Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Liero, The Unwanted Legend

Well hello there, it's been a while, I honestly didn't think I was going to make another post here due to changes in my work I had decided to leave my blog as I couldn't put in the effort I had before. I had just been sporadically updating my Youtube channel and now even less cause of covid. But my partner inspired me to continue writing and posting and I remember other friends and relatives commenting on how they saw and read my posts and how my blog was going and I wanted to thank everyone for that as it was inspiring to me. I must say the posts will not be anywhere near as long as before with in depth reviews and musing etc I just want to make small posts about things I'm doing and playing now. It will still be about games of course with videos and screenshots. I gotta say it's good to be back doing this again as I have missed it.

The year was 1998, I was in high school and it had computers and the internet, so what did we do? we played games of course. Yes back then flash games were the rage of course but also simple small downloadable games ones you could place on a USB drive and play anywhere without having to access the internet. I can remember Elastomania and Blobby Volley and Battle Painters to name a few, and of course there was Liero.

Liero is Finnish for earthworm and was inspired by the earlier game MoleZ, Liero provided inspiration for the later games Soldat and Noita. Liero was described a real-time version of the Worms games where two worms fought to the death using a choice of five weapons from a total of 40 in a two-dimensional map. The worm characters could dig through the dirt or destroy it with explosions to reach their opponent and gain extra mobility by using ninja ropes. So you could imagine there wasn't much in the way of narrative to a game like this.

A small preview of gameplay from Liero

I played this a lot, and during a creative writing session at school, I decided to write a story line for Liero, I called it LIERO , The Unwanted Legend as It wasn't really needed, or wanted, the game didn't need it but I thought it'd be fun to write. So I wrote most of it around 1999 and then it was left unfinished, until now, so without further I do, I give you Liero the unwanted legend:

Prologue

Liero is one of the most violent, chaotic and meaningless computer games I have ever seen. It consists of two worm-like creatures in underground tunnels each in bright colours and using ridiculously destructive weapons to blow each other apart. This may seem like a normal shoot-em-up game to some people with the amount of video game violence today but what makes this stand out is the mindless chaotic destructiveness with no plot or storyline whatsoever. Which does not mean the game is particularly bad, I myself like it a lot, But that’s what brings me to the point of this story, Yes unlike the game this story has a point to it.

I thought it would make an interesting scenario to try to create a detailed storyline to Liero, to create reason out of random violence and an explanation as to why this is happening and why Liero is what it is today.

Justin Durrant    


LIERO , The Unwanted Legend

CHAPTER 1 – The Imperfect Creators

When the Creators first came to the planet, it was young and rich in resources and full of oceans and underground tunnels and coated with an atmosphere which allowed lush plant life to grow . But other than this lush layer of grass and trees there was no life, no giant primitive beings, no scaly reptiles, no tiny insects, not even the slightest living microscopic organism. Creators knew that to leave such a perfect planet untouched, this was what they had been waiting for. The chance to create the perfect life-form.

The Creators were exited over the richness and complexity of the planet, the planet had everything needed, air, water, grass, trees and it’s relation to the sun brought interesting dark and light effects. As if it was dark on one side at one time and light on the other side at the other time. The Creators were efficient bringers of life, they quickly calculated the kind of life form that the planet could sustain and created seedlings of the one life form which they thought would be perfect to start off a whole chain of species on the newly discovered planet. The Creators laid these microscopic seedlings all over the planet, on the surface, undersea and in the underground tunnels. Over time the seedlings began to grow and to the delight of the Creators did not freeze or melt in the extreme conditions in some parts of the planet.

When the seedlings finally hatched what came out was an exact opposite to what the Creators expected. Instead of the white larvae of the proposed “perfect” life form, there were tiny colorless worms. The Creators were dismayed at the fact that these were not at all like what they had originally designed. They frantically hoped that if they failed to create the right species, that that species would not be able to survive in that environment and would die out quickly and they could start again. The Creators wanted to make sure that they had not wasted the planet with their embarrassing mistake.

But the Creators were successful in one way not the other, Each one of the tiny worms were perfectly suited to their surrounding environment and multiplied by the thousands, spreading across the planet with the highest population in their teeming underground tunnels. The Creators found that they had succeeded in making their creation be able to live and multiply in perfect harmony with the planet.

The Creators lurked in their colossal space-faring vessels pondering over what they could or should do with the ever-increasing useless mass of teeming worms that had shown no signs of evolution whatsoever. Knowing that if they tried to launch a second life form onto the planet it would instantly overrun by the worms no matter how fast it evolved, there was different opinions and views.  Some opted to try to launch a second batch of seedlings that would quickly spawn and ultra-being that would evolve and be strong enough to drive the worms to extinction, but this was almost impossible because of the sheer immensity of the worms population. Others thought that they should find a way to exterminate the worms without destroying the planet. Seeing as there was no way to get rid of the worms and start a new race, nor even save the planet the argument came to two final solutions.

One was to incinerate the planet and eliminate the race of worms altogether in hope that one day the planet will become what it once was. The other was insisted by particular Creators who were sympathetic or intrigued by the race of worms and wished to leave the planet and in time return in hope that the worms had changed beyond their original form. The Creators agreed that such a planet and the labor that went into creating the race should not be thrown away so casually, they agreed to leave the planet and search for a new untouched haven for another chance.


