Archives for March 2007

Theatre of War Pics, Videos and Wallpapers

Theater of War is coming on April 19th and it looks to be a very promising computer game.

The lineage of the the gaming companies gives it the promise of being very historical and very fun to play. While Combat Missions for the Next Generation is still “in development”, this real time game seems to be the one that may replace CMXX in my heart. To be honest – the graphics look a lot better and the real time action, I think, will improve the fun of it.

I’ll have to figure out a way of getting it installed legally on Pete English’s computer without tipping off his wife that it was me that put this addicting crack in their home! Jim Keats seems to have the most computer accumen of any of his other friends so I’ll blame him. Rohn Kelley also fits the bill but we’ll have to wait and see. He’ll be my backup plan.

I like how realistic the game appears to be and the attention to details such as delays in requesting artillery fire mission from higher command. This game could be the stuff of legends – lets hope so!

Free Wargames Blog

Pete Jones of the Free Wargames Website has now started a blog. Pete has over the last 10 years created a tremendous asset to the hobby of miniatures wargames. My own set of rules “Japanese Art of War” has resided there for many years.

Some day I’ll get around to writing the next edition of the rules…

Check out his blog and bookmark his web site. You won’t regret it.

Missed Cold Wars but still got to play military games

Many thanks to the 861st Airborne Quarter Masters (“Riggers”) for hosting me on a training exercise as a “Strap-hanger” this past weekend. It provided a lot of valuable experience for me and I hope that the work I did will help them with future training exercises. As someone who often works with the military at a high-level it was great to see what its like at ground level. It was a cold weekend but we did not let that deter us from the mission of doing an airborne operation to secure an airfield and then later sling-load operations to transport a vehicle via helicoptor. I was involved closely with both operations and got to see it from both the commander’s and the grunt’s eyes. I feel very fortunate to have been allowed this opportunity with so many brave men and women in this elite unit.

As a wargamer it has given me new perspective on complex logistical operations that involve combat and advanced resupply techniques. I got to experience the rush of wind as the doors opened on the C-130 at 1250 feet and the thrill of power as the Blackhawk effortlessly lifted a Humvee off the Earth and carted it through the air.

IGN: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 Review

IGN: Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 Review

The review above gives it a 9.1. Its definitely a major improvement over the prior incarnation. Nightvision WORKS! There are still a few things I hate and always will: small rises or depressions can be impossible to climb over. Simple wire fences are barriers (hello, just push it over or go over it!) The stick to the wall cover system is pretty much the same which is good but if your target is outside of 45 degrees to the facing of the wall you end up sliding down the wall in cover trying to get your sights on it.

Some things are definitely improved though. Outside of night optics the rest of the graphics are better. Light passes and changes through translucent things. They have more mirrored surfaces (though they only reflect the environment and not people or vehicles. I thought we were Ghosts not vampires!) Fire and explosions are better and they show off the improved particle system with dust devils. Its actually creepy! The environmental aspects of weather are well done and give a good atmospheric feel to the levels I saw.

The NextGen aspects of the game are improved as well. There is very little feeling of transition between levels. In GRAW there were longer waits between them but in this game its much more seemless and, frankly, less boring than before. The downside is that it lends to habitual play and I was up until 3am playing this game… on a work night. Yawn!

I do think the game on its middle level of toughness is pretty weak though. While I’ve lost team mates, I personally have not botched a mission until the all out helicopter assault at the church. That one I had to replay about 6 times before I had a good strategy down (which basically was my standard strategy – stick together and let the computer’s dumb bastards stick their necks out looking for us.)

I haven’t tried multi-player yet. That probably won’t happen until next week. I am doing something this weekend that will preclude me from getting in much more time on it.

Final word? Its a lot of fun and a big improvement. It is definitely a quite welcome addition to this long line of games.

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2

It’s out and I have my copy. I am looking forward to seeing how the new changes affect things. I am hoping some of the single player experience is finally brought into the multi-player experience. I am not holding my breath (pun intended). In case you don’t get it, in GRAW in single player you have to use a trigger to “hold your breath” to steady your aim. It was a wonderful way of incorporating BRAS (breath – relax – aim – squeeze). However the multiplayer game does not have that. In fact GRAW multiplayer felt like a totally different game. Hopefully I won’t be too disappointed with GRAW 2 in this respect.

That said the game play was great in GRAW so if its more of the same I’ll be happy. Hopefully the storyline will not be as full of BS as in GRAW as well. My favorite game of all time is still Ghost Recon 2, when the Ghosts went up against North Korea. The final battle in that game was epic and an amazing moment for me when I finally finished it. GRAW ends with a rediculous duel. Hopefully there aren’t going to be any duels or silly technology as there was in GRAW. My favorite thing to bitch about in GRAW was the system that jammed your HUD. Well – duh, why can’t I just take off my freaking helmet?!? Anyway, I don’t mean to sound so down on GRAW as it had some wonderful moments.

