Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Game Review - Numen: Contest of Heroes

Game Review - Numen: Contest of Heroes
Score +2/-7

Run around killing things. Large amount of grinding.
++ Graphics: The style of artwork and the lighting really enhance the overall look of the world. Overall a beautiful gaming environment. Textures are also very good.
- Character Development: Boring skills with boring animations. Some skills are clearly clones of each other given to the three classes (Warrior, Archer, Mage).
- Combat: Horrible concept as -- and even in the manual it says this -- it really depends on the exploit of not "pulling" (getting the attention of) too many enemies. On any difficulty this will be the case. The manual even says to use potion extensively, which further suggests a very flawed concept (or at least a bad mathematical model). In any other game this would be considered an exploit. In Numen, it is a necessary survival tactic.
- Combat: The manual tries to make it sound strategic, but really it comes down to button mashing skills while waiting for other skills to cooldown. You start with some skills that have very fast cooldowns, so you are just using those constantly.
- Combat: You have range and line of sight limitations, but the enemy does not. They can shoot through walls and other barriers, and have remarkably long range when you are fleeing. When they cannot path-find toward you or when they break off pursuit, they recover health very quickly, but you do not when you are fleeing. You can test this by trying to keep your distance from an enemy while shooting at them with a bow. Eventually the target will be too far from its starting location and turn back, and while it is running back to its original position, it will recover health at a great rate.
- Combat: You have range and line of sight limitations, but the enemy does not. They can shoot through walls and other barriers, and have remarkably long range when you are fleeing.
- Combat: Archers and Mages are advised to keep their distance, but this does not really work in practice. The range for attacks and powers is very short. Also, enemies will turn back to their starting position if they are too far away, and once they do, their health regenerates very quickly (your health never achieves that much regeneration speed when out of combat). They will also regenerate health very quickly if they are still trying to path-find their way to you. You can see this latter situation in practice by fighting the scorpions during the childhood tutorial phase. Stay high on the slopes. Often the scorpions will have to walk along the base of the hill until they find a shallow enough slope to crawl up. During this time, they often have very fast health regeneration.
- Pacing: Extremely boring pacing. Every new area has monsters typically much stronger than you. Even if you use the exploit of pulling only one enemy at a time, there will typically be a lot of running away and retrying fights until your level improves enough to handle them. This means each area typically starts with very boring grinding until you can handle it.

    Saturday, June 8, 2013

    Game Review - The Sims Medieval and the Pirates and Nobles expansion

    Game Review - The Sims Medieval and the Pirates and Nobles Expansion
    Score +5/-10

