Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Geek Sunday, Part Deux

This is the topic I had initially wanted to focus more on, rather than my lengthy post about Tempus.

X06 is a gaming event organised by Microsoft to show off their upcoming gaming products, primarily the Xbox 360 console. This year, there was quite a display of PC gaming too, not surprising considering that Microsoft is looking to promote their newest OS, the Vista, which is supposed to be very gamer friendly.

The event was located at the corner of Carlton Hotel and Odeon Towers. Microsoft built an interesting structure, which resembled a series of inter-linked domes. It looked a little odd from the outside, and actually, quite underwhelming. But inside was a plethora of gaming goodness, and it was quite a sight. The curved surfaces served as screens inside the dome, similar to the Omnimax Theatre. Now imagine 10-12 concurrently running game trailers on the curved ceiling, surrounded by loads of Xbox 360 consoles, PCs, HD TVs, music, people and games. It was quite a sight.

I tried out a number of games, and I'll list some of my impressions of them.

Games that I tried:

Star Trek: Legacy
In this game, I captain the Enterprise, which should have been sufficient reason enough for me to like this game. But it didn't really click with me. I had difficulty navigating the ship, and the controls weren't particularly intuitive. Some commands were located at the touch of a button, but others required multiple levels of screens. I wasn't able to quite wrap my head around the game, but I guess that's just me. Graphics weren't spectacular either, but I can be a little forgiving when it comes to space games... I mean, how much details could one really use to depict deep black space?

Gears of War
Wow. That's all I can say. It was quite an experience to get my hands on this game. I've seen the demo before, and I wasn't so impressed. But playing it changed my mind. It felt more like playing an action movie. The animation, the details on the screen, the sound effects and the action... Everything felt fluid and flexible, and nothing felt scripted. Enemies displayed a decent amount of intelligence, and team-mates were effective. And the best part of this game? Co-op! Available either in split-screen, or over Xbox Live!

Viva Pinata
Hmm... I'm undecided about this game. I can see the appeal, and I honestly wanted to like this game much more. At the moment, I'm undecided. Technically, it's very well done. The production values are definitely top-notch: Graphics are clean and inspired, music was catchy, and the pinatas were so cute. But it terms of emotional connect, it still hasn't hit me yet. I'd still like to get a copy of it, and I'd definitely want to play it. But I'm not sure if a game such as this could capture my attention.

Vampire Rain
Rubbish. That's my one word descriptor for this game. Rain is a stealth game which almost looks like a Splinter Cell clone. Until the zombies attack. Vicious, unyielding zombies that will kill you as soon as they get their hands on you. Usually, I'd applaud these traits in a zombie, but in the game, it'll lead to frustration. My character wasn't able to stand up to even one zombie, and death was quick and painful. I think I died about 7-8 times in the 20mins I played, and each time I had to start the level again. I have to admit to one particularly cool death though: I was spotted whilst on the rooftop (there were zombies there too), and I let myself down the edge of the building and tried to slide down a drain pipe. Ordinarily, this would be sufficient to avoid danger, as game AI aren't programmed to just climb over obstacles. The zombie in this game leapt off the side of the building, grabbed me, bit me, and pulled me down a 5 storey drop to my death.

Warhammer 40k: Dark Crusade
A good quality expansion to an already great game. I had to play this just so I could use the Tau.

Battlefield 2142
Not quite my cup of tea. There are quite alot of interesting mechanics to it, but none that appeal to me.

Company of Heroes
Brillant. An excellent strategy game, based on area control and effective use of combined arms. And most importantly, extremely thematic. I've always felt a RTS based in WWII is a little odd, but it works in this game. Your builder unit are Army Engineers, whose job is to set up encampments and tentages for troops. Each unit work in squads, and they can do most anything an infantry squad would do. And it's an absolute joy to send them in to attack, and see them dropping to the ground, crawling into position or running around in panic. It feels like you're commanding a real group of men. And that's the ultimate experience for a strategy game: to make you believe you are actually commanding those men.

While I was there, I took the oppurtunity to buy a copy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance and an extra controller, because of the available discounts. I'm sorely tempted to just play the game, but I'm waiting on Shaun and Mark to come over to have a gaming marathon. I hope it's going to happen soon!

Geek Sunday

I had a pretty damn decent weekend, steeped in all manners of geekiness. That's the best kind of weekend, and I had a whale of a time.

On a not so happy note, a couple of friends were having some problems and I had to help them out. I really do hope they'll be able to work thing out and resolve their differences.

