Using Steam on Fedora 18 64-bit

Since it was announced nine months ago I’m now running Steam on Linux and playing Counter-Strike: Source. and Team Fortress 2. Both work very nicely, the only thing I’m still missing is that the Linux port can’t use my 5.1 speaker set. On the other hand Serious Sam 3 gives me a disastrous frame rate and crashes, but that will hopefully be fixed. Getting Steam up and running was no easy feat. At the moment it is still in beta and they only support Ubuntu. You have to pull some tricks to get it working on Fedora. Because it isn’t easy to figure out how to do it, I’ll share some advice.

Steam has been packaged for Fedora too (albeit not by Valve) so the most convenient way is to add the repository for it as instructed here. Because these instructions for Fedora 17 are slightly outdated I stopped following them after the yum install steam command. The more recent Steam package from the repository pulled in all of the dependencies needed to get Steam itself running. But while Steam itself might run, the games did not run for me without some more effort.

Some more dependencies are needed. The problem is that Steam is 32-bit, so if you’re on the 64-bit version of Fedora you need to download a lot of 32-bit packages of which the 64-bit equivalent is already present on your system. The first step is to install the 32-bit version of your display driver libraries, which I did with yum install xorg-x11-drv-catalyst-libs.i686 (the i686 suffix tells yum to get the 32-bit version). That’s for people who have AMD video cards, those with NVIDIA video cards should use the yum install xorg-x11-drv-nvidia-libs.i686 command.

After doing this my games would start, but I didn’t have sound. To get that fixed I simply installed the 32-bit versions of all packages which I thought to be audio-related. From this topic I came up with the command yum install pulseaudio-libs-glib2.i686 libao.i686 esound-libs.i686 alsa-oss-libs.i686 alsa-plugins-oss.i686 alsa-plugins-pulseaudio.i686 audiofile.i686 which fixed the problem for me. But before entering this command I had downloaded some other packages I don’t remember anymore. Not sure what’s exactly needed, for me it was a matter of a few Google search queries and trial and error.

Hopefully someone else can clear this up or the package could be made to pull in all the necessary dependencies. Preferably Valve will support Fedora 18 officially soon and make a 64-bit version. Valve is totally awesome for porting Steam to Linux. Maybe I can even remove my Windows 7 partition completely in the near future, since the games are the only reason Windows 7 is still on my hard disk drive.

News summary, May 2012

This is a summary of various news which caught my attention during the last month.

Games

  • Valve’s Steam, Left 4 Dead 2 and probably some of their other games will be ported to Linux. This is great news, I love you Valve!
  • CD Projekt RED released a free upgrade to the Enhanced Edition of The Witcher 2 which provides 10 GB (!) of new content. Other developers such as Electronic Arts are run by people who care most about making money, but this developer is run by true artists who want to deliver a great game besides making money.
  • The long-awaited Black Mesa: Source mod is still alive. I was disappointed in the lack of news but recently they have started communicating again. According to an interview (part one and two) the reason for the delay is that they have very high standards for their work and weren’t satisfied with the game yet. I’m looking so much forward to the final product.
  • Another free game made by volunteers is Wing Commander Saga. It has been released recently and looks quite impressive, I haven’t tried it yet.

Hardware

Dell is working on Project Sputnik which aims to produce a laptop for developers. It’s based on Dell’s XPS 13 ultrabook and Ubuntu 12.04. This is great news, because the two companies that I know of which ship notebooks with Linux – System76 and ZaReason – don’t offer ultrabooks. The smallest they have to offer are 14 inch models weighing two kilos. Also, I appreciate the design of the XPS 13 more, the only disadvantages are the glossy screen and the lack of an Ethernet port.

As I wrote on this weblog earlier, under Linux my Acer TravelMate Timeline 8371 initially didn’t have suspend working. It still consumes more power and its fan turns noisy much more frequently than if Windows were used. It would be great if Dell’s laptop would have everything working out of the box. However, I have one important requirement: it should work just as well with other Linux distributions as it does with Ubuntu. That means there should be no special software or drivers tailored to make everything work with the Ubuntu version shipped with the laptop. If they can realize that, count me in.

