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Archives of the videogaming diary

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Reviews index...
Review philosophy
Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2)
Rez (Dreamcast)
Spheres of Chaos (PC)
Max Payne (PC)
Anachronox (PC)
Operation Flashpoint (and Red Hammer expansion) (PC)
Soul Calibur (Dreamcast)
Tribes 2 (PC)
Insane (PC)
Sonic Adventure 2 (Dreamcast)
Black & White (PC)
Daytona USA 2001 (Dreamcast)
Planescape: Torment (PC)
Serious Sam (PC)
Grand Prix 3 (PC)
Metropolis Street Racer (Dreamcast)
The Typing Of The Dead (PC)
Giants: Citizen Kabuto (PC)
Deus Ex (PC)
Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast) - UPDATED 27th April 2003
Shenmue (Dreamcast)
Thief 2: The Metal Age (PC)
Soldier of Fortune (PC)
Chu Chu Rocket (Dreamcast)
Thief Gold (PC)
Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast)
Rollercoaster Tycoon (PC)
The Sims (PC)
Parapper the Rapper (Playstation)
Quake III Arena / Unreal Tournament (PC)
Dungeon Keeper 2 (PC)
System Shock 2 (PC)
Command & Conquer for Windows 95 (PC)
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun (PC)
Starsiege: Tribes (PC)
Heroes of Might and Magic III (PC)
Aliens versus Predator (PC)
Outcast (PC)
Civilization: Call to Power (PC)
Alpha Centauri (PC)
Battlezone (PC)
Half-Life / Sin (PC)
Wetrix (PC)
Sentinel Returns (PC)
X-COM: Interceptor (PC)
Grand Theft Auto (PC)
The Curse of Monkey Island (PC)
Dungeon Keeper (PC)
Wipeout 2097 (PC)
Ultim@te Race (PC)
Quake II (PC)
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (PC)
Mini-reviews of X-COM Apocalypse, Red Alert and Civ2.


ARGanoid's chart of the top 45 games of all time (as of sometime in 2003, before this page stopped being updated)

Note that I haven't played every game that has ever been released, so there may be some unfortunate ommissions. Also I don't update this much any more.

PositionGame (click to go to developer/publisher)ARGnet rating (click for review)Highest in this chart
1Grand Theft Auto 3 (PS2)9.6/101
2Civ 2 / Alpha Centauri / Civ 396%/94%/9.2/101
3Thief Gold / Thief II9.0/10 / 8/101
4Ridge Racer (Arcade, PSX) / Ridge Racer 2 (Arcade)93%1
5Metropolis Street Racer/Project Gotham Racing9.0/10,9.3/105
6Quake/Quake II/Quake III Arena95%/95%/91%1
7Rez (Dreamcast/PS2)9.3/106
8Carrier Command92%3
9Starsiege: Tribes92%6
10Jet Set Radio [Future]10
11Rollercoaster Tycoon92%8
12Deus Ex9.1/109
13Aliens vs Predator93%5
14Battlezone92%4
15X-COM: Apocalypse94%2
16Planescape: Torment9.2/1014
17Super Mario 64/Sunshine (N64/GC)95%5
18System Shock 293%7
19Pushover (ST/Amiga)17
20Unreal Tournament91%14
21Mercenary III (ST)92%9
22Total Annihilation92%8
23Soul Calibur (Dreamcast)9.1/1022
24Captain Blood (ST)95%1
25Daytona USA [2001] (Arcade/Dreamcast)93% / 8/1015
26Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo92%5
27The Typing Of The Dead9.0/1023
28Heroes of Might and Magic III/IV91%, 8/1011
29Formula One Grand Prix (ST)93%3
30Spheres of Chaos9.2/1029
31Dungeon Keeper93%3
32Biprolex+90%10
33UFO: Enemy Unknown93%2
34Bangai-O9.1/1034
35Operation Flashpoint8/1034
36Counter-StrikeN/A18
37Stunt Car Racer (ST)92%5
38Little Big Adventure/LBA2 - Twinsen's Oddysey93%/90%6
39Frontier - Elite II / First Encounters91%/80%3
40Bridge BuilderN/A33
41Halo9.0/1041
42Black & White9.0/1035
43Soldier of Fortune8/1022
44Giants: Citizen Kabuto8/1024
45Command & Conquer/C&C: Red Alert86%/94%2

Games that were once in the chart: Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast, 8/10), X-COM: Interceptor (92%), Monkey Island 2 and 3 (92%), R-Type (Arcade, 92%), Doom/Doom II (93%), Outcast (89%), Sin (91%), Lemmings 2 (ST, 93%), Wipeout 2097 (92%), Kyodai Mahjongg (91%), Half-Life (88%), Sentinel Returns (90%), EITtris (90%), Sam 'n' Max Hit the Road (90%), Grand Theft Auto (90%), Super Stardust '96 (90%), Commander Blood (89%), Grand Prix 2 (86%), Acid Tetris (89%), Freecell (94%), Chain Reaction (84%), DX-Ball (89%), Llamatron (88%)

Soon to enter: Probably nothing for ages, since I can't be arsed to update this page any more



Sunday 27th April 2003
Anyone who is foolish enough to read this page may have noticed that it is now updated once a year, except for "Games I've been playing recently" which is updated roughly once every four months. This is only likely to get slower as time goes on.

Before I vanish into the sunset as quickly as I arrived, I would just like to talk briefly about Jet Set Radio. Originally I found it to be incredibly difficult and frustrating, and was left very disappointed. Well, a few months ago I started to play it again - inspired to do so by the excellent music. I also read some FAQs on it, and started to actually get the hang of it. Indeed, even though I had completed it when it first came out, I never fully got the hang of the controls. This time I was able to get the top rating on all levels (albiet with a lot of failed attempts and help from the FAQs). The game is still very difficult though. I also got hold of Jet Set Radio Future, which is a lot more beginner-friendly, although to a veteran JSR player it can seem a bit dumbed-down. However, it is still an excellent game.

Before I go, take a look at this. I'm working on it.


Saturday 9th February 2002
Laser Squad: Nemesis, the new multiplayer play by e-mail game from the Gollops (creators of the X-COM series) is out now. You can find out more at www.lasersquadnemesis.com.

Also, I've updated my reviews page, after a big gap since the last update. Buy Rez. Buy Rez. (And Spheres of Chaos)


Saturday 1st December 2001
Just a quick update to say: you must play Spheres of Chaos. It's the most insanely psychedelic gaming experience the world has ever seen, and the gameplay is just as good as the incredible visuals.


Saturday 6th January 2001
Time for a quick review of 2000. In my view it was a poor year for gaming. One of the most eagerly awaited games of the year - Black and White - was once again delayed and delayed until it slipped all the way into the middle of 2001. Meanwhile, virtually all of the eagerly awaited games that did get released turned out to be not worth the wait - The Sims, Soldier of Fortune, Star Trek Voyager and Shenmue in particular.

The best games I played this year were Thief Gold, Thief 2, Deus Ex and Metropolis Street Racer, in no particular order. However, every one of them had their problems and got boring after a while.


Sunday 17th December 2000
Played PC Gamer's demo of Ultima Online the other day. I won't mince my words here. What a pile of shit. The whole thing seems incredibly amateurish. The graphics are atrocious (even for a three year old game) and the interface is a mess. If this wasn't a massively multiplayer game, no-one would give it a second glance. I played through the tutorial (which mangaged to stop working at one point - the window telling me what to do vanished, and I had to skip an important part of the tutorial to get the window back), but didn't continue playing much longer after that - the game seemed to make no effort to entice me in.


Sunday 10th September 2000
I can't be arsed to decide which game to kick out of the chart every time I update it, so from now on I'll make it the top 31/32/33/etc every time I add a new entry...

Infestation news: Check out the Infestation Time Trials - a feature concocted by myself, insipred by QDQ.


Sunday 20th August 2000
Two days ago, the first commerical game I have worked on since joining the games industry - Infestation - was released. I was the game's internal tester, and as such had a fair degree of influence on smoothing out the gameplay. I also wrote one line of program code - check out the sound when you destroy a siren!

Infestation is a game where you drive around in a turbo-powered buggy (which can also morph into a number of other vehicles). It was originally intended to be a straight sequel to V2000, but the focus of the game changed when the new buggy vehicle turned out to be good enough to build a game around it. Turboing over the landscape in the buggy is superb fun (a point echoed by Edge in their review). The game received 87% in PC Format, 4/5 in PC Gaming World and 7/10 in Edge. You can read some of the press quotes at the Infestation website. You can also find the Time Trial Challenge there - this is an idea of mine inspired by Quake Done Quick.

The game has been released by Ubi Soft at a low RRP - it's very cheap for a new game. The low price may have been their way of compensating for the lack of marketing. Gameplay.com has the lowest price I've seen so far - 15.99

As for my own opinion on the game, I wouldn't call it a classic, but if you ever find yourself at a loose end, it'll certainly provide you with a good degree of entertainment - especially if you attempt the Time Trials. It's got groovy vehicles, big explosions, great music, nice graphics, and runs well on relatively low-end PCs (at work I use a P2-233 with a TNT1, which was fine). And at such a competetive price, it won't break the bank! So what are you waiting for - buy it today!

PR session complete.


Saturday 22nd July 2000
The other day I downloaded the latest version of classic shareware game Kyodai Mahjongg. To my amazement, version 12 (the last one I played was 6) features 3D hardware acceleration, complete with high res textures, environment mapping and bump mapping. The board rotates slightly as you move the mouse around. Kyodai also contains multiple sub-games, tilesets, backgrounds, Winamp-style skins, and loads of music to listen to while you play. I eventually turned off the 3D mode and went back to the (equally gorgeous looking) 2D mode, but nevertheless it's very refreshing to see a game polished to this degree.

Today I finished downloading the massive demo of Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. It was rather disappointing, for the following reasons:


Friday 7th July 2000
I've made a new innovation in game reviewing technology, see the reviews page for more info.


Thursday 29th June 2000
Recently, there have been changes at the top. First Ridge Racer suddenly took the top spot, then Thief Gold today. Have I become Mr Fickle Arse? Well, I looked at the games at the top of the chart and wonder what they're going there. I never play them any more. Not only are they games I've played to death, they're also sequels of games I've played to death. It's time for something different to grab my attention, and the superb Thief has done just that. I seem to be contradicting myself though - if Thief is so great, why 'only' 9.0/10 instead of, say, 9.3 or better? Why only 8.5/10 for gameplay? Well, Thief is quite an aquired taste. And it's not simply a case of playing it for ages - you have to learn to play the game the way it was meant to be played. The first time I played through it, it was on Normal difficulty, and most of the time I didn't have too much respect for stealth, I just went on a killing spree. Although swordfighting is good in Thief, the stealthier approach is more rewarding. Now I'm playing through the game on Expert difficulty (where you're not allowed to kill anyone). In some respects this difficulty level is easier, since you are more likely to avoid fights, and thus less likely to take lots of damage. It also encourages you to be more ingenious and curious, which is lovely. Also, now that I've seen all the levels, I'm inclined to be more patient - there's no longer the feeling that I want to finish this level ASAP so that I can see what's in the next one. I'll certainly be buying Thief II soon - I've played through the demo on Normal and Expert difficulty levels, and it's excellent - not to mention enormous. Finally, I've also played the demo of Deus Ex, a Thief / System Shock hybrid thing. It's pretty good, although has some serious issues, such as very poor graphics and frame rates, and flawed AI. So I'll probably leave that one until it becomes cheaper.


Monday 10th April 2000
If you look at my Half-Life review, you'll notice that I didn't take too kindly to its multiplayer. Well, I've been playing multiplayer Opposing Forces at work, and it's much better (mostly due to the exclusion of the stupid gluon gun). Of course, this kind of game is much better on a LAN (even if you ignore the lack of lag) - what's the point in expertly sending a laser guided rocket up an opponent's arse from a mile away if you can't laugh and point at the person in reality?

On a similar subject, I have tried Soldier of Fortune multiplayer online. Unfortunately, there are hardly any servers, and most of them seem to be in the USA. I have yet to find a server with consistently good performance.


Wednesday 19th January 2000
I have reviewed Quake III and Unreal Tournament. Both are slightly disappointing. I have also placed them into the chart. You may recall that I separated Quake 1 and 2 into separate places in the chart. Well, in time honoured tradition I have changed my mind again and put all three Quakes in the same place. Not that I think Q3A warrants first position in the chart. I can't say there's any game at the moment which I rate above everything else.


Sunday 9th January 2000
I got my new GeForce 256 card the other day. I suppose it's my duty to tell you what it's like:

Quake III Arena: Disappointly, only 5fps faster than the Neon250 (45fps in 800x600, everything except shadows at highest detail). However, I am now able to switch on trilinear with no performance hit. Also, the glitches the Neon250 had (if there were too many player skins displayed at once, it fucked up) are gone - although it does introduce one annoying glitch of its own. On one of the levels, there is a large amount of slowdown unless you turn the texture detail down.

Quake II: 66fps in 1024x768.

Dungeon Keeper 2: Slightly inferior image quality to the Neon250 - ugly dithering is apparent on some effects.

Half-Life: Playable in 1024x768. Frame rate varies between roughly 10 and 50fps - but poor performance is not massively noticable. There is quite a lot of flickering, but only in the seconds following the resuming of a game after being in the menu.

X-COM: Interceptor: Good, but still doesn't seem to be 100% smooth all of the time.


Wednesday 29th December 1999
It's time to announce the ARGnet game of the year. Yes, that's right, look impressed. It's that good.

This year, there were a lot of good games, but there was no game which stood head and shoulders above the competition. So:

In first place...

Starsiege: Tribes - a very original take on the multiplayer first-person shooter genre.Alpha Centauri - would have been the sole number one of the year, had it not been so buggy. One of the deepest and most intelligent games of all time.Aliens vs Predator - the best single player first-person shooter of all time - and also the scariest game of all time - although the game to its right comes dangerously close on both counts.System Shock 2 - a continuous and believable game world full of fear, intrigue and backstabbing. One day more games will be made like this.Rollercoaster Tycoon - a game made of pure fun. I can watch the rollercoasters going round for hours at a time.

In sixth place...

Heroes of Might and Magic III - grabs you by the balls and doesn't let go for weeks or months - when you realise that it's just a spreadsheet with combat and spells...

In seventh place...

Outcast - by no means a classic or revolutionary, but certainly a very playable game, and well worth playing to the end.

In eighth place...

Quake III Arena - a fairly small improvement over Quake II. Contains moments of brilliance, but could and should have been quite a bit better.Unreal Tournament - a superbly varied and well-presented game with loads of superb features. Unfortunately it failed to hold my interest for very long - mostly because the splat-factor is smaller than Quake III, and the action can be less direct and full-on.

In tenth place...

Command & Conquer for Windows 95 - wasn't released in 1999, but that's when I bought it, and it was good enough (despite its age) to justify including it here. It is also considerably better than its sequel, Tiberian Sun.

Predictions for next year's hits? Black and White, Soldier of Fortune and The Sims look pretty certain to be among the best.


Monday 13th December 1999
I've moved some things around in the chart. AvP drops down a bit, but more importantly, I have separated the Quakes. Quake II stays at number 1, while Quake 1 moves into number 19.

More importantly, Hasbro have made an enemy for life. Go to www.davenet.co.uk and click on "The Hasbro Situation".
I have removed X-COM: Genesis from my list of eagerly awaited games.


Thursday 2nd December 1999
Due to an HTML error, the previous entries displayed wrongly. My new job is not related to E-Mail X-COM!

I am now off to write a review of System Shock 2, which I have just finished. I will also put it in the chart.


Thursday 18th November 1999
Engaging smug mode. I start a new job as a videogame tester for Frontier Developments on Monday.


Wednesday 10th November 1999
Updated the score for Starsiege Tribes from 91 to 92%. Rearranged the chart a bit, moving Tribes slightly up.

The other day I downloaded the client version of E-Mail X-COM. It's a playable game, but rather simplistic and not very good compared to UFO. The conrtols and gameplay can be a bit awkward sometimes, and it is debatable as to whether it is properly balanced or not. Fortunately it doesn't cost anything to play the client version - the only restriction is that you can't challenge anyone, you have to get them to challenge you.

I also got Rollercoaster Tycoon, through an online auction. There will probably be a review in about a month's time.

Also, check back here in about two weeks for some interesting news...


Sunday 24th October 1999
Quick update:
Unreal Tournament: Continues to be great. Possible game of the year material.
Quake III Test: Boring.
Stupid Arena for Quake II: Lots of people still seem to be playing it.
Sega Rally 2 demo: Crap. And runs better on the Voodoo 2 than it does on the Neon250, which is strange seeing how the Dreamcast uses PowerVR.
Quake II Done Quick Too: Now available in recammed format. Check it out, or be square.


Tuesday 19th October 1999
Got the demo of Unreal Tournament off the PC Gamer CD. I had got totally bored with all deathmatch games before this, but UT has lured me back. When it was first announced - shortly after the announcement of Quake III Arena - it was dismissed by everyone as an uninspired imitation. Many months on, and things have turned out somewhat differently. The Quake III test has been met with ambivalence by hardcore Quake and Quake 2 fiends, while Unreal Tournament is anything but uninspired. Of course, it would be unfair to judge and execute Quake III based on the test version - the full game should (we hope) have much more interesting levels. But as it stands at the moment, the UT demo is a considerably better way to spend your gaming time than Q3Test. While Q3 seems to have tried and failed to combine the best elements of Quake 1 and Quake 2, UT has succeeded magnificently.


Sunday 10th October 1999
Just written a review of Command & Conquer '95, which I bought a few weeks ago. It was surprising to find how much better it (still) is compared to Tiberian Sun.

Latest info on the PowerVR250 card - it runs Dungeon Keeper 2 and Quake 3 very well. That's about it. I've managed to fix the gamma correction problems - by setting the gamma manually before I run each game, and switching it off afterwards (it affects the desktop as well as games, which is crap). Still regularly get graphical corruption.


Friday 1st October 1999
PowerVR Series 2 has finally arrived after a Tiberian Sun esque wait. Not entirely surprisingly, the card is also of Tiberian Sun esque mediocrity.

So far, it seems that the card is mostly bad. Direct3D performance is crap, the brightness of everything is far too low (it comes with some absolutely useless utilities that seem to think that tinting games blue makes them look better), and VESA modes don't work properly yet (it's supposed to support VESA 3, but at the moment it reverts to VESA 1 - if you're lucky). I have also had instances of graphical corruption.