    Sims Medieval is basically a collection of short stories stretched out by performing repetitive tasks with the characters involved. Once you've played enough of the game, you will probably want to just skip the boring bits you've done a hundred times and cut right to advancing the story. Because some of the stories are actually really decent. It's too bad you have to play the game to see them.
    The Pirates and Nobles expansion is worth getting just for the stories, which are quite good. If you are getting Sims Medieval already, it doesn't cost that much more.
    + Graphics: The world is sort of cartoony, but the heads and faces of the characters are really very good when grossly exaggerated facial expressions don't distort them into caricatures.
    - Bugs: There are very annoying bugs or oversights on game mechanics, such as not enough feedback on why marriage isn't happening, or too many sims in the area, continually preventing you from talking to someone or using an item. Most of the time, the only thing you can do is to just keep clicking and trying over and over again until something works.
    ++- Roleplaying: The "quests" are basically short stories of out-of-the-ordinary events that happen to ordinary people. Like stopping the invasion of an evil wizard. Often what you do is pretty generic, like cooking or talking to people or buying something from a store. But just as often the quest is resolved with what is unique to the profession, like a priest giving sermons and blessings, or a blacksmith crafting special gear. Some of the stories are really rather good (if you like the level of seriousness or the type of humour), so playing through the stories isn't as bad as it sounds. A lot of critical action is "off screen" or just relayed to you in text to read, (such as your character disappearing from gameplay for several minutes because they are "hunting in the woods") and that can feel really unsatisfying.
    - Roleplaying: Beyond the stories, there is no depth and no point to playing the heroes. For example, you increase the skill of your blacksmith so that they can craft legendary weapons and armor, but none of that is really important in gameplay. Often, whether a warrior hero has access to a boring sword or an epic sword matters very little because the quests aren't designed to really have any failure result or dependence on anything other than the heroes involved. For most of the quests, character development does not matter, which means there is a pointlessness to roleplaying.
    -- Game Mechanics are Stupid: Quest performance has almost nothing to do with your skill or even the skill of your heroes. The individual quests are generally ludicrously easy. What you need to do to get the best performance (Platinum-level) is basically wait for the performance bar to reach Platinum. In short, wasting time gets you better performance. The short and very easy quests are therefore actually the hardest to get the best performance because you have to space out doing the quest steps so that you don't accidentally finish the quest before the quest performance meter is at Platinum.
    - Game Slowdown: The more you play a kingdom, the more characters get added to it, either leftovers from a quest, or children of AI sims. All sims are constantly doing something whether on-screen or not, so the longer you play a kingdom, the more system load is generated. For this reason, if you have a weaker computer (not just the graphics card, but CPU), you might want to restart your kingdom when it gets overloaded, or just load a previous save so that you don't have to completely restart everything such as furnishing hero homes or levelling up heroes.
    +- Outfits are quite broad in style. Some have crossover potential and some professions, such as the monarch, have a good array of choices. However, for many heroes there are only a couple of choices that are specific to their profession. A lot of clothes choices are generic, and better for professions with no iconic look, such as merchants. Because of this mix of circumstances and no usage constraints in random generation, using the random generation button often produces horrible results. Using default heroes would typically give you a reasonable iconic outfit, but you can't edit the rest of the hero (hair, head, body shape, traits).
    +--- Home and Hero Decorating: Initially it is fun to decorate the home of your hero or dress them in various outfits, once that novelty wears off, there is very little to recommend it. You can unlock more items and outfits, but the effort required (playing through kingdom goals and getting achievements) is all out of proportion for what you get in return. You can change colours, but there are only so many actual clothes and furnishings to get.
    For furniture and household items, even if there weren't a lot of furnishing choices, how the game plays conflicts with what to buy since there are very few pieces that give you a good game effect (stat bonus) so inevitably player will (for example) get that one particular bed that provides the best and fastest rest for your character; or the one style of oven or cookpot/chimney. Because that's the only one with the best bonus. Finally, you need to play the various kingdom ambitions to unlock more clothing and furnishings -- this in turn means that you are constantly starting from zero. Every time you start a kingdom, the old one, including all the work put into playing, acquiring money, and decorating, gets erased and you start all over again.
    Minor decorative items appropriate to an area are actually NOT desirable to get, especially for heroes with small homes. Initially they cost money with you do not have. Also, they take up space which could be better used to fit other things. At the same time, they would have been nice to add for more ambiance.
    Because the reward-to-effort ratio is extremely low considering the amount of effort required to unlock everything you can furnish homes and dress heroes with, we recommend you get some cheat mods and play the sandbox "An Eternal Kingdom" unlimited free play. You get access to the same quests/stories, and you can continually add to your kingdom so that you don't have to restart anything. Doing in this way also gives you a better sense of history and cumulative achievement for your kingdom. You get access to the same quests.
    You *can* still sort-of do this with one of the kingdom ambitions, but without a cheat mod, you have to play through them all plus get various achievements just to unlock all outfits and furnishings. Also, you cannot earn Achievements during free sandbox play -- only before you have quit a Kingdom Ambition. Instead, I recommend you short-cut by getting a cheat to unlock everything, then focus on the quests/stories.

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Sims Medieval - Layouts - Tavern

    This is a sample starting Tavern (using the Furnished option) that grants the +25/- Nicely Decorated buff.

    A music box is on the end table moved from the upstairs room down to the main floor, upper right corner. A lot of performances depend on Focus, so the Decoration buff is important to raise.