Software

We have a choice of two open source Linux-based operating systems for smartphones, Android and more recently Tizen (which has not been shipped with any smartphone yet). Fortunately Mozilla has introduced a new contender: Boot to Gecko (B2G). While Android is open source in name, I feel that Google exercises too much control over Android and has become too powerful. I don’t trust them with the personal data they gather from me.

Mozilla on the contrary is a party which I do trust. B2G has more credit for openness and has a great vision behind it which distinguishes it from the competition. Additionally, B2G is far less demanding on the hardware, so it could run on much cheaper smartphones. I can’t wait to get my hands on a smartphone which uses B2G.

Additionally, if you buy an Android phone you contribute to Microsoft’s profit because they are extorting manufacturers of Android smartphones with patent threats. I don’t want to pay for a smartphone if even one cent of the manufacturers income is spent on royalty payments to that immoral company. Motorola, which has been acquired by Google recently, is fighting back. In May Microsoft won a legal case against Motorola because Motorola infringed on one of Microsoft’s patents on generating meeting requests from a mobile phone. Read the parent’s description to see how ridiculous and trivial this patent is. Once again I’m glad we don’t have software patents in the EU.

Politics

  • The Netherlands is the second country in the world to adopt net neutrality. I consider this very important for freedom on the Internet and I praise our politicians who decided to impose it.
  • As I wrote in my second to last post, I was worried that the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy isn’t protective enough of freedom and privacy, especially on the net. Thankfully I’ve been proven wrong now that they voted in favor (article in Dutch) of canning ACTA.

What I don’t like about Shogun 2: Total War

Compared to Empire: Total War it’s now more difficult to get a substantial growth rate for towns. I struggle with the financial situation when I play the more difficult clans and can only sporadically recruit samurai for my armies. But some other AI clans who should have comparable financial difficulties based on their territorial possessions can sometimes afford to field all-samurai armies (fortunately they were all yari samurai who died like flies when they assaulted my stronghold, but the AI is still a cheat)! The AI is eager to assault my castle towns at the first turn of a siege, but they horribly overestimate their chances of success, possibly because the auto resolve option for battles favors the attackers in such a situation. But if I choose to defend myself, I can easily inflict a crushing defeat on the attacking party even if they seriously outnumber me.

The game still has the telepathic ranged units, like in Rome: Total War and Medieval 2: Total War; archers outside the walls can fire at enemies within the walls who they can’t even see. And this time they can also inflict heavy casualties at archers defending the walls, which is incredulous given the very good defensive position on the walls. What changed for the better is that defenders who are climbing the walls can now expect to get riddled by arrows while they do so. In the previous games archers on walls would fire at approaching besiegers, but once they had ladders up the wall they would be out of harm’s way for a moment until they reached the top of the wall.

Even worse is that my bow ashigaru standing on a notable hill don’t have a greater range than the enemy bow ashigaru not standing on a hill. I still remember playing Medieval 2: Total War as the French and placing my Scot’s Guard (or any other faction or any other units which have ‘long range missiles’) on the slope of a very high mountain. That was possible if you attack or get attacked by an enemy force near mountains. In extreme cases if you were placed on a much higher elevation and the enemy at a much lower elevation, your ranged units had a very extreme range of maybe one-third of the battlefield. While the enemies would tire themselves with moving uphill they would meet a hail of arrows or crossbow bolts and they would be dead before they could even get close.

Like in previous Total War games (with the exception of Empire, where it didn’t bother me) units are still marked with the very bright color of their faction to identify them, which makes them look silly and unrealistic. It’s not necessary at all to identify which units are yours and which are enemy, Europa Barbarorum and other mods don’t do it and there it never caused problems. Again a mod is needed to fix it I guess. While researching technologies in Empire made sense because that game is situated in the 18th century, the ‘Mastery of the Arts’ stuff which is essentially the same in Shogun 2 does not because the Sengoku period did not have such technological and intellectual advances. The peasant foot soldiers, the ashigaru, are cannon fodder for the samurai in this game, even though Wikipedia tells us that they could vary from having no armor to very heavy armor. The developers must have some kind of obsession for snow, when the winter season arrives the whole of Japan looks like Siberia. But in reality snow cover only lasts in northern Japan and higher altitudes. In Tokyo ‘snowfall is sporadic, but does occur almost annually’: with the average high and low in January being respectively 9,9 °C and 2,5 °C it should melt quickly. Glad I paid no more than € 15 for this game.