Performance wise, your milage will vary. Direct3D games, such as the System Shock 2 demo (which is totaly excellent, I played it the other day) are mostly awful - quite a lot slower than the Voodoo 2. As for OpenGL games, I have had good results with Quake 3 (60fps in 1024x768 with EVERYTHING turned to max) and Half-Life (same, although that's not such an impressive achievement). Quake 2, however, seems to have big problems. For a start, it suffers badly from the gamma correction problems that also blight all the other games except for Quake 3. Second, it is slower than the Voodoo 2 in most cases. Third, the gameplay seems extremely erratic and jerky.

I am now waiting for some driver updates to see if they improve the situation. If they don't, I may be forced to send the card back.


Monday 20th September 1999
I have now played five skirmish games of C&C2. In the first one, I got bored and quit. The second, I won using boring method. The third crashed after about half an hour. The fourth I won after nearly three hours of mostly tedious play. The fifth also crashed - after I had been playing for nearly an hour. Because of this, I have removed Tiberian Sun from the chart. It didn't really deserve a place there in the first place; this just consolidates its stupidity (don't you just love those Hunter-Seekers? Pure strategic brilliance. Notice my carefully constructed sarcasm).

I have just started writing a new game called Flaming Mongrels. Don't yet know how long it will take to finish.


Saturday 18th September 1999
I have reviewed C&C: Tiberian Sun, giving it 76%. I added it to the chart alongside Red Alert, and dropped them down to 19th from 18th. Outcast and Sin also drop, nearing the edge of the abyss.

Now that I've finished Tiberian Sun, I will have to start playing Dungeon Keeper 2 again. That or start writing my new game idea ;)


Friday 10th September 1999
As part of my ongoing reviews of my old reviews (and ratings inflation in paricular), I changed the Long-term Interest rating for Wetrix from 5 to 4, and the overall rating to 82% (from 85%). I changed the rating for Ultim@te Race to 63% (from 75%).
The review of Tiberian Sun is probably about two weeks away. Current estimate is 79%. As for Dungeon Keeper 2, I have hardly played it at all since I got it. If the rest of the game is as boring as the missions I have played so far, it won't score higher than the mid 50s.


Saturday 4th September 1999
My first proper PC game, PaRTiTioN SeCToR, has been released.


Sunday 29th August 1999
I've got Tiberian Sun. And it's the biggest let down since Half-Life. But while Half-Life was an excellent game which failed to grip just me and a few others, Tiberian Sun is a poorly executed game which is disappointing people across the board. Judging by the number of flaws and the shoddiness of this game, it's hard to believe it isn't yet another rushed-out title, as opposed to a game which has been subjected to the mother of all delays. I haven't finished it yet, but if I had to review it now, based on what I've seen, it would get a rating in the mid 60s.

I also got Dungeon Keeper 2. I haven't played it much yet, but it too seems far inferior to its predecessor - although better than Tiberian Sun.


Thursday 5th August 1999
I have written the review of Starsiege: Tribes, and thus emptied my backlog. There is still System Shock, but I don't know if I'm going to finish it any more. It was good for a while, but I got turned off when I got to the third level and had to fight those invisible mutants. They're just too annoying. I've tolerated the poor combat up till now, but my patience has run out.


Tuesday 3rd August 1999
Review of Heroes of Might and Magic III has been written.

Yesterday I played Sega's new arcade game, and forthcoming Dreamcast game, Crazy Taxi. Go and play it now. It's probably not an all-time classic like Daytona, but it certainly breathes a new thing of life into arcade racing games.


Sunday 25th July 1999
My original chart placing for Outcast was too high, I have corrected the situation.

I managed to get hold of System Shock yesterday - a very old game, but apparently an all-time classic. I've tried to play it several times, but each time it is a chore. The interface, particularly when it comes to movement, is a nightmare. The actual game doesn't seem very interesting either.


Friday 23rd July 1999
I just completed and reviewed Outcast, and put it in the chart at number 16.


Sunday 18th July 1999
I have written my review of Civ: Call to Power. It got 58%, which I think is still being a bit generous.

I've nearly finished Outcast. It's like LBA, but not quite as good as that game was at the time. If I had to give the game a score right now, it would be 89%.

Thanks to my recent purchases, the backlog of reviews to write is now four :(


Saturday 17th July 1999
I'm no longer interested in Quake, or other online games. A year of constant online Q2 has totally burnt me out on them. I downloaded the latest version of Q3test, but I probably won't bother to play it.


Monday 12th July 1999
Chart changes: AvP, Tribes and HOMM3 storm into the upper echelons of the chart. Half-Life, Kyodai Mahjongg and Wipeout 2097 all drop out - the latter mostly because I played it using my Voodoo 2 a few weeks ago and discovered that it wasn't frame rate limited, making the game totally unplayable. Ironic really, seeing how it used to be almost unplayable because of a low frame rate.

I notice I haven't yet updated this page on the Braveheart situation. A while ago, I wrote that I was interested in it. Well, I tried the demo and it was an unplayable abomination. Not only did the demo show me that this isn't even remotely the kind of game I'm interested in, it was also appallingly implemented and had some fatal bugs (such as the screen being so dark that you can see nothing at all unless you get your men to set a building on fire). If this demo is anything to go by, Braveheart will be a massive and well-deserved flop.


Friday 25th June 1999
Finally, I have got round to writing the review of Alpha Centauri. Next is Civ: Call to Power. That means I'll actually have to play it again - urgh. Then Starsiege: Tribes. Meanwhile, Aliens vs Predator has been delayed yet again - see release-dates.co.uk for details.


Sunday 13th June 1999
I was wrong about Half-Life. Following some discussions about my review of it in a newsgroup, I have to agree that if I didn't get much enjoyment out of it, I shouldn't have given it such a high score. I have reduced the gameplay score from 9 to 7, and the overall score from 92% to 88%. I am still guilty of ratings inflation to a certain extent, but this is a step in the right direction.

I have updated the chart to include games of all formats, and expanded it to 30 places. Giving positions of games like R-Type and Lemmings 2 in a chart containing games like Battlezone (PC version) and X-COM Apocalypse was very difficult, but I've done the best I can for now.
In the new chart, "Highest in this chart" for ST games refers to their position in the Awards section of ARG-ST Issue 1.


Wednesday 26th May 1999
Recently, I downloaded Team Fortress (the original, for Quake 1 - the Half-Life version is too laggy). I had some mildly amusing games with it. Next, having seen pretty much universal praise about it in the newsgroups, I bought Starsiege: Tribes (as part of the Starsiege Universe pack, although I have no intention of playing the Starsiege mech game). It arrived today. During the day I practiced all the training missions, and it seemed okay, although I had some reservations. Imagine my disappointment when I played it online tonight and found it wasn't really the kind of game I was looking for at all. I'll continue playing it for a while to see if my opinion of it changes, but I doubt it. I mean, for fucks sake, in my last game I spent most of the 40 minutes wandering around our devastated base making futile attempts to repair the damage, and getting killed over and over and over again by incoming enemies. It might have been one of my first games of Tribes, but I am something of an expert in pretty much every other first-person shooter I have ever played. In Tribes, the simple task of killing an enemy seems awkward and tedious. I should have bought Heroes of Might and Magic III - I played the demo of that and liked it. Shame there was no demo of Tribes.

In other news, I like Q3Test more than I did in the last entry, it has a lot of potential, but needs some flaws ironing out.


Thursday 13th May 1999
The long-awaited Q3Test is here, and on the whole I have to say it is disappointing. The basic game variables such as movement speed and weapon attributes seem to be an awkward half-way house between Quake 1 and Quake 2 (Q3test1 plays like a slightly inferior version of Quake 1). Also, playing the game is made incredibly cumbersome by weapon effects which often completely obscure the player's view, such as very thick trails of smoke from rockets, and massive muzzle flashes from the plasma gun.
As for the maps, Q3Test1 is a rather dull and tedious level where the problems listed above are particularly obvious. Q3Test2, on the other hand, is one of the best maps I have ever played. Unfortunately this is due to its novelty value than anything else, I can't see myself playing it for months on end as I do with the Quake 2 DM maps.

Following the disappointment of Q3Test and Call to Power (and, to a lesser extent, Alpha Centauri), I'm now looking for a different kind of gaming experience. In the long term there is Black and White, but that might not be out for another year. In the shorter term, one game I'm particularly interested in is Braveheart, which got 90% in the most recent issue of PC Gamer. It sounds very deep and immersive, although I'll have to play a demo before I buy it.


Sunday 25th April 1999
It's been a long time since I last wrote, so I felt a little update was needed.

I played two games of Civilization: Call to Power. Then I stopped in disgust, for the game is fundamentally flawed and poorly balanced. Some aspects of the game are pure stupidity. This is not a worthy successor to Civ 2.

I started playing Alpha Centauri again, and it was going much more nicely, then there was an unfortunate incident involving what could be called a design oversight, which has spoilt my enjoyment of the game somewhat. AC's basic design is excellent, but the implementation is riddled with bugs and niggles.

Every day for the last month, it has been thought that the Quake 3 Test was no more than one week away. Now it has finally been released - for the Mac. The Windows version could be as much as two or three weeks away.

Finally, I have written a mini-review of Total Annihilation.


Wednesday 17th March 1999
Aliens vs Predator is by far the scariest game I have ever played. I've completed the Predator and Alien demos, but I am still having trouble as the Marine. A few minutes ago I was in a situation where one of the face huggers had found its way onto a lift just as it started going up. When the lift came down, I fired a grenade at it. For a split-second I thought I had killed the little bastard, but to my horror there he was suddenly on my face - I was so terrified that I instinctively brought up my hand to protect my (real, not in-game) face. Unfortunately this didn't do any good for my in-game persona, who died - again.


Friday 12th March 1999
I installed the Marine and Alien demos of Alien vs Predator. They are pretty damn good - a very different exerience to other first-person games. I re-installed the Predator demo, which I had played a few months ago and quickly deleted in disgust. It seems to me that it was foolish for them to release the Predator demo first - I found it considerably less enjoyable than the other two. Playing as the Predator means losing much of the tension (due to higher health), and it is actually harder to kill things - aliens seem to run around even faster than normal. Unlike the Marine, the Predator doesn't have any continuous fire weapons, and aiming is unusually hard. And it's often too dark to see the aliens. And even the graphics aren't as good.
I have yet to finish any of the demos, they are very hard and you always start back at the beginning when you die. However, surprisingly, this doesn't become too frustrating as the game is so good.


Saturday 27th February 1999
I just finished my third game of Alpha Centauri. I also got some OEM software with the new family computer - Total Annihilation, Moto Racer, Sensible Soccer 98, and, joy of joys, Need for Speed II. TA is a big disappointment - it's dull, bland and has zero personality. And the graphics are all heavily dithered, and the landscapes are all a uniform shade of green. And the narration on the mission briefings is terrible. I'm off to install Moto Racer now.


Sunday 21st February 1999
I just finished my first game of Alpha Centauri. I now have just remembered that I was due for clan practice at 9:30pm, and it is past 10pm. So, bye.


Saturday 13th February 1999
I have written a mini-review of Battlezone and entered it at number four in the chart. Alpha Centauri should be out this time next week (see release-dates.co.uk).


Thursday 4th February 1999
I no longer regret buying Battlezone...


Monday 1st February 1999
I ordered Battlezone on an impulse, and am now regretting it. The game is far too difficult, unforgiving and unintuitive.


Wednesday 27th January 1999
I was borrowing an N64 for a while, and playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I was going to write a review when I finished it, but unfortunately the N64 was repossessed before I finished. The game was on course for 92%/93%. I might one day get it back, but the review is now unlikely to ever appear.

I've downloaded the 1.1 version of the Alpha Centauri demo. Same as before but with some bugfixes and higher resolution units. Unfortunately, the increased unit detail means that AC now runs very slowly - moving units is incredibly sluggish. Ironic really that Quake II runs at 50fps but AC runs at 10 or 20 when moving units. The final version will have both the low and high res versions of the graphics, it will be a shame to go back to the old ones.


Wednesday 6th January 1999...
Last week I wrote some large posts on uk.games.computer.quake2. It makes sense to duplicate them here. So here goes:

Subject: Quake II maps - id's squandered opportunity?
From: Arganoid
Newsgroups: uk.games.computer.quake2


Today I installed Airquake II. Played with it for a while, had trouble 
with the controls, evaluation: a nice novelty, but probably crap for 
deathmatch.

The maps for Airquake are stunning. I copied the PAK file so that I could 
play the maps in normal Q2 mode - as a human instead of a plane. And some 
of the scenery just blew me away - the scale of it was mind-numbingly 
impressive. Comparable to one of the levels I saw on Unreal (haven't 
played it myself, only watched someone else played it). Levels made up of 
several huge caverns each bigger than the entire Slimy Place map*. Giant 
stalagmites and towering rock formations. A huge lake rippling in the 
distance, fuelled by a vast waterfall which seems miles high.
Also, there was a gorgeous hangar on the final map I played 
(airfox2b.bsp), endowed with subtle and pleasing coloured lighting.

Then we have the King of the Hill maps. Coloured lighting is used 
EVERYWHERE - twice. The most striking example is KOTH6 - a pirate ship 
floating on a clear blue ocean, with yellow torches flickering 
realistically. It looks better than real life.

Now compare this to the Quake II single player and deathmatch levels. 
Levels made up of small rectangular corridors and rooms, where the 
predominant colour is grey. If smell-o-vision had been invented, Quake II 
would smell damp, with a slight tinge of excrement. The coloured lighting 
improves things somewhat, but it doesn't seem to be used with any 
imagination - and it hardly seems to be used at all in the deathmatch 
maps.

I remember when I first saw Q2 running under 3Dfx - it was an 
incredible sight, comparable to the first time I saw Super Mario 64 
running. GLQuake 1 had not been much of an improvement over software 
Quake - there's only so much you can do with textures which are all the 
same colour and models with very little detail. Quake II was a different 
animal, with much better detail and animation. But imagine what it would 
have been like if some of the maps had had the scale of the ones in 
Airquake, and the visual quality of the ones in KOTH. Everyone would have 
just sat pointing at the screen with their eyes and mouths wide open, and 
going "Wha??? Wha..." in stunned amazement as the incredible environments 
casually appeared before them. The graphical leap would be equivalent to 
someone who played Doom, then went straight to OpenGL Quake II.

One final point before I start my rant: Some of the single player levels 
in Quake 1 - especially in the final episode - were architecturally 
stunning. Why didn't I see anything as impressive as that in Quake II?


So, in conclusion, I say: Why, oh why, oh why, did id make a load of 
small, unimpressive, damp levels? Sure, that gameplay that occurs inside 
them is great, and no doubt they are cleverly designed to enhance the 
gameplay, but if the engine has the ability to show levels that make 
peoples' eyes pop out at the speed of light, then THAT'S THE KIND OF 
LEVELS THEY SHOULD MAKE! Not a bunch of levels which smell funny and, in 
comparison to the KOTH/Airquake ones, are frankly crap.

Now, I'm not saying that all levels should be huge, with massive plains 
and mountains disappearing over the horizon. Huge levels and 
caverns aren't so well suited to deathmatch action, which is best done 
close up. But the single player game is the perfect place to put this 
kind of thing - it doesn't need a high frame rate so badly compared to 
deathmatch, and then there's the exploration and discovery aspect of it. 
Single player Quake II left me bitterly disappointed, mostly due to the 
unamitious levels and scenery (see the review I wrote on my web site for 
more info).

I hope id don't make the same mistake with Q3A. The screenshots released 
so far look gorgeous, but - guess what - they're all set inside little 
rooms and corridors. Very functional, makes for a nice frame rate and 
frantic gameplay, but for God's sake id, give us something different 
occasionally! Sit down your level designers, make them play Unreal, make 
them play Airquake, make them play KOTH. Take them on a plane ride over 
the mountains and get them to look at the beautiful scenery below. Take 
them to the seaside and get them to look over the vast ocean. And while 
they're doing all those things, get them to take notes. The end.


(* - in fact this gives me a very nice idea for a level - a normal map, 
such as the Slimy Place, but inside a large 'void' into which the players 
can go and see the level from the outside. Cool teleport visuals 
between parts of the void also come into my head as something which 
should be in this level.)

I have put some screenshots from my experiment with AirQ2 on the Amazing GFX Page.

Now for the second one:

Subject: Q3A: Blueprint for the single player game of the future
From: Arganoid
Newsgroups: uk.games.computer.quake2


Q3A is taking the first step towards the next generation of first-person
shooters. Half-Life may have had great AI, nice locations and a good 
plot, but the core of its gameplay is not much different from Doom. You 
progress through a series of levels populated by lots of stupid bad guys 
who stand still doing nothing until they see you or hear an alarm. Then 
they attack you repeatedly with their one weapon, generally using the 
same tactics over and over again even if they blatantly don't work.

Right now I'm thinking of a place in the Jail unit of Q2 where you go 
down some stairs into a little corridor which is guarded by a Tank. If 
you keep ducking behind cover and then sneaking out to shoot him, then he 
will just stand still and fire where you were two seconds ago. All 
together now, "you don't want to do that". What he WANTS to do, is notice 
when this tactic isn't working, and do something different - for example, 
moving in on the player's position, or trying to pre-empt the player's 
excursions into the corridor (like a real person would in deathmatch).

The basic premise of Q3A's single player game is sounding very good to 
me. It's deathmatch with bots, only for the first time, it is to be the 
heart of a commercial product, and thus a highly experienced devloper is 
going to be devoting tons of its resources towards making it superb. 
Current deathmatches with Eraser bots are a lot of fun, giving zero ping 
deathmatch action without any phone bills. Imagine what can be done with 
the concept with a developer like id behind it (and incidentally, the 
incentive of millions of potential sales and the accompanying royalties, 
as opposed to no expected financial rewards for independent mod makers).

It's probably fair to say that we can expect the bots in Q3A to be more 
intelligent than the Eraser bots and the marines in Half-Life put 
together. And probably better on tactics than some of the lesser human 
players. Which bodes well. There is also the replayability aspect. The 
main reason that I played single player Q1/2 over and over again was 
simply that I enjoyed shooting things with nice chunky guns. Because Q3A 
will, as Carmack put it, have a structure similar to beat-em ups like 
Mortal Kombat, we should expect a nice scoring and ranking system. I can 
see uk.games.computer.quake3 a year from now - people posting there all 
the time saying what their best score was, and others seeing it and 
trying to better it. Gone are the days when most people will play single 
player Quake once and never go back - they'll play the same bots and 
levels over and over again in an attempt to get the new high score.