    Tavern 1 Nicely Decorated 25 buff

    Sims Medieval - Layouts - Wizard's Tower

    This is a sample starting Wizard's Tower ground floor (using the Furnished option) that grants the +25/- Nicely Decorated buff and centralizes many services in the entrance.
    Meditation is unlikely to succeed here as the order causes the sim to move to a clearing to begin. Because of the tight space and clutter, the sim might not be able to find that open space to begin Meditation.
    As usual we have included a music box, this one at one end of the stone dining table.

    The fireplace can be changed to an oven later as long-lasting food is useful for a Wizard. A Wizard can Meditate in lieu of sleeping and can do so just about anywhere, so being able to store food for picnics can extend the "operation range" and duration of a wizard whereas all other professions need to sleep (or use a Crafthole) potion.

    Wizard's Tower 1 Nicely Decorated 25 buff

    Since the Wizard already has the best Archive and Crafting Table, the Healer next door will not need to upgrade these items and can just wander over. However, since neither activity uses Focus, this is not really necessary.

    The only workstation we didn't want to squeeze in was the Forge. A Wizard should have their own forge as you might end up competing with the Blacksmith, and being even briefly unable to access the forge to Heat the item being forged can use it to cool into the blue zone and count as a "mistake".

    Sims Medieval - Layouts - Market

    This is a sample starting Market (using the Unfurnished option) that grants the +25/- Nicely Decorated buff.

    Proximity to Environment items appears to be a factor in determining what kind of buff is granted. In this particular starting layout, we have placed the market as close as possible to the path to the Village. A Merchant standing next to the Blue Tent (where they always stand, and it is the tent they move to when a sale is made) can get a +25/- Nicely Decorated buff.
    If they walk a little outside this area past the Blue tent, that buff disappears because it is now too far from enough Environment influencers.

    We have a music box on the dining table nearest to the Blue Tent. AI Sims like to keep that device playing, and when it is not, they frequently all race for it and you will see some frustrated sims because the device is "not accessible" (i.e., some other sim is already in line to use it).

    Market 2 Well Decorated 25 buff

    Market 1 placement

    Since the Merchant can make both money and levels quite quickly, it is not necessary to upgrade the Decoration buff to the +40/- level quickly, but we should do so early in a Kingdom for the same reason we aimed for Beautifully Decorated in the Throne Room: It benefits other heroes. The central location of the Markets; the availability of space; and the easy access to cash as the Merchant means we can put various profession-related structures (such as a stage for Bard performances) in the same area to benefit from the Decoration buff. A sample layout is below.

    Market 3 Beautifully Decorated 40 buff

    Not all furnishings are vital here for the Nicely Decorated buff almost everywhere in the market square, although at least two items of Environment 7+ are a necessary condition. We have also tucked in a desk for the Bard behind the red tent, and a mirror left over from the earlier layout.

    Sims Medieval - Layouts - Throne Room

    This is a sample starting Throne Room (using the Unfurnished §12,500 option) that grants the +40/- Beautifully Decorated buff in the main room. The upper floors are completely empty. The side rooms are very spartan, as shown. Basically, it encourages all AI sims to stay in the throne room for convenience if nothing else.

    Although we could probably have optimized it even further cost-wise, we still wanted an essentially functional and somewhat reasonable starting throne room.

    Throne Room 1 Beautifully Decorated 40 buff

    The marble table to the left of the throne doubles as serving table and guest table. The servant prepares food in the kitchen to the left, and since there isn't any table in there, he typically brings it out and tries to lay it on the marble table. Alternatively, the Monarch can grab food and drink from the Larder and Keg and sit down immediately.

    Once more funds become available, we might expand the kitchen properly and move all dining there if the Throne Room starts to become too busy with sims. For the moment, this is basically the only room in the castle. Guests can help themselves to food and drink, or entertain themselves listening to the NPC Bard that frequently comes here. Also, we choose high-Entertainment furnishings for the dining table and chairs, so that helped us get the Beautifully Decorated buff. Even the Larder adds an Entertainment bonus.

    Key to getting the +40/- Beautifully Decorated buff with our starting funds was getting a good Environment score for our simoles spent, which is why we went with wall lights. Floor torches were slightly cheaper but we wanted to save as much floor space as possible.
    Getting past +25/- Nicely Decorated required 2-3 items rated at Environment 7+, no matter how many Environment points were already in the room from other objects. Hence, we squeezed in one sculpture and one painting.