CHAPTER 2 – Growth, Evolution and Adaptation

Ironically not long after the Creators had left the planet’s solar system, the worms began to evolve dramatically, they grew bigger and fatter and eventually turned into what looked like a giant snake-worm. The most distinctive changes were the fact the worms no longer squirmed across the ground, they grew to an enormous size and reared up in an S-shape. They grew bigger, fatter, stronger and taller (up to 1 and a third metres). The other quite noticeable change was that the worms had developed arms and clumsy, fat but strong hands and fingers.

The worms adapted to the land and to the underground tunnels where most of them lived and even underground the planet was rich in resources as the worms had the ability to make a meal out of almost anything. But as the species evolved they started acquiring certain tastes, some craved large tasty flowerbeds other preferred watery lilies and lush ferns, and some ravenous minorities  had even started to get a taste for flesh eating small cave creatures and even other worms . This heightened intellect resulted in the worms quarreling over food, warmth, living space, even personal possessions such as large sticks or uniquely shaped rocks.

Years pass and the worms had virtually dug an underground city of tunnels and holes, and had uncovered water by drilling holes deep into the ground, they worms did quarrel from time to time but this was stemmed to the fact that they were still a primitive species with limited intellect. The worms seldom had anything to anger them they were all roughly the same height same shape and were the same pale white color from the darkness of the underground. But as the worms dug more and more this reasonable peaceful state could not go on forever and the inevitable was about to happen.

 

CHAPTER 3 – The Surface

In what was to be the most significant event in the life of the worms, the few that were at the highest point of the underground tunnels, felt warmth coming from the surface and small groups of them started digging upwards and upwards, this escalated into millions of worms shoveling out the roofs of the their tunnels toward the surface. After this happened it took barely a week for the first of the worms to reach the surface.

When the first worms broke through the surface of the planet they noticed at once that there was a bright glow coming from the edge of the horizon they reeled back at the harsh light of the sunrise as more and more worms erupted from the ground. Hours passed and the sun had reared up into the sky in the full light of noon the worms had barely adjusted their dark eyes to the sun when their skin made a dramatic change. As the sunlight beams down on the pale white hoards of worms their skin began to change shade into bright colors of the rainbow, some just turned a much brighter white other made a more dramatic change to pale red or yellow or even a dark blue, green or even black.

Weeks passed and the worms entire population had made it to the surface and as they explored the “new world” with new foods, plants, creatures and resources they began to build huts gain and new possessions and weapons, similar to what they had done in the underground but this time there was many distinct differences, on the surface the worms could use their vision to a greater extent and they could even climb tress and hunt other smaller creatures.

The worms explored the world their population ever expanding and gaining insight and influence and access to much more resources that they had previously, decades passed and the worm race evolved into the most populous and technologically advanced species on the planet making use of modern inventions, and weaponry. To counter their lack of limbs they used bungee style ropes to gain heigh and move quickly   There was no leadership within the worms, as they all managed to coexist peacefully.

 

CHAPTER 4 – The War for Resources and the return of the Creators

The Worm kingdom enjoyed years of peace but after the constant farming and desecration of the planets natural habitat, resources started to dwindle, the worms started to divide themselves into separate colonies by colour to safeguard their remaining resources. However this tenuous situation could only go for so long, soon various colonies began to attack each other on resource raids, leading to all out war between the colonies. The war went on for 500 years and terrible weapons were used on a global scale leading to devastated landscapes and millions of worms dead, the planet was eventually turned into a war-torn wasteland.

It was during this time that the creators decided to return to the world and saw with their horror at the consequences of allowing the worms to live, the worms had evolved so much that they had gained enough intelligence to be dangerous and that had led to them destroying their own planet. The creators had no choice but to incinerate the planet destroying the worms before they figured out how to travel the stars and infect other worlds. The entire population of the worms was destroyed as was whatever was left of their civilization. And so the creators left richer with knowledge of their failed creation.

However unbeknownst to the creators some worms had survived and fled underground to escape the scorched surface. But instead of rebuilding their society the remaining worms dig through the earth and hunt each other down with the weapons they have left, so ingrained is their will to survive is that they will fight each other until they are the victor.

Thus we have LIERO

JD


Oh the little joys

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

The Past and Times of Yore: Conkers Bad Fur Day

Release date: April 13th 2001
Genre: RPG/Platformer
Publisher: Rare
Developer: Rare
Platforms: Nintendo 64
Modes: Single-player

Well… how do I start? this game was quite something, I hadn’t really known much about Conker the Squirrel apart from my housemate Brok mentioning him, he made his first appearance in Diddy Kong Racing as a playable character with a limited storyline before Rare decided to grant him his own game. And so Conker’s Bad Fur Day (CFBD) was released in 2001 near the end of the Nintendo 64’s lifecycle and stretched the machine to its limits. When Brok used to talk about this N64 game with a usual cute character but dark adult themes and swearing I didn’t believe it at first, and then I saw some gameplay and was seriously like what the eff? This is actually a game, it really is like this, the swearing, the vulgarity and in something which looks from first glance like your usual cutesy platformer but then you look some more and oh wow it’s not at all. The very concept that a game like this could even exist on the Nintendo 64 was alien to me, even on the Playstation that would seem a bit odd. At first I didn’t really believe what I heard about it, but after seeing someone actually it I was like what the fackin hell? There’s a paintbrush and a bucket with eyeballs saying the F-word and at one point I swear I heard the C-word though some parts were still censored.

