Apr 29, 2007

300: Sparta is YOU!

Not really sure if I mentioned this before, but even if I have, here's something worth repeating: 300 is one of the absolutely worse films ever created and the first feature length movie ever to be filmed in hopelessly un-epic slow motion. Then again, we gentlemen, gnomes and ladies of taste did have quite a laugh (in pure Dungeons & Dragons style), which apparently is far from over. Here's what the sceners of pouet.net (oh, and ...uhm... there are a couple of particularly NSFW pics over there; one of them is quite a bit disgusting too) came up with...

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Neuromancer graphic novel, First Life, VG pr0n, RPG motivational posters

Apr 28, 2007

Science Fiction, blogging, SCUMM, fish 'n' gaming

Guess being bored with blogging, despite not being very boring itself, couldn't go on forever. So, as the gods had luckily foreseen, my extremely short non-blogging period is now officially over. Dead and buried. Gone. No more. Solemnly put to sleep.

Still, it was an admittedly refreshing and very much needed break, even though I apparently just couldn't bare to abandon Gnomes' Lair (or Retro Treasures or Gaming on the Go) like that. It would be such an immense waste of effort and time. So, uhm, I won't, which of course doesn't mean things won't change around here, as blogging had recently started seeming more like another underpaid chore and quite frankly I've had enough of those. Oh, and dear voice of the lair you'll have to be whipped into contributing a bit more, I'm afraid.

So, where were we? Ah, yes. The changes. Well, there will definitely be some of them coming this way. Not necessarily huge or even obvious ones, mind you, but changes that will definitely make Gnomes' Lair more enjoyable and intriguing for me to write and will hopefully bring the blog closer to what us gnomes consider to be a quality web-thingy. But, what's changing? Well, for starters, I'll cut down on those Technorati tags. Maybe even do away with the whole thing too. They look ugly. Then, White Dwarf reviews will have to be shot in the head. Oh, and Museum Monday posts will be less regular as it's getting progressively more difficult to come up with interesting retro gaming sites that could be classified as museums. Other changes will probably include a focus on gaming theory & critique with a slice of ludology, some in-depth retro reviews and an increase of free & indy gaming coverage. Guess a developer's diary might fit in nicely too, but that would require attempting to develop something.

Anyway. Enough with me and the Lair of the future (no, not the PS3 one). It's linking time! Click here and you'll be transported to a brilliant and most interesting piece by Philip K. Dick that goes by the name of How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later. It's not an article, but more of a speech delivered in 1978, and even though I strongly disagree with quite a few bits in it (quite a shock, really), I just can't help but notice the -slightly deranged- brilliance and peculiar insight of the man. Actually any text containing paragraphs like the following ones deserves a thorough read. Yes, despite its strong metaphysical flavor.
What is the relationship between the average TV situation comedy to reality? What about the cop shows? Cars are continually swerving out of control, crashing, and catching fire. The police are always good and they always win. Do not ignore that point: The police always win. What a lesson that is. You should not fight authority, and even if you do, you will lose. The message here is, Be passive. And — cooperate. If Officer Baretta asks you for information, give it to him, because Officer Baretta is a good man and to be trusted. He loves you, and you should love him.
In my writing I got so interested in fakes that I finally came up with the concept of fake fakes. For example, in Disneyland there are fake birds worked by electric motors which emit caws and shrieks as you pass by them. Suppose some night all of us sneaked into the park with real birds and substituted them for the artificial ones. Imagine the horror the Disneyland officials would feet when they discovered the cruel hoax. Real birds! And perhaps someday even real hippos and lions. Consternation. The park being cunningly transmuted from the unreal to the real, by sinister forces. For instance, suppose the Matterhom turned into a genuine snow-covered mountain? What if the entire place, by a miracle of God's power and wisdom, was changed, in a moment, in the blink of an eye, into something incorruptible? They would have to close down.
And since there aren't any mentions to Blade Runner (the filmic version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) and this is still a gaming blog, do yourselves a favor and read Ron Gilbert's IGN interview. After all, mankind is still celebrating the 20th anniversary of the SCUMM engine and will be doing so till the apocalyptic end of 2007.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: The Interactive Storytelling Sanitarium, the history of the FPS, Indy Adventure News

Apr 23, 2007

Fuck it, I'm bored


Museum Monday #55

Monday and I got the sun burns to prove it. Other than that it's an irritatingly warm day gone absolutely wrong. Infuriating, really. As for this Museum Monday blog thingy (a.k.a. my self imposed masochistic Monday chore), well, have a look here. It's the aptly named Acorn Computer Museum. In fact it's such an aptly named little retro gaming site it does a perfect job of describing itself. Just don't let the Commodore, Atari and Dell computers included fool you and concentrate on the classic 32-bit Archimedes.
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Apr 21, 2007