Now look into the future, beyond Q3A. No-one - even id - is sure of what 
will come next, but I think it might look something like this:

Imagine a traditional single player game, like Quake II. You have to 
progress through various levels to achieve an objective. Hopefully in 
this game of the future, the objective is something more subtle than 
pressing some switches, picking up some keys and shooting a big boss at 
the end. Anyway, the difference between this game and the games of the 
past is that here, each enemy is a bot. Not a scripted grunt which stands 
still until it sees you and has trouble finding its way around a corner, 
but an independently thinking bot with specific objectives beyond 'if you 
see this person, shoot him'. They should intelligently react to 
situations. They could even be given emotions and feelings, like fear, 
anger, victory, complacency. Dungeon Keeper had this to a certain extent, 
and when I played it I really got the feeling that each creature had a 
distinct personality, and that there was much more going on inside their 
heads than in other games. At the moment, in Quake II, Sin, and Half-
Life, all the AI is scripted. Take Sin. If an enemy is wounded, he will 
sometimes run away. That is what he is programmed to do. He is not 
programmed to do it intelligently - he will happily run for ages, 
regardless of the fact that you are shooting him in the back of the head. 
What he SHOULD do is think "hmm, this running away business isn't working 
- I should stop and try to kill him before he kills me". And if the boot 
moves over to the other foot and the player decides to run away, the bot 
should then make a similar decision to the one that the player made when 
he started to chase it - either follow and get the kill, but risk dying, 
or pull back and find some health before continuing.


I have all these images of this non-existant game in my mind - but for 
all I know things could go in a completely different direction. It says 
on the box of Quake II:

"This time the enemy has IQ's the size of their appetites. They can evade 
your attack, strategically position themselves for an ambush and hunt 
your ass down."

Yeah, right. They're barely capable of doing any of that. And I'm 
concerned that developers won't put the necessary effort and dedication 
into future games to make sure that half-hearted gameplay is a thing of 
the past.


Monday 4th January 1999...
Having played the Alpha Centauri demo to death, and with no other games to occupy me, I loaded Sentinel Returns, to see if I could complete a few more levels. It crashed.

I have gone back to the review of Half-Life and decreased its score by 1%. I thought it would be the best game of all time, instead it was the biggest disappointment since Grand Prix 2.

I may be borrowing a Nintendo 64 soon - hopefully long enough to write a review of Zelda...


Saturday 2nd January 1999...
My latest score on the Alpha Centauri demo is 174%. But the demo is very limited, and constantly playing it for two months while I'm waiting for the full game is going to be very annoying. There are also flaws with the automatic designing and naming of units, which make the game unneccessarily complicated. Other than that, it's great. In the newsgroups there was a huge row about the quality of the graphics, which in some ways are worse than Civ 2's. Still, it's possible to get used to them after a while.


Saturday 26th December 1998...
I've been playing Alpha Centauri for two days, and despite a coulpe of tiny niggles, I know it will definitely go straight to the top of my chart when it is released in February.

On Xmas day I spent 6 1/2 hours online, taking advantage of BT's 50p offer. Downloaded the 44Mb demo of Thief: The Dark Project. When I ran it, it crashed, causing my phone call to end.
Later I played it again. Prognosis: Very good - one of the best games of the year. I don't know if I'll buy it though - I ordered Settlers 2 (yes, 2, not 3) the other day, it should be here soon.


Thursday 24th December 1998...
Well, the year is nearly over, and I'll be going away for a few days on the 26th, so this seems like as good a time as any to write a quick review of the year:

The best games of 1998:

In fourth place: Sin - The demo promised one of the best games of all time, but the full thing was flawed and full of confusion and bugs.

In third place: Half-Life - Rivals Grand Prix 2 as my biggest disappointment of all time. Half-Life delivered a lot of what was promised, but a lot more was conspicuously absent.

In second place: Sentinel Returns - I bought it to pass the time while I was waiting for Sin and HL, but despite SR being totally repetetive and sometimes dull, looking back it seems to have given me more enjoyment than both the games I was waiting for.

In first place: X-COM: Interceptor - Interceptor may not be even close to the best that the space dogfighting genre has to offer, but it's the only one of that genre I own, so I don't know any better!

Mention must also go to Thief: The Dark Project. It sounds brilliant and ingenious - but due to a last minute cock up, I wasn't able to get my hands on the demo.

Oh, and talking of demos, the demo of Alpha Centuari is to be released on Gamespot later today, and on alphacentauri.com on Xmas day. :) :) :) :) :)
I, of course, will be taking full advantage of BT's 50p phone call offer - staying online most of tomorrow. Unfortuntely it doesn't apply to 0845 numbers like Freeserve, so I had to sign up with ClaraNET just to use their national call number.

From my point of view, 1998 hasn't been a classic vintage year for games. Instead it has been full of disappointments, and all the guaranteed hits which were due out (i.e. Alpha Centauri and C&C 2) have been delayed until early 1999.

Later the same day...
The things shown above were the best games of 1998, but I have just played what is probably the worst. The South Park Fruit Machine, by Function One software. Not only is the game crap, with no special features beyond a "Gamble" button, but it is balanced so that, if you play properly, the game will never end. So you could get a score of several thousand, but if you wanted to see it in the High Score Chart, you'd have to deliberately let your money run out - the game doesn't end until you have a balance of -5.00. And of course, the object with a fruit machine is to leave with MORE money than you started with. Isn't it?


Thursday 17th December 1998...
The chart is shaken by a Quake of epic proportions, as the number one spot changes for the first time in history. It is almost exactly a year since Quake II was released, and seven months since I started playing it online.
Although single player Q2 was only a tiny enhancement from single player Quake 1, the multiplayer is the best part of these games and Quake II easily kicks its predecessor into the Cretaceous Period. Most importantly, the balance - something that didn't exist at all in Quake 1 - is mind-numbingly superb - not just because of the slower rocket launcher, but the subtle differences between the other weapons.
Yesterday I started off the evening by helping my clan to a glorious win. Later that night I had the most insane game of my life - Q2DM2, weapon stay on, about 10 players, and having to go into a complete mental frenzy of concentration just to stay alive. Afterwards it felt like my neural pathways had been fused into Quake II mode. In the end, after 20 minutes of pure insanity, I was beaten by a few frags by an LPB...
Multiplayer games, by their very nature, provide some of the best fun it is possible to have - the thrill of playing against real people and the satisfaction of beating them. But that's not enough to make a game a classic. I tried online Red Alert and was totally bored after two games. Quake II is an all-time classic because it manages to be several thousand times better than ANYTHING else, including Quake 1. I can't imagine how id Software can possibly improve on this game, but they probably will anyway.
So, that's why I've promoted Q2 to first place in my chart of the best games of all time. All is not lost for the Civ series though - Alpha Centauri is due soon, and has an excellent chance of re-taking the top spot.
I've also amended my review score of Quake II - adding 1% to the original score (which was based almost completely on single player).


Tuesday 15th December 1998...
The arrival of the latest PC Gamer heralds some CDs with game demos on them:

Settlers 3: Okay, but dull, awkward, and not as good as Settlers 2..
Aliens Vs Predator: Ewww. First impressions are that it is total shite. The engine is horrifically ugly and the controls feel terrible - it is the first game ever to have given me motion sickness.
Heretic II: Kept my interest for about half an hour. The second game ever to give me motion sickness.

But all the world's problems should soon be fixed - Alpha Centauri demo on the 20th.

I've just written the reviews of Half-Life and Sin - the two most eagerly awaited games of the year, and the two most disappointing. I now know for certain which game was my game of the year - announcement soon.


Tuesday 8th December 1998...
I've now completed Half-Life for the second time (this time on Hard). And that's the last time I'll be playing it for a while. It has little replay value compared to Quake 2 (both single player and multiplayer). I also completed Sin the other day - ditto.


Sunday 29th November 1998...
Having played through a lot of Half-Life, I am now getting a good idea of what the best game of 1998 has been. But you'll have to wait until the end of the year before I announce it.


Monday 16th November 1998...
After a slow start (lasting many hours), Sin has started to look like one of the best games ever.


Friday 13th November 1998...
Sin has unexpectedly been released earlier than I thought it would be. I now possess it.

It's bloody difficult. It is also a tad buggy - there is a patch due out any second to correct it. (One of the problems being fixed is a colossal loading time for savegames - it can sometimes take two or three minutes to load.

I'm going to try it deathmatch in a minute - not that there are likely to be many, if any, UK servers for it.


Friday 6th November 1998...
Yay, Voodoo 2. Or should that be "Yea, Voodoo 2".

Quake 2 is a different game. 50fps in 800x600 with shadows on. This makes an unbelievable difference, especially in single player. (In multiplayer, I'll have to cap the frame rate)
The image is now perfectly crisp and clear, and looks much better than 640x480. I have now tried Quake 2 on PowerVR, Voodoo 1, ATI Rage and Voodoo 2, and Voodoo 2 shits on all the rest from a great height. I tried it out with the King of the Hill maps - which are the most visually stunning and hardware-demanding maps that can be seen on Quake 2. Only on one did I see any slowdown (about 20fps instead of the normal 40 or 50).

Even in this age of 3D, I only have four games which support 3D acceleration - not including the PowerVR only ones which came with my PowerVR card. And GLQuake doesn't really count. Of the other two, X-COM Interceptor is even more superb than it was before, and Sentinel Returns no longer has so much slowdown when you eliminate the Sentinel...

With this card I am now ready for the arrival of Half-Life.


Thursday 5th November 1998...
I should be getting a Voodoo 2 tomorrow. Nice.

If you haven't already done so, check out the preview of Black and White in this month's Edge. It looks mind-numbing.

Sin is due out tomorrow, but there is different information from various sources. It's looking like it won't actually be available until maybe next week. I'll go into town tomorrow anyway and see if it's there.

I've been playing Wave Race 64 on Neon's N64. It's very nice indeed.

I've finally got round to naming the CD tracks on Sentinel Returns. Let the fun commence:

Oooh, spooky. I'm going to hide under my bed now.


Thursday 29th October 1998...
I've now got Wetrix, and it's excellent. Review coming soon.

Today I had the misfortune to play Dune 2000. I won't be doing that again in a hurry. It's crap. It uses the Red Alert engine yet manages to be far below the standard of Red Alert. I did two missions before quitting due to extreme boredom.


Sunday 25th October 1998...
Wetrix. I first got the demo about a year ago, but it was appallingly slow and unreliable, and didn't actually tell you what the object of the game was. When I got a P200 in December 1997, I installed it again, hoping that with the extra processor power (previously it was a malfunctioning Cyrix 6x86MX-200), it might run better. It didn't.

However, the game still intrigued me. It looked good and interesting in screenshots. I just wished it would work and tell me what I was supposed to do.

Now I've found a new demo on last month's PC Gamer. A demo that runs under Windows instead of DOS, looks gorgeous, and has - get this - a help file. Which tells you how to play. And it turned out that my suspiscion was correct. Wetrix is great. It's mind-numbingly addictive, partly because the demo ends after the first level. Which means I'll have to buy it - to tide me over until Sin is released on the 6th of November.


Wednesday 21st October 1998...
The new PC Gamer is out. It contains a review of Half Life, which got a rating of 96% - being only the third game ever to get that score. But the terrible news is that it isn't due for release until November 27th - and some people had hoped that it was to be released THIS WEEK!

I've installed some of the demos on the CD. First I tried Magic and Mayhem, the first game by Mythos (creators of X-COM) since they left Microprose. I had high hopes for this game, but they were quickly gone. My first game was dull, slightly frustrating, and didn't show any promise. Later on I played it again and got a bit further - but was appalled to find that the demo was only two levels. That's not enough to evaluate the game. I have yet to see anything which would make me want to buy it.

I tried out the demo of Railroad Tycoon II. I'd never played the original, but reckoned from what I had read that it must be pretty good. RRT2 is the first 2D game I have seen which requires you to run in 1024x768, making a 17" monitor a requirement. Even with one, things look a bit too small.
Anyway, I played the demo for a while, but it failed to capture me - it just managed to annoy me slightly. I quit and uninstalled it a few seconds after buying my first train.

I also tried out Carmageddon 2. I'd never been able to play the original because it didn't run on my then P100. The demo of the sequel ran entirely from the CD - thus taking five minutes to load. Anyway, after the game had started, the view was accidentally switched to one where I couldn't see anything at all. Pressing the key I had used to get there just toggled between a map view and the useless view. I pressed escape to see if there was an option to display the key config. Instead, the game just quit (with the obligatory 'coming soon to a screen near you' trailers). I didn't particularly feel like running it again.


Friday 9th October 1998...
On Wednesday I happened to chance upon a free Intel i740 video card. 8Mb, AGP, good Direct3D support. For free, it sounded too good to be true.

It was. The i740 turned my system into a P75 for two days. Let's have a list:

I looked in many places for a fix, but found nothing of use. So today I went and got the Apoc5D back.

As if I hadn't already had enough trouble, Windows 98 proceeded to destroy my respect for its hardware detection. I'd reinstalled the Apoc5D drivers just before I removed the i740. But when I put the Apoc5D in, Windows wouldn't boot. It said that a fatal exception had occurred in 'msgsrv32', and never got to the desktop. Booting in Safe Mode worked. Rebooting in normal mode didn't work. There was seemingly no way out. While I was in Safe Mode, I removed a whole ton of old drivers that had been hanging around in the registry (inactive drivers are displayed under Device Manager in Safe Mode). I rebooted, and after literally 20 restarts and a few more msgsrv32 errors, it worked. Apart from the sound. I eventually found that the SB16 had been set to use some stupid set of resources instead of the usual 220-5-1-5-330. I manually changed it back to that, and it still didn't work. I saw that the PowerVR chip had grabbed IRQ 5 and was refusing to let go. I can't remember what I did next, but whatever it was, it worked.

That previous paragraph is 1K. I know because it filled up the maximum line length on Edit.

I really can't wait any longer for Half-Life. I've seen the OEM version, and even played on it for a while, and it is a truly wise and beneficient game. I will be buying it on the day it comes out (I was always intending to anyway), but that day is still at least two weeks away. Not good enough. I considered buying Sin to play in the meantime - but it seems that Sin is going to be released after HL.

I've just increased the Multiplayer rating in the review of Quake 2 from 9/10 to 10/10.


Sunday 4th October 1998...
I've written a mini-review of Sentinel Returns. Why mini? Because I don't have any spare time any more, and no-one reads this anyway.


Tuesday 22nd September 1998...
I've seen some screenshots of Quake III. They're gorgeous.

I improved the speed of DEATH, PSector and Fatal Alliance on my new system by using FASTVID. DEATH now runs at the same frame rate as before, the other two are slightly faster.


Thursday 17th September 1998...
The joy of Pentium II is here. The hours of usual harrowing upgrade experience ("Will my hard disk be wiped? Will my PC ever work again?") were followed by a period of gutted-ness as it failed to run things faster. But now I have just found its redeeming feature. Here's how it performed:

Quake II - Voodoo 1: No increase in speed.
Quake II - PowerVR: Doubled speed - but still slower than 3Dfx...
Quake II - Software, 640x480: Not much increase in speed.

Quake - Software, 640x480: 18fps - slow.
Quake - Software, 512x384: 33fps - Quite good.
Quake - Software, 320x200: 80fps - !

DEATH: Rating of 11 - a fair bit slower than before...

Fatal Alliance: Approx 15fps - not much faster than before.

Moto Racer 2 demo (3Dfx): Much faster and more playable than before.

Sin - Voodoo 1: Pure gaming heaven. Superbulous. Orgasmic. Full speed, no slowdown. Heaven. Did I already say that? Wonderful. Mindblowing. Gorgeous. Brilliant. Joy.

My conclusion? In Quake II, Voodoo 1 reaches its peak with a P200 - but in Sin, the new CPU makes it incredible. Elsewhere, performance is slightly disappointing.

Btw, the 3Dfx lighting problem in Quake II mentioned in the entry below has been fixed - the brightness was set too high.

One more thing - the installation - which consisted of a new motherboard, new case and new CPU - was fraught with nightmares. First, I found that there was no standard keyboard connector - only a PS/2 one - and guess what kind of keyboard I have? I am having to rent a PS/2 keyboard off a 'friend'. Second, when we first started the PC, we got no signal to the monitor and the hard disk was making terrifying jarring noises. Third, we were told by the BIOS that the CPU fan was not turning - bad news for a Pentium II. I opened the case, and sure enough, the BIOS was lying. Fourth, Windows 98 detected all the new hardware almost perfectly - a big gold star goes to Microsoft for once (on Win95 you often had to reinstall after getting a new motherboard). The only problem was that the sound didn't work. I had to manually change the resources to the classic SB16 settings instead of rubbish like A240, I9, D7...


Monday 14th September 1998...
I have now got the 3Dfx Voodoo 1 card I mentioned below. Analysis:

Quake II: Frame rate nearly doubled over PowerVR and software. Coloured lighting much stronger. But some very annoying image quality problems.

Sin: Low frame rate, but nowhere near as bad as under PowerVR. The frame rate is now acceptable, and makes the game much more enjoyable. Apart from the less-blocky lighting, the image quality is the same as PowerVR.

Sentinel Returns: Totally transforms the game. 10fps under software becomes 30 or 60fps under 3Dfx, with superb coloured lighting.

X-COM: Interceptor: Mostly solves the frame rate problems, and adds some lovely explosions.

GLQuake: It now works, which it rarely did on PowerVR.

Grand Theft Auto: 60fps at 640x480 compared to about 20fps in 320x200 software.

Now all that remains is to wait until Wednesday and get the P2-350. Then I will be in gaming heaven.

Btw, I wrote several updates over the past few days, but didn't get round to uploading them.


Sunday 13th September 1998...
I've just completed the Sin demo. Even though it only runs at 10fps. So it must be good.

In addition to my P2-350 on Wednesday, I will be getting a Voodoo (1) soon afterwards.


Saturday 12th September 1998...
I've got some upgrades. New case, new memory, new motherboard, new modem, new mouse. Unfortunately I won't get the new CPU - a P2-350 - until Wednesday. However, I have installed some of the new memory - so I am currently running with 96Mb. The new modem doesn't work. It's a cheap unbranded pile of shite.

Oh, I got a 17" monitor as well... This makes everything very different. It's very hard to get used to it. Things such as the dithering in 16bit colour Quake 2 is now clearly visible. And I have to move my eyes around to see all the parts of the screen - I can't focus on the entire screen at once.

I've just tried out the SiN demo for the first time. It's a very good game, but almost completely unplayable because of a very low frame rate. I'll try it again next week when I get a Pentium II.


Thursday 10th September 1998...
I've tried out two demos: Vangers and Starcraft.

