Freitag, 10. August 2012

Atari: The Imperial Adventures Intermission

Just as a short heads up: I finally got my hands on a (hopefully) working game for Atari ST: Imperium by Electronic Arts. Now I just have to wait until it's here and we will find out what it is! (Well, I know already it's a space strategy game, but beyond that I don't want to spoil my surprise. Royal Mail or whatever, work faster already! Germany isn't that far away from Great Britain!)

Freitag, 27. Juli 2012

Atari Adventures II: The Adventure starts (slowly)

Since I now have a working Atari ST, I started to search for software. Ebay, local flea markets and so on will be the tools of my choice to find it. (And with it I mean games.)

So you can look forward to me searching for such "gems" as

DAS REICH, a historical strategy game? Well, if I find it we will find out what it is.

Universe 2, an old, obscure space strategy sim. By the way, the Atari ST has had quite a few of those, apparently.

And if I can find out how to grab images from my old TV and transfer them to my PC, we might even see some screenshots! But first off: The search for software.

Luckily, I already found some promising stuff on Ebay. Now I only have to buy them, wait until the discs arrive and hope the discs are actually still working.Wish me (even more) luck!

Dienstag, 17. Juli 2012

Atari Adventures I

Now that I bought a SCART-cable and a coaxial-cable to circumvent my lame-ass monochrome monitor, it seems the project Revive the Atari slowly gains ground.

Funny enough, it also seems scart is only a viable option if I want my TFT-Television to play Atari-Monitor-Lord. My coaxial cable on the other hand gives me a nice, crispy picture in colour, even on my old TV.

The disc drive also works, at least now. I cleaned it a bit and tried a brand new disc instead of the old ones I got with the system. And what do you know? A short formatting later I have a working disc. Another short disc test later shows the drive can at least read the old discs after I formatted them again. So maybe the old discs were the problem all along?

Still, a new (reserve) disc drive and an additional external one for my PC is on my shopping list for next month. And I have to get a new Atari mouse. The old trackball I got instead is horrible and ungainly. It feels like I have to roll a bowling ball around to move my cursor.

For now, I test the around 40 old discs I have lying around to see what the fuck is on them. Since I'm not crazy, I will format them if I need them, not one day earlier, though.

Oh, and I guess I should screw the case back together and try to find a better place for my monochrome monitor then my living room carpet.

Samstag, 14. Juli 2012

I'm not dead yet.

It was a while, wasn't it?

Well, I just hadn't had the time to write. And I was lazy. And had better things to do.

Now I'm back and for the beginning I'll try to keep up a pace of at least a post a week or something. Let's see if it works out!

This week: I'm repairing an old Atari ST 1040 STF. The transport to me has destroyed parts of the case, but most of it works. The only things left are now to replace the shitty trackball it came with, to replace the damaged disk drive with a working one and to see if the new scart-cable I bought can allow me to get my old reserve-television monstrosity out and have pretty pictures in color. (The Atari-Monitor it came with is just monochrome.)

And of course, finding software. Especially games. To spare me headaches I plan on getting on of those nifty external floppy drives I can connect via USB to my PC. This way, I can search for old Atari ST games that have turned into abandonware or something, transmit the data to my Atari-formatted discs and try them with the new (old) computer of mine. If it is possible, I'll try to get originals, of course. But we'll see.

If my ST starts working properly, maybe I'll make a series of blog posts about it.

Next week: Maybe the start of actual content?

Sonntag, 18. März 2012

Space Exploration Games - Where are they?

Think about it: How many games can you think of that let you actually explore something unknown out in space?

And I don't mean strategy games like Galactic Civilizations II and the like -those let you control an entire, well civilization. But what about you (OK, your character) personally taking a ship out into the unknown?
Let's stop and consider the most likely candidates.

The X-Series of games

I really liked X-3 Reunion, the only part I actually played. But even here, you have an in-game universe that is already known to most people in it -it's just unknown to the player. You can do almost everything here, even building entire fleets or industrial empires, if you want to.