    The Monarch has just one indoor Responsibility that requires Focus: Writing a Treaty of Ongoing Peace. The only other Responsibility that uses Focus is Hunting a Great Bear, and that is outdoors and obviously would not benefit from the Throne Room's focus bonus.
    However, having a high Focus also increases your quest performance. Since you can spend a lot of time in the castle, staying in the Throne Room while having very high Focus can build your quest performance even if you have severely neglected your current quest; at the least, it can mitigate the penalty by slowing it down.
    Having a high Focus in the Throne Room also helps other heroes such as the Bard (performing for money) and Spy (pickpocketing).

    Notice the music box on the marble dining table. Sims very frequently beeline for it to turn it on, which provides not only a Listening to Music buff but also an Entertained buff. The radius of the Listening to Music buff is quite small, so we have placed it quite close to the centre of activity.

    Throne Room 2

    This very spare kitchen can be expanded later once we can get more furnishings for the Throne room and move the dining activity here. For convenience, however, we will probably still want a keg in the Throne Room for a quick drink to boost Focus. We could run to the kitchen, but every time you move into an area where the bonus for Decoration changes, the bonus completely disappears for a while. The same applies when you place or remove furnishings and trigger a change in the Decoration bonus calculated by the game.

    The Servant in the castle randomly prepares various types of meals -- even with the possibility of whale meat as an ingredient. For this reason, we got the FrostStone Larder right away. Typically you can call for one meal, and when it arrives, call for another immediately. Eat one, stash the rest in the Larder just in case you come back to the castle at an odd hour and the Servant cannot be called.

    Throne Room 3

    What used to be the strategy room and office has now become the bedroom / ready room. We got a really good bed and left upgrading the bathtub and mirror for later. The mirror could also be moved to the main Throne Room for quickly Gussying Up.

    Once the Spy becomes available, we will probably ignore their spy quarters and instead move them to a room upstairs simply to shorten travel time and to take advantage of the castle's kitchen and larder. The Monarch would have to pay for all furnishings, however, and a good bed can be pretty costly.

    Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    Grail Quest's Dawn of War II Convenience Mod

    GQ Dawn of War II (and Chaos Rising) mod
    download: version 2013-April-9
    Requires the Chaos Rising expansion.

    This mod includes various conveniences for gameplay, as well as variants adjusting the difficulty settings for various reasons. Full changelog is below and also in a text file.

    .The default version is gqDOW2CR.module and the directory gqDOW2CR\
    .The gqDOW2CR_x100Health.module and the directory gqDOW2CR_x100Health\ is a general purpose tester module where all units that are marked "ally" (including your squads) have x100 normal health. Sample uses:
    .Test powers and builds
    .Compare armor loadouts
    .Quickly re-play missions and jumpstart your campaign to an advanced state
    .Quickly re-play a mission because your game crashed mid-save
    .The gqDOW2CR_Normalized.module and the directory gqDOW2CR_Normalized\ changes difficulty settings so that all difficulties are the same as Normal Difficulty
    .The gqDOW2CR_God.module and the directory gqDOW2CR_God\ changes difficulty settings so that enemies have x0.1 normal health and allies have x100 health; all settings are relative to their difficulty level.

    (1) Extract the .module file and the directory of the same name to the DOW2CR directory
    (2) Prepare a shortcut with target command line that tells the game to load the mod. E.g., ...\DOW2CR\DOW2.exe -modname "gqDOW2CR_x100Health"

    >Mid-Mission Saves activated for Space Marines campaign
    FILE campaign\space_marines\campaign_description.lua
    .enabled (buggy) mid-mission saves by changing this variable from "false" to "true"
    can_be_saved = true

    >Skill Respec button activated for Space Marines campaign
    FILE campaign\space_marines\missions\ss1_sep1.lua, function ss1_sep1.OnComplete()
    .line added to enable the skill respec button
    Campaign_SetUIVisibility( UIV_InventoryRespecButtonPing, true ) -- GQ - this line is copied from the DOW2CR mission x01_arrival.lua; it activates the skill respec button