Videogames I’ve played in 2011

I haven’t written about videogames for a long time, so in this post I’d like to give a summary of the videogames I’ve played over the past year or so and my thoughts on them. In general I don’t play much different videogames, even though I buy interesting games on Steam a few times a year if they can be bought very cheaply when there is a discount. For example, I bought Civilization IV, Bioshock, Dead Space and Fallout 3 many months and even years ago when they were heavily discounted, but I haven’t even played them once so far. Because other games such as Counter-Strike: Source and Left 4 Dead 2 still keep me occupied, even after playing these games for years. I guess this is a testament to how great these games are, I simply do not need any other games to have fun, but the discounts are effective to seduce me because the discounts are temporary. Who wants to risk paying more later for a game you think is interesting?

I finished playing all three games of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. Maybe the best way to describe it would be a combination of Oblivion (because of the openness of the game) and first-person shooters. But what sets it apart from the competition most is the creepy atmosphere set in the East Bloc. It’s one the few games which made me feel fear, with all the mutants lurking in the dark buildings and in the open field at night. What is also notable is that it was made by a Ukrainian developer, GSC Gameworld. Unfortunately this developer has closed its doors due to financial problems, which is a great loss for the gaming industry. On Rock, Paper, Shotgun they have already described very well what makes this game series good. If you decide to play these games, take a look at the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Complete mod or all of the three titles in the series. This mod fine tunes so many aspects of the games that it takes them to the next level.

The Witcher 2 is in my opinion the best game of 2011. This is game is ‘ploughing’ awesome, as anyone who has played it will understand. The Witcher 1 had an interesting plot, but the action was utterly boring with it’s constant chaining of combos with a mouse click. And if a group of enemies attacked you would just use group style to kill everything surrounding you. The sequel solves this by introducing a far better combat system which requires skill to execute combos. It’s not obvious at all in the game, but I mean that you can attack more efficiently if time the strikes right. And unlike the first game, groups of enemies are now very dangerous. I thought that that the first group of enemies in the game that you fight without help were easy, but I got my ass kicked badly. Even later in the game mobs of enemies frequently killed me, the mobs of Nekkers and Drowners around Flotsam for example.

This brings me to the difficulty level. The Witcher 2 does it the other way around, as you progress the game gets easier because you become more powerful. Some people don’t like this because they expect the beginning of a game to be easy and the end to be difficult. There is something to be said for that, the Quen sign you can use later in the game for example can damage enemies as they attack you and you can keep it up more or less continuously, which is a bit cheap. But it’s great that becoming powerful makes you feel really powerful for change. Oblivion would be the total opposite of The Witcher 2. Even if your level is super high in that game, monsters and town guards adapt their level as well and can wipe the floor with the all-powerful player. In a sense that makes it effectively pointless to become more powerful. It came as no surprise then that some mods (Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul being the best example probably) for Oblivion returned to fixed levels.

The boss fights in The Witcher 2 deserve a special mention. Like some of the monster mobs the Kayran and to a lesser degree Letho iced me many times before I managed to defeat them. It almost got too frustrating after trying more than ten times to kill the Kayran, but you know what? It was justified, harsh but fair. After some practice I could kill the Kayran and come out of the fight unscathed, as is demonstrated on some YouTube videos.  It’s good to have a game with a challenge since most games nowadays are way too easy. The Witcher 2 is still nothing like Nintendo Hard, which I think is unreasonably hard (I like a challenge but I play games for fun after all). I played the game on normal difficulty, anyone who goes for easy because they can’t win lacks a healthy dose of perseverance, or to say it less diplomatically: is a coward. Plough you!

