Archive for July 2014

So there I was recently, playing Goat Simulator, as you do during boring phone calls. When I quit, I looked at my Steam library, and noticed this game, Scourge: Outbreak. I didn’t remember buying it, and turns out I didn’t.

A year or three back I got Scourge Project in some kind of Steam sale deal, and I played for five minutes and quit. Turns out that Scourge: Outbreak is a remake of that game, and they gave it free to everyone on Steam who owned the original.

I honestly couldn’t remember anything about that game, so I thought I might as well install it and give it a try.

Start it up. Unskippable ad videos telling me it uses the Unreal engine and other time-wasting crap. Ugh. Why?

Really, just why? A new player starts up your game, excited to try it, and you make them sit through a minute or so of ad videos.

Who, exactly, in the game companies thinks this is a good idea?

Starting a new game gives you a choice between four different characters, and some guff about what each one is best at, but who cares? I picked the girl, because it’s a third-person game, and I’m going to be staring at someone’s butt while playing, so it might as well be hers.

So, on to the cut-scenes. At least they’re skippable, unlike Mass Effect‘s half-hour streams of boredom. Then the optional tutorial, which demonstrates how your character walks miserably slowly on their way to shoot a few things. Which is where you first learn some of the game’s horrible flaws.

The first is that the graphics are pretty dismal, even by console standards. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting much from a free game, but it delivered less. It looks as bad as Mass Effect on a bad day.

It’s another game with a ‘cover’ system requiring you to use special commands to hide behind cover, rather than just, you know, hiding behind cover. Any game that needs a cover system is just admitting that its user interface is horribly broken.

Oh, OK, it’s clearly a console game, so obviously its user interface is horribly broken.

You can only carry two weapons, because allowing you to carry more than two might be too much like fun, and that’s not allowed.

The space bar is used for jump, hide and run, and there’s no discernable way to tell which it’s going to do. The middle mouse button is used for magic shield and magic attack (they don’t call it that, but that’s basically what it is), and there’s no discernable way to tell what it’s going to do. The magic attack is powered by some magic goo that you have to collect, and about two attacks use up all your goo, so what’s the point?

Since it is a multiplayer game at heart, playing single player means you’re lumbered with three artificially stupid team-mates. The tutorial also demonstrates the really limited order system you can use to work around that artificial stupidity, but who wants to be forced to command bots in a shooter game?

There’s a lot of plot twaddle. And more plot twaddle. And something about a meteorite or something. I don’t know, because I was sick of cut-scenes and skipped it all. Not to mention that the horrible flickering in one of the cut-scenes threatened to give me an epilepsy attack. Then more cut-scenes. Then you get to walk slowly to some weird capsule thing. Then there are more cut-scenes.

So, you’re playing some super-elite soldier babe, and the tutorial has introduced you to a number of weapons that you can use, so what do you think it’s going to do now? Yes, you guessed it, it’s going to take all those weapons away from you and leave you with a pistol. Because having the weapons you want to use might be too much like fun.

Since it’s a third-person cover shooter, you spend a lot of time either being shot because you can’t go into cover behind things that are clearly quite suitable as cover, and being shot because you can’t get out of cover mode and move to where you want to move. It’s at least as bad as the awful Mass Effect games, and probably worse.

Oh, yeah, and since it’s a third person game, you also spend a lot of time shooting bullets into the wall right in front of you when you have to shoot around something the game won’t count as cover.

This is followed by walking into an area, being attacked by about a million identical, moronic bad guys, thanking the bad guys for leaving ammunition boxes randomly strewn around, but still running out and having to pick up some random weapon because you can only carry two. Then defend the area for five minutes while a thousand indistinguishable bots run toward you. Then hack a door (translation: hold ‘E’ for a few seconds) before moving onto the next area.

Then there’s a cut-scene where some guy spews some plot-twaddle, and you do the same thing again.

