April 08, 2013


Is Spore any good?

I've been playing endless games of MoM, and Spider Solitaire, and it's beginning to wear. I tried some other games, and they just didn't feel like anything I'd want to do. The Heroes of Might and Magic games all seemed like things I'd want to play, but they crashed. And that's not acceptable.

I have odd tastes in games and this post is not a request for suggestions. (Suggestions for games are at least as useless as suggestions for anime series "you might want to consider".) In terms of the kind of things I do enjoy, Spore sounds like it would fit. But some of the reader comments at Newegg indicate that the game has unreasonable DRM. Is there a reason why I'd end up hating Spore on that kind of level?

Anyone here ever play it? What exactly is the deal with its DRM?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 05:50 PM | Comments (18) | Add Comment
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November 04, 2012

A weird MOM bug

Yes, I'm still spending a lot of time playing Master of Magic. I don't seem to get tired of it.

I've recently noted a strange bug. If you have Suppress Magic going, and if you banish an enemy wizard, and if his "Spell of Return" fizzles, it leaves him in a strange kind of limbo.

There isn't any summoning circle or tower. He doesn't cast the Spell of Return again. He no longer has the ability to cast any spells on the overland map, in fact. But he can cast spells in combat, which really shouldn't be possible. Even so, it leaves him seriously crippled, permanently.

If you get all your remaining opponents into this state, you can cancel your Suppress Magic spell. It isn't necessary thereafter.

UPDATE: I forgot the strangest thing about this strange limbo: if they cast Recall Hero, the hero leaves the combat. But where does he go? Well, if you razed his capital city, then they appear in the empty space where that city used to be. If you captured it, then they never show up again. I'm not sure where they are, or if they've been destroyed or not, but they're out of the game.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 06:31 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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October 07, 2012

Wow plague, again

Remember the "corrupted blood" plague a few years ago? Something like that has happened again.

Someone just found a hack that permitted them to kill off entire cities in WOW, players and NPCs alike. The programmers at Blizzard say they've found and fixed the vulnerability, but we'll see.

I wonder what it was? Another Blizzard own-goal, like last time?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 09:45 PM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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April 17, 2012

HOMM3 -- bad end

In baseball, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains.

In a computer game, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes Windows pops up a box saying the game has executed an illegal operation and will be terminated.

And that's happened to me the last two times I tried to play Heroes of Might and Magic 3. It rather takes the fun out of the game. Yeah, the game auto-saves, though I don't have the slightest idea how often, but that's no answer. The second time I was only about three turns into the game when it died. It isn't worth dealing with something that unreliable. (I'm also really tired of the game locking up for a second or two every time it decides to play a special sound. At least that's what I conjecture it's doing; I play with the sound muted.)

The crashes may not be the fault of the game; they may be the fault of the "high definition" modified-version of the game that I'm using, which permits me to run the thing at a reasonable size on my 1920*1080 display.

If I run the standard version, it goes into full screen mode, and the aspect ratio is crap so it looks weird. If I hit F4, which is supposed to switch it from full-screen to windowed mode, it tells me I can only do that if my Windows desktop is set to 16-bit graphics mode.

And I'll be damned if I'll change my display settings just to play this SOB.

There's one last chance here: I also have HOMM4. It was created later, and maybe, just maybe, it plays nicer with modern Windows computers. But I'm not really very enthusiastic about trying it. I'm feeling just a bit gunshy at this point.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 04:19 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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April 13, 2012

HOMM 3 -- manuals

It's pretty evident that I'll get nowhere in this game without the manuals. Of course, I don't have manuals. What I have is PDF files. So what to do?

Well, the obvious solution is to move them onto the Kindle Fire. Then I can access them while playing the game.

So I tried copying them into the "Docs" directory on the Fire. And then turned on the device, and there was nothing there but a message saying I should send documents to myname@kindle.com. (My actual name.) So I sent them there, all 23 megabytes or so. Took a LONG time.

And nothing showed up. I finally noticed a pair of buttons on top labelled "cloud" and "device". The default is "cloud". When I switched to "device" then they showed up.

Presumably eventually they'll show up in the cloud, too, but I don't really care.

By the way, they look great. But I have to use the Fire in portrait mode; otherwise the text is too bitty to read with my old eyes.

(If that hadn't worked, I could have used the Slate, of course. I may still end up doing that, because it has a larger screen.)

UPDATE: They did show up, but as potential downloads in the "Device" rather than in the cloud. Since they were duplicates, they didn't actually download. Instead, there were "x" marks on top of the icons, and clicking them deleted them.

Nonetheless, Amazon has made a tremendous mistake here, and eventually someone is going to notice and take advantage of it. If you know someone's Amazon account name (and while not exactly public knowledge it isn't really a secret either), then you can email graphical spam in the form of a PDF file to theirname@kindle.com and it will get downloaded onto their device automagically. I'm going to try sending a different PDF file to myself to see if it requires me to click to download it, or it comes automatically.

It doesn't really matter, though. How long before every Kindle owner's "doc" directory is loaded up with icons offering herbal drug-equivalents and get-rich-quick schemes and all the other stuff we all know and loath?

UPDATE: They have an app for it, but it isn't required. Ordinary email is all you need if you know the account name.

