1. Starcraft 2 is out! And… my computer just barely makes minimum specs. Maybe, if I’m generous. I’ll probably hold off on that until I upgrade my comp.
2. While Steam’s mid-summer sale is over (it runs basically the 2 weeks leading up to July 4th, and had some pretty good deals), Paradox Interactive (who make some truly excellent Civilization-scope real-time historically based strategy games) are offering great discounts on a lot of their titles right now. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I tried For the Glory (basically EU2) and was a big fan; quite a few of the rest of their games look equally promising.
3. Kotaku is (and apparently has been) running a series of “infographics” about various genres of games. So far, role-playing games. Apparently that includes the Legend of Zelda series. And it once again stoked my anger at the hype and great reception Knights of the Old Republic got – it was a fine game, but there are better ones out there. Not that I’m at all bitter. First-person shooters. The Thief series is not in that category, even as a “first-person sneaker” shooter. Taking out guards in Thief is generally a last resort or a crutch for the novice; they’re “first person try to avoid shooting-er”. Real-time strategy. Did you know that “real-time strategy has been relatively stable since the ’90s” with few “big changes.” News to me. Let’s see… Halo Wars, the new Command and Conquer (which are quite different), Company of Heroes, Black and White, Sacrifice, Rise of Nations, Homeworld, Sins of a Solar Empire… no, none of these are looking at all like any RTS games from the ’90s. Also, the gamerankings top-5 they give* is rather depressing.
4. Watch this, and you will never be defeated by a computer on Noble difficulty or lower in Civ4 again. I’ve played a handful of Civ4 games recently, and think I’ve got a much better idea of how things work than I used to – I’m no longer just flailing around and trying to copy things that worked in Civ2 and Civ3. Incidentally, I’ve found it game not nearly as frustrating in later ages as I used to think once you play on a smaller map and against a tougher AI. Nor are the various civs and leaders nearly as similar as I used to think they were.
5. This looks like an interesting approach to giving nicely varied playstyles to races in a turn-based strategy game. Each race apparently has a very distinct method of transportation between star systems – 4 races. One of them has to build time-consuming, expensive travel-lanes but can then go very quickly between two points connected by them – which should lead to natural choke points and a high emphasis on early scouting (to determine where to connect your initial travel lanes). One has near-instant movement within the empire, extremely slow outside. One has a standard engine that just goes places. And one has an engine that goes faster the further away from mass it gets – which would probably have interesting effects on where you’d want to expand to, and where you’d station defensive and offensive fleets in standby. I may give it a shot; too bad it looks like it also falls into most of the elements I tend to dislike about space 4X games (an insistence on making the human player use clunky controls to “manage” small-scale real-time battles when fleets meet, spending time designing ships which are generally interchangeable and occasionally game-breaking, and an unwieldy, opaque tech tree looming over everything else).
*The top-5 they present as gamerankings’ isn’t quite the same as what gamerankings actually gives, but if you require at least 20 reviews and weed out some games that they explicitly distinguish as not really RTS games I can see how the one emerges from the other.