Vangers (subtitled 'One for the road') is a game I was interested in because it was developed by K-D Lab - the Russian coders who brought us the superb shareware game Biprolex+. I'd seen that Vangers had got an average mark in PC Gamer, but I tried it out anyway.
The interface was graphically and sonically okay, but operationally confusing. Before the game started, there were about ten pages of overly surreal background story, which I skipped. After an encounter with what looked like a giant talking cabbage, the game itself started. A bit like Micro Machines on drugs. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. The landscapes were incomprehensible, and the driving mechanics dull. After ten minutes of following what I was pretty sure was the compass, I still didn't have any idea of my objective. I quit the game and uninstalled it.

I then played the demo of Starcraft. I never liked Warcraft that much, so I wasn't expecting much. And even then, I was let down. Dull, tedious, repetetive, humourless, pointless, cheesy, unoriginal and cliched. And no noticable redeeming features.


Friday 4th September 1998...
I've just completed the demo of Grim Fandango, the first 3D Lucasarts adventure game. A lot is being said about this game - it's being called revolutionary by many. I can't quite see why - it's essentially an evolution of Little Big Adventure/Relentless, which was released in 1995. Of course, the technology is more impressive than in LBA, but then it would be. Although LBA's backgrounds always have been, and always will be, stunning.
Grim Fandango is an adventure game, and not an action adventure like LBA, so in that sense it is a new type of game. The characters and animation are vaguely impressive, and you get the requisite nice background music, and the voices. One major difference from the 'old-style' point and clickers is that there is no text and no cursor. As your character walks around, his head turns to look at objects he can interact with. This is a very good feature and a big improvement over passing the cursor over every part of the screen to see which objects can be picked up.
I almost certainly won't buy Grim Fandango - I'm not interested in this type of thing unless it's a Sam and Max-style jokeathon. But it seems to be a very good game, and may well be a huge hit.

Other news: I will almost certainly be upgrading next week. PII-350, 128Mb RAM, v90 modem, 17 inch monitor.


Saturday 29th August 1998...
You will notice today that the page is much faster to load. I have moved most of the old news into the Archives page. However, I now have the problem that the reviews take up far too much space on this page. I'll probably have to give them a page of their own.
Btw, try out this URL - www.diamond-pro.com and download the sequel to the game that Partition Sector (one of my current projects) is based on.


Monday 24th August 1998...
Sentinel Returns has arrived. As a testament to its strangeness, I will say this: It doesn't kick ass, it absorbs tree!

Things have now got to the point where I have virtually no time to do this page, or any other part of ARGnet for that matter. Expect to see updates slow down somewhat.


Tuesday 11th August 1998...
Delays, delays, delays. Sentinel Returns was supposed to be released on the 1st of August. And on the Playstation, it was. But there is still no sign of the PC version.

It is now looking like PVRSG will be released in September or October. Half-Life should also be out by then.


Wednesday 5th August 1998...
I finally got PowerVR to work under Win98 by removing the network card driver (the network card wasn't installed anyway), and switching off IRQ Steering (via the PCI Bus setup in Win98).
Now the only problem that remains is that PowerVR PCX2 is a total waste of time. PowerVR Second Generation is supposed to be out sometime, but no-one knows when.

I tried out Battlecruiser 3000AD. Didn't like it.


Friday 24th July 1998...
I finally got round to writing the review of X-COM Interceptor, having completed it for the third time.


Monday 13th July 1998...
After reading about it in PC Zone, I have now started to download Battlecruiser 3000AD. All 50Mb of it.


Friday 10th July 1998...
No updates on the whole of ARGnet for quite a while. Probably due to the amount of feedback I get, i.e. None whatsoever, damnit.
What to write here? The new issue of PC Gamer has a lot of interesting stuff, in particular a review of Sentinel Returns. I will be buying it as soon as it comes out.


Sunday 5th July 1998...
I completed Interceptor. I didn't do any proper preparation for the final mission, I just bunged a few Interceptors I had lying around into it. So when I came to do it, I suddenly found that the one I was flying was still using X-Winder Missiles - the very same missile technology that you are given at the start of the game... Kind of equivalent to doing the last mission of UFO with standard X-COM grenades. I still won though.

Like the rest of the FMV in the game, the ending was very tacky and didn't spark my emotions like the ending to Apocalypse did.

I think the only thing I didn't research was an Ethereal Corpse. The Ethereals were so rare that I only saw one about twice in the entire game, and I didn't recover the bodies.

I'll write a review soon, and play again on the harder difficulties, but soon I'll be going back to Apocalypse.

Quite annoying, though, that while Apocalypse took a month to complete (even on the first difficulty level), Interceptor took less than a week...


Thursday 3rd July 1998...
After two days of play I can now definitively say that X-COM: Interceptor rules. Expect to see a high placing in my Top 20.

<SPOILER>
I just got the Super Avenger craft. Talk about firepower - it was just brilliant! Too slow, but brilliant.
And the Phase Cannon! Does that weapon rule or what? Nothing fancy, just pure death.
Aren't Elerium missiles crap? Serves me right for not researching any of the four more advanced types that I have salvaged.

</SPOILER>

Isn't the feel of this game just superb? The X-COM name has been done justice. Very soon, three of the four games in the series will be in the Top 20, each one distinctive enough to warrant its own separate placing. (Terror From The Deep, of course, fails to get anywhere near the chart for the opposite reason)


Tuesday 30th June 1998...
X-COM: Interceptor

Fairly good. In many ways (although of course not the most important one), closer to X-COM 1 than X-COM 3.
The dogfighting bit is definitely way off the quality of TIE Fighter, and I have yet to decide whether I really like it. Also, the frame rate slows right down in complex areas, such as asteroid fields.

Oh, and despite the fact that PC Gamer said that it did, Interceptor does not support PowerVR. In fact it is specifically listed as a chipset that is not supported.


Monday 29th June 1998...
The honeymoon is over. Microsoft Windows 98 has now shown me all its flaws, and I am enraged to share them with you:

As well as PowerVR not working, some DirectDraw things don't work either, no matter how much I reinstall DirectX. Dungeon Keeper and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo don't work any more. Whoopee.

And here is a small extract from a mail I just sent to NeoN:

<Warning: Extreme language (directed at M****soft)>

I sent my Win98 wishlist to Microsoft. It said something along the lines of when they come to create their new products, these suggestions will be taken into account.

WHICH MEANS: My suggestions will not be implemented until Windows 2000!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TWO YEARS I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH THE FUCKING STUPID LITTLE WANKY FUCKING CRAPNESS.

The only thing I -really- want fixed is the thing where it forgets your window settings after 5 minutes. For example, my ARGnet window, it forgets the settings and I have to go:

Right-click -> View -> As Web page

Right-click -> View -> Details

Right-click -> Arrange Icons -> By Date

And I have to do this many times EVERY FUCKING DAY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. The only thing it remembers is the size of the window.


Thursday 25th June 1998...
Microsoft Windows 98 Upgrade (for users of Windows) is here. And the verdict? Apart from costing a bit too much, it is quite nice.

I had loads of trouble installing it, but then I removed my network card and it worked fine... The network card was the most useless part of my system and has almost never been known to work, so its removal is not a great loss.

Anyway, Windows 98 has lots of nice tweaks (although some not as polished as they could be). Improved hardware support, lots of integrated internet shite, different bell sounds. But, let's face it, by far the best bit of Windows 98 is the slide-y menus.

No longer will I see menus suddenly jumping out at me. Now they will slide into my view like a swan. Gorgeous. Almost makes it worth 80 pounds.

Games? I haven't tried many yet, but here are the results so far:

  • Quake 2: PowerVR doesn't seem to work any more...
  • DOS Quake: Had a few problems.
  • WinQuake: No problemo.
  • Freecell: Worked - now that's a surprise...

    I'm now off to try some other stuff, even though it is 2:30am.

    Later the next day...
    Further info:

    With Win98, my 3D card no longer works.

    Also, Win98 does not fix the most infuriating feature of Win95 - the losing of window settings for each directory. The effect of this problem is even more exaggerated in Win98, because there are more settings for each window (such as View as Web Page).


    Friday 19th June 1998...
    Edge arrives, and much news therein.

    Sega have announced their new console, the Dreamcast. The machine uses Second Generation PowerVR technology, has a built-in modem, will use specialised 1Gb CDs, and has a design which is 'inspired' by the N64. The joypad looks pretty uncomfortable, being of Jaguar-esque proportions. Oh, and the thing that holds it all together? Windows CE and DirectX 6. Yes, the schemic devious evil megalomanic insane professor robot zombie that is Bill Gates has got his nine feet wedged firmly in the door of the console market.

    Dreamcast will be released in November, although probably not in the UK until a long time after, so I'll forget about it for now and talk about something else.

    Less than a week to go until the big two: Windows 98 and X-COM: Interceptor.

    That was fun. Now more hardware news. First, Project X, which has also been officially announced. It turns out that it will be sold to the masses as a versatile DVD player. Little will they know that they have also purchased a games system! Using this tactic, VM Labs hopes to introduce a whole new audience to games. A bit like 3DO. :(. Mind you, it might work. Maybe. Psygnosis (who Sony may be selling, incidentally), are one of the signed up developers, so if there's a Wipeout game for X then maybe I'll get one.

    Final thing: PVRSG. Better known as PowerVR Second Generation. I've been looking around for details on this new chipset, and although the developers are mostly keeping their mouths shut, the few things I have heard are very encouraging. If everything goes right, PVRSG should be significantly less crap than PowerVR PCX2. And it will have a FULL OpenGL library. As Camp Monkey would put it, Rapture unbound! And it should cost much less than Voodoo2. I will definately be upgrading when it is released.


    Tuesday 16th June 1998...

    SHOCK NEWS!

    Quote from John Carmack, on his plans for Quake III:
    
    The new product is going to be called "Quake Arena", and will consist
    exclusively of deathmatch style gaming (including CTF and other
    derivatives). The single player game will just be a progression through
    a ranking ladder against bot AIs. We think that can still be made an
    enjoyable game, but it is definately a gamble. 
    
    In the past, we have always been designing two games at once, the
    single player game and the multi player game, and they often had
    conflicting goals. For instance, the client-server communications
    channel discouraged massive quantities of moving entities that would
    have been interesting in single player, while the maps and weapons
    designed for single player were not ideal for multiplayer. The largest
    conflict was just raw development time. Time spent on monsters is
    time not spent on player movement. Time spent on unit goals is time
    not spent on game rules. 
    
    There are many wonderful gaming experiences in single player FPS, but
    we are choosing to leave them behind to give us a purity of focus that
    will let us make significant advances in the multiplayer experience.
    

    News from PlanetQuake.

    Well, well, well. What can I say? If this is just a one-off, then OK, I can deal with it. I might be a tad pissed off, but I can deal with it.
    If this is the end of id Software making single player games, then that has to be one of the worst events of all time...


    Thursday 11th June 1998...
    I downloaded Gamespy 2.0, the new shareware version.
    I installed it.
    It decided to throw the old server list out of the window, thus losing my Favorites. So now I've got to go through all over again and pick out the servers I want.


    Wednesday 10th June 1998...
    Courtesy of the new PC Gamer, I have some more news:

    Quake II is the new Number One in the 1998 PC Gamer Top 100. Civ 2 is number three, behind F22-ADF. The X-COM series was at an appalling number 17. Unforgivable.

    Duke Nukem Forever has been delayed until 1999. Star Trek: First Contact has been cancelled. But I don't really care about these two games.

    An Ultima Online-style game called 'Middle Earth' has been announced. This sounds great. I like the idea of Ultima Online, but I have never played any Ultima game before, so I don't know anything about the Ultima universe. Whereas I know a lot about Middle Earth, having read The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit many times.

    But thankfully, Half-Life is still scheduled for June. And, hey presto, which month is it right now?

    More news: X-COM INTERCEPTOR IS HERE! And apparently it is great. So I will be buying it as soon as possible.


    Sunday 7th June 1998...
    I played QuakeWorld for the first time yesterday. And it was a disaster.
    Lag is an unpleasant business at the best of times, but in Quake 1 it seems to be even worse. I could run around normally, but whenever I pressed fire, the weapon didn't fire until half a second later. Okay, so that's lag for you. Quake 2 handles it better. Fair enough.
    But whenever I died - which was a lot - the screen was full of text! And talking of dying - I could not get one single frag! This was in The House of Chthon, where it is impossible to hide. There was just two guys with rocket launchers fragging everyone who respawned. So it was impossible to get anywhere. Even though I am the best Quake player I know.


    Friday 5th June 1998...
    Okay. I will have to eat my words. Delicious words, yum yum. At first I called Quake II a disappointment, but after six months of playing, I can now definitively say that it beats Quake. Oh, but it has a lot more bugs.


    Monday 1st June 1998...
    X-COM: Alliance.

    A game using the Unreal engine.

    And that's all I can tell you about it, reason being, that's all I know.

    I think it'd be pretty cool to have a first person shoot 'em up combined with X-COM style strategy. Then again, maybe the Unreal engine is just being used as a replacement for the old-style isometric viewpoint used in the previous games.

    Other stuff: I was talking about acts of valour a few days ago. Well, that's what I've been doing with Quake II. Friday night, ActivisionUK DM server, Arganoid kicks the serious butt of someone with a very low ping. He also called me a 'rail wanker' when I railgunned him and another person with the same shot. So he deserved it ;)


    Sunday 31st May 1998...
    From looking at various sites (such as http://www.planetquake.com/Trinity/), I have read some confusing and contradictory reports about the truth of Trinity. Some say that Quake 3 = Trinity. Some say that Trinity is merely the name of a graphics engine, and the game it is used with will not be called Trinity.
    According to PC Gamer, Quake III will use an evolution of the Quake II engine. This makes me think that Trinity does not equal Quake III, as Trinity should be a completely new engine. If it isn't, that would be crap.
    Still, despite my previous comments, I am looking forward to Quake III as well as 'Trinity'. Let's face it, this time last year, I had been playing Red Alert constantly for six months. And this time this year, the same has been happening with Quake II. Incidentally, if you want to kill me online, take a look at the ActivisionUK DM server on Friday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday nights after midnight. British time, of course. Chances are I'll probably be there.

    Half-Life. I downloaded an MPEG preview of this, my most eagerly awaited game. At least, it used to be, until I actually saw the aforementioned preview. In fact it looked a bit weedy. It looked a lot like Goldeneye (which has a kind of 'flimsy' look to it). The movie only showed one weapon, which was a very pathetic machine gun. The sounds were weedy, the monsters were un-scary, the deaths were so bland they were barely noticable......... Oh dear.

    Quake II 3.15 is out. This is another big improvement to the game, and it seems to run faster (even though timedemo still gives the same results)...

    Oh, and earlier today I completed Quake II on Hard+ difficulty. This is similar to Quake's Nightmare skill level. To select this difficulty, you must go to the console, type 'skill 3', and start a new game by typing 'map base1'.
    The most noticable difference on this level is that when you shoot a monster, it will continue moving and firing (i.e. it will not stagger or be temporarily stunned).


    Thursday 28th May 1998...
    From reading the Civ2 newsgroup (alt.binaries.games.civ2, or something like that), I have found that in fact 281% is a rubbish score... Apparently some people have got over 1000%. So I must now go back and prove my valour.


    Monday 25th May 1998...
    Great news! There are new versions of EITtris (1.30) and Kyodai Mahjongg (4.34).

    The new version of Kyodai is just fantastic. It now includes the long awaited 'Winnable' feature. This means that all boards are technically winnable without reshuffling. This is great, because it takes a lot of the pot luck out of the game. The new version also includes a whole ton of new layouts, a new music, and highscores on Mahjongg Rivers. Great stuff.

    The new version of EITtris attempts to remove the problem of hackers getting into the online high score chart. Apart from that, it does nothing. All the niggles in 1.22 (some of which weren't there in 1.00) are still there. Alas, poor EITtris, I knew it too well. I probably won't play it again.


    Friday 22nd May 1998...
    Courtesy of PC Zone, I just got hold of the Quake 2 64 player deathmatch levels. To say they are amazing is an understatement. There are three levels:

    In fact, these levels are so impressive that I have taken some screenshots. In fact I've created a whole new page just so you can see them. Click here.

    I also installed QuakeWorld. And the newsgroup alt.tv.red-dwarf now has it's own Q2 server. So I will be very busy tonight...

    Last week I played my first online game of Red Alert, via Westwood Online. The verdict? Red Alert seems to lack something in multiplayer compared to the original C&C. And the Westwood Chat software gave me quite a few problems, one of which being that there seems to be no documentation for some of it, so you never know what all the little symbols mean.


    Friday 15th May 1998...
    Played the demo of Motorhead, by Digital Illusions (those great people who brought us Pinball Dreams, Pinball Fantasies, then some dull sequels).

    The intro was very impressive, with some cool music. It was also based totally on Wipeout 2097.

    The 3D engine was very impressive, running fast in software SVGA with high resolution textures and some nice lighting effects.

    The car handling was shite. Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs -> Uninstall Motorhead Demo.

    What these people should really be doing is making a decent conversion of Pinball Fantasies for the PC. The current version is a very shoddy conversion.


    Thursday 14th May 1998...
    I got hold of the Direct3D patch for Dungeon Keeper. Under PowerVR, the frame rate is terrible (MUCH slower than SVGA software), the mouse sensitivity is fucked, and the graphics are garish and glitchy. In some places, the sprites stop displaying, or are visible through walls.
    Also, it runs in 2D mode always. That's what I normally use anyway, because it's much faster and looks cleaner, but it's strange that it can't do the 3D mode.
    Possessing a creature is the only thing that might possibly look better, although that zooming effect that you normally get when you do it is gone.


    Friday 8th May 1998...
    I saw on Hotgames yesterday that the demo of X-COM: Interceptor has been released. But it was 24 megs, so I didn't download it for some reason...


    Saturday 2nd May 1998...
    I just started Soviet Mission 13 on Red Alert. The location: South west coast of Spain. The terrain: Snow.
    Dear Westwood. Spain is a very hot place. The mountains are just the same as the deserts, only taller.

    Ah, I remember the time when I went on holiday to Spain. The view from the plane before it landed was incredible. I really should go on more plane journeys... The take off is a laugh as well... The only bad thing was that I was sitting next to the wing, and I watched it shake around, as if it was about to fall off...


    Thursday 23rd April 1998...
    I found something very interesting on Red Alert. I was playing the mission where the Soviets have to get two supply trucks across the map to another island. The Allies wiped out my base almost instantaneously. I used my remaining units to attack their base, and soon I was left with nothing but the two supply trucks. I decided to see what would happen if I just told them to go straight through the enemy forces, over the bridge (which was surrounded by Cruisers), and across to the other island.
    They made it. 'Mission Accomplished'. It turns out that I didn't need to build a base at all. It could actually be done with just one click of the mouse...


