Fallout 3 was only released at the end of October. But then... on one of the pages there was a reference - inadvertent,
I'm sure, because there were no credits given on any of the other pages - to... the Prima Guide!
So then the penny dropped. All that info must have been regurgitated from the official Fallout 3 Prima Strategy Guide.
But wait... you have to pay for that, and it's copyrighted. I'm darn sure that Prima, who has some kind of
inside track with the developers to get access to a ton of inside info on the game, don't give permission in their licensing
agreement for end users to reproduce information contained in their strategy guides for free.
Anyway, this may sound like sour grapes, but when an indy writer like me who has been writing comprehensive RPG guides
for the past 10 years is looking at spending the next 6 months of my evenings to even approach what's already up there, but
up there as plagiarism... well, that's a bit soul destroying. But I'm not going to name any names here. Whistle-blowing
isn't in my job description.
As a result of this discovery, I've decided nonetheless to persevere with my own guide, but to change tack. My usual
approach is to try and document the whole game in one go, but Fallout 3 is so much bigger than anything I've tackled before that
it doesn't lend itself to that approach. So instead of having a static copy of my guide in the database, I've put it in a file
outside of the database so that I can modify it more easily (and more often). I'm including the date I last updated it at the
top of the guide so you can tell if you're looking at the latest version or not. If you did bookmark the version of the guide
that's currently in the database (article index = 861), here is the bookmark for the new, 'fluid' version:
Well, that's the state of play for the time being. I'm not so presumptuous (or naïve) as to believe that my Fallout 3
guide is the only one people are going to look at. But I hope that if you do consult it, you will realise how much effort went
into it, and that it is the genuine and earnest effort of a single person.
Sunday, 25th January, 2009
Fallout 3 guide v1.0 posted
Finished my second pass through the game, and have posted the guide. I'll need to play it through at least one more time
with a high Charisma/Speech character to tease out more of the side quests, but as a first effort that gets you through the
main quest, I think it will serve its purpose well. You can check it out here:
Progress report, and finally some external links
The Fallout 3 guide is coming along quite well. Reckon it's about halfway done, so looking at another 2 weeks or so
of effort to completion. Since this game was so much bigger than its predecessors, I've decided not to bite off the
whole thing in one chunk like I did with the other Fallout guides. Instead, I'm just documenting the main quest and
whatever side quests I happened to come across in my travels. I'll need to make another pass at it with a high charisma
character to tie off some of the optional quests that require a very diplomatic approach.
Someone asked me if I would link to their site, and I said yes... not realising I had neglected to include a links
page on metzomagic.com. Done.
Tuesday, 23rd December, 2008
Hoping next year is a good better one
Just a quick thank you to our readers, who gave great support to our bourgeoning site over the past few months. Much appreciated.
We've gone a bit quiet over the past few weeks, and I'm going to lay all the blame for that squarely on the doorstep of Fallout 3.
It's been a long time since an RPG consumed so much of my time and energy, and the last game to do that was probably
Divine Divinity, way back in 2003. Hopefully, we'll have one of our comprehensive game
guides up for Fallout 3 early in the new year. I did say comprehensive, right? So probably around mid-February. But we'll
be in touch with some new content way before then, I promise.
In the meantime, here's wishing you all the best for the holiday season and the rapidly approaching New Year.
Wednesday, 10th December, 2008
The silence out there is stony
That was a joke, BTW. 'my proofreader' is, like, me.
Monday, 8th December, 2008
Fallout 3 review updated
In the rush to get that review up my proofreader let me down and failed to spot a spelling error in the third sentence.
Kind of detracts from the impact of the opening paragraph, you know, so just had to fix it. And while I was in there, also
realised I had neglected any mention of you being able to recruit NPCs into your party. Oh, and there was also the matter of
forgetting about Dogmeat...
Just wanted to add another observation outside of the context of the review. I've seen at least 5 or 6 other Fallout
3 reviews bemoaning the fact that the weapon accuracy outside of V.A.T.S. isn't good. Well, duh! That's because it's
*designed* to be that way, people. It's an RPG, not a first person shooter. Behind every shot is a computer 'dice roll' that
statistically determines your chance of hitting the target, based on your skill level and other factors. Not only that, but
your target's armour may also 'save' them so that even if you did manage to hit, your shot may do little or no damage.
