Wallpaper of the Week: Team Fortress 2

July 11, 2009

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FROM JASON’S WALLPAPER FOLDER — Admission time: I am not good at first-person shooters. I’m just not. My synapses are better suited to slightly slower-moving games. And I get irked by insta-deaths that I couldn’t see coming.

That happens a lot in Team Fortress 2.

So I resisted picking up Valve’s update of the classic MMOFPS for the longest time, at least until Steam lowered the price for a weekend deal to a paltry $9.99 a month or so back.

Since then, I’ve spent the better part of 40 hours getting fragged in every way imaginable: flamed, riddled by shotgun shells, darted to death, mowed by machine gun fire, rocketed, proximity bombed, caught unawares by a sentry, napalmed, arrow through the head — you name it.

I’ve took a few lives myself.

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The engineer is my man. There’s nothing more satisfying than putting a sentry gun just out of sight around a high-traffic corner and watching it take out four or five opponents before it’s demoed.

I do have some complaints, though. The engineer needs more traps. What about pitfalls, tripwires, and logjams? For that matter, why can’t he build energy shields or barricades? And he’s not the only one who’s under-powered. C’mon, Valve, the medic deserves a better gun — one that doesn’t take 400 direct headshots to bring down a scout

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I’ve spent more time playing those two classes than all the others combined, and I’m all thumbs when it comes to the spy (average lifespan there is about 12 seconds). And I’m just getting into the groove with the demoman, who I believed at first to be completely useless and now understand to be the perfect anti-engineer character.

I’m also coming into my own with the sniper, as long as there is sufficient cover to be had; he’s almost as good with a submachine gun as a rifle scope.

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So I went looking for TF2 wallpapers and found a lot of very lame ones, sporting poorly-doneĀ  fan art and little charisma. What I decided is that expertly-timed screen caps of in-game action make for the best desktops — especially when they show imminent doom for our players. Enjoy these 1024×768 beauties, and as always, click to embiggen.

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Red Stone: Isometric rogue-likes aren’t dead

January 3, 2009

FROM JASON’S AND ANDREW’S DIGITAL SWORDS — I can tell you this: After a fairly obsessive 10-day frenzy, we are pretty much done playing Red Stone.

We’ve been at the boiling point waiting for Diablo III, eager to click on a new brood of monsters in sprawling isometric dungeons, all in the hopes of picking up a Gut Siphon Demon Crossbow with +160 to 220 percent enhanced damage, or a MetalGrid Amulet with +400 to 450 to attack rating.

There are some sinners out there who hate the Diablo franchise, saying they are simple games of endless mouse-clicking with no skill or merit. Critics say that such rogue-likes are just elaborate fantasy-themed dress-up dolls.

Well, our dealers over at Blizzard keep teasing us with screens and trailers of the new game, but they aren’t giving up a release date or any system specs yet. In the meantime, we’ve been forced to find another way to get our fix.

We weren’t about to play World of Warcraft, so we went looking for online MMOs to vet and found Red Stone. The 2D online adventure looks like it was was designed in Caligari’s trueSpace, and plays almost exactly like Diablo II, albeit not nearly as gothic and spooky.

There are a couple of things that set K2 Network’s MMO apart from Blizzard’s best-seller. First, there are droves of monsters to fight, and while there are a few pallet swaps the makers impress by giving us a huge variety of creatures to fight.

There are the cliche kobolds, turtles, leeches, trolls, and wolves, of course. Then there are chicken fighters, octopuss tongues, lizardmen, nix warriors, zombies, axe skeletons, giant crabs, vampires, tree men, highway thieves, conjurers, halberdiers, evil mantises, and iron golems.

And those are just within spitting distance of your hometown.

Red Stone‘s other strength lies in its class sets. There are 12 to choose from, and each has the ability to transform into another character type to keep you from getting bored.

For instance, the shield-handling squire can at any time transform into the heavy-damage dealing warrior. The magician (see Andrew in the video above) can transform into a physical-damage-dealing werewolf. The necromancer can transform into a demon. The priest can transform into a fallen angel.

There are also princesses, tamers, summers, monks, and thieves.

Each transformation opens up its own slew of skills, and the trees are impressively concocted. Levels (with strength, magic, etc. attributes) are gained separately from skill points, which go toward gaining and empowering new techniques and abilities.

And insanely, the skill cap is set at 999. I hit 45 with my warrior, while Andrew hit 25 with his magician, and that was far enough. There were ridiculous people running around at level 160 and 240 the last time I logged in.

Cooperating over Skype, we let the MMO fever run its course without needing to log that many hours. And now we’re done. At least until Diablo III hits shelves. Then it’s back to happily exploring and grinding.