A particularly unpleasant dung beetle
Indeed the game was originally intended to be released as a family friendly platformer game similar to Rare’s other titles Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 however when the initial trailers were released there were calls that the game was just more of the same as they had done before so the game’s director Chris Seavor took the innovative decision to have lots of adult topics, graphic violence, sexual content, adult language, and dark humour. The change was a risky but a relative success however due to the content of the game it received little advertising as Nintendo Power Magazine and a number of toy companies who usually endorse Rare games refused to this time, understandably so. CFBD has since earned a cult following and no wonder, it stands as one of the oddities of the game world and a good one at that. I did intend to play the game via emulator to make full use of the massively better graphics but found that the rom had a few issues like right at the start it couldn’t render the drunken haze through Conker’s viewpoint and I wasn’t sure what else would go wrong so I decided to play on the Nintendo 64 cartridge.

Conker in the 'Hungover' section
The opening sequence is pretty awesome where an animated Nintendo logo walks in then gets sawn in half with a chainsaw by Conker who replaces it with the Rare Logo, now that’s an intro! The camera then swings into blackness then shows Conker entering a bar named the “Cock and Plucker” on a stormy night where he starts drinking with his military squirrel buddies and various other characters. The bar itself serves as the main menu of the game and you can access the save game slots as well as the multiplayer options. The game tells the tale of Conker the Squirrel and starts with him sitting on a throne in a medieval castle and through voiceover he explains the events preceding this moment as the camera pans out ClockWork Orange style, which I didn’t actually realise it was until I read about it. This is one of the many movie references in the game and I hope you like them cause there are tons more. It then cuts back to the bar where conker has had a little too much to drink and then calls his girlfriend Berri to say that he’s coming home before stumbling out. It then cuts to a scene in a castle where the Panther King is sitting on his Throne and accidentally spills his milk as one of the table legs is missing so in one of the most bizarre plotlines I’ve ever seen he employs his servant Professor von Kripplespac to help him fix it and for some reason Kripplespac concludes that a ‘red squirrel’ will make a great table leg so the Panther King attempts to track down and capture Conker.

The intro, man the first time watching this was weird as.

The next part of the game (aptly titled “Hungover”) is the tutorial where after walking out of the pub into the rainy darkness Conker finds himself in some kind of cavern and meets the scarecrow Birdy who tells you how you can use the B button on context-sensitive areas to do various things like shooting slingshots and crossbows and other weapons, however Conker can always use the B button to thwack things with a frypan. This tutorial introduced me to the somewhat challenging nature of parts of the game, as I was at a point where you need to smack a living key with eyes with your frying pan that was bouncing around trying to avoid you and seriously I just could not do it and almost gave up there. There were a few other times were I just gave up at that point too then tried again later, I can tell you now the game was not exactly what you’d call easy as was the theme back in those days. I remember when playing the NES most of the games were rock hard and didn’t have a save feature so all you could do was see how far you could get before game over.

"Birdy" explains the context-sensitive areas
But anyway I was determined to move forward so I persevered and after defeating a Gargoyle by one of the most cartoonish ways possible I was out into what you could call the main world hub titled ‘Windy’. From here you access all of the ‘chapters’ in the story (in a linear fashion), however playing the game I noticed there’s wasn’t really any clear path I just found myself walking around seeing what I could interact with. I did have to refer back to my housemate Brok an awful lot for tips and advice which was sometimes just simply where to go as he had previously completed the game. He was so helpful I didn’t even need to use a guide thought that would have helped as there was a lot of wandering around. The first task I did rescuing a hive for a Queen bee from some wasps and then it turning into an anti-air gun and shooting them down.

Running from the wasps in Windy
That wasn’t too weird but then I’m fighting a giant cyborg bale of hay, making a cows shoot diarrhoea then explode and then listening to a giant turd sing opera, you gotta see it to believe it. It’s sort of like you go from one crazy thing to the next mind you though it’s all a lot of fun (as long as you’re not easily offended) The game can roughly be divided into section as you go back to the ‘Windy’ hub world 3 times. One of my favourite sections was Spooky as most of it was truly frightening despite the cartoonish graphics, in fact all of it was frightening really. You never really know what’s going to happen next as the whole experience is so ridiculous anything and everything can happen though it plays out fine and the changes in theme/chapter happen gradually so it’s not like going falling into a giant toilet then landing in a prehistoric world, well almost. CBFD is jam packed with pop culture references from the Saving Private Ryan sequence in It’s War! to the Matrix Style Bank Robbery in the Heist chapter.