    Wednesday 22nd April 1998...
    I just tried once again to complete Grand Theft Auto, to no avail. Thanks to the infuriating flaws which constantly show up. Such as the bit where I found a very hard-to-find secret, which yielded an extra life. This was on top of a building, but it wasn't a high building. There were no stairs or anything, so the only way down was to jump off the edge. I jumped off the edge. It turns out the building was MUCH taller than I thought it was. But there was no way at all of finding this out before I jumped off the edge. Thus, I gained a life, and then lost it immediately. (It took about three months to find this secret, by the way). I kept going, but later the game crashed. AGAIN. EVERY TIME I GET A GOOD SCORE ON CHAPTER 6, THE GAME CRASHES... EVERY TIME. Merci beaucoup, DMA.


    Thursday 16th April 1998...
    Well, I went back on-line yesterday, and ARGnet might even be online by tonight. All the stuff on this page which was written while I was off-line is in italics, just for fun.

    What gibberish am I speaking? Let's talk about PC games instead. I got PC Gamer a few minutes ago. And the news is shocking:

    id Software's next game will be Quake III.

    And to this I say:

    "No, no, no, no, no!"

    Don't do it, you fools! I don't want any more Quake games! I don't want to see another Quake II-style mini-evolution, I want to see the next generation, and all the incredible joy and wonder that we experienced with the first incarnations of Doom and Quake! In other words, I WANT TRINITY. I DON'T want Quake III. Quake II has been a much smaller event than we thought it was going to be, with the original still beating it in places. One more is too much.
    The first screenshots of Quake III have been released. And, hey presto, THEY LOOK EXACTLY THE SAME AS QUAKE II...

    If that error wasn't enough, Laughing Lord Carmack (or one of his insane servants) has decided that level designer American McGee - who was part of the original team that brought us Doom - should be banished from id's fortress, out into the cold night. Apparently, his work 'was not of a high enough standard'. Well, I don't know which levels he made in Quake II, but I know that he was responsible for some of the best levels in Quake. Such as Ziggurat Vertigo, The Door to Cthon, and Claustrophobopolis...

    Is this the end of id Software as we know them? Has it all finally gone to their heads? Will Carmack not rest until he is the only member of id, and has all the levels designed by androids he programmed himself?

    I think they are making a BIG mistake...


    On a different subject - I downloaded the latest Apocalypse 5D drivers (4.11), installed them, and they worked! And there is absolutely no difference in image quality or frame rates whatsoever! Fantastic!


    Tuesday 14th April 1998...
    Incredible!

    I was listening to the sounds in Dungeon Keeper's SPEECH.DAT file. The voice-over bloke was going through all the sayings in the game, such as 'You need a bigger treasure room'. Then, suddenly, he started going mad. "My god. It's full of pies. Something surreal is happening. Your creatures are developing a strange accent (said with a French accent). Your pants are definitely too tight. Your minions have a craving for chocolate. There's that smell again. Hello. Yeugh. (Various sneezing sounds). You cannot give your imps any more jobs." (Although that last one might be a proper bit of speech - I've just never heard it before).

    I don't know if these sounds are ever used in the game. Maybe the sole purpose of them is so that people like me who try and directly access the game sounds will have something to be amazed and interested about.


    Thursday 9th April 1998...
    Okay, that's it. The end. It took two years, but I did it. I won Civ II on Deity level. And thus, the game is now finished. I have seen everything.
    When I say Won, I mean I got over 1000 points. I didn't actually conquer the world (although I possibly might have been able to do that) or build a spaceship. In fact, by the 21st Century, I hadn't even discovered the Automobile. The one major war happened with Cavalry, Marines, Riflemen and shitloads of espionage. I managed to get all the wonders except two - one of which was in an enemy city I couldn't capture, the other was the Apollo Program - I didn't have time to discover Space Flight. And I had a population of nearly 50 million - pretty good for such a high difficulty level.

    This final victory means that I have now filled the high score chart (all five places) with ratings over 100%. This is what the scores look like:

    1. Population: 110,290,000; Score: 2813; Difficulty: Emperor; Rating: 281%; Game ended in AD2003.
    2. Population: 47,260,000; Score: 1335; Difficulty: Deity; Rating: 173%; Game ended AD2020. (This is the one I did just now)
    3. Population: 105,120,000; Score: 1930; Difficulty: King; Rating: 154%; Game ended AD2017.
    4. Population: 55,570,000; Score: 2054; Difficulty: Prince; Rating: 123%; Game ended AD2003.
    5. Population: 33,770,000; Score: 1107; Difficulty: Emperor; Rating: 100%; Game ended AD2020.

    To quote myself, a few months ago, when I was talking about Captain Blood:
    So, that's it. The end. Game over, insert coin to continue. Congratulations, you ranked: 26th. G,A,M,E,O,V,E,R, G-A-M-E-O-V-E-R-ay-oo-ay-oo-ay-oo-ay-oo.

    Of course, there remains the challenge of building a spaceship or conquering the world on Deity level. But I am certain that these are out of my reach, and that I have gone as far as I can go. Now, all that remains is to wait...

    But for what? There is a choice of two. Civilization III, or Alpha Centuari. What is my opinion on these forthcoming games?

    It is looking very likely that Civ III will be a complete disaster. Microprose and Activision have been fighting over the rights to it for months. If Activision gets it, they might drastically alter the underlying game concepts (I live in fear of a real-time version). Even if Microprose keep it, design gods Sid Meier and Brian Reynolds are gone. And imagine the developers. They have to take what is still the best game of all time, and somehow make it even better. I have a vague idea of how this could be acheived. Apart from a few (like, about one or two) tiny, tiny niggles, there is only one pseudo-problem with Civ II - you feel totally unconnected with what is going on in the streets of your cities. You only care about the cold hard facts - who's got the best weapons, how much tax revenue you're getting, how fast advances are being made. You just look at the world from a massive distance, and never, ever, get to see one of your people. A city gets nuked. Half the population is destroyed, and the land is filled with pollution. Hundreds of thousands of people have died - but you don't even think about that. All that matters is fortifying the city, cleaning up the pollution, carrying out a tit-for-tat retaliation, and making sure that your score is not too badly affected.
    No matter who develops it, Civ III will be an ultra-difficult task. Civ II boasted masses of new units, new technologies, new tactics. Those are all in place now. They can't be reinvented - just slightly tweaked. And writing 'Slightly tweaked units' on a box does not compare well to writing 'All-new units!'. In my opinion, Civ III will have to do two things to succeed: It must tweak the elements that Civ II introduced, such as the improved diplomacy system, and make them totally one hundred percent perfect. Then, it should deal with the 'people effect' that I described above.

    And then there's Alpha Centuari.
    The good news is that it's being developed by Sid Meier and Brian Reynolds, the former the creator of the best game (albeit a conversion) on the ST, and the latter the creator of the best game on the PC. I'm talking about the Civ duo here, by the way.
    The bad news: Sid Meier always said he'd never do a 'Civ in Space', because there would be no historical background for the player to relate to. Leaving Microprose left him with no choice but to write this game - but his old point is still one hundred percent true. Part of Civ's greatness is that it makes you feel like an authentic part of history. Or something. With Alpha Centuari, they're going to have to think up a massive number of new technologies - but how could anyone ever hope to predict how future technologies will affect our lives? My main fear with Alpha Centuari is that it might have the look and feel of a third-rate sci-fi thing...
    That said, I know which game my money's on... Or at least the one which I will be spending my money on.


    Friday 3rd April 1998...
    281% on Civ II. Spin on that.


    Saturday 21st March 1998...
    It's PC Gamer time again... And some nice surprises.

    First screenshots of C&C: Tiberian Sun look very nice.

    And there's this thing called 'Battlezone'...

    Sometimes, when you're just sitting there, very bored, having not played a particularly original or innovative game for ages, you start wondering whether there are any new ideas left at all. Then, you install a demo of a game, and it instantly entralls you. So it was with Battlezone. It's best described as Mechwarrior 2, except with the following advantages:

    I never managed to get anywhere with Mechwarrior 2, mostly due to the overwhelming complexity of it. The tutorial missions were nice, but didn't teach me well enough - by the end of it, I was still pretty lost.

    Will I buy Battlezone? Er, probably not. FiSH of Pilsbry returns from Uni tomorrow, and thus the multiplayer mayhem will commence...


    Tuesday 17th March 1998...
    I got a lot further into First Encounters. I am now in possession of the Argent's Quest - the most powerful ship in the galaxy. But, just as before, this game's infuriatingly stupid faults continue to ruin it, every time it starts getting good.

    Take my first mission with the Argent's Quest. I was told to go to the 'Hidden System at 32, 32'. "What hidden system?" I thought. Also, I was told that I would need a Transmission Jammer and a Nuclear Missile, which could be given to me by the Federal Military. I tried to get one from the Federal Military. The game crashed every time when I tried to do this.
    I took a look at 32,32. There were a few systems there, including Atlas. Which one was I supposed to go to? I went to many of these systems. Could I find anything? No.

    I returned to the Alliance. After a short stay in Gateway, I set off for Tecusemah in the system of Miandin. From what I had read in the journals, I thought I might find some information there. I hyperspaced to Miandin. I set the autopilot. Shortly afterwards, I was attacked. By twenty ships. But they were all moving way too fast, and they overshot me and INSTANTLY vanished into the distance. I put up the Time Control again. The same thing happened again. And again. And again. At no point was it even possible to shoot any of these ships - they vanished too fast.
    I finally sorted this out by coming to a full stop. The ships were then free to attack me properly. All twenty of them.
    After destroying this batch of ships, another lot came along.
    Just before arriving at Tecusemah, another bunch attacked.
    Two hours after I set off, I arrived at Tecusemah. My ship was totally destroyed. Even with its twenty shields, Hull Auto-Repair System and Large Plasma Accelerator. The repairs cost about c60,000. (Note - normally crippling damage costs around very roughly c8,000 to repair)
    I had gone there with the intention of getting information. In fact, there was none. But all the journals were suddenly saying that the Argent's Quest had been stolen and was being used for illegal smuggling. True, I had some illegal goods in my hold. But the only reason they were there was that my Tractor Beam Cargo Scoop had sucked them in from the ships I destroyed, against my will. And I couldn't jetisson them, because by this time I was right next to the planet, and I would be fined. And if I was fined, I wouldn't have enough money to land, because I had spent the rest on Luxury Goods, which I had been hoping to trade there.
    I had had enough. I quit the game, and reloaded way back long ago, in the Gateway system.

    I decided to take a little trip to Liaethfa. According to the journals, there was a secret INRA base there. I went there, and my trip was a lot easier than before, but I found nothing. I returned to Alioth.
    Immediately on entering the system, I was greeted by a message: "Congratulations on completing your maiden flight, Commander. Please return to New Rossyth for debriefing."
    On arrival at New Rossyth, they checked my hold and found that I had failed to carry out my first mission. They gave me a second mission. I had to go to Liaethfa (where I had just come back from), and pick up one of their agents. This I did, successfully.

    My employers at New Rossyth gave me a third mission. Their agent had detected the existence of a Thargoid shuttle in the very distant Polaris system. I had to go there and find it.
    They gave me the Nuclear Missile and Transmission Jammer that I had needed before, although exactly what I was supposed to do with them I didn't know.
    I took off. I prepared to hyperspace in the direction of Polaris.
    I clicked on the Hyperspace button.
    The PC crashed.
    I reset, reloaded First Encounters, and tried again.
    It crashed again.
    I tried a third time. It crashed.

    Does that mean it's the end of the game? What am I supposed to do now?

    The moral of this story is:

    Can someone help me out here?


    Wednesday 11th March 1998...
    I've really gone and done it now. 154% on Civilization 2. 154%. That's nearly twice my previous attempts, not counting one more recent rating. And, get this, the population was 105 million. Twice as much as my previous best. So, you want to know how to get such an incredible rating? Just follow these guidelines...

    1. Play on the Large map size - this gives much more space to expand in.
    2. And only have three civilisations. The less competition, the better.
    3. Populate every island you see. Settlers should be one of the first things you build at each new city.
    4. Don't keep Settlers for too long - use them to build new cities, and build some more later to do the rest of your improvements. Rapid expansionism is the only way to get a good rating. Unlike Civ 1, perfectionism doesn't work.
    5. Use all the land to the full. Don't leave big unused gaps between your cities - even if there is a small gap, you might be able to build a small city.
    6. Trading technologies is essential, but there are a few which you should not give your enemies unless it's essential. I'm not just talking about Gunpower or Conscription - but also, and more importantly, Map Making and Navigation. Lack of these two can seriously hinder an opponent on a world with many seas. Railroad and Industrialisation are also things you shouldn't share.
    7. The computer AI considers the space race to be of epic importance. Thus, any enemy, even one which is stuck in the Stone Age, will try to steal the technology of Space Flight. It doesn't mean they're hostile to you, it's just something they have to do. If you don't want enemy spies sneaking in, you could actually GIVE them the technology instead.
    8. You cannot get a great score without conquering at least one large powerful civilisation. You should aim to at least conquer their main continent, and take all their Wonders. Of course, the more cities you take, the better - but you should know when to stop, and instead focus on peaceful expansion, science and trade.
    9. War is a very tricky process. At the end of the day, the only way to guarantee success is to have a big technological advantage over your opponent. If using slow-moving attacking units, such as Cannons or Artillery, make sure there is a Railroad which leads to the city you are attacking. Howitzers (which come with the technology of Robotics) are a massive advantage, because they are the only attacking units against which it is impossible to totally guard against.
    10. Wealth is more important than education. Build marketplaces before Libraries - you can use the income from the Marketplace to buy the Library and a whole load of other stuff.
    11. Espionage, espionage, espionage. It's the most important word in the game. Build at least one spy for every city. When attacking a city with City Walls, send in hordes of spies to sabotage installations. DON'T tell them to directly target anything - a random attack has much more chance of working, and you'll hit the Walls by chance after a while. Also, you'll end up with a whole ton of Veteran spies. Remember - under Communism, all new spies are Veterans. And under Fundamentalism, International Incidents do not directly cause war, although your enemy might get rather seriously annoyed with you. (I stole loads of advances off the enemy. He seemed to sit there and take it for a long time. Then, without warning, he nuked my capital city. Ouch.)
    12. Mastery of the seas is essential for worlds made up of islands or small continents. You should obviously have as many Battleships as possible - their large cost is outweighed by their massive power. You should also have a few Destroyers and Cruisers around, in order to find enemy Submarines. You should build a fair number of submarines, because they are fairly cheap. Battleships become fairly useless after your enemies start building Cruise Missiles (with the technology of Rocketry), so they should be replaced with the less powerful but still superb AEGIS Cruisers. Also, remember that you can carry missiles in Submarines, although it's generally safer to keep Nukes in a well-defended city.
    13. If you're close to conquering the world, don't, unless the conquering bonus is likely to be big. You can get much more points by making peace with all your enemies, then expanding your population (by changing to Democracy and increasing the luxury rate). This also allows you to build a spaceship and any remaining Wonders.
    14. Fighters are essential - and not just for fortified defence. In fact, that is their rarest use for me. You can use them to destroy many weaker units, such as Engineers, Artillery, etc. They are VERY useful against enemy ships such as Destroyers, Submarines and Transports. You can even use them for bombing against a less advanced enemy. If you are fortunate enough to have the technology of Stealth, the Stealth Fighter is possibly the best unit in the game. It has a massive range, and is very powerful. Bombers and Stealth Bombers are more powerful, but much more expensive and vunerable than Fighters.
    15. Gradually increase the luxury rate as the end of the game approaches. Happy people increase your score. And 'We Love the President' days boost your population.
    16. The most important Wonders are: Hoover Dam, JS Bach's Cathedral, Leonardo's Workshop, Mallegan's Expedition, Pyramids, Darwin's Voyage. Cure for Cancer is also useful. In the early stages of the game, on Emperor or Deity level, Hanging Gardens and the Oracle are vital.
    17. Start off at Prince difficulty, and go up a level when you think you've mastered it on that difficulty. A totally overwhelming victory is possible on Emperor level, but don't play on Deity level unless you are a total grandmaster, like me... It's just stupid. The level of civil disorder takes all the fun out of it. And barbarians are actually capable of seriously hurting you (on other difficulties, they are mostly harmless). When I got 173% on this level, I had only just discovered Automobile by the 21st century... And the space race was way out of reach.
    There you go, happy civilizing...


    Sunday 8th March 1998...
    Is there no stopping me? Not content with vandalising Quake, Quake II and Super Stardust '96, I've now gone and named the (few) tracks on the Dungeon Keeper CD...

    Two of these names are influenced in a big way by Captain and Commander Blood (not least because they sound very similar to the music from Commander Blood)...


    Monday 2nd March 1998...
    I don't believe it! I actually completed Wipeout 2097. It was very hard, but I finally won the Piranha challenge.
    (I think I'll go and increase my rating for this game...)


    Saturday 28th February 1998...
    Just completed Monkey Island 2 for the second time. From this, I can definitively say: Monkey Island 2 is a better game, with bigger and better puzzles, but Monkey Island 3 is more entertaining, with better graphics and jokes. And Moneky Island 3 is very unoriginal, stealing almost all its ideas from its predecessors.

    Oh, and another thing: When Monkey Island 3 was first announced, everyone said - 'How can they make a sequel? How could they continue from the ending of Monkey 2?'. But now that I have completed it again, I have found that in fact, they DID leave room for a sequel at the end of Monkey 2, thanks to a little scene after the end. Halfway through the end credits, the scene cuts back to Elaine, standing at the top of the pit, and she says something along the lines of: "What's keeping Guybrush? I hope LeChuck hasn't cast some kind of SPELL over him...". So there you go! It turns out that we could have predicted Monkey 3 after all!


    Friday 27th February 1998...
    Now that I have got a whole ton more memory (in the form of 64Mb and 500Mb virtual memory), I decided to try and compile my Quake 2 levels with lighting. I had never been able to do this before, because when QRAD3 (the bit that processes the lighting on the level) ran, it just sat there eating virtual memory until the hard drive was full - all 100Mb of it. And guess what? Even with 500Mb hard disk space, it still used ALL of it. A 500Mb swap file. So exactly what do I need to do to compile my levels with lighting? The only level where I have been able to do this was a really TINY one, which was just one very small cube room with three lights in it.