Capcom digitizes Talisman

Talisman, the classic fantasy board game by Games Workshop scheduled for revival anytime now, will soon be sneaking into the video gaming realm, most probably disguised as an action-RPG / board game hybrid. The game, under development by Big Rooster Studios with the help of the Black Industries and set to be released by Capcom sometime towards the end of 2007, will offer both off-line (!) and on-line multiplayer gaming, 25 unique characters, (allegedly) detailed 3D graphics, an accordingly elaborate virtual game board and lots of voice chat options. Oh, and some -hopefully free- downloadable expansions have already been promised.

Talisman shall be brought, according to the prophecies, to the Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and PC platforms. Or to quote the latest words of the seer:
Black Industries are pleased to announce that Capcom® Entertainment, a leading worldwide developer and publisher of video games, have been given a license to produce a digitally downloadable version of Talisman. The game takes place in a fantasy realm and is based very closely on the board game through a 3D representation of the map with animated productions. Players scour dungeons, attack other creatures, cast effects-laden spells and use magical items and weapons to enhance their actions. Talisman will be rolling its way onto Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation 3 Network and PC this winter, to complement the highly anticipated launch of the board game in October 2007.
As for the tormented souls with a strong memory, this forthcoming Talisman version has absolutely nothing to do with the cancelled Talisman PC game Random Games were developing for Games Workshop. What do you mean you've never heard of it? Well, happily, there's the following YouTube video to prove its existence:

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Battlefield 40,000: the mod, Resident Evil 4 PC review, Warhammer video games

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Apr 20, 2007

A couple of cruelly counter-productive free games

Never mind the Brain Age, Brain Training bollocks, Here's the S3QUENCER (developed by the Red Bull himself), and it will train your Internet dependent memory like a dominatrix would train a ...uhm... puppy, I guess. Actually, describing S3quenc3r as a freeware, browser-based and amazingly addictive memory game slightly reminiscent of Simon, would definitely be more accurate.

Onslaught, on the other hand, is the Tower Defense variant I ended up wasting my time (or whatever was left of it after some Sequ3nc3r time shredding) on. It's rather brilliant, offers quite a few strategic options and can be freely accessed by following this link.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Darkness over Daggerford, Web Warcraft, 80kb of freeware video gaming bliss

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Apr 19, 2007

PC Review: 'Resident Evil 4'

Resident Evil 4 on the Nintendo GameCube is a uniquely sublime game, sporting some excellent eye-candy, an above average plot and moments of sheer horror followed by extended, yet relaxing, periods of violently shooting stuff. It also is an obvious, major even, evolution of the whole Resident Evil series and the first RE game to do away with zombies and go for the rather more nimble possessed peasant variety of baddies. Oh, and it's in glorious real-time 3D.

What's more, RE 4 has also been made available for the mainstream PS2, which, despite the underpowered hardware, got a pretty impressive port, only slightly lacking in the looks department and more than making up for this drawback by offering a few extra gameplay hours. Kudos to Capcom for successfully pushing the PS2 hardware, then.

So, what happens when Resident Evil 4, the same president's daughter saving supernatural survival horror video game that amazed the console crowds, hits the PC? Tragedy, that's what. Or to be more precise, what happens, is a tragedy of such epic proportions Sophocles might consider producing it, for Capcom has somehow ignored the hardware muscle of the PC, the fact that the mouse is now (for this deceivingly 10 year long decade, at least) considered a pretty standard piece of high-tech equipment, that contemporary gamers like to have a proper save (let alone quicksave) function and that PC gamers aren't as game-starved as in the very early eighties, and went on to promptly produce the shoddiest Resi 4 port imaginable.

That's ...uhm... stunning?

The game, cunningly avoiding to offer mouse control as an option, is virtually unplayable without a gamepad (even though being prompted to press buttons 1, 2, 3 or 4 can still be baffling) as the keyboard-only control method is frankly shocking (WASD to aim?). Even if, and this will be a very ill-conceived if, you do decide to give RE4 a try just to experience the story and visuals, think again.

So, I'm supposed to press 3, am I? Oh, you mean enter? No? Ctrl, perhaps?