    >Skill Respec button not deactivated for Chaos Rising campaign
    FILE campaign\xp1\missions\x03_librarian.lua, function x03_librarian.OnComplete()
    .line disabled to prevent losing the respec button
    Campaign_SetUIVisibility( UIV_InventoryRespecButtonPing, false )

    >Give some inventory items right away in Space Marines single player campaign
    .FILE campaign\space_marines\default_profile\inventory.lua
    .List includes all known valid unique items that appear in the Space Marine campaign and Chaos Rising campaign, but most of them are commented out
    .Use this to get item pathnames for spawning an item in-game using the console; or edit it to add items you want to start with in the campaign
    .Chaos Rising items are apparently usable in Space Marine campaign and some may be equipped due to reduced level requirements
    .Probably safe to use, but no guarantee
    .The chaos/corruption system is apparently not enabled for the Space Marine campaign
    .Wargear Drop Codes: [BbPCSMXx]
    [B]oss, Mini-[b]oss, [P]lanet Boss (only 1 item has this code)
    [C]haff (pre-placed enemies), [S]warm (enemies spawned during a mission, such as from Waaagh! Banners)
    [M]ission Reward
    [X] does not drop normally - usually dropped or given in a script, a scripted reward for a particular mission, or possibly not used anywhere or not meant to be used
    [x]13dropped (a Chaos Rising situation)
    .Most items in the Space Marine campaign are [BCM] (if not indicated) for green, [BM] for blue.
    .If all [B] unique items are already in inventory, a boss will drop nothing.
    .White items are [CS] in Space Marines campaign and [C] in Chaos Marine campaign (White items are generally not in this list).
    .In this file, all items that do not have [b], [C], [S], or [X] drop codes are automatically given in the Space Marine campaign as they are too rare to expect to drop:
    .[B] is for mission bosses, and [M] is for mission reward, but both of these instances compete with all other uniques that are typically [BCM]
    .Master-Crafted Grenades are automatically given as it is too rare a drop
    .Some white items are given to make sure the player has something in that category
    .All items that have the word "exclusive" or "coop" in the name are also automatically given in the Space Marine campaign
    .Items in the bonus_package_1 directory can drop during the game (unless it has no designated drop code), so they are not automatically given unless they qualify based on the conditions stated above

    >Enabled expendable items (such as skill books) from Chaos Rising in the Space Marines campaign
    this does nothing unless you also console in some items to use with it
    FILE campaign\space_marines\campaign_description.lua
    .added this line to allow expendable items from Chaos Rising
    expendables_enabled = true

    >Slight change to drop rates
    FILE simulation\attrib\tuning\tuning_info.rbf
    .Drop rates changed: 1f = 100% chance of a model dropping gear
    mini_boss from 0.04 to 1
    .Probably only has an effect in Chaos Rising since this parameter did not exist in DOW2.

    >Expanded XP sharing radius to 100x normal
    .XP Sharing Radius changed for campaign:
    .line 2746 starts the section for campaign XP information
    .line 3462: changed from 50f to 5000f
    sharing_radius: 5000f

    >Expanded limited use item stacking limits
    DIRECTORY gameattrib.sga\simulation\attrib\slot_item\campaign\playable\race_marine\
    .Definitions of items are in gameattrib.sga\simulation\attrib\wargear\... RBF files, and the initial count of uses is set there. The maximum stack size is set in gameattrib.sga\simulation\attrib\slot_item\campaign\playable\... RBF files. There is a "can_stack_max" value.
    .Unless otherwise indicated, this has been changed from 5 to 50.
    sm_cyclone_missile_launcher_barrage.rbf - 4 to 50
    sm_cyclone_missile_launcher_for_terminator.rbf - 2 to 50
    sm_frag_grenade_veteran.rbf - Master-Crafted Grenades
    sm_medkit_medpack.rbf - Stimpack
    sm_promethium_bomb.rbf - Immolate (Cyrus flamer ability)
    sm_satchel_charge.rbf - Demolition Charge Pack