Sep 25, 2014

Smash the West! An Aborted Total War: Rome 2 AAR

Smash the West!

An Aborted Total War: Rome 2 Seleucid AAR

This was  going to be posted tomorrow. This was going to be a long running thing.

It didn't work out, so you get to see it now.

The Premise

So with the release of the Emperor Edition of Rome 2, which brought in a whole host of balance and bug fixes, myself and my friend (matthewxjones.mj on Steam) decided it was about time we fought each other for world domination. Not wanting to immediately beat on each other though, we each picked civilisations on opposite sides of the world. He picked up the Arverni, and I in my infinite wisdom chose the Seleucid Empire.

I am not a smart man.

The campaign difficulty was set to Easy for both of us. We wanted to be sure we'd both last long enough to stab each other after all. With everything set up, we clicked "Start" and set about not dying horribly.

I Die Horribly

Lookit mah city
Perhaps I should have done some research before getting started. Maybe I should have played an actual campaign to completion in the singleplayer, and not just a few turns. Perhaps I should have started smaller.

Because I failed. Horribly.

I got kind of cocky, because the Seleucids, it turns out, start with a ton of stuff. Satrapies for free money and allies, a whole bunch of cities. Life is good. I didn't think I needed to pay attention to my military, since everyone around me was an ally. Then they all declared war. It seems the Seleucid campaign starts you off at the beginning of the Empire's collapse. I went from have about eight satrapies to having two. And neither of those two were particularly well suited to supporting a lumbering buffoon like myself.

In the first few turns I managed to turn a ludicrously powerful army into dust while afflicting zero casualties due to a weird disconnect/glitch type thing.
Everyone pictured here died without killing anybody,
I had Egypt declare war on me, ignore me for about ten turns, and once my back was turned they promptly smacked me about something awful.
Oh god.
Next up was Persia, one of my old satrapies who came knocking by bulldozing through my loyal satrapy in the East (Media) and then smash up what few armies I had available to fight them.
Please leave me alone.
What I don't have screenshots to show is the slow, inexorable demise of my northern satrapy (Sardes) who was getting bullied by an alliance of various eastern empires. Like that fucker Armenia who also gave me a solid whooping which I do have a screenshot of.
IT NEVER ENDS
So it seems playing a multiplayer campaign with the single most hated empire in the history of ever as one's first proper foray into the world of Total War: Rome 2 was not a wise decision. So Matt and I promptly abandoned the campaign (which I'm sure pissed him off. He was managing to round up a bunch of allies and unite all of Europe under his banner) in favour of me earning my wings.

I fully intend on revisiting the Seleucid Empire in a multiplayer campaign - hopefully Matt will consent to a rematch once we finish up our Imperator Augustus game - which I am also sure I will lose horribly. Until then, I think I'm going to go start a single player campaign with Rome or somebody equally easy.

Baby steps.

Sep 22, 2014

Rome 2 Emperor Edition

I've already written on how disappointing I found Total War; Rome 2. The game just didn't live up to its predecessor by any means - mostly due to some seriously poor AI and balance issues.

Well, CA has been working really hard since release to fix the game and make it something worthy of the Total War name. Kudos to Creative Assembly for keeping up the effort of making it a good quality game. Now they've released a massive update in the form of the Emperor Edition, and made it available for free to people who already own the game.
With this new update, I've finally been able to play the game and properly enjoy it. Battles have been tweaked to last a bit longer, and that makes it much easier to actually think out your battle plans. Units seem to hold their shape better, making phalanx units useful now - a handy boon to the Greek and successor factions. Rome is still hilariously powerful, but that can be overlooked. The politics system is tweaked as well, so that I don't have to worry about the guarantee of a civil war when my empire gets larger than a few provinces.

Plus there is a whole new campaign to play as well. That's a nice bonus.

A full change log of the game can be seen here. And admittedly, I didn't play a great deal of the game before this update, so I can testify as to whether the changes are substantial or not. But somehow they've all worked together to make a game I can genuinely enjoy playing. I've already conquered Africa with Carthage, and have started a multiplayer campaign with a friend of mine that is great fun.

I was sorely disappointed when Rome 2 was released in a way that made it seem incomplete, but now it's finally a full game that I am happy enough to own. I don't know if I'll sink as many hours into it as I did into the original Rome: Total War game, but I'm definitely going to have fun conquering the world with it regardless.

Sep 9, 2014

I live in England now

So I live in England now, which isn't something I would have expected if you'd asked me three months ago. But here I am, sitting in a quaint little english town with no reliable internet access. IT's been somewhat tedious getting everything in order but I am slowly making progress. The internet should be in within the next two days, and I've been really productive in the meantime. Not having the distractions of Reddit and Facebook (or a social life for that matter) makes doing things so much easier.