What is also notable is the massive upgrade of the graphics compared to its predecessor. Flotsam is beautiful, if wasn’t surrounded by Scoia’tael and monsters I’d sign up for a holiday there, maybe a river cruise? And the scene in the Elven Baths will certainly be remembered in the history of gaming! That scene contributes quite a bit to the mature character of this game. While The Witcher 1 wasn’t very child-friendly either, its successor has an even greater dose of maturity with plenty of blood and sex. It is interesting to note that both The Witcher games are rated 18 but that Battlefield 2 was rated 16. Yet that game doesn’t even display blood if anyone dies. So a game rated for 16 is very tame (I can’t see why it wouldn’t be suitable for the age of 12), but in a gap of just two years you can get the full dose of maturity. Go figure.

To finish this and prevent me from rambling on about how great The Witcher 2 is this whole post, let me conclude that there are a few more things which make it great besides the combat system, the difficulty, the graphics and the mature content. The plot and writing is good, even though the last chapter is not as good as the first and the second. The game has attention for detail, for example the drunkard singing a song near the fireplace outside Loredo’s mansion in Flotsam. Choices matter, different choices made can warrant another playthrough because the paths of Iorveth and Roche are so different.

Then let’s finish with discussing mods. I’m following the development of XreaL closely, which aims to revive Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory with a more advanced game engine licensed under the GPL and free content licensed under the Creative Commons. I think Broken Crescent is a great mod for Medieval 2: Total War, but it’s not cool that the AI cheats. The game generates huge AI reinforcements out of thin air to compensate for the AI’s stupidity, which certainly makes for interesting battles but also makes the game too difficult. I’m looking forward to the release of Black Mesa most, I’m convinced that mod will be an awesome remake of the original Half-Life but it’s a pity that it takes forever to release and that they don’t give much news updates. Europa Barbarorum 2 shares the first place, just like Black Mesa it’s a mod with a gargantuan effort and an extremely dedicated team behind it.

Unfortunately some of the latest titles such as Battlefield 3 don’t have modding support. EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) has roots in the modding community since it hired some of the developers of the Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942, so it’s ironic they can’t manage to make modding tools available. DICE says that they don’t support Battlefield 3 modding because it’s too difficult for modders, while at the same time keeping the option open that modding support might still come in the future. It’s the same issue with Total War: Shogun 2, the developers of The Creative Assembly say it’s too difficult to offer good modding tools due to the complexity of the game. Even if I believe them – and I tend to think they are honest and it’s not a conspiracy for selling downloadable content – it doesn’t change the fact that good mods are not (yet) possible for these games!

For me the fact that Battlefield 2 has mods like Project Reality, Point of Existence 2 and others greatly extended my interest in that game. And I even thought a mod like Europa Barbarorum was necessary to fix the flaws of Rome: Total War, the original game is nothing compared to that mod. This means that I’m not going to buy Battlefield 3 or Shogun 2 for the full price. Concerning the full price, it seems that EA takes their customers for fools. For a direct download over their Origin platform, they ask € 50 and an additional € 15 for the Back to Karkand extra content.But I can buy Battlefield 3 for € 32 in the store, and the Limited Edition which includes Back to Karkand for € 41. And then I get physical DVD’s and I don’t have to let my PC download the game overnight. Steam also charges more than retailers on some occasions, but EA easily trumps that. I’ll wait until Battlefield 3 is discounted before I consider buying it. When Shogun 2 was discounted on Steam for € 15 or so I decided that was cheap enough to buy it, I’ll give my opinion about it in the next page because this post is getting too long.

Why I won’t buy Starcraft II

My brother recently bought Starcraft II (SC2) and offered me a guest pass so I could play the game for seven hours. The seven hours passed this morning and I think it is indeed a brilliantly crafted real-time strategy game, and that it lives up to it’s universal acclaim. During the single player campaign I gave myself some practice in rushing and learning the keyboard shortcuts to give orders faster. I never expect to be able to match the superhuman professional South Koreans with their 300 actions per minute though). I’m good at playing first person shooters competitively but I don’t have any competitive experience in real-time strategy games, so I’d probably get my ass handed to me if I tried SC2’s multi player. Certainly that prospect would be enjoyable for my brother who has wild fantasies of defeating me in a SC2 match and is nagging me to buy Starcraft II so he can play against me.