The 'Blood Hunt' scene from the spooky section

Controlling Conker isn’t too hard, the game is basically a platformer, you can do all the basics like running, jumping, swimming, crawling and balancing across tightropes, you can also do a tail hover thingy for aid in landing. Conker’s only permanent weapon is a comically huge frying pan which you can pull out and whack with the B button, all other abilities are context sensitive when you stand on an area which obviously has a big B printed underneath it so you know you can shoot your slingshot or crossbow or whatever. Conker also gets to use other weapons like the shotgun in the Spooky section and rides and drives everything from a raptor to a tank and gets turned into a bat at one point. Controlling Conker isn’t too hard but as I was playing the game on N64 with a TV that wasn’t made for it, I wasn’t always aware of where I was running or jumping i.e. what was a ledge or not.

At this point I am riding a living pitchfork
Being a game from the N64/PS1 era in the mid to late 90’s CBFD was remarkably difficult at times and more often than once I just gave up and left it to come back up to a week later to have another go or enlist help from my housemate Brok. One of the examples of this was fighting the Zombies in the Spooky Chapter and the ‘Mugged’ sequence in Uga Buga where you chase on hoverboards across lava, I swear that took me at least 20 goes to complete it. There is no difficulty setting so I couldn’t just put it on easy and coast through like I do so many other games today haha though I am proud to say I have completed the whole thing in its entirety. And this was no small effort, it was bloody hard and frustrating at times a much different from how I usually like to play games. But I beat it and that’s something as with these older games I usually just conk out towards the end where it starts getting tough and I think I’ve done enough.

This 'hoverboard' bit was very annoying indeed

As I mentioned before the game stretched the Nintendo 64 to its graphical limits and there was some notable slowdown in some places but overall it ran pretty well, the characters although crude and cartoony still had lots of detail and the animation was hilarious at times the way characters and objects hopped around, almost everything was a character really even the money you collected had eyes and talked. Speaking of the money that was the only thing you collected in CBFD in contrast to Banjo-Kazooie’s extensive item collecting. This time you had just one thing which talked to you, well I guess the Jinjo’s did too sort of. Conker plays an unlikely hero throughout the whole game, bumbling from one place to another and giving witty remarks no matter what situation he’s in comedic, dire or otherwise. There are so many movie, pop culture and historical references that you might only see the second time through. Rare shine again with their soundtrack offering a range of boppy tunes and orchestral music complete with hilarious sound effects. However the voice acting is what really shines for this game, it’s utterly amazing even with the limited quality sound that the N64 can provide. There’s no yabbering and twittering like in Banjo Kazooie, just straight up acting talent, especially in the ‘Sloprano’ section, I swear that was one of the best moments in my gaming history and I had already seen it before.



SPOILER ALERT, Possibly the greatest scene ever, if you're not going to play the game, then at least watch this.

I haven’t played much of the multiplayer modes but like the singleplayer mode they are fun, nasty and well made. You’ve got a wide variety of gamer modes to play which are themed from different parts of the game which is pretty cool in itself. For example you have Beach which is basically like the beach assault section of the game and a LOT like Unreal Tournament’s Overlord Assault map where one team has to storm a beach and get to safety while the other team hides in sniper towers and tries to stop them. There’s also a mode where you play as Uga-Bugas trying to steal raptor eggs or Raptors trying to eat Bugas, there’s your usual capture the flag mode between squirrels and Tediz and also a Heist mode where you play as weasels and try to bring a money bag back to your safe. Probably my favourite was the Total War mode which was sort of like a team deathmatch with a twist, you could capture a canister from the enemy base then bring it to a sewer and release poisonous gas killing everyone unless they are down in the sewer with you or have a gas mask. There is even a lava racing mode from that damn mugged section of Uga-Buga.


A bit of multiplayer in the Total War Mode

I can honestly say of all the games I have played this is one of the weirdest and most unbelievable, you would never have thought a game like this could exist, I mean yes there were controversial games like Carmageddon and Duke Nukem 3D but this I dunno, maybe I wasn’t paying attention but I never saw a huge media row over Conker which is surprising seeing what it was actually like, maybe it just wasn’t that popular and as I said before it was released at the end of the Nintendo 64’s Life Cycle. However it was successful enough to warrant a remake, Conker Live and Reloaded was released for the Xbox in 2005 and I’m looking forward to seeing what that the game looks like with some updated graphics to really display it’s craziness. Whether you think you’re into this type of game or you think you may be put off by the vulgarity you just have to have to play it trust me you have never seen anything like this before and with today’s PC nanny state you probably never will again.

JD

9/10

Things I liked:

There is seriously almost no game like this anywhere

Endless fun movie references and humour

Very creative platforming and minigame experience almost no section was the same.

Non structured level layout you had no idea where you would go next.

The Great and Mighty Poo

Many multiplayer modes with bot support.

Things I didn’t like:

Can be difficult at times.