    I also installed and played Terracide for the first time. This is a quite dull game with very awkward controls, so I will uninstall it soon. Talking of installing - I have now reinstalled almost every game I own, including Civ 2, GP2, Red Alert, Quake, Ultimate Race, Dungeon Keeper... And still 400Mb free.


    Thursday 26th February 1998...
    Well, well, well. It's upgrade time once again. I am the very proud owner of:

  • A TX jumperless motherboard (Brand: QDI Titanium IB, highly reccommended)
  • An extra 32Mb of RAM, giving a total of 64Mb
  • A 4.3Gb UDMA hard drive. Although, thanks to the limitations of FAT16, I only have one 2Gb partition. I will expand it when Windows 98 arrives.

    To say that my system is now totally gorgeous is an understatement. Get this:
  • NO swapping. Not even in Quake II. None at all. Swoon.
  • Fast, quiet hard drive. Lovely.
  • The extra 1Gb hard disk space is a godsend. It makes me very happy. I have unzipped a whole load of stuff, re-installed Quake, and I still have over 700Mb free! I can barely contain my enthusiasm...
    Quake II now gives a timedemo result of 16fps - 5fps faster than before. It is a lot more playable, although still not as good as 3Dfx. DEATH's performance analyser gives my machine an extra three points (the rating is now 7). Ultimate Race runs with no swapping. Wipeout 2097 is still very slow, though - I don't think much improvement will be made here...

    Unfortunately, the updated Apocalypse 5D drivers STILL do not work. I am stuck using a very early version of the drivers (4.00). If I update to the latest all-singing, all-dancing drivers (4.10), or even 4.02, SGL applications like Quake 2 stop working. This is very annoying. I contacted Videologic many times but they failed to answer. Maybe I should send my registration card....

    Off now to play with my new toys...


    Tuesday 24th February 1998...
    My joypad continues to have two shoulder buttons, and as ever, they continue to be unusable. Such stupidity. The shoulder buttons work in a weird way, but you would have thought Windows 95 would be able to sort something out...
    Thanks to these shoulder buttons, this joypad is also useless when I try to use two of them for a two player game, because they interfere with each other.
    Of course, it now falls to Microsoft to set things right, but apparently their Sidewinder gamepad is uncomfortable. So the PC is totally without a decent gamepad that actually works.


    Monday 23rd February 1998...
    New demos:
    Ultimate Race Pro: Didn't work, because it was expecting a 3Dfx card. (This was after I zipped up pretty much my entire hard drive to make space for it)
    Sir Meier's Gettysburg: On starting, switched my monitor rate into a refresh rate it couldn't display, thus rendering the game inoperable.

    How incredibly bollock-eatingly useful.


    Friday 20th February 1998...
    Well, this is the end of the road for ARGnet, for the moment at least.
    And you know what I find a little annoying?
    Guess which section I have spent the most time on in the last six months.
    Now guess which section has had NO feedback whatsoever...

    Emulation and nostalgia are all very nice, guys, but I don't agree with the notion that all modern games are a shallow waste of time. Sure, a lot of them are, but that's ALWAYS been the case. It's still the same today. Graphics are important, but gameplay is more important. Thus, Super Sprint is better than Ultimate Race, but not as good as Wipeout 2097.

    Yesterday I reviewed Grand Theft Auto. But if no-one reads this review, why bother? If I continue to get no feedback for this page, I will spend a lot less time on it. All new reviews would be mini-reviews. No detailed analysis.

    Feedback line contacted, waiting for reply...

    N E way, I've got to go now. Mumgugue blasch illab. Nowgue rip mumgugue. Mumgugue blash. Nowge, dorgun augen...

    Later the same day...
    The final thing on ARGnet for now: I have named all the tracks on the Super Stardust '96 CD... This was a pretty difficult thing to do, because there are a lot of tracks on this CD, but I managed it.

    And with that, I leave you.


    Tuesday 17th February 1998...
    First Encounters. I don't know whether I should love or hate this game. Judging by the experiences I've had with it today, I think I'm going to choose to hate it. Take, for example, the bit where I assassinated the leader of one of the factions in a civil war. This event instantly became the number one story in all the journals, and I there was soon a reward of c50,000 for Me, dead or alive. This is cool, I thought. Then I looked at the bulletin board. A message there said: Wanted - Pilsbry, dead or alive. I clicked on it to see what would happen (having saved the game first, of course). Hey presto, it's GAME OVER. Now that is just incredible stupidity. Realistic: yes. Gameplay value: Zero. Negative, in fact. Why not simply click on 'Quit to DOS'?

    This game will almost certainly not enter into the chart. Of course, there is still a lot of plot left to go (the Thargoids haven't turned up yet), but I doubt that any of the problems I have encountered so far will suddenly vanish...


    Monday 16th February 1998...
    I finally got hold of Frontier: First Encounters, about three years too late. This game is very daunting and awkward to get to grips with at first. I very much doubt that it will ever be as good as Frontier was. There are many new features, but it will be a long time before I can give this game a rating. Oh, and why is Earth brown?

    Later the same day...
    Just a few hours after getting this game, I am totally infuriated by it. Even with the patch installed, there are far too many bugs. Enemies always attack with overwhelming force, and buying extra shields makes virtually no difference. For example, I've got a game saved just before being attacked by an Imperial Explorer with a 20MW Beam Laser (capable of destroying my Constrictor, 3 shields, in one hit). EVERY TIME I meet this craft, it is in a position just in front of me, where its laser is facing me, and it can thus always destroy me within two seconds. If I try and avoid it, by flying past it, the two ships collide, even though they didn't actually touch, and I am destroyed. I have reloaded this game literally a hundred times, and each time, the outcome is EXACTLY the same. Hate to say it, but: DaViD bRaBeN mUsT dIe!!!!!!!


    Tuesday 10th February 1998...
    I want to play a game, I'm looking at all the games in my collection, and I don't want to play any of them. Quake 2, Wipeout 2097, GTA, Kyodai Mahjongg... None of them have lasted me very long. Disgusting, really. Take a look at Red Alert and X-COM Apocalypse. Each of those lasted me about three months. Now THAT'S what I call long-term interest...


    Wednesday 4th February 1998...
    I won the second Phantom track on Wipeout 2097. I had thought that this would be the end of the game, but...
    Now there is the Phantom Challenge. You have to win all eight races, in sequence, at Phantom class.
    This is not actually possible. I say this because it took about a month to win the two Phantom tracks in Arcade mode - that means as many replays as I like. Also, I couldn't even win the first track on Phantom class.

    On Quake 2, I changed my video mode from 640x480x24bit to 512x384x16bit. The difference? 10fps with timerefresh, 2fps with timedemo...


    Friday 30th January 1998...
    Completed Monkey 3. The end sequence was about ten seconds long.

    How about a nice review?

    I think I should buy Day of the Tentacle.

    I've now added the mini-reviews section.


    Thursday 29th January 1998...
    I just played GTA for two hours. Except, after getting a big score, and possibly even qualify for the next level, I was in a limosine, on my way to a warehouse. To complete the (big) mission, I had to drive the car into the warehouse (without getting killed on the way). I got to the warehouse, started driving in, then the car got stuck in the wall... I couldn't move it at all, not even by ramming it with another car, so I had to destroy it and thus fail the mission, losing myself huge numbers of points. Flaws like this are ever-present in GTA.
    THEN, five minutes later, I was in the middle of another mission, and the game just quit back to Windows for no reason, thus dumping my score (10 times higher than my previous best on that level) into the void... Grrrr... These flaws will take a vital 3 or 4 percent off the final review score...


    Tuesday 27th January 1998...
    I have just got to Chapter 2 of San Andreas on GTA. This is one of the most unforgiving games I have ever played. It is best described as a continuous cycle. Three hours of mild frustration followed by half an hour of marvelling at the inventiveness of the game.


    Sunday 25th January 1998...
    I have bought Grand Theft Auto. It is bloody difficult. But addictive.

    Five hours later...
    FUCK. GTA just crashed, over an hour into a game.
    It's not as if I was doing well. But it was my first time at San Andreas, and I wanted to at least put a score on the board.

    My down arrow key has started to break...


    Thursday 22nd January 1998...

    THERE IS A THIRD GAME IN THE CAPTAIN BLOOD/COMMANDER BLOOD SERIES...

    But due to the terrible sales of Commander Blood, it was never released anywhere other than France...

    Noooooooooooooooooooooo!

    (Click here for the Captain Blood worship page. There's a new link on there to another Captain Blood worship page which I found out about just a few hours ago.)


    Wednesday 21st January 1998...
    I completed Dungeon Keeper. Review here.


    Sunday 18th January 1998...
    I just played Super Sprint for the first time since I was ten years old... And I was totally amazed - underneath the pathetic graphics and sound is a sort of okayish game... I mean, it's not exactly Civilization 2, but I was expecting it to be really bad, and it wasn't. In fact in terms of excitement and fun it is comparable to Ultim@te Race...

    I also loaded up 'The Joke Game', something I did on the ST by copying the Frontier Elite II program file, and using a hex editor to change all the text in the copy - with hilarious results... Since the ST version was running very badly, I decided to try this with the PC version. Unfortunately I don't have a hex editor for the PC, so I had to use MS-DOS Edit. I wrote some very funny stuff in there, but did it work? Of course not - Edit must have messed it up. But I just thought - maybe I could use an ST hex editor...

    Later...
    Damn! I do not have a disk image containing a hex editor!


    Saturday 17th January 1998...
    I got the updated Quake II FAQ. Much of it is still wrong... I completed Quake II using PowerVR OpenGL mode for the first time. And I actually have something good to report! Units 8, 9 and 10, which are normally very boring, actually run superbly now, and look great. Of course, the speed increase is only because of the levels which have lower polygon counts...

    On Dungeon Keeper, I got to the last level, played for hours without encountering a single enemy, then an infinite number of heroes appeared and I was slaughtered. Thanks for that. And the previous levels had been totally great.


    Thursday 15th January 1998...
    I just read the Quake II FAQ - a lot of the information (particularly regarding the 3D engine and the sound system) seems to be incorrect...


    Tuesday 13th January 1998...
    The time is 12:22am. I am watching 'The Midnight Hour' on BBC2, on which there is a discussion on videogames, particularly Carmageddon. The participants are as follows:

  • Janet Street Porter, the lovely host of the show...
  • Someone from some game magazine I've never heard of.
  • Someone from the BBFC.
  • Someone from 'Christian Democracy' or something like that.
  • A Labour MP (and mother of two)...

    The discussion has just finished, I was surprised that they didn't all cast the idea of videogaming into the pits of hell... The Christian Democracy bloke was the most opposed member of the group; he reckons if teenagers play Tomb Raider they will get a stereotyped view of women...

    Well, I suppose all these teenage boys will be in for a big disappointment when they discover that real girls aren't as... big... as Lara Croft...

    Talking of controversial games, it now looks very unlikely that I will get the superb Grand Theft Auto. It still costs a ridiculous 34.99. Dungeon Keeper was 25, which is a much better deal. Mind you, I've almost finished DKeeper, so there is a small chance I will buy GTA. But not at that high price.


    Friday 9th January 1998...
    I got a working PowerVR OpenGL driver for Quake 2. And it is terrible. I'm sure the 3Dfx version looked better than this. And the use of coloured lighting is MASSIVELY EXCESSIVE to say the least. Also, the visuals are very choppy, partly due to constant swapping (it now uses a 50Mb swapfile), but even when it isn't swapping, it is very hard to play. Oh, and another visual thing: the changes in mip-mapping as walls recede into the distance are clearly visible. This makes it look cack. And so does the fact that the walls appear to be made out of bathroom tiles, each one lit separately. Even a simple button can clearly be seen to be made of four parts. Yes, PowerVR OpenGL, get this, almost looks WORSE than the software version...

    So now I'm going to play Dungeon Keeper instead.

    Late night update...
    Well, I've just been playing Quake 2 for the last three hours, I am about halfway through Unit 2.
    I have started to like the new look of the graphics, but I have definitely NOT started to like the appalling frame rate. So PowerVR is one of the most technically advanced cards out there? I have had one for about two weeks, and I have yet to be blown away by anything it can do. In fact I have barely been impressed. If PowerVR is one of the most technically advanced chipsets available, then all 3D cards are shite and not anywhere near as good as they were hyped to be...

    Most of the slowdown on Quake 2 occurs when there are lots of things on-screen - but I thought the main strength of a 3D card was that it could display millions of polygons? Frame rate is by far the most important thing in any game, even more important than bilinear filtering or resolution. Or even texture mapping. If it wasn't, we'd all be playing Quake on 486s at 800x600. And the frame rate on Q2 with PowerVR OpenGL is in places much worse than in software at the same resolution.


    Thursday 8th January 1998...
    Bought Dungeon Keeper, it had been reduced to 25. Nice.


    Wednesday 7th January 1998...
    I found out how to do lots of cool things on Quake II, courtesy of the command list at Planetquake.

    To do a timedemo, enter 'timedemo 1', then 'demomap demo1.dm2' (or demo2.dm2). In 512x384 fullscreen software I got 10fps...

    For slow-motion mode, enter 'fixedtime 1'. (Although on really fast systems, the motion won't be as slow). This is totally brilliant - running around and killing guards with your blaster before they even get the chance to move. And watching the death animations in slow motion. Amazing.


    Tuesday 6th January 1998...
    I have just written the initial design of something which, if successful, could be one of the most amusing games of all time:

    game on Quake

    If you are not familiar with 'Game On', let me inform you. Game On is a TV comedy series currently in its third series on the BBC. It features three main characters - Matthew, a moronic, childish man who is the ultimate 'lad'; his best friend Martin, a sad ginger tosser who has only recently lost his virginity; and Mandy, who, despite her best efforts, always ends up shagging every man she meets. Game On is a superbly hilarious reflection on modern youth culture (I apologise for talking like the people on Late Review). In fact it is THE funniest comedy ever made (with the possible exception of Red Dwarf and Chalk). And I have conceived a design closely based on several episodes of the programme.

    game on Quake will take the form of a Quake II unit, consisting of three levels. It will have a proper mission-based structure. The plot of the game is based on the final episode of the second series - the one where Matthew inadvertantly brings a woman to the brink of suicide, and then had to sort it out by going into the dreaded Outside... (For those who don't know - Matthew has a phobia of going outside, and has only been outside twice in the history of the show).

    The only problem is: I don't actually know if this is possible. I have tons of great ideas for things which could happen in the game, but I don't yet know how Quake 2 actually works. In other words - to implement the mission-based structure, do I need to use Quake C, or can I just use a standard level editor? (Not that I actually have either of these for Quake 2 yet). Ah well, even if it isn't possible, I hope I got you sufficiently intrigued. If it turns out that it isn't possible, I will put the design on this page, so you can see what could have been.


    Sunday 4th January 1998...
    I've just been playing the demo of Moto Racer. This is a superb game - probably the best racing game ever made on the PC - but it doesn't work properly with my PowerVR card. Apparently this is because my card does not support transparent textures through Direct3D. I forced Direct3D on using a command line parameter, and the game looked superb, except all the aforesaid transparent textures (such as dirt off the tyres, and trees) messed it up slightly.

    Now let me briefly tell you about the circumstances in which I bought my 3D card. A few days ago, I went into GAME in Bournemouth, picked up an Apocalypse 5D box and slapped it on the counter. I paid them a lot of money for it. Later, I opened the box, and found that the card inside was not an Apocalypse 5D, it was an Apocalypse 3Dx - worth 70 less. So I took it back, and after half an hour of them looking in their stores, they told me that they didn't actually have any Apocalypse 5Ds, and gave me a refund. So I went to GAME in Poole, which took about half an hour, and when I arrived there, I picked up an Apocalypse 5D box and slapped it on the counter. And this time they actually gave me an Apocalypse 5D. How incredibly useful of them.

    Later the same day...
    I just managed to get Quake II playing fullscreen. Unfortunately the minimum resolution for this is 512x384, which is too slow. The PowerVR OpenGL option still doesn't work.


    Wednesday 31st December 1997...
    Okay, the year is over. It's time for me to reveal, for those of you who didn't stay in enough, what happened, gaming-wise, in 1997:

    The best games of 1997:

    The most overrated games of 1997:

    Much later the same day...
    I've just been playing Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (the Direct3D version, although apparently it detects my PowerVR card and uses it natively). This features the following things:

    But the clipping is a really big problem. And the frame rate isn't that good in places. So I'll wait until the sequel - hopefully matters will have improved by then.


    Tuesday 30th December 1997...
    Here's a list showing how all my games run with my new Apocalypse 5D video card.

    So, my analysis? Slower than expected, and the drivers are full of bugs. Merry Christmas.

    (But Jedi Knight shows that there is hope yet. I blame most of the problems on DirectDraw, not Direct3D.)


    Monday 29th December 1997...
    I am now the owner of one Videologic Apocalypse 5D video card. I don't have time now to tell you about the terrible events that occurred before I was able to get it, I'll reveal this later.

    Performance is generally worse than expected... But the terrible thing is that: PowerVR native things work. Direct3D works. But the VITAL thing, OpenGL, does not work. In fact, Quake II does not even work properly in software mode - it messes up if I run it fullscreen, so it now spends all of its time in a tiny window. If I select 'PowerVR OpenGL' as the video driver, it just says 'Can't load pvrgl' or something, and returns to software mode. The original GLQuake gives the unpleasant message: 'The OPENGL32.DLL file is linked to missing export SGL.DLL:sgl_get_ini_int.' Lovely.


    Friday 26th December 1997...
    I started yet another game of Quake II, and wrote the review.


    Thursday 25th December 1997...
    I have completed Quake II for the second time, this time on Hard difficulty. Now I am wondering if id will include a Nightmare mode with the next version.

    I found a great secret on the last level. Totally superb. Check it out. I'm now off to play SPF2T (one player, this time)


    Wednesday 24th December 1997...
    I played SPF2T two player yesterday. And it was every bit as good as I had imagined it would be. It was especially good playing on Original Mode as Dan. I played as him to give my opponent a decent chance of winning. In fact, this made it so easy for him, that he won every game. But it was still brilliant fun. This is undoubtedly the best two player, one computer PC game ever made.
    (Of course, when not playing as Dan, I totally thrashed my opponent, ten matches to nil...)

    Quake II seems to be a lot better the second time around. I have found some more bugs, though. I won't be able to review it properly until I get my 3D card.

    Later the same day...
    Now that I'm up to Unit 6 on Quake II (hard difficulty), things have suddenly got depressing again. For me, the game rapidly goes downhill after Unit 3.


    Sunday 21st December 1997...
    I have just completed Quake II on Medium difficulty.