What I appreciate about SC2 so much is it’s strategic depth. See it as a very complex form of rock-paper-scissors, with many different kinds of units being effective against another kind, but weak against others. That’s a far cry from certain older titles popular years ago such as Command & Conquer, where infantry was mostly useless because you could run them over with tanks and driving an adequate horde of tanks into the enemy base was highly likely to guarantee victory. When I carelessly applied a similar tactic in SC2, my force got mauled because it had no units which where effective against the battlecruiser flying above the enemy base.

I’m tempted to buy SC2, but there is a problem. Years ago I signed a petition asking Blizzard Entertainment, SC2’s developer, to release the game for Linux. At this moment, the petition has 1849 signatures, which I think is a lot if you factor in that many who desire a Linux port probably do not know of the existence of the petition. In the comment I gave when I signed the petition, I promised that I wouldn’t buy SC2 if there would be no Linux version. No matter how much I’d like to play SC2, I’m sticking to my principles because I don’t want to reward a company which doesn’t listen to what (a very small part, I know) of it’s customers want. I know it SC2 works very nicely on Wine, but that’s not good enough, I want a native port.

Fact is, Blizzard already supports Mac OS for (as far as I know) all it’s games. Mac OS is a Unix derivative, just like Linux is, and on the Mac OpenGL is used as the API, just as would be necessary for a Linux version. This means developing a Linux port would be relatively easy if they already support Mac OS. I don’t believe arguments that developing a Linux version for SC2 would be too costly, because for the Linux ports of id Software’s products only one person, Timothee Besset, has been responsible. And he worked on it in his spare time for the most part. Blizzard could decide to release an unofficial Linux version for which their customer support would not be accountable (just like id Software if I’m correct) if they could foresee it would be a problem, which would be fine. At the very least, Blizzard could have worked with the Wine developers or give instructions how to use Wine to run it on Linux, but they didn’t even bother with that. They don’t listen, they don’t get my coin.

Dragon Age: Origins and my attitude to playing style in video games

A few weeks ago a discount on Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening was offered on Steam, and I took this opportunity to buy this game. Being a cheapskate (or poor student), I had been waiting for a long time for a discount to come, I knew it was supposed to be a great game and desired to play it since it’s release at the end of last year. Based on the previous games of the developer of DA:O which I’ve played with great enjoyment (such as Mass Effect, but especially Baldur’s Gate I and II) I had great expectations. My expectations were met.

This game rocks. The story is great, it’s got epic battles, it’s got cool finishing moves such as decapitations, the finishing moves for large monsters are even more impressive. The game also provides buckets of blood, which is spattered nicely all over your player character and his or her allies after they minced a group of enemies in melee combat. It’s quite comical to see conversations right after a battle, with the player character and friends talking or observing the conversation like everything is fine while they’re covered in blood.

There are some downsides as well. I bought the Digital Deluxe Edition, which includes some downloadable content (DLC), extra’s for the game made available for a price. One of those things includes a castle which you can conquer and then use as a base. Another one is an extra party member. Both are a disappointment in my opinion. Cleaning out the castle was cool, but after that all you can do is go there to buy and store stuff, and you can only enter the courtyard of the castle and no longer the interior. I remember Baldur’s Gate II, where you could also get a castle as a base. In that game, the castle generated income through taxes, and your posession of the castle also led to further story development, including having to defend your castle from an invasion. It’s a pity awesome games like that aren’t made anymore. Concerning the extra party member, that was material originally intended to be included by default, but later cut and relegated to DLC.

They should not offer DLC, they should include it in the base game and charge a higher price for it if necessary. Certainly with DA:O I have the impression that the base game is left deliberately incomplete (admittedly very slightly incomplete) because they cut features and then offer them as DLC. Besides asking money for it, the way the DLC is implented is annoying. It requires creating an account and being logged in over the Internet to authorize the DLC – for a game which does not feature multiplayer – a process which is not free from error.

