The View from the Bumper Cam

gt-screenshot

To say that I am a fan of racing games would be an understatement. I have beaten the Gran Turismo series to death, and the simulator doesn’t exist that I can’t master inside of a half hour. In real life, it isn’t much different. I have had the distinct privilege of having had the doors blown off the car I was in by a Ferrari F-50. I have met personally, and had the doors blown off the car I was in by Lamborghini’s chief test driver in a Diablo 6.0. Which says a couple of things: for one thing, my car isn’t that fast; secondly, I’m a car nut extraordinaire. Now, digressing from my credentials to the subject at hand. I had laid my hands on an X-Box some time ago and have pretty much mastered two of its handful of racing titles. Project Gotham Racing (PGR) by Bizarre Creations was the second game for the X-Box that I played, right after Halo. Sega GT 2002 (SGT) is a more recent conquest, holding me over until one of my friends got Brute Force. For two games that both involve driving production cars at high speeds, these titles would have a hard time being any more different. Honestly, you look at some feature that both games address, and odds are they are polar opposites.

Item: Damage
PGR: Car models show damage in the form of paint scrapes, crumpled body panels, and broken lights and mirrors.
SGT: Cars look spotless but damaged parts can affect performance during a race, and any repair costs are subtracted from that race’s winnings. A Monetary bonus is given for completing a race with no damage.

Item: Customization
PGR: One can select which pretty color they want on their car as they race
SGT: Customization options include adding aftermarket engine and suspension components as well as weight reductions and tires. One can also adjust suspension settings and boost pressure on turbo cars.

Item: Car selection
PGR: No grocery getters in this lineup. Notable marques include Ferrari, Lotus, Aston Martin, TVR, and Porsche. Quality makes up for the relatively short (29 cars) list.
SGT: You have probably seen 80% of these cars on the street around your town at some point. Only notable exceptions are some 80’s concept cars, the Ford GT-40 and GT Concept, and Lotus. Quite a few cars are available on the game, but only a handful are really worth considering.

Even the physics engines are nearly completely different. The SGT engine is pretty unforgiving of improper turning and braking maneuvers. If one panics and yanks the thumbstick while braking, they will likely slide straight into the wall/gravel trap/ car in front of them. Unfortunately this is taken to the extreme and will happen nearly as readily at 50mph as it will at 140mph. PGR on the other hand is tailored to allow just such shenanigans. While panic steering and braking at 140 still has the aforementioned negative result of sliding, doing so at say, 50mph and then liberally applying the right trigger produces a nice power-slide which is rewarded with “kudos” which are the Bizarre peoples’ version of money. From my experiences with real cars, PGR physics are more accurate. The SGT physics would be accurate if you were on nearly bald tires in the rain. Furthermore, the behavior of individual cars is somewhat suspect in SGT. The viper, corvette, and GT-Concept all don’t handle well at all without modification, while other cars like the venerable 240-Z and 300ZX act like they are on fly-paper. Just so everyone gets this straight: The Viper and Corvette are a couple of the best handling cars in the world despite what all the Gran-Turismo geniuses would have you believe. Basically, if anyone tells you that a Viper handles like crap, he or she is an idiot and you should ignore anything further they say about automobiles in general. Or, you could play PGR and become a believer in the fun one can have with a powerful front engine rear drive car, since it treats most all of the cars as they should be.

The one aspect of the games that likens them are the retarded A.I.s, but even those differ on their levels of retardation. The PGR opponent A.I. ranges from shady to downright malicious. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been punted or pinched into a wall, or spun into a barrier on the last turn of a race. The only thing that kept me from wanting to throw something was the fact that the computer cars would also do the same things to each other, often with spectacular results. The SGT A.I. is about the reverse. If they weren’t playing at being Michael Schumacher and driving off on you they were literally stumbling over themselves to get out of your way. Throughout the game I maybe twice got knocked around to the detriment of my finishing position.

As for my personal likes and dislikes, I tend to favor PGR on the whole by a decent margin. It has a better physics engine, better graphics, has more multiplayer modes, a better car selection, better music, better sound*, and is generally more enjoyable to play.
*The sound in both of these games is severely lacking, but PGR sounds at least passable with the use of a good sub. I use the bumper-cam when I drive, so I at least want the car to sound good if I’m not going to be able to see it.