    I can't say when a full review will be here, but I can tell you this: I did not have as much fun playing Quake II as I did playing Quake. Or even Doom II. Maybe something to do with my lack of 3D card? Who can say? I will get one soon, and then I will have the full picture.

    Basically, Quake II didn't live up to the hype. Admittedly that would have been an impossible feat, but the fact is that I spent a whole month in a solid state of salivation. Now, two days after getting it, I have been left totally underwhelmed. I am depressed...

    (As if to contradict myself - the first time I played it, last Monday, on a system with a 3Dfx card, I was totally blown away by its brilliance...)


    Later the same day...
    I have now named all of the Quake II CD tracks. Here they are:

    I'm not as happy with these as I am with the original Quake track names, but that can't be helped.


    Friday 19th December 1997...
    Quake II is here.

    Yes, here... At last.

    The time is 00:36 (so technically it is Saturday), and I have been playing it since 9:00 this morning.

    I have been playing on Medium difficulty, and in a full day of playing, I have reached the middle of Unit 8. In other words, I am quite close to the end.

    Because I have yet to get my 3D card, I have been playing it in 320x240 software mode. I cannot emphasise how bad this is. Imagine playing Doom, on a 386, on low detail mode, at the minimum screen size. Yes, it's a bit like that. It makes everything - especially enemies - very hard to make out.

    So far, I have to say that I am disappointed. I don't know whether this situation will improve with time. As with most eagerly awaited games, things will probably get better.
    The biggest disappointment of the game is the size of Unit 7. Or lack of it. All through Unit 6, I could see in the distance, the MASSIVE structure that was the Big Gun. I was relishing the prospect of actually getting up close to this thing. In Unit 7, my task was to destroy it. I was hoping for yet another big set of challenges, like the ones in all the previous units. I was also cautiously hoping that the Gun would be present in full 3D glory, as opposed to a 2D texture map on the sky.
    As it turned out, Unit 7 consisted of one tiny map, with less than 20 monsters, and no sign of the Gun (presumably I was inside it). It took less than five minutes of playing time to finish. This is just infuriating. Okay, so maybe the engine wouldn't have been able to cope with drawing such an enormous object (it must have been at least two miles high), but they should at least have done SOMETHING. Imagine a different version of Star Wars - made in a parallel universe - where, instead of attacking it externally, the Rebels had teleported inside the Death Star, set some explosives, and then teleported out, without even having seen it. That would have been crap, right? And it is here as well.

    On a lighter note, one thing which is definitely a step forward is the ability to crouch - not just you but also your enemies. In Hexen 2, the crouch key was rarely needed, and it had very little importance to the gameplay. In Quake II, it is a vital part of the game, which also adds to the sense of immersion. Instead of tedious shoot, strafe into cover, strafe back, shoot again tactics, you can now employ Time Crisis style techniques, ducking behind bits of the scenery while your enemies are shooting. This is cool.

    I have just started naming the tracks on the Quake II CD. The ones I have come up with so far are even more ingenious than my original Quake track names. Full list coming very soon.

    Anyway, I am now avidly awaiting 'Trinity', id's next game. Probably not due for at least one and a half years, but there is no doubt about it - it WILL be worth the wait. Trinity (it is not known if this will be the actual release title - it doesn't quite have the same ring to it as 'Quake' or 'Doom') will use IFS technology - the same technique that the disappointing Joint Strike Fighter used to create its landscapes. I cannot find words adequate to describe how optimistic I am about this game...


    Wednesday 17th December 1997...
    Quake II is still not here. And I am totally stuck on Monkey Island 3. So I booted up PC Gamer's Ocean CD, which I got a few months ago. Oh, what fun...

    I decided to play the demo of I-War. This game got 90% in PC Gamer, and was said to be 'a credible alternative to TIE Fighter'. Cool.
    So I ran the demo, and was plunged straight into the game without even being told what the keys were. I then proceeded to fly around a bit, shooting things but not knowing whether they were on my side or not. And I was totally baffled by the rows and rows of strange numbers - what were they for? Also, I got a pretty poor frame rate. When the mission finally timed out, it turned out that I had completed two of the three objectives - yet I had just been randomly shooting - and it hadn't even seemed like I had done any damage. All in all a pretty bad way to spend five minutes. For all I know, this could be an incredible game - but how am I supposed to find out if I don't know what to do?

    I looked around at some of the other stuff on the CD, and found a rolling demo of 'Outcast', a game which uses voxel graphics. Which means that it won't be helped at all by that lovely new 3D card. I was very surprised, however, to see that the game's environment actually looked pretty stunning. The level of detail was mugh higher than in any game I had seen before. For the first time, the great outdoors actually looked like the great outdoors. Impressive stuff. No idea what the actual game is like, though...

    Elsewhere on the CD, I came across something called... well, I can't remember what it was called, it's that forgettable. There was a screenshot, and it looked very pre-rendered, which made me suspect that this game was a Myst clone. I decided to take a risk, however - I ran the playable demo. When I started the game, it turned out that I had been right - it was a Myst clone. I quit the demo in disgust, and returned to the main menu of the demo CD.
    For some reason, though, something was accessing the CD. A few seconds later, I was again at the main menu of the game I had just run. And the menu I had used to run this game had come back, even though I had only just closed it. Very annoyed, I closed both of them again. And whaddaya know? They both inexplicably ran themselves again.
    What is going on here?, I thought. Have they installed a virus or something? A virus that will not rest until I actually play their shitty little game?
    By this point I was totally infuriated, and quit the whole lot using Control-Alt-Delete. Then I once again loaded up the menu to look at the rest of the CD. My anger factor increased further when I wasn't allowed to skip the 'Ocean' animation - even though I had already seen it. Grrrr....

    Finally, I decided to re-install 'Wetrix'. This is quite an interesting looking game, but the last time I installed it, it had run really badly. I reckoned that it might be better with my new P200, although I wasn't very confident. And was I right? Of course.
    Once again, even the menu was sluggish - it was like running Quake on a 486 with an ISA video card. Except worse. I started a new game, and tried to make head or tail of it, but this was pretty difficult seeing how I hadn't been told what the aim of the game was. So, about thirty seconds later, I got the message 'Game Over'. And it was at this point that the game hung.
    You know when Ren (of Ren and Stimpy) gets angry, and his veins bulge, and his eyeballs almost burst out in fury, and his whole body is ravaged by insane rage? Need I say more?


    Monday 15th December 1997...
    The Curse of Monkey Island has arrived. But Quake II has not. And, having got stuck on Monkey Island, I am now incredibly bored again.

    So, what is the sequel to the best graphic adventure ever made like?

    I'll reveal all in the review (which may be some time, depending on how long it takes for me to complete it), but here are some first (and second) impressions.
    It borrows a whole ton of ideas from Monkey Island 1.
    Hmm, I can't think of anything else to say about it. Some of the jokes are superb. As ever in graphic adventures, it is frequently annoying, particularly when you are trying to solve a puzzle, but are unable to because Guybrush says "I can't use the thingy with that!" - when it would almost certainly work in real life...
    As with any Monkey Island game, there are those fun occasions when you get to cause total mayhem with people. (For example, those times in Monkey 2 when you sawed off the pirate's wooden leg, and the time when you framed that woman pirate).
    The graphics are probably the best 2D graphics ever seen, although this doesn't do anything to prevent those infuriating occasions when you can't progress due to not noticing a vital object in the scenery. This massive wart on the face of graphic adventures is just as present as ever. In several places I have had to turn up the brightness on my monitor in order to actually see the room I'm in...

    But is it any good? The answer is of course, yes. Is it as good as Monkey Island 2? Only time will tell; at the moment I'd say it's pretty equal.

    Oh, and you know how Guybrush has looked different in each of the three games? Here's a quote from the manual:
    Now, in THE CURSE OF MONKEY ISLAND, somehow Guybrush has escaped [from the Carnival of the Damned, at the end of Monkey 2] and once again found his true love... whose fort is under attack by forces of the zombie pirate. Can Guybrush defeat LeChuck? Will Elaine take him back? Will Guybrush ever learn the secret of Monkey Island? And how come Guybrush looks so much taller in this game?
    (Next to this text is a thing showing what Guybrush looked like in each game)

    Anyway, is that the time? See 'ya.

    Late night update...
    Here's how bored I was - I reinstalled the demo of Joint Strike Fighter, to see how it ran on my P200. Once again it took ten minutes to install. It took up 110Mb of disk space - yes, that's just the demo. And, just as before, the actual game was terrible. I was able to run it in a better video mode than before, but there wasn't any noticable difference in the graphics. In fact, it was pretty much impossible to see anything, because the ground was really dark, and the sky really bright. Anyway, after about one minute of this torture, I quit and banished it from my hard drive for ever. If its engine is so incredible, why does it run at half the frame rate of F22 Lightning 2, and look less than half as good? No cigar? They haven't even got a tiny particle of hot ash...

    After that, I played Doom95. Having played Quake II a few hours earlier, though, this was just stupid. The difference is unbelievable - talk about dated. It has dated as badly as Pong.

    Anyway, I've now got a lovely 320Mb free hard disk space, all ready for the installation of what will from now on be known as 'The Beautiful Game'. With a lot of luck, it should arrive tomorrow.


    Saturday 13th December 1997...
    Quake II is here.

    Well, not here, actually. Annoyingly. I am getting it via mail order, but it hasn't arrived yet. But I have played it on someone else's machine - with 3Dfx acceleration. And what are my first impressions?

    Quake II RULES...

    Quake II is UNREAL. It will NUKEM. It will take up HALF your LIFE. It makes you hungry for BLOOD. All other games are its PREY. It is definitely not DOOMed...

    (Hmm, can't seem to think of ones for Wolfenstein or Daikatana...)

    Yes, there is no doubt about it. Quake II is one of the best - if not THE best - games of all time. Only time will tell, but the signs are good. Here's a list of what is good about Quake II.

    A few minutes later... And here is a list of the things that are NOT good about Quake II... But the vital question is: When will I get it for myself? I don't know. I haven't even got a confirmation of the order. Which is very annoying. And when I get it, I'll have to play it in a crap video mode. This is very depressing...


    Wednesday 10th December 1997...
    There are these things called 'Christmas holidays' (that's probably 'thanksgiving vacations' or something in American), so I won't be around for the next three weeks. When I get back, around the start of January, I will have played some incredible games, such as Quake II, The Curse of Monkey Island, and Ultim@te Race. I might even have a review or two. So create a bookmark to this page, and come back in January. It'll be your loss if you don't...

    Update - I just tried to order a 3D card (an 8meg Apocalypse 5D), and I was told that they were unavailable until after Christmas.
    AIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE...
    Videologic! What are you thinking of?! How are you going to win the 3D card war if people can't buy your cards? What the fuck am I going to do now? I want to play Quake II with 3D acceleration, and I NEED a new 2D card. Suddenly Christmas is looking a lot less fun. Thanks.


    Sunday 7th December 1997...
    Hello, I'm on speed.

    No, you misunderstand. I am marvelling at the wonder of the Intel Pentium Processor with MMX Technology. In fact only just now, a dolphin jumped out of the CPU. And there are loads of coloured lights inside my PC. And not, for example, three miles of parallel cables which helpfully prevent access to the jumpers.

    I've been testing it all afternoon. Here are the results I got:

    I suspect many of the problems explained above are to do with my once-great but now-crap video card, which has a measly 1 meg. I am going to order an Apocalypse 5D (with 8 megs) this week, so that should sort everything out.


    Saturday 6th December 1997...
    Quake II will be out on Friday the 12th of December. This is the universally agreed date on uk.games.computer.quake.

    I will have my P200-MMX in just an hour or so... Hopefully I will not have to reinstall Windows like I did when I 'upgraded' to my 6x86MX-200 (with the wrong motherboard).


    Friday 5th December 1997...
    The day arrives. I haven't been into town yet, so I don't know if it's here. If it is, I will buy it. I am leaving in one hour.
    I wouldn't be that surprised if it isn't there, though. And that would also mean that I would not be forced to play it for a day on my old, slow PC (which is a malfunctioning 6x86MX-200 which runs Quake at the speed of a P90).
    I will report back later...

    Okay, I'm back from town. And did they have it?

    NO!

    And when will it be out? No idea. Well, at least I'll have time to play with my new P200-MMX.

    I said a while ago that I would buy Grand Theft Auto. The chances of this happening are now much smaller. The main reasons for this are that a) It costs too much (34.99), and b) It hadn't been released when I first went down to the shop with the intention of buying it. After that, my longing for it tailed off dramatically. There is an important lesson for publishers here!


    Thursday 4th December 1997...
    It's almost here... My P200-MMX will be here the day after. Now all I've got to do is get a 3D card. But that could take weeks.

    I've been playing this Pacman game called 'Greedy'. It is good, but the annoying control system can often cause unnecessary deaths. In fact, in my last game, I died THREE TIMES IN A ROW in the same place, just because it wouldn't let me go down a certain corridor. When I say three times in a row, I mean in the same place, within seconds of each other. And it's crippleware - it ends after just a few levels.

    LISTEN, THE MEATHEADS WHO DESIGNED THIS! If you had spent just a few extra days sorting out the control technique, and allowed all the levels to be played without having to register, you would have created one of the best games the PC has ever seen. As it is, the control problems totally cancel out the coolness of the new innovations. Also, people aren't going to register something that only takes five minutes to complete - that's not enough to evaluate the game properly. If you had given away all the levels, people would have had a lot more respect for you and would have been more willing to register. You'll probably still get quite a few registrations anyway, but only from people who haven't played a proper Pacman clone before...

    If you read this, MAKE THESE CHANGES! I assure you it will be worth it.

    Note from later in the day - I just just finally zipped up the once-great shareware masterpiece, 'EITtris'. Nine months ago, having got totally fed up with Red Alert, and with the eagerly awaited LBA2, X-COM Apocalypse and Riverworld being delayed on a monthly basis, EITtris was just about the only game I played. When version 1.22 was released, I thought we would soon be hearing the sounds of wedding bells. Alas, it was not to be. v1.22 changed one of the sound effects to one that I didn't like as much, it toughened up the stupid computer players so that they were capable of easily thrashing the player. And the music didn't loop - it just played once, then stopped.

    "Wait a minute," you say. "Why is it so bad that it improved the AI?". Well, maybe. But I always got a huge buzz out of thrashing an enemy who was rated 'Completely Unfair'...

    The only amazing addition to 1.22 was the creation of a Web-based global high score table. Excellent! So I played the game a lot, and eventually I had a totally stunning game where I got an incredible score. My God! I thought. How did I do that? This has to be the best score possible! I'll be number one in the world! Etc...
    So I went and posted my high score, and guess what? It turned out to only be the seventh best score in the world. To say I was gutted was an understatement. That incredible moment of glory had been taken away, and it was gone for ever.

    "But," you say, "surely at the end of the day, you should accept that you were beaten?". But I don't accept that! You see, as it turns out, there are three ways to get a ridiculously high score on EITtris:
    1) Get loads of 'slow-down' power ups, which prolong your life. The chances of getting a decent number of these in any one game are incredibly small.
    2) Get a 386. They allow you to play the game in slow motion, which naturally takes all the skill out of it. This happens to a much lesser extent on slow 486s.
    3) Hack it.
    If you go there now, you will find that the top places have all been occupied by hackers. The top score that I saw was around 15 million. Whereas my so-called 'incredible' score was around 200,000-400,000 (I can't remember, it was so long ago). The second the 386 owners entered the chart, my enjoyment of the game - the game which I had considered to be possibly the best shareware game ever written - was just totally destroyed. Never again did I have fun when playing it. Something incredible was gone.

    The moral of this story is: Don't hack or 386 these kinds of games. It's just really low.

    Anyway, as I was saying about half an hour ago, I've now played my last game on it. EITtris has quickly dropped out of favour with me, leaving the ingenious Biprolex+ as the only shareware game remaining in my top ten. And it's only a matter of time before that goes as well...


    Monday 1st December 1997...
    Why are we waiiiiting.....

    I played X-COM Apocalypse in an attempt to pass the time, but this yielded no pleasure.

    Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II, Quake II.
    It had better be bloody good or the disappointment will scar me for life...


    Sunday 30th November 1997...
    My word.

    I have finished what was almost certainly my last ever game of Civilisation II. And I couldn't have done it in more triumphant style - I got a rating of 123%, compared to my previous best of 87%. Here are the stats:

    Well, okay, so my new record score was achieved on Prince difficulty (which is two levels lower than the incredibly hard Emperor difficulty). But that's not the point. The point is that I realised how to get a stupidly high score. Here's how I did it:

    As with most games on Prince difficulty, I managed to get a significant technological advantage over my opponents. This lead to me eventually conquering all the empires except one tiny little one.
    Now, I could have just gone on to conquer this last one - but the game would then have been finished. And the bonus for conquering the world would have been very small. So instead, I decided to let him live. This left me with about a hundred extra years in which to make my population go through the roof. This was also plenty of time for building a huge spaceship (the bigger your spaceship, the higher your final score). So I gradually increased the luxury rate over the years (as the population increased), and in 1992 I launched the biggest possible spaceship. Eleven years later, it arrived at Alpha Centurai, giving me a very nice 400 points. Oh, and the Peace bonus was very useful as well (100 bonus points because there had been 100 years of peace). So that's how you do it. Of course, this feat would be pretty much impossible to achieve on higher difficulties unless you're the programmer...

    This leaves me sitting around with nothing to do for the next week, other than waiting for Quake II to be released...


    Saturday 29th November 1997...
    I got PC Gamer today, and there was a review of this thing called 'Quake II'. More on that later.

    There was also a demo of Total Annihiliation. Not before time. It's okay for Westwood to hold their demos back for months after the game is released - they've got a proven track record. But I really think that we should have seen demos of TA and Dark Reign many months ago. Right now there are tons of great games being released all the time, so the demos of these two games were going to have to be damned perfect. So was TA perfect? No way.
    On the first mission, the task was to select some units, and send them to the top of the map, killing some enemies on the way. Not exactly a stunning start.
    On the second mission, I had to build a base. This sounded a lot more promising. I told my commander to build some solar power things and some metal digging things (I can't remember exactly what they were called). Then I had to build a thing which would manufacture robots. But on the sidebar, there were six building icons, and four of them were greyed out. So where was this robot factory thing? I spent about half an hour just making my commander walk around, destroying trees, and after all that time I still had no idea how to build this factory.
    As you can imagine, I was getting incredibly annoyed by this time. I looked at the tutorial. It just said that I should build a robot factory. It didn't say how.
    Listen up, the fools who wrote this tutorial. A tutorial is not a tutorial if it just tells you what to do - it also has to tell you how to do it. Otherwise, how are you going to know?
    Anyway, I then discovered that my Commander had a great big thing called a 'Distruptor Gun'. Using this weapon, I went and took on the enemy base, and won. With one unit. (Although it wasn't easy).
    On the third mission, there were a lot more enemies, and just as before I wasn't able to build any factories. One extra building icon was available, but that was just for a Wind Power Generator. As before, I just sat there for ages wondering what to do. Eventally the enemy managed to destroy the units which I was supposed to protect, so the game was over. So, all in all, a very dull, annoying, tedious experience...