I'm on a PC in the local library writing this to up date people on a few things, if anybody's even paying attention anymore.

Delenda Est

Delenda is just about complete, save for final bug testing and balancing. That's what the public beta is for. Unfortunately, the recent move to England has drained my funds somewhat so uploading the game to a web host is difficult. I'm taking the time to cut out a few extras I slapped on haphazardly during the closed testing and which have only served to make the whole game messier and more complicated than I wanted it to be. The final product is going to be very simple, and quite likely unbalanced. The small beta rounds I have been running lately haven't helped with making it balanced due to the small size of the factions, so I'll have to run a larger public beta to balance things out. As soon as I have the money to spare, I'll be throwing it up for one year of hosting to get the testing done. If the game pays for itself, then it will stay up. If not, then I'll have to take it down.

An RPG is coming

I finally put that RPG Maker VX Ace thing I bought to use and whipped up the startings of a simple RPG. It's really, really simplistic, because it's just a thing I did to keep myself occupied more than anything. I'll be releasing it for free download when it's complete, and hopefully it will have about 5 hours playable game time. Be warned, it has little/no original content - especially the music. Like I said, it's something I threw together very quickly to save myself from boredom brought on by a lack of Youtube.

That about covers the things I wanted you to know about for the immediate future. It's also about all I can manage for now, given my unemployment and international move. Once I have a relatively stable income and know how much free time I have, I'll be back to give you guys more stuff to look at. Given the complete lack of anything to do where I now live (somehow, it's even worse than where I used to live. At least I knew people there) I'm probably going to be blogging/writing/gaming a whole lot more.

Feb 6, 2014

My Trouble With Game Development

If you've been following along on my Twitter feed, or reading this blog, you'll be well aware that I've been developing (for well over a year now) a web game by the name of Delenda Est. I do love me some Latin, it's such a nice language. Anyway, development of it has stalled somewhat as of late. And by 'stalled', I mean I haven't touched the code in any meaningful way in over four months. Since our last beta test, basically.

I don't really have a decent enough reason for this. It's not even that I'm lazy as such, because I really love programming and developing games. I don't consider it work, and I have no trouble doing so to keep myself entertained. It's not that my new college course is eating up all my time - although it is eating up a lot of it, I hardly can use it as an excuse. I could very easily wake up an hour earlier on the weekends and do some development of Delenda if I were so inclined. On my Google Drive, I have no less than three A4 pages of design ideas and possible game tweaks I could put in, and an even larger list of bugs and balance issues that need fixing. So it's not that I have nothing to do.

The problem that I have developing Delenda Est, and every other game I have ever made is that I'm afraid of finishing. During the past decade of my life, I've started developing no less than eight decently impressive game projects. Some RPGs using RPG Maker, a platformer made using XNA, a strategy game made with Java....all of these are scattered on hard drives and USB sticks throughout my life and sit unloved and unfinished because I'm scared to finish them. Sounds kind of ridiculous, right? I mean, two of those RPGs were all but complete before I discarded them (and subsequently lost the USB stick, so now they'll never be done), and the java strategy game could actually be played by other people. So why didn't I finish them?

It's a problem a lot of game developers have, and it's why so few actually 'make it big'. On Reddit, twitter, blog sites and everything in between you constantly read the tale of people who can't or won't finish their game, and for a large amount of these stories they have the same problem as me. They're afraid to release their game, because once they do it's out there and open to public scrutiny.

What if it's an abysmal failure? What if people hate it? What if it's not fun?

None of these thoughts make sense for me to have. I actually expect Delenda Est to be a failure in the sense that I won't make a living off it. I'll be lucky if it gains 100 active players and lasts a year or more, the sci fi strategy market is over saturated in the internet. And I know it's fun because I have fun playing it, and so do a large majority of my private beta testers. I've gotten good reports from people, and suggestions from people on how to make the game even better because they want to see it succeed and have hundreds of people playing it.

My brain won't stop forcing those concerns on me though, and it's caused me to seize up something awful. I've let go of developing DE because if I work on it solidly for just one week I know I could have it feature complete and mostly bug free, ready for a public beta. But if I do that, I can't hide behind the mantra of 'soon it will be done, soon it will be good' because I'll have to face the music and see what people actually think of it. I like to think I can take rejection, anyone who knows me knows I have very low expectations for everything I do - I just don't see the point in assuming my work will be a success simply because it's done. So in theory I have no problems with people saying "It's not fun." I'll try again next time and I'll learn from my mistakes.

So why is finishing it so hard?

I'm not alone in this, and I'm sorry for boring you silly. I just wanted the few people who still want DE to be released to know I haven't forgotten about it. I'm just hiding from it.