The one thing that I liked about SGT that left me hanging a bit in PGR is the amount of time that a particular car remains useful. In SGT once you purchased or won a decent chassis (a Lotus Esprit V-8 in my case) that car can be used for nearly the duration of the game with proper tuning and good driving. This allows the player to pick a car they like and just go with it. PGR, however, forces the player to trade up every few thousand Kudos or so. Starting when the Ferrari 355 is unlocked, you cannot unlock more than two cars without trading up and still make progress in the game. So, for instance, if you are a hardcore fan of the Skyline GTR, and you unlock it, it will remain useful for about two levels of the kudos challenge before you need to go win the quickraces and unlock the 355, or try your luck beating the Corvette in a woefully underpowered car on a hilly course. Now, I’m not suggesting that PGR allow customization, since that would defeat the purpose of the game, but a little more car longevity would be nice.

Final analysis: If you are really jonesing for some Gran Turismo action, but don’t have a PS-2, then Sega GT is at least worth a rental to see if it is something that you could play. But if you don’t care about customization, and all you want is a quality racing title, PGR is the game for you.

Anarchy Online: A 1,000 Day Review

anarchy-online

No, the title of this article isn’t a typo; I’ve played Anarchy Online for almost 3 years. I have a level 213 Solitus Doctor (like a human healer) and believe I know the entire game inside and out. I would be the highest level (220) if the endgame wasn’t such a grind. The game has been around for close to 4 years now, and includes two full expansions, Alien Invasion and Shadowlands, and one booster pack, The Notum Wars. Anarchy Online had a very rough start. Some may recall that it was dubbed as one of the most horribly buggy games ever created, and was released far too early. From these shortcomings the game has evolved into a far more stable MMORPG. Recently Anarchy Online has become available to play for free, but this does not include any expansions, and you see some in-game advertising (that really isn’t too obnoxious).

Gameplay

Before I get into the actual gameplay, I want to point out some aspects of the game that make Anarchy Online one of the better MMORPGs out today. Firstly, the community that plays Anarchy Online is by far the best I have ever seen surrounding an online game. They really care about the game and are some of the nicest people around. With the recent influx of new people from offering the game for free, there are more jerks around, but still not nearly as much as I’ve seen in other games. The other thing I wanted to note is that the customer service for Anarchy Online is awesome. If you have a problem ingame, you can use the standard /petition command and a real person will come to help you very quickly (usually around an hour, depending on how many people are online). This is because the developers of Anarchy Online have a group of volunteers who help answer questions about the game and can solve most problems with bugs, lost items, zoning problems, etc. This customer service is unmatched when compared with other games, especially Sony, where you could spend something like 8 hours waiting for an employee of Sony who doesn’t like their job and might help you if you’re lucky.

Ok, now on to the real gameplay. When you first start playing the sheer amount of stuff in Anarchy Online is slightly overwhelming. You can choose between 4 different breeds, select from a variety of heads for your character, change your weight and height, and finally choose between 12 classes (or 14 if you buy the Shadowlands expansion), each with their own special aspects. The learning curve in Anarchy Online is fairly steep because there are so aspects of the game that you can get to know. For instance, there are 43 wear slots, 76 skills you can raise, and somewhere around 100,000 items. Depending on your preference, this can be either a good or a bad thing. On one hand, there are so many different things you can do and paths to choose to customize your character, but this is at the expense of being very confused for a decent amount of time on how the game works.

Anarchy Online is set 27,000 years in the future on a planet that is in the process of being inhabited. This makes the game pretty interesting because it’s one of the few futuristic MMORPGs out there, and is not one of your basic swords and magic RPGs. The story itself is pretty weak, and the developers don’t make too much effort to add to it. There are some very small in-game events that occur now and then, but are designed more for those who enjoy the role-playing aspect of Anarchy Online. If you’re into role-playing, expect to work to make the role-playing work for you.

The heart of any MMORPG is the fighting. Anarchy Online is pretty standard; you simply target the enemy and hit ‘q’ to start attacking, which does basic weapon damage automatically. You can add onto this damage by using weapon specials, or casting “nanos” (same as spells) to do damage on top of the normal damage. This was impressive a few years ago, but now the fighting is slightly duller than other MMORPGs, but still doesn’t get too tedious as time goes on. If you buy the expansions, you can also use “perks” that do a lot of damage or do some other nifty things depending on your class.