The thing not only plays but looks decidedly shite and doesn't even bother to provide a way to exit the game without going for the ol' ctrl-alt-del trick.The graphics themselves are a travesty, which could a) have been easily avoided b) really wouldn't be so important if they hadn't removed daylight, night and fog effects in a brilliant attempt to strip away any sense of atmosphere. Then again, instantly disappearing characters have been added, thus succesfuly adding to the hilarity of the whole affair. Obviously anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering and modern soundcard technology have seemed to evade Capcom's attention all together. And still, the bloody thing will eat up almost 5 Gigas of your hard drive. For what? I really can't imagine. Probably just to irritate you.

Warning, obvious conclusion: Avoid Resident Evil 4 PC like the plague. In fact, given a choice, go for the rotting away to death fetish, and if you really desperately need to play Resident Evil 4 -which you do- you're better off buying a GameCube and the original version. Or a Wii and waiting a bit. Or, why not, a PS2. Heck, you'll probably enjoy playing the offending Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man more. Oh, and to remind you... THERE'S NO MOUSE SUPPORT. Tsk, tsk.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Need for Speed ..err.. Russia, System Shock 2 2k7, Medieval II Total War review, reviews archive

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Sam & Max Episode 5: Reality 2.0 Walkthrough

Yes, I know. Reality 2.0, despite being the best Sam & Max episode to date, still isn't a particularly challenging game nor one to demand inspired lateral thinking and you should really give it another try before resorting to browsing for walkthroughs. As for me, well, I was a bit too low on time to actually provide you with one, so I'll do the only thing a blogging gnome could ever do and link to one. Just click here and you'll get your nifty Sam & Max episode 5 walkthrough, complete with play it again moments and a non-spoilerish presentation.

And in case you were wondering, the Sam and Max webcomic has just reached episode 12, Telltale just released some Vista friendly icons and the House of Mojo discovered this very interesting bit of S&M info.
Related @ Gnome's Lair: Reality 2.0 review, Indy adventuring news, 2006 AGS Awards, walkthrough archive

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Apr 17, 2007

Neverwinter Nights: Darkness over Daggerford

Darkness over Daggerford, a freeware mod for Bioware's Neverwinter Nights hack 'n' slash RPG classic, is really impressive. Very impressive, too. Actually, it's a bit more impressive than your average impressive thing, which admittedly sort of impressed me. Also, quite impressively, said mod offers over 30 hours worth of gameplay too. Other than that, it's set in the Forgotten Realms and features some amazing (impressive, some would argue) production values. Oh, and before getting to download Darkness over Daggerford, read over this pretty impressive features lists:
  • A brand new world map system, never before seen in Neverwinter Nights, enabling the player to better explore a large world, complete with random encounters.
  • A player stronghold to enable more challenging stronghold quests, and featuring cool player customization features.
  • 3 new TNO tilesets created by DLA and released to Ossian Studios through an exclusive agreement with BioWare, including a completely new exterior tileset with rolling hills, sea cliffs, and castles.
  • A custom spawning and leveling system for creatures, to always ensure the game is challenging for any level of character.
  • Over 100 new placeables made specifically for the game.
  • 5 new music tracks by premium module composer David John.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: UT 2004: Hollow Moon, System Shock 2 2K7, Oblivion Essentials, the Ultima 5 mod

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Apr 16, 2007

Museum Monday #54

Monday, Museum Monday. Nasty things happen and retro gamers get their weekly link. All nice and orderly. Same thing today. Click and visit the Arctic Computer and Console Museum. It features a ridiculously huge collection of rare and not-so-rare retro hardware, software, games and demos, while also sporting some brilliantly weird contraptions like the Akor TV- Boy or the Atari Lynx Marlboro.
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Apr 15, 2007

The Legend of Zelda - Retrospective DVD

It's a simple story, really. Gametrailers produced a brilliant and quite extensive Legend of Zelda retrospective in 6 parts (detailing every Zelda game ever made and attempting to make sense of the series' time-line) and WiiNintendo.net edited the whole thing into one 50 minute DVD format video. And we (they, too) lived happily ever after. Despite never producing any porn. Learn the happy details and download the DVD and some lovely cover art here.

Oh, and a BitTorrent client might come in handy. Try this one.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: PSX: the complete PlayStation e-book, free online NES games, Famicom's Takeshi no Chousenjou

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UT 2004: Hollow Moon

It may be in a perpetual beta state and most probably will never reach a more final stage, but -despite its unfinished state- Hollow Moon is an impressively unique, beautiful and atmospheric (yet quite esoteric) Unreal Tournament 2004 total conversion mod. Unsurprisingly it also is free and you can download all 67MB of it directly from its sleek website.