UPDATE: They download automatically. You don't have to approve.

This will end very badly. Good thing they can push firmware updates, because they're eventually going to have to. They've left a barn door wide open here, and it will get abused.

Actually, I don't yet know that for sure. It is barely possible that Amazon has connected my email address to my account name, and only accepted the document because it was mailed by me. One more experiment in the works.

UPDATE: I was wrong! They did think this through. Just now J did me a favor and tried sending me a PDF file. I got an email acknowledgement, but the file itself isn't on my Kindle.

So I tender my apologies to the folks at Amazon for doubting them.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 08:49 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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April 12, 2012

HOMM3 -- first real game

It didn't last very long. I lost my hero in the first week, and gave up.

I don't quite understand what happened. I moved into a dwarven town, and the defending force was obviously too much for me, so I hit the "retreat" button. The popup said no one on either side lost anyone.

And then my hero and my whole stack were gone. There was some sort of popup about him being mugged, or something like that. So I killed the window.

The scenario is called "Arrogance", and I was trying to play it at the easiest possible setting. For all the good that did me.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 08:02 PM | Comments (9) | Add Comment
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April 11, 2012

Heroes of Might and Magic II -- full screen

HOMM2 runs on this machine. But it's a DOS game, and it runs in full screen mode. Problem there is that this is a 1920*1080 display (i.e. 16:9) and they're using a 4:3 display mode (probably 800*600), so all the graphics are massively distorted.

The first one almost certainly is the same. So it looks like I'm going to have to dive into the series with version 3.

UPDATE: 3 is not a DOS game, but it too runs full screen, in a 4:3 mode. Looks like I'm going to have to check into the HD patch.

UPDATE: OK, that works.

But the tutorial is less than totally helpful. I guess I need to read the manual to learn how you end a turn. I can't find any button to do it, and since I assume the game is expected to be more than one turn, there must be a magic keystroke that does it.

UPDATE: Aha! There is a button! (but I had to reach page 20 of the manual to find that out.)

UPDATE: OK, and I have completed the tutorial game, which of course is ridiculously simple. I didn't bother with the tutorial manual, so it probably took me a lot longer than it should have. But it was fun, and I did enjoy it.

I won't be ready to advance beyond "Simple" for quite a while, though. And I didn't take advantage of everything I had. For instance, at one point I learned a spell, "Magic Arrow", but I didn't end up using it in the final battle.

Still, not at all bad. But the patch is pretty much essential, if you're running it on a modern computer with a display that isn't 4:3. (Does anyone make 4:3 displays any longer? Not if they're LCDs, they don't. My iPaq's display is 480*640, but it isn't a PC, and every other display around here is wider per height.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 06:17 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
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April 09, 2012

Heroes of Might and Magic

I just bought and downloaded the first four HOMM games from Good Old Games. They were on sale, but that was just fortuitous.

I've played so damned much Master of Magic that I think I'm wearing out the bits. It really is time to find something else  I can enjoy. (Please note that this post is not a request for suggestions about other games besides these.)

So I decided to give the HOMM series a try. Way back, I bought the first game, and wasn't very impressed by it. But Wikipedia says that it was the second release where they really hit their stride, and that was the one that made a name for the franchise.

It must have been popular, since they just released the sixth one last year. But that alone doesn't prove that I would enjoy it.

What I found interesting was the size of the installers:

HOMM 2: 283 MB
HOMM 3: 820 MB
HOMM 4: 948 MB

Yikes! #2, #3, and #4 include all their respective expansion packs, but still!

When I originally bought them, I figured I'd use the sequence to learn the system, so I'd play the first one until I got comfortable with it, then move to the second, and so on. But between my memory of finding the first one rather dull, and the Wikipedia statement that the second one was widely regarded as being vastly better than the first, I'm thinking about diving straight into #2.

I'm just worried about the learning curve. Anyone who remembers these games, do I really need to play the first one before trying to learn the second? (I solicit advice on this point. As long as it doesn't include the phrase "You might also want to consider...")

Actually, I'm considering diving straight into the third one. The first two games installed DOSBox, but the third one didn't.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 04:04 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
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March 06, 2012

XCOM reboot

Sid Meier has got the rights to XCOM, and Firaxis is creating a modern version.

It's still turn-based! But the graphics are beyond belief. Check 'em out!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 04:56 PM | Comments (16) | Add Comment
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February 29, 2012

MOM -- resetting the high scores

Does anyone know how to reset the Master of Magic Hall of Fame, short of uninstalling and reinstalling the game? I can't figure out where the thing is stored.

I noticed something interesting. There are ten Champions:

Mystic X
Deth Stryke
Sir Harold

And five colors of magic. It turns out that there are two champions per color, and you can only get champions as a function of which spell books you have. Mortu and Ravashack only appear if you have black. Elana and Roland require white. Warrax requires red. I'm pretty sure that Alorra requires green. I'm not totally sure about which colors the others are associated with, but I am sure that they have them.

I've been messing around with using Warrax as a board-clearer. Once he's up a couple of levels, and properly equipped, he can wipe out anything except that he's helpless against Sky Drakes.

UPDATE: I just did an experiment to check on this, and I was wrong. Mortu and Ravashack do require black, and Roland and Elana do require white, but the others don't align with any color.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 03:30 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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