I’ll report more on GRAW 2 once I’ve got a few battles in under my belt.

Whats in the news; a new way to look AT the news

Part of what I do for work is building tools for analyzing message traffic. The great majority of what I work with is Plain Ol’ News. The tools that we build allow you to start with some independent variable and apply various dependent variables.

So, to generate an example I had it look for things that had to do with nuclear power plants. Why not? It’s pure Hollywood to have terrorists attack nuclear power plants. They talk about it as a “what if” in the United States but in places like the Czech Republic this is not far fetched. So my independent variable is the input “nuclear power plant” and the dependent variables are the categories location, time, and threats. When I specified “nuclear power plant” the system informed me I also meant “nuclear power station”, “nuclear power generating plant”, “nuclear power complex” and so forth. It also gave specific names for nuclear power plants it knew of.

The System did manage to find an instance when a threat was in play against the nuclear power plant in Dukovany. The terrorists threatened to blow it up with a bomb. As you can imagine this would have been pretty devestating. Here is a picture of it. With a little imagination you could put together some pretty interesting scenarios – just by looking at the news.

With a little bit of work and an investment of about 5 minutes the system found this threat in over 14,000 documents in seconds. The visual display allowed me to quickly put together the information I needed and find the relevent files. The best part is, it found the facts across documents and brougth them together for me.

The connection to gaming is that when this technology hits the commercial market you will be able to research real world history and find facts and details for yourself on historical scenarios.

Why Can’t this be a movie coming out?!?!

View the MOVIE.

This clip rocks! Its a promotional clip for the arcade shooter Armored Core 4. It has extremely high production values! If the Japanese would make a feature length film out like this I’d be there and relive my favorite Saturday Morning pasttime of the 70’s – Creature Double Feature!

Enjoy and don’t be afraid to leave a comment to let me know what you think.

As for Armored Core – I am not sure its a game I’m into. It’s very arcadish. Not a bad thing but for Mech games I like a bit more to do. I think people fall into different camps on that note just like people who play miniatures games – some like hyper amounts of detail and some like fast and easy play. What floats your boat… as they say.

NOTE: I tried to embed the video but the IGN code didn’t show the video I selected but another video. The embedding was nice but for the wrong thing. Kind of a bummer actually, but a small one on the scale of things!

Crackdown – aptly named

Let’s face it – I have hated every sandbox game ever made. I hated Grand Theft Auto. I wasn’t a fan of Saint’s Row. I had no reason to like this game either – or so I thought. I was wrong. Having been a fan of comic superheroes since college I found the theme of this game really interesting. It is similar to a genre that Hero Games calls “Dark Champions” where realistic and superheroic action mixes and the characters themselves are dark.

In this game you are a super powered being. At first your powers are extraordinary augmentations. You can jump about 7 feet high and kill easily with your bare hands. However as you progress in the game and develop your powers you can leap over 20 feet, throw cars around and basically cause a sick amount of mayhem.

This game is the first truely 2nd Generation game to come along. While I am still a huge fan of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter – in many ways that game did not fully deliver on the promise of 2nd generation. I am sure future editions will continue to stand on the shoulders of giants as previous editions of Ghost Recon have in the past. I hope they take some lessons from Crackdown. Crackdown is a seamless environment. I never notice loading or levels. I can see for miles when up high. I can take advantage of very high roosts or get down into the action in a way I never was able to in GRAW. While the action is definitely much more cartoony in Crackdown there are a lot of things about it that I wish would translate over to GRAW.

I have not yet tried the cooperative version of the game. I am truely looking forward to that. I have no idea what it is like actually. I think that it would be great fun though. However I am sure the biggest problem is friendly fire. Lets face it – this game is jammin’ packed full of exploding cars, tank, barrels and so forth. It’s definitely a high octane, adreline rush of a ride.

Given my schedule lately I haven’t had much time for miniatures or boardgaming. I really didn’t have the time I spent on playing this game – but it was worth it. Its easily one of the best games I’ve bought for the 360.

Of the games I’ve got here is how I’d rate them thus far:

  1. Crackdown (excellent!)
  2. GRAW (very good, wish there were more MP maps)
  3. Oblivion (good, horrible people models, fun exploration game)
  4. The Outfit, Perfect Dark (ok, not really as engaging as I would have wanted)
  5. Blazing Angels (a little disappointing, stupid hard in some parts)