And crates. Did I mention crates? The one surprise in the game was walking into a few areas with crates and thinking ‘ha, there are crates, so clearly I’m going to get attacked and have to take cover’… only to not be attacked. Wow.

I should also mention that the reason you run out of ammunition is because the indistinguishable bad guys take about three thousand hits each to kill. You keep blasting away at them from close range with an assault rifle, and, after you kill half a dozen, no more bullets.

Then there’s lack of a save system. It randomly saves at checkpoints, so, if you get bored and want to quit, be prepared to have to fight through the same mob of identical enemies again to get back to where you were.

I could go on, but I quit before finishing the first level. From the screenshots, it looks like things might get interesting later on, but I couldn’t find the enthusiasm to play through the boring parts to get there.

It’s not an awful game, it didn’t crash, it doesn’t expect you to pay to win, but it’s just mediocre. Everything it does has been done before, and done better.

We’ve been test-driving CUVs lately, so I thought I’d comment on some.

Nissan have had some problems with CVT reliability–a few years ago, they had to increase the warranty to ten years due to CVT failures–but claim to have resolved them. That was one black mark against the Rogue, but the reviews were good enough to make it worth a look.

One thing I immediately noticed on sitting in the passenger seat was that it feels small, and not in a good way. The exterior is a similar size to competitive CUVs, but the interior feels cramped, as though they’ve concentrated on exterior styling over interior comfort. Other than size, the interior does feel more modern than the Honda CR-V, and more up-market than the Subaru Forester.

The top-down camera is kind of neat, but only available on the high-end models. On the mid-range SV model, you have to buy the optional third row of seats–suitable only for dwarves–or it’s available on the top of the range SL model with two rows. Since it is a feature I haven’t seen on any competitor, I don’t really understand why they make it such an expensive option or force you to buy the extra row of seats if you want it in a cheaper model.

The cargo storage is well thought out, with dividers that allow you to temporarily create shelves or split the cargo space to prevent items rolling around. I wish other CUV manufacturers would do something similar. On the subject of the third row of seats, they do fold into the floor to give more cargo space, but that costs you the spare wheel.

However, on the road, it’s not so good. Ride has the usual CUV faults, and, at times, I found myself wondering whether I would actually make it around the corner I’d entered. Acceleration feels slow, and the CVT is loud and monotonous when accelerating, though not too bad when you reach a constant speed.

Visibility is so-so, not hard to see out the front, but the tiny rear quarter windows were blocked by the rear headrests, leaving a substantial blindspot. The rear-view camera helps with parking, but not with lane changes. I believe lane-change monitoring is available as an option, but glass is more reliable.

What really put us off, however, were the seats. Most of the reviews I read mentioned how comfortable they are, so I was suprised that they seemed uncomfortable within a few minutes of sitting down. A longer drive didn’t make them feel any better, and I couldn’t imagine driving in them for hours on the highway.

So, overall, one CUV that gets good reviews but doesn’t seem as good in real life. It does seem well-equipped for the price, and if you’re the right size and shape for the seats, it’s probably a good deal. Unfortunately, not for us.

So, I went through the whole reformatting thing for Space Weasels, uploaded it to Smashwords, and two days later ‘I see your NCX isn’t formed correctly in the EPUB file.’

Uh, what?

I’d already downloaded it the previous day and verified that the table of contents showed the same entries as The One That Got Away. So exactly what is supposed to be wrong with it?

Who knows? How can I tell? All I get is a pointer to go and read the style guide.

I honestly think I’m going to have to pull all my books off the site before long, because it’s such a damn pain in the ass to deal with.

Edit: I’m sure I shouldn’t need to add that their response to my support inquiry asking what they thought the problem was did not tell me what the problem was, and just pointed me to the same formatting guides which provide no information as to what they think the problem might be. So I’m left having to upload randomly modified versions of the file and hope that they eventually accept one.

This is just stupid. They’ll spend far more time reviewing fifteen versions of the file than just telling me what they don’t like about the table of contents.