I met Andy, Adrian and Sng for a game of Tempus on Sunday at PI. It was a very good game, and I believe we all throughly enjoyed ourselves. It's was also the first oppurtunity I've had to play a game with Andy. I had played this game wrong the 1st time, and I've wanted to try it again with the correct rules. And I must say, I haven't been disappointed by this game at all.

Tempus is a Civ-type game, in which one is trying to cultivate one's civilisation, and trying to claim dominance against other players. As this game is lighter than say... Civilisation... there are multiple elements that have been abstracted. There aren't any real Civ-type game elements such as exploration or techonological advancements. In this game, each player essentially just tries to increase their population, which would then allow them to build cities. One could potentially win this game without getting into confrontation with another. It's all about placement of your pieces and your cities.

And in that fashion, one could see where the theme in this game lies. The success of one's civilisation isn't about the number of fights one is in, but rather based on where one establishes one's foothold. When you decide where to establish your city, you must consider whether that particular move would have any effect on future builds. You could rationalise this as your people finding suitable, and fertile lands for your cities. In the game, as each city cannot be built adjacent to each other, the placement of the city could potentially either lock yourself or your opponent out of an area.

In the game that we played, Adrian won with a total of 23 points without being in a fight even once. And though Andy lost a huge fight against me, he ended up in second place with 22 points. I was in last position with 16 points, and Sng had 19. I think that in the end, the game was pretty close, and had I planned my moves more carefully earlier, I might have stood a stronger chance and a better placing. Fighting Andy helped my position a little, and may have delayed him a little, but it was the bad placement of my cities and people that lost me the game.

Near the end of the game, Sng suggested that he was in a king-making position, whereby his actions could have adverse effect on the lead player, and that action would have given the win to another person. He also noted that this was a common problem noted in by other players. I still remain unconvinced that a king-making problem exists in this game. What he didn't realise at that point, was that he was still in a strong position to win, even though he thought he was out of the race. Had he chosen a slightly different course of action, and spread his people to capture points, rather than attacking Andy in the end, he really could have stolen the win. There is one important thing to note here: The point differences between each player is actually quite close, and spreading out your people could easily capture more points than destroying another city would. It's a toss-up between a confirmed number of points through finding fertile to settle in, or a risky attack which would could potentially have no impact on your score.

All in all, I think this is a good game and one worth putting on the table again. I definitely noted some problems in my gameplay early on, and by the time I realised it, it was too late to mitigate my own mistakes. What made it interesting was the tenacity of my opponents, and each mistake I made is an opportunity for them to seize upon.

Wow... I talked a lot longer about that game than expected. My next post will be about the morning I spent at X06, which is a Microsoft gaming event here in Singapore.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Gaming day

I went over to Weng Keong's place for an afternoon of games. The session was supposed to start in the morning, but I didn't get there til about 3pm. It was an enjoyable experience, and I'd say it was a good day overall. Of course, anyday I get to play a few games is a good one for me.

I find that my playing time has reduced recently which is a shame. And kinda odd, since I set up SOG just so that I could play more. I really need to step it up a bit more.

I played a number of games today:
Time Pirates
The Great Dalmuti

Overall, I think my favourite game today was Ra. It really is quite an ingenious auction game. There aren't many rules, but there are many subtilties in the process, and it leads to many interesting situations. The theme really is quite thin (almost non-existant, I would say) but overall a very good game.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I've just gotten my employment confirmation from my supervisor, so I'm officially permanently employed and am no longer on probabtion. So... Yea! That's pretty cool, because I was supposed to be confirmed only in November, and my boss told me that she was going to do it a month early, since I'm definitely staying.

But work has been a little crazy lately. There's plenty to do, and not really enough time to do it all in. The toughest part is the liasing with so many different parties (vendors, guests, other VIPs). So there's alot of back and forth, and lots of phone calls/emails/meetings/discussions. Damn, it's not easy putting together an award ceremony. There's the techinical aspect (venue, audio/visual equipment, lighting, photography), creative aspect (room layout, stage backdrop, exhibition panels, video montage). There's also the script for speeches, confirmation of menus, citations, media writeups, invitations (we sent out about 900+++ letters, and 800+++ invitation cards), guestlists, and seating plans.

But I'll just roll with the punches, you know. I can handle it. But I wouldn't mind a smoke about now.

Monday, October 16, 2006


The 8th session of Singapore Open Gaming was held over the weekend, and it was another success. I've mentioned this gaming group on a number of occasions previously, and I've made my feelings about it quite clear. I think it's a great way for me to meet new people to play with, and it's been a great motivator in my personal life now.

