The hardcore Westwood fans will recognise the title… it is of course the catch phrase of the infamous commando unit (remember, guy with the C4 and the only infantry weapon that seemed to work?) from the original Command and Conquer. But anyway, enough of that. My friend Nick (all hail) sent me a link to EA’s Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 page, it turns out, to celebrate the 13th anniversary of the release of the original Red Alert, EA have put both the Soviet and Allied CD images up as freely available downloads.
I still have my original CDs somewhere, but for those who have not played this classic (and those with MiniRa as the downloads include all the FMVs) it is a great way to get a taste of old school ‘strategy’ gaming at its best.
EDIT: I forgot to mention, if you preorder Command and Conquer Red Alert 3, you also get Red Alert 2 thrown into the bundle. Not bad eh? RA 2 is a bit dated now but is still a lot of fun to play.
This weekend you can play Day of Defeat Source for free via Steam, it corresponds to the launch of the Palermo services across steam which greatly adds to the platform by adding unlock-able achievements for each game. So what is Day of Defeat I hear you ask? It started out as a FPS mod using the original half life engine and was set in the second world war era. What initially distinguished this game from other stand-alone games and mods of the same and similar genres at the time was how thought out it was. Rather then blindly killing the enemy, to win the round you had to capture (or destroy) strategic points as well as blindly killing the enemy. In essence, it was a slower paced Counter Strike with a lot more emphasis on teamwork and strategy.
I have not played DoD for a number of years which is surprising given the fact I have been playing it since Beta 2 and had a waypointing site dedicated to the mod. Back then it was a damn good ‘rough round the edges’ community mod with a lots of promise and bags of potential.
Beta 3.0 was released and everyone celebrated. It built on the strengths of the first betas- tweaking and balancing them as well as adding new features. For a while nothing happened, we all were content playing beta 3.0 and listening to rumours of the ever elusive beta 4.0. Then, in my opinion, it all started going wrong. The mod team struck a deal with Valve and the mod became a commercial game. Beta 4.0 was actually released as version 1.0. It was highly polished and improved, as one would expect from Valve’s backing. Unfortunately it also had a boat load of issues in particular 56k dial-up gamers (yes there still were a fair few back in 2002/2003) were hit hard with very poor gaming experiences for no tangible reason.
At this point I walked away from Day of Defeat, life was complicated at the time and I was about to start Uni so I didn’t have much time for gaming. So, today I eagerly launched DoD:Source which I had preloaded a few days earlier… and was sadly disappointed.
The game itself is largely unchanged apart from being Source-ified which is both good and bad. It was nice to know most of the maps already, despite their new and frighteningly stunning clarity, as well as the basic classes and the useful routes / camping spots etc. What irked me is that the game itself had been dumbed down somewhat. Features which, at the time, differentiated DoD from other Mods such as bleeding, slow paced objective based gameplay and side weapon differentiation were either dropped or drastically tweaked.
What I find inexcusable however is that many of the old problems still linger. Despite the servers I have played on today having between 4 and 16 players the game frequently juddered and lagged particularly during explosions. The hitbox issue, allegedly solved in Day of Defeat, also reappears with some rather odd damage and hit patterns which can be very frustrating. What is even more peculiar, the game designers have appeared to have focused on beautifying the graphical side of the game considerably, adding odd looking ‘film grain’ effects as well as a kill cam with ‘Press F5 for snapshot’ and other useless ‘features’. Some of these additions are almost pretentious in the flashy way they are implemented especially given how inconsistent the effort appears to have been across other aspects of the game.
This is not to say the game is not fun to play and you can currently buy it for $4.99 (half price until the free play period expires) which is an absolute bargain, but I still think beta Day of Defeat 3.0 was the best version to date. I may have to fire it up with some sturmbots at some stage.
Graphics : 6.5/10 – Good but mostly thanks to the engine and sloppy in places.
Sound : 6 / 10 – Reasonable, but not earth-shattering – somehow feels less meaty than before.
Gameplay : 7 / 10 – Same classic DoD, but a little dumbed down and sadly nothing to distinguish it from other modern games.
Difficulty : 7 / 10 – Shallow learning curve and a wide range of players out there.
Overall : 66/100
Worth playing, but won’t keep you occupied for long.
OK, so out of curiosity I registered for this to see how it works, opting to complete regular surveys rather than have my computing habits spied on. I however did have time to read through the FAQs in more details along with some of the EULAs. I would like to just highlight a few lines which I should have mentioned last time.
Does the software impact the performance of my PC?
“… the Windows Feedback Program software [has been designed] to limit the amount of computer resources it uses to collect data. You may see a minor change in performance when you first log in to Windows; however, this typically only occurs during the first few minutes…”
” In general, the data is shared once per day.”
