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Riven Riven


 by Steve Metzler
Hadean Lands Hadean Lands


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Tesla Effect Tesla Effect


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Diablo II Diablo II


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Dag Scheve Dag Scheve


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Puritas Cordis Puritas Cordis


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Gray Matter Gray Matter


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Dark Fall: Lost Souls Lost Souls


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Tex Murphy: Overseer Tex Murphy: Overseer

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Fallout 3 Fallout 3


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Dark Side of the Moon Dark Side of the Moon

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Atlantis II Atlantis II


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Overclocked Over-


 by Steve Ramsey
Seven Games of the Soul / Faust Faust


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The Immortals of Terra Perry Rhodan


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Where Have All the Puzzles Gone? (Part II) Puzzles (Part II)


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Where Have All the Puzzles Gone? (Part I) Puzzles (Part I)


 by Steve Metzler
Archived commentary

Sunday, 29th June, 2008

Hard to bear
First up today, a little tidbit in the form of a preview (actually, it's an obituary, but we don't have that article classification here, and we're not going there). Steve Ramsey provides some interesting background info on an adventure title featuring teddy bears that almost got made back in 1999, Venice Under Glass.

Outcast on XP
Something a little more meaty for you, in the form of a long overdue entry for Outcast in Steve's XP Games Corner. I had it up and running on my new machine a few weeks ago, but wasn't happy with the result as I could only get it to play in a tiny letterbox. So yesterday I spent the guts of an afternoon fiddling with it, and got the resolution to its (official) maximum of 512 x 384, where it's quite playable. The reason I say 'official' is because there's a fan-made patch that allows you to run it full screen at 640 x 480. However... the patch was made for Windows 98, so to get it to work in XP you must tweak all 3 Outcast executables (oc1.exe, oc2.exe, and oc3.exe) to run in Compatibility Mode for Windows 98/ME. I managed to get it working that way, but the first time Cutter died, it died with him. So I gave up on that approach and settled for the 512 x 384 resolution, which was how the game was originally designed to be played anyway.

As an aside, being not short of a little hacking experience myself, I did spend quite a few hours mucking around with the .ini files in an attempt to coax the game into playing at 640 x 480, but no dice. If you set the resolution in the .ini files to anything above 512 x 384, it replaces the values you put into the .ini files with its own values before it loads the game. I even found 'tips' in a few forums to the effect that you could make the files read-only after you edited them, but... uh uh. The game writes over the files even if you do this! Just goes to show you how much dis-information is out there. People write what they want to believe instead of what actually works. As a last resort I tried opening the OUTCAST.ini file in Microsoft Word before I ran the game one time, because I know that this absolutely prevents writing to a file. But this just crashed the game :-\

Anyway, if you happen to have a copy of Outcast, and couldn't get it to work in XP, pop on over to Steve's XP Games Corner by following the link over there on the top left and have a look.



Thursday, 26th June, 2008

Limbo of the Lost... and found elsewhere
I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but felt I had to rope in with some comment. It's probably the first gaming scandal of any significant magnitude to raise its ugly head since Jeff Gerstmann got the sack from GameSpot for a lukewarm review of Kane and Lynch, which the publishers were paying to advertise on the site.

Limbo of the Lost was released, with little fanfare, last July (in Europe). It was only a few weeks ago, most likely due to the recent release in the U.S., that some astute players with roots in other genres recognised the striking similarity between scenes from Limbo of the Lost and other games from recent years, most notably: Oblivion. Game Plasma has a good selection of comparison shots (heh heh. Look at the last screenie in our review. It's one of them :-) A day after this news broke, publisher Tri Synergy ordered that all copies be pulled from store shelves.

Now... the main thrust of most comments I've read concerning this subject in various forums was along the lines of "How could the developers be so stupid as to blatantly rip off other games and think no one would notice?" Hmm. I maintain there's a lot more to this business than meets the eye. On Wikipedia, I found this page, and the developers, Majestic Studios, have gone on record saying:

"In response to the shocking notification that some alleged unauthorized copyrighted materials submitted by sources external to the development team have been found within the PC game Limbo of the Lost, we (the development team) have given our consent and full cooperation to both publishers who are recalling all units from all territories immediately. [...] To the best of our knowledge no one at Majestic, [European publisher] G2Games or [North American publisher Tri Synergy, Inc.] knew about this infringement and knowingly played any part in it."