But there is not much to actually discover -no unknown alien species, no unknown civilizations, no undiscovered parts of space. If you take a ship and just fly off somewhere to the border of the known universe, it just ends there. Normally you would expect to find something new after you left your "officially" mapped world behind -not here. No secrets here.

So, either follow the story or do something else. You can be a mercenary, for example. Many ships to blow up for you. Exploration? The Unknown? Far to scary. Better to just take on one of the few "allowed" things you can do.

Space Force: Rogue Universe and Evochron Mercenary

Essentially from the same mold as the X-Series, just more modern and less good. Evochron has the most freedom out of the two, but it is still a rather sterile sort of freedom: Be a mercenary, a racing pilot, a trader, everything is possible! But flying an exploration vessel into complete new, scary, unknown parts of the universe just to explore? Why, that is of course to boring! And impossible, since the one-man project of EM apparently didn't thought of it.

Space Force? Well, if you want to blow up ships in space it's not so bad, I think.

The Homeworld-Series

Astonishingly, even if you essentially wage war among the stars, the Homeworld-Series of RTS games comes at least near the ideal: Your fleet even finds remnants of old, long-lost civilizations. The problem is the same as with strategy games in space, though: You control not a single character, nor a small group of characters travelling the universe, you control an entire fleet -in the first Homeworld, your entire civilization, since you are dragging the last survivors of your people around after your homeworld got burned.

The Mass Effect-Series

Exploration is at least possible in parts one and two. I don't know much about part three, though. And besides, the focus of Mass Effect is the story. In a real exploration game, the story has to take a back-seat, because you would feel pretty silly otherwise: "So, the evil space monsters are eating our worlds? I don't have time now, there are still two solar systems I haven't been to yet. Maybe I can help next week?"

Star Ruler

Since I included Homeworld, I felt guilty by not including Star Ruler: Star Ruler is by far one of the best  strategy games I found in a long time, but I still have to disqualify it on the same technicality: It is good and full of exploration (AI-Races are more or less generated automatically, you can only influence minor things, like their general behaviour or how many you start with, the rest is completely unknown to you as player, until you actually meet them.), full of remnants and other neat stuff to find, but it still is only the next best thing: You can follow your self-designed exploration vessels around, but you can't actually be the captain of one. If you want that feeling of a new species exploring space for the first time, Star Ruler is for you.
But as I said, If you want to feel less detached and explore the unknown for yourself, tough luck.


Essentially a newer version of the age-old Elite. Strangely, with its possibility to just buy some kind of super-hyper-mega-jump drive and then jumping to a complete new galaxy (and then again -several times), it has more "real" exploration feeling (at least for me), then X-3 and Evochron combined.

Eve Online

A bit of an odd duck. On one hand, you actually have the possibility of outfitting your ship for research and exploration, you can even follow a related profession and just go on your merry, sciencey way -on the other hand, it's a MMORPG. So in a way, everywhere you go, thousands of people were already there.

And suddenly, your feet stop itching.

The Classics

By that I mean the classics I know: Star Control II and the Starflight-Series. Both had what I just keep missing from modern games: You had your ship, your crew -and knew next to nothing about your surrounding universe. Sure, there was an overarching storyline, but you had to actually fly out and meet new aliens, find neat artefacts and all that. You could trade, shoot at people and stuff -but you also had to continually explore new places.

I'm sure you could have just followed the plot as close as possible and keep exploration to a minimum, but that's the point: You could explore. And there were places were your ship was the first human presence, like, ever.


A few titles from the early age of video games and Eve Online, a MMORPG? Seriously? That's all?
Wow. Maybe I should just learn to program my own game then, I guess?

And on a side note: First, isn't it weird we like to see stuff like Star Trek, where there is a ship exploring around, doing exciting stuff, but when we want to play computer/video games, we apparently only want to trade things/make things/make things go "boom"? Is there some kind of allergy against a sense of wonder in the gaming community I'm not aware of?