Some slowdown and graphical issues due to limits of the N64

Sound quality a bit rough (again due to limits of N64 cartridges)

The original trailer

Going for number two will never be the same again

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Past and Times of Yore: Star Wars Rogue Squadron 3D, Arcade Starfighting at it's Finest

Release date: December 7th 1998
Genre: Action, shooter
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts, Factor 5
Platforms: Nintendo 64, Microsoft Windows
Modes: Single-player

Continuing on my crusade of all Star Wars space combat games I moved on from the PC games to the console, or though technically I’ll be going back to PC ones at some point. I finished Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire not too long ago so that's two down of the 4 Star Wars Games on the Nintendo 64, the other two being set in the prequel years. I have always been more of a fan of the Jedi lightsaberin’ rather than space combat so when I saw Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D with its simplistic controls and gameplay and arcadey feel I was interested to give it a go. I had previously purchased the game on GOG.com and decided to play on PC rather then the Nintendo 64 version mainly so I could use my joystick. When I booted it up and saw that excellent intro with the LucasArts and Factor 5 logo I was really impressed. I’ve always liked the Lucasarts and other logo intros especially in the Jedi games but this one was something else: You see a Rebel Snowspeeder speeding its way through what looks like a shallow canyon on Hoth and firing on some AT-PTs and TIE Fighters but then the camera pans out and you see that it’s the Lucas Arts Logo made into mountains resembling Hoth, then in the next scene you see an X-Wing flying through what looks like the Death Star trench avoiding the lasers then shooting a torpedo then it pans out and you see it’s the Factor 5 Logo before exploding, I don’t know why it’s just so good, they just don’t make things like that anymore.


The amazing intro sequence

The story to Rogue Squadren is set during the war between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance six months after the Battle of Yavin, you fly as good old Luke Skywalker with his buddy Wedge Antilles as you fight the empire across a number of different planets some known and some new and run into some familiar faces voices along the way as all you can see is the ships as there are no cutscenes in the game just voice acting. It’s somewhat fun playing games that take place in the interim of the movies as you get to see what events happen between them, some bits that I enjoyed were rescuing Wedge and the defection and recruitment of imperial pilot Kasan Moor. The game culminates (sort of) with the battle against the antagonist Moff Kohl Seerdon which I unfortunately couldn’t finish but felt that was enough. Oddly there was only one last mission after that on the Mon Calamari world of Dac, set after the Battle of Endor where you played as Wedge.

Liberation of Gerrard V
When completing missions you are giving a rating and receive bronze, silver or gold ratings, with gold ratings unlocking the secret missions which I won’t spoil but are from famous battles in the movies, you can also unlock new craft via codes. Starting the game I had a bit of a slowness issue with the main menu but managed to fix that. You start off with creating your pilot then you view the intro for the mission and then you get to select a craft! It’s pretty cool the way the camera swings around the docking bay when selecting a craft as it makes you look forward to when you can access the others. Starting off with the trusty X-Wing  I unfortunately had some trouble trying to use different controllers with the game, the times I tried to use my joystick it just didn’t work, which kinda sucked as it’s probably be the ideal controller and my gamepad didn’t work either, then I tried with the mouse but that was less then ideal. Then I remembered I could fly and shoot perfectly well with the keyboard in the Battlefield series so I just did that and it worked fine though aiming is a bit of a bother, I was getting pretty bad hit ratios at the end but it got better. You see your objectives in your briefing so you basically just fly around following your radar which very helpfully points to the next objective.


A few levels of gameplay, I only noticed now but for some reason the CPU controlled vehicles look like buzzing flies, was it always like that? I can't remember.

Most of the time you are flying around destroying things, escorting things, locating things, or defending things and while most of the attacking is done with lasers you also have things like proton torpedoes, concussion missiles, ion cannons and space bombs to play with and you can also upgrade them by finding various powerups hidden throughout the map. There is a default craft for every mission and most of the time you are using the X-Wing but I did enjoy using the Y-Wing with its increased shields. You did use the T-47 Snow/Airspeeder and V-Wing Airspeeder a lot and they were a bit hit and miss, I came to dislike doing that damn grappling hook AT-AT takedown as the way it as set up was that the camera angle changes making it kind of hard to see how far away you are from the AT-AT and how close to turn but then again it’d be just as hard in third person I spose. There were also some secret vehicles like the Naboo N-1 Starighter and of the course the Millennium Falcon and also a Chevy Buick for some weird reason as it was just a V-Wing with a different model but it looked hilarious especially the “cockpit” view.

Eeyurgh this was difficult
As you’d expect the game is packed with Star Wars, ships, locations, terminology and quotes, there even cameo’s from other well-known characters. You blast away while listening to what is happening around you with occasional cutscenes of events in the battle. You get a finite number of lives depending on your difficulty, on easy it’s usually about 3, usually I just died to stupid things like crashing into things I’m shooting at and not slowing down though the trick was to put on the brakes while you were zero’ing in on an enemy so you don’t surge toward them so fast. I mostly played in third person view but cockpit view was sometimes fun and useful especially when trying to dodge things. The graphics were pretty good for the N64 though it’s difficult to judge by today’s standards, distance fog featured heavily in the game as the N64 just wasn’t powerful enough, while it was nothing compared to Superman 64’s level of fog it was still noticeable but otherwise it was good enough. Like Battlefield 1942 the main menu was stuck in 800x600 through the resolution went up to 1280x960 there didn't seem to be any way to make it higher so I just settled with that.