    A few hours later I came back to it. I did the first mission. I got to the second mission. Once again I walked around wondering what to do. While I was doing this, I inadvertantly clicked on a certain area of the screen - which was just below the building icons. And lo and behold, a new set of icons appeared, including the robot factory.
    AIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEE...
    It turns out that there were two grey arrows underneath the building icons. They were so grey and inconspicuous that I had never, at any point in the last three hours, even vaguely noticed their existence...
    So I continued playing the game, and it was a lot more fun than it had been previously. But the damage had been done. I finished the demo, but none of it had been massively mind-blowing. The following excuse was given in PC Gamer:
    ... believe us when we say you're not even scratching the surface yet. The demo contains about 20 of the 150 units in action and no nukes, plasma weapons or any of the brilliant air and water units. Oh well.
    So why didn't they include all this better stuff in the demo? I seem to recall that the demo of the original C&C contained a mission from the middle of the game - to demonstrate all the cool units that were available. That was good. This (TA) is not. Of course, the people behind it will probably not give a &*$#, because it has already sold in large numbers. But it is this kind of attention to detail which separates very good games from mind-blowing ones.

    There was also a demo of Dark Reign, but I couldn't be arsed to play it. I installed Screamer Rally, but it insisted on running in 16 bit colour. This was a problem, because my video card has this problem with some games where the frame rate drops to 2fps (no exaggeration) in 16 bit colour. I think this is probably because I only have 1 meg of video RAM. That said, GTA runs fine in 24bit colour... Soon I will have an Apocalypse 5D, so this should be able to manage better.

    Okay, back to Quake II. Despite the review ('The best game ever'), I still have doubts. Of course, this is the case with many eagerly awaited games. Here is a full comprehensive doubt list:

    Hmmm. Okay, I think that's all. But the two points above are extremely important. The great thing is that in less than a week, I will know the truth - for Quake II is set to be released on the 5th of December!
    (If it is delayed, I will grab a railgun and shoot people with it. Not that all these games I play all the time have turned me into a brainless killing machine or anything...)

    And finally, I will ALMOST CERTAINLY have my P200-MMX in exactly one week (i.e. one day after I buy Quake II)...


    Wednesday 26th November 1997...
    I was a bit annoyed by the way the tracks were called 'Track 2, Track 3, Track 4', etc, when I played the Quake CD, so I made up my own track names. See if you agree with my judgement:

    Now get out your own Quake CD and set the track titles accordingly. Pretty accurate, neumm?


    Tuesday 25th November 1997...
    Just a week after zipping it up, I unzipped Civilisation 2 and started playing it again. I had to physically rip myself away from the game so that I could write this.


    Saturday 22nd November 1997
    I've been playing the Grand Theft Auto demo for most of the day, so here's my analysis:

    Reasons to buy Grand Theft Auto:

    Reasons not to buy Grand Theft Auto:

    So, the vital question: Am I going to buy it? And the answer is: Yes. I don't know when, though - if I see it in the shops for 29.99, I'll buy it, but if it's any more, it could be a lot longer before I get it. (Monkey Island 3 is currently a ridiculous 34.99 in the shops, so I'm going to get it through Special Reserve).

    There is a tiny chance that I will have my P200MMX soon...


    A few hours later...

    I've just played the demo of Broken Sword II, and very nice it was as well. I didn't really know what to expect because I had never played Broken Sword I, but pleasingly, the demo contained various humourous elements reminiscent of those times in Monkey Island 2 when Guybrush would innocently steal a vital piece of equipment (or the time when he framed one of his 'friends').


    Friday 21st November 1997
    I got the latest issue of PC Zone. I bought it because it had a demo of Grand Theft Auto, and also, it said it had news on X-COM 4. I'll deal with the latter first:

    X-COM: Interceptor is - cardiac arrest - not a strategy game. It's an Elite-style space shoot 'em up... As yet there are no indications as to whether it will be any good or not. The only thing that is clear is that we will have to wait for X-COM 5 before we can get back to proper, man-to-anthropod, battles.

    Then there's the demo of Grand Theft Auto. I don't want to spend all day sitting here writing this, so I'll just give you the basics. It's great fun to play, but can be very annoying at times. Particularly when you're standing next to a car you want to steal, and you keep pressing 'Return', but it doesn't actually let you get in for ages. Also, getting lost is very easy. And the game itself is quite difficult. Nicking stupidly fast cars is fun, though. And running people over is brilliant...

    I also played the demo of 'Age of Empires'. I was quite nervous when I loaded it because I thought there would be a chance that I would love it and have to go and buy it. But as it turns out I was disappointed. The game is basically a cross between Civ 2, Settlers 2, Warcraft and Red Alert - but it isn't as good as any of them. Not even Warcraft. It's just dull and tedious.


    Monday 17th November 1997
    I saw something unusual in WH Smiths today - the US edition of PC Gamer. And from reading just a few pages I can confirm what some of the Australian readers of PC Gamer UK said - the US version is a pile of $%*!
    I base this judgement on their review of X-COM: Apocalypse - so far the best game of the year in my opinion (although Quake II is likely to steal the glory). They gave it 86%, and said that the turn based option was good. As anyone who has played the game properly will know, the new real-time option is a stunning gameplay advance which all developers could (and should) learn from. Whereas the turn-based option is dull, monotonous shit. And that's from someone who really liked the previous two X-COM games (which were turn-based only).

    Further evidence that PC Gamer USA can't be trusted can be found in their 1997 Top 50. According to this, the best game of all time is Doom. Which, and I hate to be so Daily Mail-ish, is wrong. Doom is not the best game of all time. Maybe it was in 1994, but not now. Quake was around seventh in this chart. Even though it is better than Doom. And that includes the single player game. "Wait!" I hear you cry. "What makes you say Quake is a better single player game than Doom? Remember how you had the opportunity to have masses of monsters on-screen at a time?". To which I reply: "Yes. I remember. I also remember running around in Doom for hours, trying to find the last key, or just getting totally lost. That never happens in Quake. And the multiplayer game is incredible. And it's really great the way you can look in any direction. So that's why Quake is better than Doom."
    In second place in their chart was Heroes of Might and Magic 2. Hmmm. Why do the Americans like this so much? Don't get me wrong - it's a really great game - when I got the demo I played it solidly for a week. But no way is it the second best game of all time. It's brilliant while it lasts, and has great presentation - but at the end of the day it can't hold a candle to Civilisation 2.
    Monkey Island 2 was miles down the chart. Why?

    I know that PC Gamer US is, of course, written for the US audience. And different countries often have different preferences in terms of what games they like to play. For example, the Japanese like to play lots of RPGs. But what is it with the Americans? Why slag off such an incredible game as X-COM: Apocalypse? I know many developers would be pleased to get a rating of 86%. But X-COM is up there with the best games ever made, and should have got at least 90%.
    Why say that Doom is better than Quake? The only explanation is that it could be misguided nostalgia. Seriously, guys, which game do you play deathmatch in your lunch breaks? Doom or Quake? If you seriously prefer Doom, you need help. It was incredible at the time, but now it's been superseded. Get with the 20th century, dudes.
    Maybe if any Americans read this they could e-mail me and try and explain what is going through these peoples' heads...


    Sunday 9th November 1997
    Yesterday I downloaded MAME (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator), along with three games - Joust, Robotron, and Galaga.
    Two of these are pretty crap, and one of them is totally stunning... Jeff Minter always went on about how great the original Robotron was, but I had assumed there was not much point in playing it as Llamatron was probably just as good... But to my horror, it turned out that the action in the original is about three times as fast as Llamatron! On each level the screen is packed so full of baddies that there is barely any black space... And of course, the dual controls are retained (in Llamatron, I once tried to use two joysticks, but it was just too cumbersome).
    So how does Robotron 2084 compare to its 90s update, Robotron X? Let's look at all the points:

    Well, there you go. In my opinion Robotron X would rule the world if it actually allowed you to see the whole play area. And if it didn't take so long to load. (Mind you, that might just be the demo, I haven't got the full game)


    Wednesday 5th November 1997
    I got PC Gamer today, and Edge yesterday. The big disappointment is with Joint Strike Fighter, which got poor reviews. Nevertheless, I installed the demo to see what the graphics were like. The demo took up a criminal 80Mb, and when I finally managed to clear enough disk space to get it to run, it turned out that the graphics actually looked rather crap. Admittedly I was running it in 320x200, but it didn't seem to be drawing that far into the distance. And although in places there was lots of stuff on the ground, it wasn't particularly impressive looking stuff.
    Tomb Raider 2 just crashes when I try to run it. PC Gamer say that the clock has to be set back by 1 year when running this demo (no, I don't know why), but it doesn't work even if I do that. (If I don't do it, it doesn't even crash, it just does nothing).
    At least Hexen 2 and Jedi Knight work. I was very surprised when I played Hexen 2 when I saw that it had transparent water without 3D acceleration. What's more, it didn't even have any effect on frame rate. Although, if I could choose between high speed bilinear filtering or high speed transparency...
    VERY BAD NEWS - Half Life has been delayed for four months. Aiieeeee....

    Late night update: I played the 'revolutionary' Artificial Life game 'Galapagos'. The idea is to guide this spider thing called 'Mendel' through a weird 3D world. The twist is that you don't control him directly - he is an independent being with his own thoughts. You have to influence his movements by manipulating the environment - like switching lights on or off, or redirecting moving platforms.
    Galapagos has been eagerly awaited by many gamers who were intrigued by its AL concepts. Admittedly, the first AL game, Creatures, didn't take the world by storm... So is Galapagos any better?
    Frankly, no. It's crap.
    I knew that I wouldn't be too impressed by the demo, having read the review in PC Gamer a month ago, which gave it a percentage somewhere in the 20s. But of course, as with JSF, I wanted to just take a quick look to see what it was like. So I installed the demo. Unlike JSF, it didn't take up a stupid amount of space. Soon I was in the game itself.
    There was an intro (which seemed to be unskippable) with some woman talking about Mendel and the world of Galapagos, but I didn't listen to this because I was watching TV. Eventually, the intro ended and the game started for real. Mendel was on this lit platform and just kept walking from end to end, continuously. As he did this, the camera zoomed around constantly. The graphics were reasonably impressive, and the frame rate, although low, wasn't unbearably low.
    Since Mendel was just walking around over the same path, I decided to get him to go somewhere else. I did this by clicking on the platform on which he was standing. This switched off the light that illuminated it. Mendel did not like being plunged into darkness, so he stepped off the side of the ledge and landed on a slightly lighter platform.
    Then I spent a while trying to find somewhere else for him to go. Eventually I got him to go down this tunnel. And this is where the bad stuff starts to happen.
    Mendel is walking down this curving tunnel, and the camera is behind him. What this means is that you can't actually see where he's going. This is the first evidence of one of the major flaws in the game: The camera angles are completely useless. They rarely show you where Mendel is going, preferring to do some fancy cinematic sweeps and zooms.
    When we enter the next room, we find the second, much worse, flaw.
    The room consists of a massive drop, but in the middle there are loads of moving platforms. These are similar to the logs that you get at the top of the screen on the ancient game Frogger.
    Now, Frogger is annoying enough in those situations where you narrowly miss a log, but imagine how bad it would be if you didn't actually have any control over the frog... Yes, this part of Galapagos is like that.
    You have a tiny amount of control in that you can reverse the direction of each moving platform by clicking on it. The platforms constantly bounce from one side of the room to the other, and they are generally 'out of sync'. This means that you have to change their direction in order to get them moving adjacent to each other. This is awkward enough, but when the camera view keeps moving, it is a tad infuriating.
    Nevertheless, I persevered, and Mendel was soon at the other end of the room. I had not been helped by the fact that sometimes he chose to go back the way he had come, destroying all my hard work. Anyway, he was now at the other end of the room, and there was this final moving platform I had to get him on. This one moved vertically as well as horizontally, so it was a lot more difficult to get Mendel to step onto it. In fact it was so difficult that he didn't succeed - instead he fell to his death and the game started again from the beginning...
    When will these developers learn? It's not enough to make a great engine (JSF) or have ground breaking AL technology (Creatures/Galapagos) - the actual game has to be good as well. Creatures was originally marketed as a game, but is now seen as a kind of interactive multimedia edutainment experience thing. Unfortunately I haven't played it yet, but it's bound to be better than Galapagos. At the end of the day, though, AL has a very long way to go before it will become widespread in games.

    Anyway, that's all for now. I only just remembered that I've got an exam tomorrow - it's 1:00am, and the exam is at 11:00am or something. So I suppose I should do a bit of revision before I go to sleep... See you another time.


    Sunday 2nd November 1997
    All the PC and Playstation magazines have Tomb Raider 2 on their covers this month, but I'm not particularly interested. Unlike most people I wasn't totally in awe of Tomb Raider when it came out. It was okay, but not the kind of game I'd want to buy. That said, the demo of Tomb Raider 2 will probably be a bit of fun for a few hours.
    What's really intriguing is that so many (probably) superb games are set to be released in the next two months: Monkey Island 3, Half Life, Quake 2, Tomb Raider 2; these will be followed in early '98 by Duke Nukem Forever, Sentinel Returns and C&C - Tiberian Sun.
    I'm really looking forward to the rare sight of seeing about five games I really want to buy all next to each other in the shops. This excitement is increased because most of them will be part of the first wave of hit games which were made with 3D cards in mind. Unfortunately I haven't actually got a 3D card yet - I'm waiting for the Apocalypse 5D to be released. As for the rest of the computer, I should have a P200MMX within two weeks. We are living in interesting times...


    Friday 19th October 1997
    Oh yes!
    Yesterday, for the first time, I saw and played the demo of 'Parappa the Rapper' on the Playstation. And basically, it is the most original game I have seen since, well, ever, full stop. I won't try explaining it to you, as that would be a little difficult. But I'll tell you about some of the things in it. The graphics are totally stunning. Not in a Quake II or Scud Race kind of way. Again, I won't try explaining them... One of the excellent things about this demo is that your teacher is someone called 'Chop Chop Master Onion'. And the reason he is called this is, get this: He's got the head of an onion! Which is totally excellent! And the music is of the variety which goes into your head and won't leave for several weeks. Presentation wise, this seems like the best game ever made.
    But the crucial question - what's the gameplay like? Well, it won't keep you going for as long as Mario 64 - in fact it probably won't keep you going for very long at all. But who cares? The whole package as a whole is just so much fun you'll still be loading it years from now. Probably.
    Essentially, Parappa the Rapper is the only game I have seen on the Playstation which makes me think it would be worth buying one. I'm still not going to, though...

    I'm intending to get a P200-MMX this week. Once I've got that, I'll then get a 3D card. I can barely contain myself...


    Monday 13th October 1997
    (Non-programmers should avert their eyes or risk being baffled...)
    I just downloaded MikAlleg 2.2, which should have allowed me to play tracker modules in my Allegro programs (such as DEATH). But when I unzipped it and read the documentation, it said that the module player and the standard Allegro samples could not be used in the same program! Okay, so I'm not entirely sure - I might have misunderstood, but I'm not going to risk it, because it takes ages to install, and then I might have to re-install the old version, which would take just as long. So for now I will have to do without tracker music. Maybe I can just use low-quality WAV files...
    I added the 'low frame rate' feature to DEATH, reducing the minimum system to approx a P75 instead of a P133...


    Saturday 11th October 1997
    Yesterday, I got PC Gamer. On Saturday (today), I installed this shareware space strategy game called 'Delta Hydra'. My first impression was that it looked quite interesting, so I played it all evening, and sure enough, it was reasonably good. On my third game, in which I had generally worked out how I was supposed to do stuff, I managed to avert this major disaster which had prematurely ended my other games. When I reached the 200th turn, however, I was warned of another major disaster. "Fair enough", I thought. "I'll sort out this one as well". But then, up came the message 'Congratulations - You have completed the shareware version of Delta Hydra!". It also said that to keep on playing past that point, I would have to order the full version... Well, I was very pissed off with this, but I clicked on the 'Order Now!' button to see how much it cost... And guess what... It had loads of options to click on which gave you a different address to apply to depending which country you were in. And the UK wasn't there! The former Czechoslovakia was an option, but there was no option to pay in pounds... So I decided not to bother. Let be this be a lesson to all shareware programmers: Crippleware sucks! At the very least you should avoid suddenly stopping someone's game because they haven't registered. Instead, have Doom/Quake style 'episodes', and only give them the first one unless they register. Or something similar to this. For my own game, DEATH, I intend to make all the levels fully available in the unregistered version. When you register, you'll be able to post your highscores on ARGnet, allowing you to compete with gamers all over the world. (It is possible that this will change before DEATH's release)

    I'm now going to install this other strategy game called 'Life on Mars' to see what that's like. I'll report back when I've played it.

    Okay, I've now installed it, played it and deleted it... I couldn't work out what I was supposed to do, or how I was supposed to do it, or what was going on... It's clearly a more lighthearted game than Delta Hydra - the story says that the commander who was going to oversee the mission had a fatal fit of laughing, which meant that YOU, his deputy, would have to take command. It didn't have as much online help as Delta Hydra. Well, when I say that, I mean that it didn't have ANY online help (loading the useless Help file while playing doesn't count), while Delta Hydra had a bit. I soon quit and deleted it, after I was just sitting there and it said I had insufficient people to do anything (it didn't say how I should get more people)...

    I'll now take a look at what else is on the CD.

    Half an hour later:
    Well, I installed this horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up called 'Nebula Fighter'. It's a lot better than all the other games of this type I've played on the PC - but then, all the other games of this type have been pure shite... This game still retains the main flaw that all the others have - it's ridiculously easy, and while a lot of attention has been payed to having nice graphics and impressive weapons, in terms of gameplay there is hardly anything. Haven't any of these people ever played R-Type? I completed all the levels that were in the shareware version in my first go - when I finished the game I still had about ten lives (I started with about three). Anyway, I can't stay here all night complaining about this game (which I have now deleted). Before going to bed I'm going to take a look at the source code of DEATH, so I can see whether or not I can add an option for a lower frame rate so that it will run on slower computers.

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