I've decided to dedicate the month of February to finishing the game. By the end of February, regardless of the state it is in, I'll consider if complete and open it for public beta and bug testing. And if I don't finish it by the end of February I'm trusting you all to send me nasty emails calling me a coward. The link to my email address is there on the right hand side of the page.

sedit qui timuit ne non succederet

Told you I loved this language.

Jan 1, 2014

2014 Rolls on in

So, 2013 was a year. Yup, definitely a year long period of time. I don't really have much else to say. A lot happened in 2013, but not a whole lot more than happens any other year. That's mostly my own fault, I suppose. I am notoriously easy to distract when working off my own initiative, so it's rare I get a whole lot done unless there's someone telling me what to do. I'd make a good soldier, but a terrible general. Actually I'd probably make a terrible soldier too, but screw you I'm trying to make an analogy here.

So what will 2014 bring. Another 365 days of life, certainly. Hopefully, I suppose I should say. Wouldn't want to tempt fate and have a close encounter with a bus two weeks into the year. I've made quite a few resolutions for this year, and have told some of my more aggressively minded friends to beat me with sticks if I don't stick to them. None of this "I'll be nice to people" or "I'll learn to play the piano" stuff though, more along the lines of "I'm going to stop doing this thing that is slowly killing me" and "I'll become a productive member of society".

A lot of people have been doing lists of what good things happened to them in 2013, or what bad things. I don't really see much point in doing that for various reasons. I do want to share a few things with you, because I like sharing things I genuinely enjoyed in the hopes that someone else will like it to. I'm one of those wierdos who likes seeing people like things. I'm thinking about seeing a psychologist about it. So, three awesome things 2013 threw my way. Not a massive list by any means, but then there aren't a huge list of things I am overly enamoured with from the year. Plenty of things were good or neat. Only these few things were truly awesome.

Awesome Album



This is probably my album of the year. I so very much wanted to put RUINIZER up there, but strictly speaking that's not out yet. Even if pre-orders are up. BlakOpz kind of passed me by in terms of music for a long time, none of their songs every caught my attention for terribly long and I kind of wrote them off as "generic, but not good enough to stand out". When some of the samples of As Nations Decay showed up in my Facebook feed though, I fell in love with this album. I pre-ordered it almost as soon as I heard Business As Usual, and then when I heard The Beginning I knew I'd made the right choice. It might just be because it's the most recently purchased album I have, but I seriously love this release. Album of the year for me.

Awesome Book


Blindsight  is brilliance in textual form. I almost put Excession by the late Iain M Banks here, but then I read Blindsight in the closing moments of 2013 and it pipped the lead position from the Culture. A fantastically creepy piece of cosmic horror flavoured science fiction, Blindsight takes all your assumptions about the nature of life and existence and promptly beats you to near death with examples of how horribly wrong you could possibly be. It's got some of the creepiest, most threatening and downright alien aliens I've ever seen or read about. No humans-in-all-but-name, rubber foreheaded beasts here, these things are so utterly different it's brilliant. And the closing lessons of the book? S'all good, I wasn't planning on sleeping for the next few days anyway.

Awesome Game

There were a lot of options for this. I got quite a few new games during the year, and a lot of them were actually pretty damn good. So I'm going to cheat and actually list two.

First up is Wargame: AirLand Battles. Again, this is something I got towards the close of the year but that makes it no less awesome. It's a really good strategy game that forces you to manage a limited number of forces, and deploy the correct composition to beat your opponent. No flat out spamming the most expensive tank in this game, your enemy will just counter with some cheap as all hell infantry or an A-10. Not many strategy games have quite the same level of actual thought in gameplay. And my God is it fun trying to seize a town or built up area in this game.

DEFCON wins for cool points, even if the gameplay is kind of simplified. Not often you play a game of thermonuclear warfare that actually drives home how utterly pointless it all is. A creepy soundtrack that includes the weeping of women in the ambience, and extremely minimalist graphics all help to give the game an unnerving aesthetic that really fits the idea of "Nobody wins. You can only hope to lose less than the other guy".

Nov 19, 2013

News Type Thing and a Confession


So I've been unbelievably busy lately with various projects. Not the least is a new course I'm doing to teach me all kinds of creative things related to game design. I've never been terribly good at things like 3D modelling, image manipulation, or drawing so this course is something I enrolled in to learn all the relevant skills. It's not exactly easy work, and it takes up a lot of my free time with project work and general practice of the stuff I'm learning. As a result, development of Delenda Est has once again crawled to a near stop but I do manage to make minute changes every few days or so. So it hasn't stopped altogether, it's just going slow.

I really feel like (actually, I know) that I should have finished the game by now. It's not exactly complex and I keep finding new reasons to put off a full release. I've suffered this problem before with other projects of mine and as a result none of them have seen the light of day. The vast majority anyway. Either it's not balanced enough, or it's not complex/simple enough. Maybe there's a few tiny bugs which I spend a stupidly inordinate amount of time trying to fix. I've managed to mire myself so thoroughly in this dead zone that I keep putting off development and finding excuses not to just go "EVERYONE CAN PLAY IT NAO".