Hollow Moon, surprisingly taking place in a lunar research colony, is a completely black & white affair, featuring some constantly playing eerie music and no sound effects. Oh, and despite the relative scarcity of high on action set pieces, it will definitely keep you on your toes. Especially when you think about them weird alien thingies infesting the whole base, that is.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Unreal Tournament mods, CS: Fawlty Towers, Half Life 2 oddities, Tremulous

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Apr 14, 2007

Neuromancer: The Graphic Novel

William Gibson's Neuromancer, the book that introduced cyberspace as a term and single-handedly created what we gnomes tend to describe as cyberpunk, has apparently gone the graphic novel way, with the valuable assistance of Tom De Haven and Bruce Jensen. What's more, you too, oh humble mortals, can freely glimpse at the 1st volume of this magnificent opus. Click here. It's free and features everyone's favorite Street Samurai.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, I Cthulhu, Zelda graphic novel, free pdf & e-book archive

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Apr 13, 2007

In Soviet Russia, speed needs YOU!!

First, learn what a Russian reversal is and then thank Kotaku for the greatest gaming news since Lucasarts decided to try something with the Star Wars franchise. Done? Good. Here's the news then (well, at least for the people who where thwarted by my double pic posting trick and failed to actually see them): Polish developer/publisher Play-Publishing will soon unleash its Need for Russia: Greatest Cars from CCCP driving game. In which you drive Soviet cars. Around Russia. Yes, really! Silly capitalists worldwide will at last have a chance to drive a Volga M21 on Moscow's ring-road. Ahhh, can't wait for the demo. Guess I'll search for a Калинка mp3 now.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Indy adventure games for the masses, Goldeneye: Source, Star Wars Bloodlines

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How to run Warcraft 3 in widescreen

The World of Warcraft hasn't consumed every orc-loving gamer in the world yet, and a look around the brilliant Warcraft Freaks website prooves that the same can be said for the Warcraft community. Not everyone has been turned into a WoW slave. Warcraft III is still massive, and hopefully (just like the Dreamcast) it will refuse to die. Whatsmore, the Warcraft Freaks, being all freaky and stuff, have managed to find a way to run Warcraft III in widescreen.

The operation of course involves tweaking the registry (back it up first) in the most simple of ways. Locate HKEY_CURRENT_USER > Software > Blizzard Entertainment > Warcraft III > Video, right click on it, go the Change> Select "Decimal"> Fill in new value way and input your desired resolution (resheight/reswidth). Easy, isn't it? And it'll make them annoying black lines go away. In case you got confused though, click here for a step-by-step guide.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: System Shock 2K7, Baldur's Gate high-res, Feyruna - Fairy Forest review

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Apr 11, 2007

Classic Video Game Monopoly

Complete with Console Fever chance cards, Sonic, Guybrush and Mario iconography, C64 railroad stations, ? blocks and Zork properties, the Classic Video Game Monopoly is a retro-gaming board gamer's fantasy come true. Well, not necessarily really, but it definitely is an inspired custom-made Monopoly and you 'd rather look into it a bit more. Chop-chop.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Mutant Chronicles Monopoly, Puttanopoly, Yehuda Berlinger It's Alive interview

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Independent Adventure Games for the masses

Independent video game developers are like the artisans of yore. They aren't wage slaves, they don't exploit anyone else's work, they are neither masters nor slaves, but creative people who strive for the quality of their product and don't have to succumb to whatever ridiculous market realities managers can come up with. In short, they are to be supported, fiercely guarded even, as they're (more or less) involuntary combating dominant modes of consumption and production. Oh, and let's not forget the fine games the indy/bedroom developers have historically come up with. Games like Another World, Skool Daze, Darwinia, Simon the Sorcerer and countless others that are all the proof you should ever need...

Then again, I simply refuse (i.e. can't be bothered) to let this post deteriorate into a quasi-political rant with artistic tendencies. We'll hopefully have time for this at a later date. For now, I think I'll stick to the news. The indy adventure gaming related news to be precise.

Well, for starters (not that there's much more on the menu, mind you), xii games of What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed, Anna and Spooks fame are working on a brand new adventure game set in a not-so-distant future when a particle physicist’s mysterious and spectacular death sparks a race to find his hidden vault and claim his terrifying new discovery. An indy dream team has already been assemble, but despair not. xii games is still hiring.