There's a key bit in there that no doubt will not have escaped your attention, namely: "...that some alleged unauthorized copyrighted materials submitted by sources external to the development team...". To me, that sounds like the unwitting developers licensed the offending material from a third party, probably on the ultra-cheap, and didn't take pains to verify that the stuff wasn't copyrighted. Oops. So I think we ought to pity them more for being naive, rather than unscrupulous. But I suppose in the end, the outcome is the same. Majestic Studios will never ride again.

Oh wait... this is too surreal! I've just realised that we ran an interview with Steve Bovis of Majestic Studios all the way back in December, 2006. So out of (morbid?) curiosity:

Limbo of the Lost - Interview with Steve Bovis

Take from that what you will. And that reminded me to add all the Quandary interviews to the Editorials index, which I've just done. It would have been a shame to lose those, because there are some interviews with high profile names in the adventure game industry lurking in there, thanks largely to the efforts of Rosemary and Gordon over the years.



Sunday, 22nd June, 2008

Where art thou, PC gaming?
Several years ago I wrote an editorial piece that discussed the usual treatment that adventure games receive from the mainstream sites whose readers and reviewers don't usually play adventure games. I think the piece is still topical, so you might want to nick out and read it: Give it your best shot, console jockey...

So on a related note, I was in my local HMV 'megastore' yesterday, a place that peddles stuff covering the entire digital entertainment spectrum: music CDs, DVDs, console games, PC games, etc. I was there ostensibly looking for a copy of The Galway Girl (originally by Steve Earle with Sharon Shannon in 2001, but recorded recently by a bloke called Mundy that managed to get it into the Irish charts) for my niece, and as I was already there... thought I'd have a look at the PC gaming section to see if I could pick up one of the recent adventure games to review. Well, I'm still in shock. Whereas in the not too distant past I could usually find at least one copy of something like Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Silver Earring or Broken Sword: The Angel of Death languishing on the shelf, there wasn't one single adventure game amongst the offerings on display. And that's when I also noticed that the total amount of shelf space allocated to PC games, which has been getting proportionately smaller over the last few years compared to the space set aside for the various consoles, had shrunk even more compared to the last time I was there. Is the market share not big enough to justify making games for the PC? Is piracy eating into the sales figures to the extent that the developers and publishers would have you believe? Actually... that's it. The elephant in the room. I've just spent the entire afternoon reading up on video game piracy, and I'm completely gobsmacked (now there's a nice Irish expression for you to Google) about how rampant the rip-off rate is. Way over the 50% mark in some markets. Maybe it's because I'm a software developer myself, and that even the thought of stealing a piece of software that some developer poured their heart and soul into for the past few years is anathema to me... I dunno. I'm going away to have a think about this.

Oh yeah, and before all the people that download pirated software write in with that pathetic whinge that "It's not stealing. It's just copyright infringement." Well, tell that to the poor developers who couldn't afford to make another game because the cracked version of their last game was put up there on the web for everyone to download for free instead of paying for it :-\

One of my all time favourites
I've just put up my original Games Domain Review of Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned. Have a read and see what you think. For me, this was the second-best adventure game I ever played, the best being The Pandora Directive. Yes, I know, in the very first sentence of that GK3 review I said it was the best. But we gamers are a fickle lot, and are famous for changing our allegiances from time to time. So get over it already.

A new addition to Steve's XP Games Corner
Got an oldie but goodie, Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy up and running in XP. Check out Steve's XP Games Corner for the skinny on how to do it.



Wednesday, 18th June, 2008

Another retrospective review
Dragon Lore II: Heart of the Dragon Man was another one I reviewed early on for Games Domain Review, but unlike TimeLapse, which has stood up well to the test of time, Dragon Lore II was pretty abysmal regardless of when you played it: review of Dragon Lore II (Second Opinion)

I wound up giving it the ignominious GDR 'Junk' award which - as you have probably surmised - means we thought they shouldn't have bothered to put the thing on a CD in the first place.