“Unfortunately, you will not be able to look at your specific data. We designed the Windows Feedback Program software specifically to avoid any interference with your work or how your computer functions”
“Yes, we have a unique identifier for your data”
Mind you, who is to say Microsoft don’t have a similar ‘feedback’ (read spying) software ‘service’ (read unnecessary memory hog) in Vista already?
Microsoft have (quietly) started up a Feedback Program supported free version of Windows Vista Ultimate as well as other ‘popular’ software including Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007, Microsoft Money Premium, Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2008, or Microsoft Streets and Trips 2008. In order to qualify, you must agree to either one or both of the following programs:
“The survey feedback program. When you join the survey feedback program, you’ll be invited to take a survey on a regular schedule. If the survey arrives at a time where you are busy, you skip that one and take the next one instead. You will not receive more than a survey every two weeks.
The automated feedback program. When you choose to participate, most of the work is done behind the scenes, with no additional effort, time requirement, or inconvenience to you. Occasionally, we might send you an invitation to participate in a survey or another feedback program to get additional information about your use of computers but, in general, you only hear from us if we make significant changes to our data collection method or if we want to offer another feedback program to you that you might be interested in.”
I have not had a chance to go through the program to see if there are any limitations other than periodic usage reports / surveys from Microsoft however if you are interested in upgrading to any other these pieces of software, it might be worth considering as a ‘demo.’ This idea is not a new one, versions of Microsoft Office have had voluntary opt-in usage statistics since Office 2000 as well as MSN Messenger. I don’t know about you, but the prospect of my operating system sending back ‘anonymous’ usage reports to a third party does not fill me with confidence.
I briefly mentioned a National retailer that was giving away PS3s along with top tier TV packages in a comment on someone else’s blog. At the time I considered it to be more of a curious twist of fate, however I heard on the radio today that now AOL are also giving away PS3s! Admittedly they are only given away with, what I assume to be exorbitant contracts which last for 24 months.
This idea of giving away games consoles is not new, over a year ago mobile phone companies were offering free PSPs along with 18 month contracts. Initially I was tempted until I compared Free PSP contracts to Vanilla phone contracts and did some subtraction and multiplication. It turned out that the total overal cost of the PSP would have been ~1.6 times the store price. Needless to say I just went out and bought a PSP (with a nice game bundle) and renewed my contract with O2.
Its curious that at no point have Microsoft nor Nintendo needed to take such steps in order to sell their consoles, although this could be to do with being first to market and being highly sought after repectively. Sony is having a very bad time with the PS3 (the PS2 is still apparently outselling it) and recent surveys showed that at least 40% of PS3 owners did not even realise their console could play Blu-ray DVDs. At points this year, the Wii was outsetting the PS3 6 to 1. Sony’s profits are down, with the company reporting a multi hundred million dollor loss in its gaming division. Luckily other parts of the company are doing quite well (e.g. ATRAC and TVs) so its unlikely Sony will go under any time soon. Slashing the price of the PS3 has definitely boosted sales considerably, but considering they were making a loss at the higher price, I wager the Sony Computer Entertainment Execs are hoping volume and game sales will save their presently sinking ship.
xfire are holding a special event starting today, geared at getting as many people playing the free MMO Drift City. The competition appears to be fairly simple, log on today (Thursday 29th) and play as many hours as you can before December 9th. Prizes include Logitech Keyboards and Mice in various categories based on the amount of hours logged in game.
Xfire is holding a special Drift City event for Xfire users. From November 29th to December 9th, you are challenged to log into Xfire and play as much Drift City as you can during the promotion period. All you have to do to enter is join the Drift City Rockets [DCR] Team!
How to participate: Play Drift City while signed into Xfire to be eligible to win!
Play 0-5 Hours: (1 Winner)
PLANTRONICS GAMECOMPRO1 USB Connector Supra-aural Gaming Stereo Headset
Play 5-15 Hours: (1 Winner)
Logitech G5 Mouse + ijji.com Pillow
Play more than 15 Hours: (1 Winner)
Logitech G5 Mouse and G 15 Keyboard + ijji.com Pillow
Whilst the Drift City client has rocketed to number 4 in the list of most downloaded files on xfire today and for this week, at the moment the game has not broken into the top 10 games list, however I dont know how many times a day the list is updated.
Seems to be a rather shameless way to promote a game that has been lingering on the sidelines for too long. Still, perhaps thats just the cynic in me talking, I will certainly be downloading and trying this MMO so I guess in terms of generating exposure, xfire have succeeded rather well, whether or not it breaks into the top 10 remains to be seen.
EDIT: A few hours later the numbers seen above have doubled, still no sign of Drift City…