The distance fog was particularly visible in some levels
The music and sounds were pretty spot on to what you would expect from a Star Wars game, all official sound and licenced soundtrack and everything, the voice acting was pretty good too. I swear it sounds so much like the actual actors, do they keep doing this voice acting stuff forever? Or is there like a recording archive that all these spin-off games and toys and other things refer to, but then again there is stuff that is relevant to the game so I dunno, did good old Harry Ford do a couple of lines of voice acting for this game? Surely not.

The search for the Nonnah, I quite enjoyed this level
There really isn’t much more to it, you just fly around and blast things and try not to get blasted yourself, it does get more difficult in the later levels and there are many more dangers including more of those pesky missile towers that are quite dangerous, there was only a few missions where I struggled but I got through it, as I mentioned before I didn’t end up finishing the game, I may go back and have another crack at it but really I’ve had enough, it’s been like Star Wars overload for a while but I’m up to the last one which is X-Wing Alliance. Well the last one of the Star Wars games I have, technically I haven’t played X-Wing yet but It’s pretty damn old and maybe I will when I want something very retro. Of course the next iteration was Rogue Squadron II on the GameCube which I remember seeing all that time ago, I don’t think I’ve ever played the Gamecube actually, it wasn’t really that popular. So to sum up if you want a Star Wars Space shooter and don’t want it to be all technical or you’ve been playing X-Wing or Tie-Fighter and want something a bit simpler like me then Rogue Squadron is the way to go.

JD

Original 1998 Trailer

One more pass…

Monday, 25 February 2019

Minecraft Creations: The Sunken Temple Rebuild

In the autumn of 2013 I had joined yet another new Minecraft server called Vancraft and after looking around for a bit I decided to start another project. This time I wanted to create something in a swamp, a sunken temple to be precise. I got the idea from the original Temple of Atal'Hakkar in World of Warcraft which is a pyramid-like temple with only the very top rising above the water with the rest of the temple below the water line. So long story short after a lot of effort dredging the lake bed, digging a hell of a lot of stone, fighting off zombies and clearing out the water it was built, and this was the result.

The original sunken temple
 I was pleased with it at the time but I knew that I would need to go back and re-do it in creative mode to make it bigger and better than before and that’s what I did. Finding a swamp was easy this time as you can just generate a world which is the one biome so all I had to do was find a nice big lake to put the temple in. Once I found a suitable place it was a process of working out the how wide and tall the temple was going to be, how deep it went and how much of the temple was above the water and of course which type of stone. I decided on Mossy Cobblestone as this seemed the most appropriate choice for a temple in a swamp. And so for the second time I went through the process of dredging out the bottom where the base of the temple was going to be and building up from there which didn’t take too long. I then built all the way up to the top above the water, I had decided to do more of a rectangle then a square so it took me awhile to decide on what the top of the temple was going to look like.

This is the only shot I got of the build in progress, nice sunset though
When I first created the entrance to the last temple I didn’t include a door just a stairway but we got attacked by so many zombies that I had to seal it off with a door and entryway. So built over the entrance to the temple with a sort of curved roof and decorated with blocks of emerald which I chose basically because they were green and looked cool. After I had finished though I thought it needed something more so I created a sort of spire at the front which actually make it look more like a chapel than a temple but oh well it looked pretty good anyway.

Yeh it kinda does look like a chapel, and hurrgh look at that water oh yes it's beautiful!
So then came the task of clearing out the water, previously this was done automatically by the helpful owner of the server Van, however this time I was on my own and without any knowledge of commands in Minecraft so the only option was sponges, many, many sponges. So I swam around placing sponges all over the floor and gradually dried out the entire bottom.

Spongey!
But of course I had to dig down a lot more to reach the bottom of the temple perimeter and you know what that meant, TNT and lots of it. This was probably the most fun part of the whole process I placed TNT everywhere and blasted the floor out from under me until it got the right level, in the process I managed to blow up parts of the temple walls and had to patch a few leaks but got it done in the end and ended up with a relatively smooth floor.


Boy do I love TNT excavation.

I built a stairway to the bottom but then I had a dilemma, I hadn’t thought of what I was going to put on the bottom, I didn’t really know what the temple was for. The last time I made the temple it I just covered the bottom with sand and left a pool of water and it was my ‘Sunken Temple of Solitude’. Though this time I decided it would be a temple for the worship of Slime(s) I didn’t want to cover the entire floor with slime though so I made some bouncy ‘slime block pits’ and also some water pits but left the floor as stone, I considered making the entire floor slime but meh the whole point was more for the outside of the temple not the inside.

Slimes, Slimes everywhere
I made a pyramid of emerald blocks as these were basically the symbol of the temple and a green beacon to go on top which unfortunately cut through the staircase but there wasn’t much else I could do. As an additional decoration I hung vines all over the temple which looked pretty cool on the inside once they were fully grown. And then of course it was time to spawn the slimes which I put all over the place but unfortunately most ended up killing themselves somehow and also because the place was so dark other monsters such as skeletons, zombies and bats had spawned too but oh well it was fine.