On to some SOCKO! Entertainment news. Remember them? How about the first commercial AGS adventure ever released, the cunningly named Adventures of Fatman? Ah, lovely, I knew you would (pssst, if not, the game has been released as a freeware memory stimulant; get it here). Well, seems that the seemingly defunct SOCKO! team was just that: seemingly defunct. Behind the scenes they've been working on Fatman S.O.S. (Save Our Superheroes) their second game, which they hope to fund by selling a brilliant and particularly deluxe re-release of the original Fatman game. Give 'em a hand.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Sam & Max Reality 2.0, Beyond the Spirit's Eye, 2006 AGS Awards, on storytelling

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Apr 10, 2007

PSX: The Free Guide to the Sony Playstation

But first, to make sure the title is as clear as it gets: I'm not referring to the Playstation 3 and what you are about to get yourselves for free is a PDF and not a proper physical book, even though it still is a lovely unabridged digital version of PSX: The Guide to the Sony Playstation, a brilliant book that can be bought for less than 30$.

On to the freebie itself then, which, as the more cunning among the Lair reading crowds and those that actually do bother with introductory paragraphs, must have already gathered, is none other than the 142 pages long 100% freeware (freely distributable, too) PDF version of PSX: The Guide to the Sony Playstation. All you have to do is follow this link and (very quickly, very simply) register with the interestingly named Lulu to get your copy. As for the book's official webpage, well, it can be accessed here.

PSX: The Guide to the Sony Playstation, mainly a hardcore collectors guide listing every US Playstation (PS One) game ever released complete with suggested used/new prices and SLUS codes (thus a very handy ebook for Retro Treasures hunters), also offers a brief history of the PSX development and retail history, descriptions of the more popular games, a photo of Miyamoto playing Crash Bandicoot, info on the prototype SNES CD, a discussion of Sony's idea for a mascot and images of early PSX consoles & dev kits. And in case you 're still wondering if it's worth the mere 15MB download, let me tell you it's an absolutely essential retro gamer's freebie, it is.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: SEGA Dreamcast emulation, Peter Favaro on Alter Ego, the complete ZX Spectrum emu PDF, free PDF & e-books archive

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Apr 9, 2007

Thousands of free RPG Character Sheets

The amount of free stuff leisurely strolling around the Internet is so absolutely impressive it feels anti-capitalist. Surely, then, a rose will appear on Blanqui's Parisian tomb every time a fellow RPGer downloads one of the 3000+ free character sheets (covering over 250 game systems) from the brilliant RPG Sheets website.

Roleplaying systems covered include a multitude of d20 and Dungeons & Dragons variations, GURPS, Call of Cthulhu, White Wolf's Storytelling games, Rifts, Games Workshop wargames, Shadowrun, Paranoia and even such cult classics as Toon or Trinity. Oh, and do expect to find non character sheety downloads like NPCs, riddles and nifty magic items.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Lone Wolf online, the best RPG video ever, the random Dungeon generator

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Museum Monday #53

Monday. Well, (very) early Monday morning to be precise, and as I'll hopefully be sleeping for the duration of the worst part of day, here's a Museum Monday that builds upon last Monday's MM Nintendo Museum post. It's a pretty interesting Nintendo Museum (shock! horror!) video featuring a rather irritating narrator, a very informative Nintendo Dream mag employee and a ton of retro gaming treasures going all the way back to the 19th century. [via engadget, via DS Fanboy]
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Apr 8, 2007

U.K. White Dwarf #328: Short and late

Short and late, which of course doesn't necessarily have to refer to the latest White Dwarf issue. It could for example describe this review. Or gnomes in general. Then again, you're smart little miniature painting boys and girls, so I guess I'll let you figure it out all by yourselves.

Now, regarding the latest UK WD, number 328 no less, well, you shouldn't really buy it, unless of course you are a weird all out Eldar Harlequins fan, own GW stocks, are impressively rich or are interested in any of the following, which apparently are the only decent articles/bits the mag has to offer (carefully distilled and presented here for your wargaming money-saving pleasure):

-The Eldar Harlequin designer's (well, sculptor's really) notes and a rather one sided Battle Report versus a Chaos Space Marines force for the Warhammer 40k and Eldar groupies.

-Jervis Johnson's Standard Bearer briefly but in the most interesting of ways discussing GW history while showcasing some retro Citadel minis.

-Solid, though not extensive, tactical advice for shooting in Warhammer and using the bad guys in general in Lord of the Rings.

-Ads on the forthcoming almost decently priced Orcs and Goblins and Dwarfs army box sets and pics of the plastic Black Orcs and Dwarf Miners.

-Lots of obvious info on the new Citadel Foundation Paints that are just too aptly named to describe and are showcased down to their surprisingly not particularly interesting pots.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Warhammer comics & stuff, White Dwarf 327 review, White Dwarf issue 1 PDF

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