We’re trying out the Diablo-esque MMO, Red Stone

December 18, 2008

FROM JASON AND ANDREW’S INVENTORY — We decided that a co-op dungeon crawler was in order, but had quite the time settling on a title. Neither of us really cared about World of Warcraft when we tried it, but we are both jonesing for the release of Diablo III.

So in picking over a mind-blowingly inclusive list of MMORPGs out there (free to play, but most with in-game options to purchase upgrades), we chose Red Stone:

I was hoping for something that would tax my new NVIDIA 9800GT a little more, but once in-game I found that so far the 2D gameplay is not only fun, but has the potential to be quite addicting.

Of course, we have friends who are ardently pitted against point-and-click rogue-style games because they require little skill; I love the exploration and the constant search for upgrades. I love leveling. I love my JRPGs. I love getting new abilities and skills, new combos, and new equipment.

Anyway, there will probably be a forthcoming review.

Until then, you can have some art. I hunted around and realized there were no Red Stone dock icons anywhere to be found (at least not in a 15-minute Google search), so I had to make one for my Rocket Dock bar.

While I was at it, I slipped the simple Photoshop style onto a few other pieces of Red Stone art. Total creation time: 12 minutes. Download them all by clicking here.

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Spore Creature Creator leaked, my night consumed

June 15, 2008

The Spore Creature Creator Demo has been leaked ahead of time (it’s supposed to launch June 17). Download and try it out. The thing has some kinks, takes some getting used to, is fun to play with, and generally helped me waste two hours tonight. The number of creature parts is limited, but there’s enough there to help spawn a few thousand variations of xeno-whatsits.

I’ve got to say — if the rest of Spore is as engaging as this tiny little portion, it will be well worth the price. So far, I’ve only gotten to play with the tinker-toy part. I can’t wait to get my hands on an actual free-roaming environment with some of these bad boys and see how they interact with other animals.

It will be interesting to see what traits succeed with Spore’s sharing mechanism. What works better in a swamp — lobster claws, insect mandibles, or primate hands? Is speed more important than brute strength? Can a venom spitter beat a serrated horn? Can cyclopians survive well? Are tactile adaptations a sure way to get a dominant species? How much difference do color and markings make?

I can’t wait to see how detailed and in-depth the game designers have gone. I’m usually the kind of guy to wait until the first price drop to buy a game, but I’m getting this one on launch day. Already, I can see it combines everything I loved about Legos with everything cool about evolution. Take that, creationists!

EDIT: Andrew here. Just thought I would add one of my creatures that I created today:


Forumites: Election ’08 for Morons #3

June 3, 2008

I’m rushing to get this post up for a couple of reasons. My original plan had been to let it go until tomorrow.

Now, though, it looks entirely possible that Barack Obama will reach a magical milestone tonight that could make the entire Democratic infight with Hillary Clinton moot. By midnight, CNN is reporting, Obama could have 2,118 superdelegates pledged to his nomination as the party’s candidate. Mathematically, that would eliminate Clinton from contention.

Clinton could be forced to concede the race, but told reporters about an hour ago that she won’t do so today. That means probably the biggest news of the year will break tomorrow.

Still, Clinton plans to speak in New York City tonight, and it will be interesting to see whether she turns a deaf ear to the speculation about the superdelegate squeeze, whether she’ll address them head on in her speech, or if she’ll actually do the smart thing and admit defeat gracefully instead of prologuing the inevitable for another full news cycle.

It’s the starting gun all the pundits have been straining to hear. If the votes fall as predicted, tonight could mark the beginning of the real presidential race between Obama and John McCain.

With that in mind, here’s Obama and his stances, taken quote for quote, in context, his real words:

Also, I’ve been itching to post a real blag entry here, instead of these comics I’ve been obsessed with. They’re fun, but there’s no substitute for substance over style. So I’m getting ready to review a few books I really love.


Forumites: Crickets

June 2, 2008

The guys over at Geeknights have been thinking about cutting back from four to two episodes a week, since the well is running a bit dry and they need to recharge the ol’ power cells. That got me thinking about how often we’ve heard them riff on their favorite catch phrases again and again and again. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


I have no idea how long this will last.

May 31, 2008

Our forum friends over at Geeknights know I’ve been obsessing over Bitstrips.com and posting some in-joke comics.

I have never considered making a web comic before, because — let’s face it — I’m not much of an artist and I’ve never thought I was that funny. But Andrew keeps asking me if I’m going to do a regular comic after the ones I’ve drafted up this week. Honestly, I think he wants more Andrew-centric comics. Ego!

I’ve been having tremendous fun playing with different layouts and exaggerating certain personalities. One of our forumite buddies, an old fogey who goes by the handle Hungry Joe (or Grandpa Joe, affectionately) is easy to pick on.