07 October 2005

I have an addiction

I have a severe addiction, and I've been a sufferer since I was about 1987 (or whenever it was that "Ultima 5" came out). I have an almost zombie-like longing to play computer games, and in spite of myself I'm always reading about what the cool new games are and then lusting after them. I used to be loyal to professional PC games, but the last couple years I've been trying more "indie" games (I have most of Chronic Logic's offerings), and last Christmas I was lucky enough to receive an Xbox for Christmas. The latter has allowed me to install Linux on my PC without impacting my game-playing possibilities (except during those times that my girlfriend wants to watch something on TV). My current obsession is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which is hilariously profane, cartoonishly violent, satirical, varied, open-ended and has lots of great songs you can listen to. It contains voice work from Peter Fonda (as a spacy pot-growing hippie), Chuck D (as an angry DJ), Samuel L. Jackson (as a corrupt cop) and other famous people. It's practically the perfect game, except for the mild distress I cause my girlfriend when I run over innocent pedestrians willy-nilly while on the way to put out fires or initiate gang wars.

I've also gotten hooked on a couple of web-based games. One is Kingdom of Loathing, a low-tech role-playing game where the only graphics are the hand-drawn stick figures from the game's creator. It is nevertheless an engrossing, must-play-every-day experience -- KoL is both a funny parody of past RPGs while offering a challenging (if simple) role-playing experience in its own right. After you finish the game by defeating the Naughty Sorceress, you can "ascend" -- i.e. start the game over as another class, carrying over one skill from your previous class. Over multiple ascensions, you can build up quite a powerful character as you amass different class skills. You can also play "softcore" (where you can trade with other players and use items from your previous incarnations) or "hardcore" (where you have to find everything yourself, which takes far longer). I have two characters, one playing each style. You can buy and sell stuff from other players in the "mall" (which I do a lot) or chat with them (which I never do). Ingeniously, the game is free, but if you donate $10 you get powerful items which are prohibitively expensive if you buy them from other players within the game. I've donated $30 so far. Also ingeniously, there a loads of "leaderboards", both for big things like "most ascensions", and trivial things like "most martinis consumed" (mixing drinks plays a big role in the game). This gives every player a chance to be on some leaderboard by eating or drinking one particular thing to excess, or amassing a hoard of one particularly useless item. There are many facets to the goofy fun. I've taken a look at some other web-based RPGs like this, but KoL is by far my favorite.

The other web game I've been playing a lot lately is called Troyis. It represents another genre, the play-in-one-sitting Flash-based web game. I've played a bunch of them, but for some reason I've really gotten hooked on Troyis. It's a simple game where you just move a chess knight around a chess board using chess-knight moves, trying to hit each square at least once in 45 seconds. It's dead easy at first since you begin with a 3x3 board, but each level the board size increases by one, but the time limit remains the same. I've gotten up to level 10 or so (a 12x12 board), where you have to click frantically around to even have a hope of finishing in the time period. The first ingenious part of this game is that each board is missing some squares -- you don't have to land on the missing squares, but they're also not available for you to jump on to help you reach the ones you do need to land on. Each time through, different squares are missing, so you can't just learn one pattern as you play the game -- every game you have to take a different path to complete a board. The second ingenious part is that the game records your high score and tells you your global ranking -- I am currently the 1694th-ranked player in the world, just missing being in the top 100 among players in the Netherlands. The drive to improve one's ranking is strong, but after playing the game every day for a couple weeks, it gets very difficult to improve one's high score. The highest-scoring player has completed level 25 -- a 27x27-square board -- which I have a hard time accepting unless they cheated, which I think would be possible with some technical tomfoolery that slows down one's computer or otherwise fools the game into giving you more than 45 seconds to finish a board. It's still an absorbing and addictive game though. Try it and get hooked!

(Edit -- D'oh, I just noticed that the Troyis board never gets bigger than 10x10. That's a pretty challenging size to finish in 45 seconds, but not impossible -- you just have to be very good to do it about 15 times in a row to get to level 26.)


At 07 October, 2005 23:50, Anonymous Nighthunter said...

i used to be addicted to video games too, but then i stopped playing for a year or so. when i tried to get back into it... nothing. it didn't do it for me anymore. it's kind of sad because i always LOVED playing games. especially sim city and quests.

but well, i lost it.

i still would like to get an xbox or something and try to get that addiction back.

At 10 October, 2005 12:48, Blogger contrarybear said...

I was into SimCity for a while.
City-building games are fun.
My main obsession is with role-playing games though ... there's a new one ("Oblivion") coming out around Christmas that looks incredible.


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