Once the vineshad grown it looked pretty cool, I had to lighten this picture up to see anything
In the screenshots and movie I am using the KOP Realism 64x64 Texture pack with RRe36's Shaders (High) from the Optifine mod. And man did the water look spectacular not to mention the sky and sunsets. I only realised now that my monitor at home must be very light compared to other monitors as viewing on other screens is much darker and I actually had to lighten up two of the pictures as they were just too dark on other screens I tried. But anyway I’m happy with the result, it was the first Minecraft project I’ve worked on in awhile and don’t know when I’ll back to the game but I don’t think I’ll be gone forever, no siree.

JD









  A few shots without the texture pack and shaders












All hail the slime

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Past and Times of Yore: Star Wars Republic Commando, Soldiering on

Release date: February 28th 2005
Genre: First-person shooter
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts
Engine: Unreal Engine 2
Platforms: Xbox, Microsoft Windows
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! Well 2018 was quite a year in gaming and I hope you enjoyed all of the posts despite the fact that there was unfortunately only 8. As you can see I'm still going and this year I hope to do at least one blog post a month but with things going on and work commitments i'll see how I go. I still have a large backlog of posts so I'll get through them as best I can. Here's to a great 2019!

This was an interesting one that I purchased from GoG.com. A Star Wars game where you play a Clone Trooper, though it has been done before though in the original two Star Wars Battlefronts. I was looking forward to playing a game that did not seem to feature Jedi of any kind. And I’ll admit I enjoy playing a linear First Person Shooter, I’m not sure why maybe it’s just because it’s simple unlike all of the completion-focused sandbox games with random encounters and respawning enemies and objects to collect which take up so much of your time. With those linear shooters it’s just like bang-pow, well that was that bit let’s keep goin, and when you play it on easy you don’t get bored and can power through it, not that I’m trying to power through the game I just like to get it done and not get stuck anywhere. Star Wars Republic Commando is one of these types of games, of course it’s not jumping around shooting like a maniac like Doom, it’s a game about tactics, a little bit of tactics, but tactics none the less. You are commanding 'Delta Squad', an elite group of clone commandos, through three missions during the beginning of the Clone Wars as your first mission is on Geonosis which we all remember from Episode II Attack of the Clones.

Ooooo my pre-battle-scarred helmet
When starting the game you have the title crawl of course then after a short cutscene where a Kaminoan introduces the clone commandos and their purpose as well as the war situation you are then booted to the troop deployment on Kamino and wow it was pretty intense seeing all the troops flying when you’re currently by yourself.

Huge docking bay, hundreds of soldiers, pouring rain, it's like the start of every war deployment
You are then flown to Geonosis where you are introduced to your abilities and some commands things like healing from bacta stations and taking out gun emplacements with thermal detonators. You then meet your first Squadmate Scorch the younger-sounding wisecracking demolition expert And soon after you meet Fixer the squad’s slicer and no-nonsense by-the-book career soldier and finally Sev the bloodthirsty tough guy sniper who adorns his armor with red paint which may or may not be blood.

Dey be my squad
Now that my squad was at full strength I got to practise giving orders and fighting with them, if there is a fairly powerful enemy you can assign the squad members to target them by pressing the F key. Along the way there are various locked gates, terminals and mounted weapons, you can use these yourself of course but the best course of action is to assign a squad member to the task, I enjoyed doing this as you watch the squad member carry out their task or use their gun emplacement. I had to do this quickly as soon as you entered an area enemies often came at you, other times I got everything set up just right then initiated the enemy attack by advancing slightly.

Commanding 'Sev' to initate a door breach
One of the best moments was when I had all three squad members on Sniper positions pointing at a door down a hallway, I then crept up to the door and opened it then watched as the enemies that came out got shot to pieces by sniper fire. During play my usual course of action was to assess the area for anything I could order to squad members to man then usually ran around on my own providing additional fire or getting up closed and meleeing enemies which I often did as ammo was relatively sparse.

Snipe away boys (I have the Sniper attachment in too)
Your main weapon was the DC-17m Interchangeable Weapon System, which has rifle, sniper and grenade launcher attachments, the sniper and grenade launcher were very useful and you really had to conserve the ammo, you also had the weaker but self-recharging DC-15S and your trusty Knuckle plate vibro blade which I actually used quite a lot for the fact that one of the most common enemies you encountered was the B2 Super Battle Droids  and if you didn’t have any sniper or grenade ammo they took such a large number of regular rife rounds to kill that most of the time I just ran around them in circles stabbing with my knuckleblade which proved even faster then shooting them with regular rounds. You could also use enemy weapons such as the Geonosian Elite Beam Weapon, Accelerated Charged Particle Array Gun or Wookiee Bowcaster though only one at a time could be used, the genosian weapon was particularly good.


The first part of the Prosecutor mission, I use a few different weapons including some trandoshan weapons.