I can imagine that with BG II being 2D and DA:O being 3D, it cost a lot more money to develop DA:O so they need to compensate those costs with more turnover. That could be the reason for the increasing trend of offering DLC, which I despise. But I wonder if the increased sales of video games, because they have become more popular and because DA:O like so many other titles has also been released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (BG II was only made for the PC), isn’t enough already to cover the extra expenses? Given that Electronic Arts is the publisher, I wouldn’t be surprised if greed was the motive.

The game is quite affected by bugs, too. I experienced a few crashes. A few days ago patch 1.04 was released to fix some bugs. Yet still, the crossbows were apparently not fixed, leaving those weapons still useless. DA:O is still affected by bugs which need to be fixed, and meanwhile they’re already busy working on Dragon Age 2. This doesn’t give me much confidence in this sequel, maybe I should avoid it’s DLC, wait a year after it’s release to buy it heavily discounted, at a point when the bugs which have a serious potential to spoil the fun are hopefully fixed.

Now let’s reflect on my experience when playing DA:O. My perfectionism is easily seen in the way I play games. In shooters like Max Payne 1 and 2 or F.E.A.R. for example, I often quick load the last quick save I made before a shootout if I deem myself to have performed not good enough, e.g. if I take even the slightest amount of damage. Another motivation is creativity and the entertainment value resulting from it, which means killing the enemies in a creative way. I then quick load so that I can try it again, with a ‘perfect’ method so I take no damage at all. With creative I mean, to give an example in the case of F.E.A.R., to lure enemies into trip mines which I planted for an ambush, or to sneak up on an enemy and kill them with a kick, instead of plainly shooting them which is not as entertaining.

Of course not all games lend themselves to this creativity. A lot of shooters don’t allow for creative gameplay, Doom 3 being a good example. Multiplayer shooters often don’t either, for example Counter-Strike: Source does allow for a lot of creativity in tactics, but not in equipment for killing enemies. Half-Life 2: Deathmatch is a good example of a multiplayer shooter which does, because it features a very entertaining weapon, the gravity gun, and laser tripmines.

In certain role-playing video games – DA:O is one of them, but so is Oblivion for example – the best way to win is certainly not obvious. My perfectionism drives me to read FAQ’s and strategy guides on the Internet so that I learn how I can be more able to win, to play even better even if I could beat the game without any help.

When playing Oblivion, you can make your life much easier if you’re smart and creative, know how to exploit (not talking about cheating here) weaknesses and strengths of enemies and yourself, if you understand the mechanics of the game. For example, you can just charge at enemies blindly, or you can use invisibility and back stab them. I refer to this and this page for details, as you can imagine the tactics there can make a huge difference in your ability to defeat enemies. Being smart poses a challenge, because I like to be creative, but often can’t develop creative and smart tactics on my own when the game is role-playing game, they’re so complex. That’s why I need the Internet.

I feel that DA:O is a game just like Oblivion which requires quite some thinking on which tactics to use. I’m unable to kill the two dragons I encountered so far in this game, while I’ve seen a video on YouTube demonstrating that it’s actually quite easy if you use a brilliant tactic. There are many other video’s demonstrating easy kills of adversaries which are difficult on first impression. So far I’ve been playing the game at the standard difficulty, refusing to turn down the difficulty even though the game gave me a hard time at certain moments. Even though it could increase my (short term?) enjoyment of the game if I’d reduce the difficulty so I wouldn’t get killed so often, I refuse to do so out of a sense of self respect, even if it’s just a video game. I expect my enjoyment in playing the game would be far greater if I manage to follow the advice on the Internet and copy those tactics to realise those easy kills at the standard difficulty.

Lack of innovation, or why Call of Duty: World at War sucks

Recently the video game Call of Duty: World at War (CoD: WaW, WaW in short from now on) was offered on Steam with a heavy discount for a few days. Because it was heavily discounted I decided to buy it, which I now regret. Keep in mind that my criticism is based on playing through the single player experience of WaW, as well as it’s predecessors Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2. I wasn’t interested in multiplayer, because if I want to play a multiplayer first person shooter I prefer Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, Counter-Strike: Source and recently America’s Army 3. In WaW, very little has changed in comparison with it’s two predecessors. Mostly it’s improved graphics, but the gameplay is very similar in all three games, and most problems I perceived with the gameplay apply to all three.