Second, why only humans? I mean, there are niche titles like Space Empires V that lets you conjure up the wildest things your imagination can handle for your soon to be empire-building race (Seriously, want a species that looks like catfish, breaths hydrogen and likes opera? Take a picture from a real catfish as avatar, write a few snazzy sentences, take the necessary picks in the beginning, done.) but if it comes down to flying around in your own ship, the availability of races that aren't looking astonishingly humanoid for that kind of thing is even worse then the availability of new games like Star Control II. By which I mean, less then one. Zero. Nada. Nothing.

Well, as long as I'm silently suffering under my Fernweh, I'll ease the pain with Starflight TLC.

Sonntag, 15. Januar 2012

Game V: Master of Orion III: The Ultimate Version

Game V: Master of Orion III: The Ultimate Version

The Recappening:

1. MO3 was the first true space strategy game I ever played. I played the hell out of it, then got bored out of my skull and shelved it for years.

2. I found out about something that made MO3 fun again.

3. I blathered on and on in my blog about MO3s many, many flaws (carriers of unending fighter support, super-rockets against weak-sauce shields, shit AI, DID I MENTIONED ALREADY: THERE ARE CARRIERS WITH AN UNENDING SUPPLY OF FIGHTERS! OK I DID? THEN I WILL STOP NOW WITH WRITING IN ALL CAPS.) And that stupid shit was only the mangled gameplay. But the apparently rushed production not only slaughtered the play-testing, it also produced many weird glitches. Trust me, if you play MO3 long enough, the behaviour of the game, especially the AI, will keep getting more strange. (And strangely enough, because of stupid things like leaky memory you need to be almost as patient as a saint to experience the truly dumb shit the game can throw at you -sooner or later a single round will go on forever. Or until your RAM runs out. Nowadays that can be quite hard to achieve, I guess. On my old PC that problem was maddening.)

4. In short: Vanilla MO3 is mostly only good as a method of torturing strategy gamers in hell.

5. Now I will start talking about Point 2.


Fake FAQ: How can Master of Orion 3: The tainted Reputation, be any good?

Well, there was that one time I was heavily medicated. Or in the very beginning, since I hadn´t known any better then.

But in truth I simply stumbled upon the website of a group of dedicated poor delusional fools... Sorry, I meant dedicated fans of MO3. Those strange entities had done the unthinkable and used the power of hope to combat MO3s shitiness. With the combined forces of a guy I can´t even remember the name of and their own huge balls they created the ultimate version of MO3. And aptly named it Ultimate Orion. (That should read Ultima Orion. But I think “Ultimate” sounds better.)

How does it work? First of, you need the one official patch for MO3. Afterwards, you can install Ultima Orion. The Mod comes complete with a german translation and a patcher, allowing you to manually patch many of the things that are plain wrong with vanilla MO3. You get also better graphics. You get better and more maps. If you want, you can now can use the new starter to change the order in which enemy AI-Races will appear. You want a map full of machine races? Just turn the AI-Players down to two and change the order of appearance to make Cynoids and/or Meklar first and second races.

Better still, if you don´t want some of the changes, or you disagree with them, you can use the patcher to change some things how you want -the nasty space rockets are to fast? Simply dial their speed down a bit.

All that stuff is of course only the beginning:

The guys and gals of Ultima Orion implemented stuff that was already there, but because of time issues was never used in vanilla MO3. Like religion for example. Finally you can play your Meklar like the true Atheist Abominations they are! All in all races in Ultima Orion behave more like their description in the background fluff -Ithkul allied with suicidal Humans? Not happening any more.