Not that the excuses aren't legitimate. When I'm not practicing my sketching, I'm modelling a crappy 3D spaceship. When I'm not making images like the one above, I'm teaching myself digital audio production (because bless our tutor, he really knows his audio stuff he just cannot teach to save his life). But I just know that if I actually sat down and worked out a timetable, I'd find time to work on Delenda more diligently and get it out of this development hell it's been stuck in. It's all fine and dandy during the closed beta rounds, I get loads done. The last round was unimaginably productive in terms of finding bugs, thinking up new mechanics and fixing old ones. Then the round ends and I allow myself to get distracted.

This has to stop, I can't let another game of mine vanish into oblivion because I'm terrified that it's going to wind up being terrible and utterly unfun to play. I'll work it out...somehow.

I'll shut up now and stop being such a downer. Here's some stupid yet happy sounding music to make it all better. Oh, and I've found a really old backup disc of mine which might have some old game projects on it from way back when I was new to this whole 'game development' thing. I'll see about throwing them up for download should they have survived in a suitable state.

Sep 12, 2013

Total War: Rome 2 - First Thoughts

I've had Total War: Rome 2 for a while now, and have spent most of my time playing custom battles. I've dabbled in the campaign a bit, both as Rome and as Carthage and, well.... it's kind of disappointing.

Not that it isn't good. It's just not Total War good.

I wish I could single out one thing that could easily be rectified or ignored, but really it's a conglomeration of numerous small faults which keep me from properly enjoying the game as much as I did its predecessor. From AI to gameplay changes to graphical errors, there's a fair bit which stops me from suffering 'One More Turn' syndrome like I did with the first Rome: Total War game. Regardless, I'll single out some of the most grievous faults and try to keep this short.

Probably the most irritating thing is the woeful AI in the game. In every Custom Battle I've played the AI has just sat there while I surround them and then cut them to ribbons. Units flee from combat when somebody so much as cuts their finger, especially for the barbarian nations, which is exacerbated by the fact that combat is now much faster than before. There's almost no time to properly react to an enemy's attacks before the target unit is wiped out or fleeing off the field. Unlike older Total War games, where units survived long enough to have reinforcements sent their way and hit the enemy in the back. I've landed so few hammer and anvil strikes of this kind because the combat is decided within a few short seconds.

Units, no matter how well trained, seem utterly incapable of holding a formation when charged. This is especially lethal for phalanx based armies like the Greek cities, or the Carthaginians. Fighting quickly devolves into a horrible mess where your carefully formed battle lines collapse. And it's not due to any fault of yours, nor the skill of the computer. From my experience, it's due entirely to the inability of your men to hold a line. Enemy soldiers can get through six ranks of Spartan hoplites on the charge, they just saunter past the first few ranks which forces the whole unit to take up swords and spread out to combat the bad guys who just phased through their shield wall.

Then we come to Rome itself. In the old Rome: TW game, the Roman faction was pretty powerful. Their infantry was probably the best in the game, and they had damn powerful cavalry to go with it. In short, they had little in the way of weaknesses, but a competent general could still make short work of a poorly controlled Roman legion. Not so in Rome 2. I've used nothing but Hastati (the most basic and starter unit available to Rome) to overrun an army of similar size that consisted of archers, skirmishers, cavalry and elite infantry. And I didn't even have to try. I literally just walked up to them (the AI sat there twiddling its thumbs), told everyone to charge, and won the battle. Decisively. No flanking moves, no counter charges, no thought of any kind. Double right click, increase the game speed, and wait.

9 minutes...

 That's freaking stupid.

And I'd wager I could do something similar with Carthage or Greece, so long as I wasn't facing Rome. Or the AI. The whole appeal of the Total War games is the need for strategy in battles. There's no economy on the battlefield to churn out replacements. Every unit is precious and must be used sparingly lest the battle be lost. But in Total War: Rome 2, the unit AI is so painfully awful that one need only have superior numbers or superior men to win. Not both. Pick one. The skill of the general seems to have no bearing on the outcome, I've walked all over AIs of various difficulty settings. While I'm aware it may well be different in the Multiplayer, this ruins the singleplayer campaign. There's no fun in engaging in the battles themselves when I've a 90% chance of victory by virtue of starting in Italy. Which would be fine, if the campaign map was so equally disappointing (between a messy UI and slow as heck AI turns it's not unplayable just....sad).

As a kind of closing statement, it's not a terrible game by any measure. It's...decent. It's fun for short bursts, and these issues may well be fixed in patches yet to come so I'm holding out hope, as weak as the flame may be.

I'm not angry at you, Rome 2. I'm just...disappointed.