Witcher woes
The Witcher is undoubtedly one of the best RPGs released in quite a while. In fact, it was one of the main reasons for me upgrading to a new PC a few months ago. It requires Pixel Shader Model 2.0 support, and my 2004-vintage Radeon X800XT graphics card, though very good for its time (even ran Oblivion flawlessly), just couldn't hack it any longer. So I took the plunge and opted for a Dell XPS 720, with 2.4GHZ dual core Pentium, an nVidia 8800GTX graphics card, and 3GB RAM. This beast is built for gaming, and the base unit is so freakin' huge that the guy who delivered it commented that he couldn't believe it was going into a private residence :-O

Anyway, back to The Witcher. I think it's worthy of a Steve's Guide, which is actually saying a lot because I've only written 7 of them since I began with Steve's Guide to Fallout 2: Warts n' All way back in 1999 (it's since been re-titled to the rather less exciting 'Fallout 2 Walkthrough'; a purely utilitarian decision, so that people can find it on Google). The fact is, when you try to solve and document every quest in a game by playing it all the way through as 3 or 4 different character types... you also wind up completely consuming about 3 or 4 months worth of evenings. This is not only taxing on the patience, but also on your family members :-\

So what does all this have to do with The Witcher? Well... I just can't seem to get into it. I've restarted the game from scratch twice, and can't seem to work up the enthusiasm to get past the second area, let alone document anything. It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. It's even well above being mediocre. But *sigh*, this has happened to me before with other games (usually adventures), and I suppose I'll manage to somehow overcome my lethargy. Eventually. In the meantime, I might try getting into Mass Effect...



Sunday, 15th June, 2008

Since I arrived at Quandary rather late in the day, in 2002 which was about 7 years after Rosemary and Gordon founded the site... they had already reviewed most of the games that I had reviewed during my tenure at Games Domain Review. At GDR, we had the concept of a Second Opinion, so that multiple reviewers could review the same game. I rather like the idea, and so will be pitching in with some Second Opinions that I had written for these games and adding them to our index. My first ever review as a budding games journalist with GDR was for TimeLapse. Quite embarrassing to look at it now, because it was loaded with spoilers. But I've cleaned it up and added it to our index: review of TimeLapse (Second Opinion)

Incidentally, the way I was able to recover all those articles that Yahooo Games ditched when they took over GDR was by using the Wayback Machine. It's a fantastic resource, and if you want to see how GDR looked in the 1997 - 2000 heydays when I wrote for them, you can do so by going to the Wayback Machine and entering:

RSS feed up and running
As promised yesterday, got the RSS feed going. Just use the info in the 'RSS Feed' link to the left to hook your news aggregator up to the feed (hint: if you've never heard of a news aggregator, then now would be a good time to follow that link and find out what it's all about. You won't know yourself ;-)



Saturday, 14th June, 2008

Hi there! Put Google Analytics on my fledgling site, and though I've gotten about 70 - 80 unique visitors over the past few days, I realise that you're not going to keep coming here unless I do something to make it worth your while. And so... I decided to start a blog. The topics I'll be covering will mostly be related to the games industry. I won't necessarily be posting new content every day, so I'll be cranking up the old RSS feed shortly to automate the process of letting you know when there's something new and exciting to look at ;-)

I've re-done all of my comprehensive RPG guides, placing the important items you can acquire and NPCs you can meet in handy tables at the end of each guide:

Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura
Divine Divinity
Fallout 2
Jade Empire (XBOX)
Planescape: Torment
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Lately I'm playing The Witcher. It's a fairly good RPG, if not a little misogynistic. I'll certainly be writing a review for it, and if I can find the time, I'd like to do one of my RPG guides for it. But I haven't even finished my initial run through, so early days yet. Also just acquired Mass Effect. Just barely into it, but looks to be another fine effort from Bioware.

My latest success story in getting an old game running in XP was with System Shock 2. It was a real pig to get running, but now it's finally documented in Steve's XP Games Corner. You might want to nick over there right now and read about it if you have the game, or were interested in acquiring it but heard that it was difficult to get working in XP. Also got Grim Fandango running on my new nVidia 8800 GTX. But there was a bit of a disappointment as I had to resort to using Virtual PC 2007 and running the game in software rendering mode. Still looks gorgeous without hardware acceleration though.

And to wrap up this initial post, I'd like to steer you towards my About and Contact Details page. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you have regarding Steve's XP Games Corner, or any subjects relating to the games industry that you'd like to see covered in the blog.