I suppose there is consolation in the fact that with Fallout 3 being such a high profile game (and admittedly an FPS
crossover), it might entice some of the action crowd into the realm of RPGs. But only time will tell.
Sunday, 7th December, 2008
Fallout 3 review posted
Well, it's a bit of a hard slog for us indy reviewers. On the day Fallout 3 was released in North America (28th
October), there were at least 20 reviews already sitting up there on metacritic.
And it's very difficult to compete with that level of in-your-face immediacy. Yeah, we have to buy our own review copies,
which is actually not a big deal since I've been doing that even when I could get review copies for free. But all that
takes time and has to be done after the game is released. What does matter to me is the long wait for all the gamers out
there that are trying to decide whether or not to buy the thing, and want some opinions that aren't influenced by the
rather nasty symbiotic relationship that has developed between the publishers and the mainstream sites that depend on
them for advertising revenue.
I could go on... but we'll leave it there. And for what it's worth, here is our review of Fallout 3:
I hope you find it useful, and take it in the spirit in which it was written.
Saturday, 15th November, 2008
Fallout 3: war story
Making good progress, and might be in a position to review the game next weekend or thereabouts. I just
attained level 8 in quite spectacular fashion. Got a super mutant with a head shot, and as he started to topple
backwards the level-up screen popped up. Then after levelling up and closing the screen, the dead mutant continued
his backwards slump onto the floor. Did break me out of my suspension of disbelief, but was very entertaining
I remember that when I completed the original Fallout, my character
was only at level 9 (I had built a diplomat type character that could talk his way past even the final battle).
I wonder if I'll be able to pull off a similar stunt with Fallout 3. Though... this possibility is doubtful
as I haven't been able to talk my way out of combat yet.
Three Cards to Midnight update
Looks like Three Cards to Midnight, originally scheduled for a November release, has been put back
about 2 months. No problem with that at all if the game will be better for it. Here's the latest
news update from Aaron Conners and Chris Jones:
Well, I dare say that sounds like a casual game to me, as much as the author tries to dance around the
elephant in the room. But I will probably play it anyway. Hopefully the story and puzzles will make it
This first person take on parkour looks refreshingly different.
It was just released on the PS3 and XBOX, and the PC version is slated for January. It's getting pretty good reviews too:
Fallout 3: first impressions
Picked this one up on Saturday, and have logged about 8 hours of play at the time of writing. This fantastic game can
largely be summed up in two words: old friend. Based on what I've seen so far, Bethesda have done a very good job of bringing
the venerable legacy of RPG gaming that is Fallout into the new millennium, while
still managing to preserve nearly everything that made the original games so much fun to play. So all the Fallout
mainstays are still there: the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. primary stats system, the perks (a lot of the old ones, and of course some
new ones), and roughly the same skill system. So that's what I mean by 'old friend'. Those of you familiar with the series
will feel right at home.
One thing that has changed though, I suppose born of necessity caused by the move from 2-D isometric to 3-D first person,
is the shift from turn-based to real-time combat. However, even the effects of this sea change are largely mitigated by the
preservation of the 'targeted shot' albeit in a slightly different form. You see, it's not quite possible to play this thing
like a shooter (though some will inevitably try), because even though you could be aiming directly at your enemy's head, you
are likely to miss the next shot entirely because behind the scenes it's actually an RPG 'dice roll'. So Bethesda have introduced
V.A.T.S. (Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System) to compensate. It allows you to pause the game completely, queue up a series of
targeted shots (limited by how many action points you have remaining), and then let the action resume. Your character is then
shown in third-person 'bullet time' executing the actions you queued up. The whole thing is excellently done, and makes the
fighting quite strategic.
Megaton at night
Well, so far I've explored a bit of the wasteland, cleared an abandoned school of some pesky raiders, and disabled a nuclear
bomb. And that was all before lunch. I must say I'm having an absolute whale of a time with it! The sheer scale of the thing
just amazes me, though I suppose we have come to expect these expansive worlds from Bethesda. Hopefully, I won't become as
sidetracked as I did with Morrowind, where I completely lost sight of the main quest.