Space Torpedoes were severely weakened, but in exchange you got almost as powerful additional versions of the old ones with shorter range. Shields are now regenerating at a rate fast enough to turn real-time battles into actual battles, instead of the all-or-nothing approach of vanilla MO3. (There you either got Mutual Assured Destruction when both sides were evenly matched, or a short, boring slaughterfest if one side was only slightly stronger.) Combined with the better AI-Behaviour enemies will now actively try to flee if they are overmatched -and actually have a chance of succeeding with that. I can´t remember all the times when an overwhelmed task force in the vanilla version tried to flee but was horribly slaughtered because their useless shields all suddenly collapsed at once. I know that it is mostly a question of taste and what kind of SciFi you have grown up with. But my suspension of disbelieve never survived these battles.

Other new things: More techs, techs are now spread out over roughly double the number of tech levels. (Which means you now don´t have to update your blueprints every second round.) More and better balancing: Now you can get better versions of your point-defense mounts, preparing a nasty surprise for the more diverse versions of fighters you can get. The player set-up is better by a an order of magnitude. And since all races have their own little, hidden (and now actually working) quirks, you may experiment a while instead just using your preferred race over and over (not that that is a bad thing- I almost always use the Meklar, for example).

There is tons of stuff more I most likely keep forgetting. Not everything is roses however, Ultima Orion couldn´t rewrite the entire game, so some problems are just kind of repressed instead of replaced. The AI is better, but often it will still make decisions that are plain dumb in the long run, even if they are part of the fluff. (As an example: Ithkul or other aggressive races will often bombard your colonies as a kind of first encounter which will piss you off enough to wipe them out. But to be fair, that kind of metagaming would be hard even with the AI of today’s games.) Another annoying problem the mod is simply working around on: Your own AI will still try to flood your queues with ground units, but now it is forced to always build ten units at the same time. So you will have at least enough troops if you actually need them, instead of the old infuriating vanilla AI, which cluttered your queues with troops, but build not enough of them to actually prevent you from needing to build troops for yourself.

And of course, your AI will try to build the cheapest available ship. So if you don´t want a giant-ass useless fleet of unarmed reconnaissance-lancers, you still have to make every unwanted blueprint obsolete.

So Ultima Orion has still a few little flaws, but the game is actually fun now. Since the AI is now at least passable, you can now gladly (and still need to) relieve yourself of an overload of micro management and let your AI control your lower-tier worlds. And by the end of a long game, you may have hundreds of lower-tier worlds. Sure, you still need to fill out that weird spread sheet to tell your AI what it should do with your worlds. But you only need to that exactly one time. Afterwards, just save that rubbish and re-use it forever after.

In conclusion, if you were disappointed by Master of Orion III, try Ultima Orion. (And if you can´t read German, there is a less pretty workaround: Most of the problems of vanilla MO3 are already solved by someone called Bhruic. Use his stuff to prevent the kevorkian AI of vanilla MO3 in succeeding with its plans to make you commit suicide.)

My last comment? Vanilla MO3 is bad enough that it would have made me learn German if it weren´t my mother tongue already, just so that I could continue playing it without killing myself. Or destroying my PC in a fit of rage. Ultima Orion makes a bad game with good intentions good enough to be playable (well, playable with fun).

I almost forgot: It also implements a mechanism for allowing new star lanes to appear during a game. In UO, you aren´t actually limited to the ones you start with. And if you don´t like this mechanism, or if you want to change the chance of new star lanes appearing: Use the patcher that comes with Ultima Orion.

Here is a link if you want to test Ultima Orion for yourselves:

Next time: Something completely different.
Well, that whole translating thing almost happened, but then life (and starting to study for my bachelor´s degree and a new PS3) kept intervening.

As long as no one protests, I´ll keep on alternating between english and german posts. Not just because of my lazyness, but because I want to instill an interest of German and English in my readers! (No, not really. Just an excuse, I fear.)

A bit late, but want to finish my prattling over MO3. Since I did the last posts in German, I´ll finish this chapter of the blog (How pretentious that sounds!) in good old English. Next post follows shortly!