The player has to follow a compulsory route. Sometimes you can choose a different route, but that doesn’t hide the limitation. Other games like Far Cry, released in 2004, give you a lot more freedom. In that game there was a designated route, but in many cases you could stray from that route or choose a different route, allowing you to use your creativity and providing more enjoyment. Of course there are so called sandbox games which provide even more freedom, like Morrowind (2002). In other first person shooters which take place mostly indoors I don’t experience it as a problem, but in the Call of Duty series I do, because it takes place mostly outdoors. Then this limitation gets annoying because you expect to be able to take a different route.

Enemy soldiers behave like you killed their pet goldfish, they have bullets with your name on it. As soon as the player exposes himself to them, they ignore your allied soldiers which are controlled by the AI, and focus all their fire on the player, even when your allied soldiers are closer to them. Your allies will not advance until you do, everything depends on the player’s ability to assault the enemies. Your commanding officer often singles you out to this or that, while he relaxes. Combined with your allied soldier’s inability to provide you with good cover, this makes the gameplay quite annoying. In some cases your enemies receive seemingly infinite reinforcements, which stop only when you complete a specific objective, like killing specific enemies (inside the Reichstag near the end of the game you have to kill a few enemies on a balcony, otherwise the enemies are infinitely reinforced). Near the end of the game it mentions that Berlin was even defended by child soldiers and the elderly, as was the case in history. But you don’t encounter any child soldiers, every soldier you encounter seems to perform identical.

The developers of the Call of Duty series also seem to have an aversion for the Russian language. Germans speak German, but Russians use a ridiculous English accent in all three games. And why did you never have the opportunity to play as a German soldier? Do the developers think all of them were pure evil? Probably it’s a serious case of political correctness.

The lack of innovation can probably be explained by the saying ‘never change a winning team’. Because the Call of Duty series is successful, and will probably continue to be. The only way to stop this is to vote with your wallet, as long as gamers buy this junk it won’t stop. I will not buy any game in the Call of Duty series until they try something new.

I don’t think producing sequels is a bad thing, as long as they are innovative. Take for example the Grand Theft Auto series, I think GTA III, GTA Vice City and GTA IV are all awesome games. Those games feature similar gameplay throughout the series as well, but they managed to innovate. In some cases I think innovation in the field of gameplay isn’t even necessary to produce a good game if gameplay isn’t a deciding factor in the equation determining the enjoyment of the game. For example in games which depend more on telling a story, like Baldur’s Gate and it’s sequel Baldur’s Gate II. Those games played and looked mostly the same, but the content was very different. In the sequel you had access to an entire new ‘world’ and a new story was told, which made it enjoyable. But a games like in the Call of Duty series don’t have a story, the only thing they have going for them is shooting stuff, so it’s not interesting anymore is a sequel merely provides more of the same.

The Cinematic mod for Half Life 2

A while ago The Orange Box was available for a discount price of € 9,99 on Steam. I quickly decided to buy it for such a bargain price, because I was interested in Half-Life 2: Episode One and Half-Life 2: Episode Two. While Episode Two has got upgraded graphics, Episode One and of course the original Half-Life 2 now look quite outdated when it comes to graphics. Because I still remembered using the Cinematic mod to get improved graphics for Half-Life 2, I decided to check if a more recent version of that mod has been released since I played it for the last time a few years ago. That was indeed the case. The most recent version is 9.51, which is mostly easily downloaded with BitTorrent here, here and here. It’s a quite large download. Version 10 is being worked on according to the the news here and here (screenshots included).

This mod gives Half-Life 2 and Episode 1 and 2 a serious graphical upgrade, while also slightly altering the gameplay and replacing the music with more a cinematic soundtrack. You might not like the artistic license taken with the models, Alyx for example looks like Adriana Lima, but you have to admit that it’s very impressive work. According to the author himself, he has reached the limits of what is possible with the game, Half-Life 2 is almost five years old now. What’s even more impressive is that the mod’s creator has done all the work himself, if I’m correct. I have a lot of respect for people who can be so productive.