 As you battle through the level’s you and your squad will often lose health when you deplete your shield, your shield auto recharges but too much damage will deplete it then go through your health. Interestingly your squad does not have a medic, you can heal yourself though wall mounted medical units and your squad usually heal themselves automatically if they need it but sometimes need prompting to do so. If you do lose all of your health you go into a ‘downed’ state and require another squad member to revive you. If the last squad member dies then it’s all over. There were some situations where all my squadmates had died and I was running around by myself praying I could clear out the remaining enemies, but most of the time if you studied your surroundings and planned ahead you would be fine. For clones your squad members certainly have very different personalities despite the fact that they are all supposed to be clones in fact it only seems like you and your commander who don’t have much of a personality. The squad is fun to play with they have a good amount of banter with Scorch and Sev being the most talkative it’s basically Scorch as the young joker, Sev as the tough guy and Fixer as the straight no-nonsense guy bringing them in line. Your own character ‘Boss’ has a fairly neutral gruff older tone and like Fixer does not really have a sense of humour. Your squadmates commend you if you make a good shot and grumble if they have to be revived, It’s quite not akin to Battlefield Bad Company but it’s still pretty good.

Destroying the Spider Tank on Geonosis

The game came out in 2005 but still looks pretty good, the bulk of the storyline is made up or three missions which have many sub-stages and missions inside of them, the initial walkthrough and first mission being the first battle of Geonosis which you would remember from the movies where you battle many geonisian warriors as well as the trade federation droids. I had a few slip ups here where I ran out of ammo and had to make do with my fist blade and the pistol and died a few times but got through it ok, those damn flying genosians were tough though that beam weapon they have really helped and that fight with the spider tank was pretty cool. The next missions a derelict Acclamator-class assault ship designated the Prosecutor, the squad has to infiltrate the ship and find out what happened to the crew. You start this mission alone as you and your squadmates have been split up between sections, the first time you enter it’s pretty damn dark and spooky. The ship has been taken over by some Trandoshan slavers and you can use their Accelerated Charged Particle Array Guns which are basically shotguns, you also encounter larger trandoshans with the LS-150 Heavy Accelerated Charged Particle Repeater Gun (seriously could they make these names any longer) which is basically a minigun and is very powerful but chews through ammo like a boss.

Alternate weapons were useful for conserving ammo for your main weapon.
You do meet some other troopers from the original crew of the Prosecutor though like the introductory part of the game and like any game where you are supposed to be alone, any contact with allies is fleeting and they quickly meet their messy demise. You eventually meet up with your squadmates and then have to plow through the ship to get to the bridge, this wasn’t too hard the final bits were pretty challenging though you had to really scramble around to kill things like those droid dispensers that kept churning out super battle droids. These and enemies on turrets or just rooms with lots of enemies can be challenging in itself especially if you have limited cover or no heavy weapons at your disposal.

Having access to a turret really helps, I was like running back to them constantly to make best use of them.
The final mission is Kashyyyk where you personally help the Wookies who have been enslaved by more trandoshans. This was pretty cool as the only ever time I’ve seen the wookie homeworld was in Battle of Kashyyyk in Episode III and also in the Age of Empires style, Genie Engine representation in Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds. Well this time around it looks pretty cool albeit in a much more condensed environment, with giant trees and foliage all around. I actually liked the way you started in the jungle then as you got higher you went into the trees, the best part about this mission was fighting alongside the wookies and the Wookiee chieftain Tarfful although I accidentally blew them up a few times. This mission had several run-ins with the trade federation IG-100 Magnaguards and one of the fights Tarfful actually joined in on so it was difficult trying to kill the droids and not hit Tarful as well. This scenario actually ended with the Battle of Kashyyyk though Delta Squad weren’t around for it though I’ll give a small spoiler you do actually hear from Yoda.

Fighting with the Wookies on Kashyyk, damn those droid dispensers

As I said before the visuals are still appealing being a bit dated nowadays. I started out with the view set to be looking out from my helmet, with was very immersive but I ended up just turning that off as it got a bit annoying with the tunnel vision. It was great to visit locations from the movies. Your hud shows you your health, shield level and grenade ammo with your weapon ammo being displayed on the gun itself. It also shows the directs you are being shot from and the status of your squad members, the squad hud lets you know if you squadmates are, engaging the enemy, healing, downed or at a specific weapon station. You also almost always have your current objective displayed at the top of the screen which is quite helpful.

The view from inside your helmet
The levels were very linear but it was expected in a game like this, the challenge was as you moved into each new area/room, survey your surrounds, and organise your squad tactics. Kashyyk was probably the best looking as you progressed through the dense jungle into the treetops. It was a unique feeling to be (sort of) ‘just another trooper’ fighting in the battles for the Republic and not like one of the main characters in the film deciding on the fate of thousands, you just did what you were told, to some distress later in the game. Another thing was you really felt like you were part of a team or the leader of a team I should say, bantering together etc, getting through the various engagements, I almost had like a kinship to them all in the end. Of all the old Star Wars games I’ve played recently: Shadows of the Empire, Star Wars Starfighter, Jedi Outcast even Tie Fighter I would still only replay Republic Commando, I don’t know I just like it. Of course it’s not the best, it’s no Jedi Academy which I have now replayed for what would possibly be the 6th time and I think no Star Wars game will ever trump The Old Republic MMORPG. But for a Star Wars first person shooter this thing is pretty damn good.

JD.


 
An unofficial trailer, a good one too

For the boys