If all goes well, you can expect a review in a few weeks time. And now, please excuse me while I go kick some mutant butt...
Monday, 27th October, 2008
You'd think that on what is primarily an adventure and role-playing game review site the most popular articles would be
reviews. But you'd be wrong. One of the first things I did when I set up this site was to get
Google Analytics up and running. It gives me a daily account of, among
other things, what pages are being hit the most. And the tale that these statistics tells is quite an amazing one. By a
factor of 4, the most popular article on the whole site is a walkthrough for an adventure game: The Lost Crown.
And the rest of the list is quite telling too. In order of hits, here are the top 10 articles on metzomagic.com:
I'm gobsmacked by those results! My Google PageRank is a measly 1 out of 10, yet people are somehow finding those
walkthroughs (and Steve's XP Games Corner, natch ;-) All I can say is, thanks for the visits folks, and keep em' coming.
Meanwhile, we'll try to keep the pipeline filled with walkthroughs, not to mention reviews (you can be sure the very prolific
Steve Ramsey is working on his latest effort as we speak). Fallout 3 is being released in Europe on the 31st of
October, and that's next on my agenda.
Sunday, 26th October, 2008
Dark Side of Luna Crysta
This was another game from the late 90's that some thought was pretty good, but I found it to be little more than a blurry
nightmare of an implementation gone all wrong:
As it turns out, this was to be Southpeak's last outing. It's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea project went belly up
in 2000, and the studio closed it doors.
Thursday, 16th October, 2008
Apologies for the rather long delay since new content was posted, but I've had my head buried in an old LucasArts classic
for the past week or so, and have a comprehensive walkthrough to show for my efforts:
After not having replayed an adventure title for 15 years or so, you don't remember any of the puzzle solutions. This is
definitely a Good Thing™, because it makes it just as fresh to play as it was all those years ago... and now I'm not
sure whether it's this game or Day of the Tentacle that is my favourite LucasArts
Saturday, 4th October, 2008
Like most die-hard fans of the Fallout series (I've done reviews and comprehensive guides for both games. Just have
a look at the indexes ;-), it is with no small amount of trepidation that I look forward to Fallout 3, finally
arriving on a screen close to you after a nearly decade-long hiatus. I suppose what we're all worried about is that since
Bethesda bought the IP to Fallout from the now defunct Interplay... well, that Fallout 3 would turn out to
be something like Oblivion with guns. So I was poking around on the site today:
...and while my fears haven't been totally allayed, they have been somewhat assuaged by the material I found up there.
Specifically, there are 5 demo videos on the Downloads page that give you an excellent idea of what the gameplay will be
like, as one of the developers walks you through early segments of the game. A word of caution is in order though, if
you're real anal like myself and don't like to have your game ruined: these demo films are *complete spoilers*. I would
recommend viewing just the third one, Gameplay Demo Video 3 - The Wasteland. Make sure you download it in all its 120MB
high def glory. It gives you a very good idea of what the combat is like without spoiling too much of the game. Whereas
the first two games featured very strategic turn based combat, Fallout 3's is real time, but with a subtle wrinkle
thrown in: you can pause the combat at any time to queue up one or more targeted shots (a mainstay of the original games.
They don't have as high a success rate as a normal shot, but they do more damage if you do score a hit). It all looked
good enough to keep this skeptic happy. So if the story is up to scratch too, we might just be in for a real treat that
will do justice to the series.
Fallout 3 is due out on the PC, XBox 360, and Playstation 3 in North America on the 28th of October, and in Europe
on the 31st.
The enhanced version of The Witcher was released on the 19th September. So I finally took the plunge, registered my
original copy, and downloaded the enhanced version last night. The gameplay is improved in two main aspects:
The load times between areas are much shorter
The inventory is organised better, in that your alchemical items are separated from the other items
I'm not entirely convinced yet that it was worth a 1.5GB download, but we'll see. I was just at the beginning of Chapter 2
before I gave up play to wait for the enhanced version, and I'm going to start over from scratch as I wasn't happy with the
way my character was developing anyway.