I just wanted to mention that I had a really good game of Antike at SOG. We avoided a situation that is commonly percieved to be a problem with the game, and we had a exceedingly challenging 6 player game. This commonly percieved problem is one whereby the game stalls because of over-defensiveness in players. This would in turn lead to a situation where players, in an attempt to secure the last victory card, would only focus on destroying temples and little else. This is a problem that did not occur in our game of Antike, and the game really shined.

We avoided this by stressing before the game started, that the point of the game was to secure victory cards, through a variety of means other than conquest. And that the mindset of building a huge army to keep defending yourself til you are able to smash through other armies, would NOT lead one to victory. The winner, Michael, ended the game with the prerequisite 6 victory cards: 2 in research, 2 in building enough cities, 1 in navigation, and 1 in destroying a temple. It was a tightly fought game, with Michael blitzing for the win, securing the 2 required victory cards (he had 5 previously). The closest other player, Cedric, could have easily stolen the victory on his following turn, with the possiblity of securing 3 victory cards had he been given the chance. I was slightly slower behind, catching up from behind to end the game with 4 cards.

What made this game so compelling, was the fact that most players did not just build and hold, but moved very dynamically across the board. The board was open, and players were not bogged down with merely consolidating territories they already owned. Cyril and Kew soon were sort of caught in this situation, and fell behind in the race for victory.

I made the mistake of NOT going for more research, which I could easily have done. Truth be told, I took over someone else's game, and he sort of bogged down a little too, but I was able to turn it around to pull myself higher up in the victory race.

This is my 2nd time playing this game, and I'm still enjoying it very much. But it's important for players to remember the objective of the game... which isn't just to fight and take over territories. One must develop their own civilisation in all areas in order to secure the victory cards.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


In remembrance of North Korea's nuclear test a couple days ago, I downloaded and played Defcon, which was developed by Introversion Software.

Introversion has made a few very interesting games, and I definitely think that they are THE pc game developer to watch. They previously made Uplink, which lets gamers take on the role of a hacker, to steal money fron banks, and destroy precious information. It was done in a very innovative manner, and should be on anyone playlist. The innovative thing about the game is how the entire interface mimicks a desktop GUI, and players run hacking programs the way they would open MS Word.

Defcon is the latest game from this company, and it's one that I feel is another instant classic. In the game, each player (maximum of 6) take on the role of a superpower. They are each given a set number of radar sites, missile silos, airfields and fleets; There's no other way to gain more units. Played on a world map, players place their units on homeground, and use units to attempt to destroy each others' cities. The game counts down from Defcon 5 to 1, and the use of nuclear arms will be authorised once it reaches Defcon 1. Prior to that, players can also send bombers and submarines on missions to take out each others' facilities.

This game is really quite good, and really does make players realise the terrible cost of potential nuclear war. As each city is hit, the game shows how many millions of people were killed. And the winning player is the one that kills more people (ie bomb more major cities) than any other.

With the game presentation done is a cold blue tinge, with slightly eerie music, and distant screams of people with each bomb hit, it really hit me how cold and impersonal the launching of this devastating weapon can be. It's not about how many of my people they kill, it's about how much more I can kill. And it really makes me realise how much power one person can hold, through control of this horrible device... Deus Ex Machina, maybe?

North Korea having the ability to create nuclear weapons is a scary thought, only because it seems more than willing to use it as a bargaining chip. For it, this weapon is merely a tool, nothing more, and one that can be used with the same disdain as one would treat any other tool. And that does frighten me. We could be facing another Cold War, or even worse, a nuclear arms race here in Asia.

Our parents lived under the shadow of nuclear destruction. Don't think, for a moment, that it couldn't have happened. We could have very easily destroyed ourselves, and it could become a very real possibility. And it only takes a click of a button.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm just like Batman.

You scored as Batman, the Dark Knight.

As the Dark Knight of Gotham, Batman is a vigilante who deals out his own brand of justice to the criminals and corrupt of the city. He follows his own code and is often misunderstood. He has few friends or allies, but finds comfort in his cause.

Batman, the Dark Knight

James Bond, Agent 007

Indiana Jones

The Terminator

The Amazing Spider-Man

Neo, the "One"

Captain Jack Sparrow

William Wallace

Lara Croft


El Zorro


I saw a link to "Which Action Hero Would You Be?" over at Mark's blog. Seeing as to how I'm an action hero/superhero nut, I gave it a shot. And I'm Batman!! Yes!!

This quiz is totally 100% accurate because I got the answer I wanted. It really understood the inner me, and I felt like I was able to express myself through this character. If you have any doubts about your personality, take this test and you'll learn a lot about the true inner you. Now I feel all cleansed and spiritual and all.