One of my favorite aspects of this game is the ability to constantly upgrade your character. There are countless ways to twink your character into being the most uber person at your level. Twinking means to use items that aren’t necessarily meant for your level earlier than intended. There are rules for overequipping items that are too high level, but you can still get higher quality items on without penalty. At the higher level game, this can get very cumbersome because you’ll end up pulling out a calculator and spending time just figuring out what items you can use at your level in order to become really “uber”.

Leveling comes very quickly for most of the game, you can sit down and get at least one level from a group, even at the highest levels until you get to around level 205 (you can only get to level 200 without any expansions). I should note that leveling from 205-220 is absolutely terrible, and by far one of the worst grinds I’ve ever experienced in a game, but this isn’t a big deal because the majority of people take nearly a year to get there.

There is a massive amount of content in Anarchy Online. Although it’s not endless, it’s still pretty impressive how many different things you can do in the game, mostly entailing gaining new armor or weapons. The PVP is not great, but it can be fun. The Notum Wars expansion introduced mass PVP into the game, where the two factions can battle it out with somewhere around up to 100 people fighting it out, making for an interesting (but extremely laggy) fight. The world is massive, and the Shadowlands expansion adds even more playfields with a wide variety of attributes. Although you may think this makes it difficult to travel, there are ways to teleport and fly anywhere you need to go very quickly.

The Shadowlands expansion is more linear, and feels more like a fantasy MMORPG when you play in the Shadowlands playfields, as opposed to the massive futuristic cities of the original game. Personally I really like the futurism of Anarchy Online. It feels better to wield a massive assault rifle and watch it shoot huge beams at the enemy as opposed to having a wimpy little bow. The Alien Invasion expansion returns to this futurism, introducing player cities and the ability to board alien ships and fight them on their own turf. One of the coolest things to see is when the massive alien mothership flies overhead, looking almost like Independence Day as it slowly slowly lumbers overhead, completely covering the entire sky.

The endgame of Anarchy Online is pretty good. There are numerous super-enemies that require a large group (20+ people) to take down, and a couple that take upwards of 50 people to kill. While this may seem like a chore, as only a couple armor pieces or a single weapon might drop for 30 people, it is still pretty fun just to kill them. Of course this fun doesn’t last forever, and many people leave the game because they’ve “done everything”, but again, this doesn’t happen unless you play for a very long time.

Overall, Anarchy Online is a lot of fun. The only times I’ve really hated playing was if I played too much and just got burnt out on it, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem for most people. It takes a long time to learn the ropes and become really “uber”, which is pretty annoying for a while, but it does give you something to do in the game.

Graphics

The graphics in Anarchy Online are fairly good; certainly not anything ground breaking, especially for being nearly 4 years old. The engine isn’t very good, in that you need to have an extremely good system in order to see the game in it’s full glory, or else the lower quality settings look pretty bad and the textures get fairly pixilated. There is good news though, they announced a few months ago that they are in the process of completely revamping the textures and other graphics in-game, so hopefully that will come out soon, but I certainly wouldn’t expect anything close to Everquest 2. There are some nifty on screen effects, for instance if you’re near some massive cannons on the landscape, or lightning strikes near you, the entire screen will shake a little.

Sound

The sound is pretty good. It can get kind of annoying after a time because a lot of different sounds are reused (a lot of guns and swords sound the same), but it remains futuristic sounding. The ambient sounds is pretty cool, especially in cities and buildings, and makes it seem like there is a bunch of stuff going on at once.

Music

The music is actually very good, they have two full CD’s worth of in-game music, ranging from exciting battle music, to epic tracks when Aliens are around, and even some jazzy songs for when you’re hanging around a city or in one of the several social bars.

Stability

It’s hard to write on the stability of the game because different computer systems seem to experience different problems. Personally I’ve never had any huge issues that prevent me from playing or cause the game to crash, but I’ve heard a lot of complaints about crashing in lower end systems, especially since the last patch. The game is very stable now because they’ve had so much time to fix bugs, but there are still some small problems that would inevitably come up in any MMORPG. The score I give here is based on the rough percentage of people who have serious issues with the game combined with the smaller bugs that everyone experiences.

Final Remarks

Obviously I’ve enjoyed playing this game as I’ve spent such a large amount of time playing it. The game is very immersive. It’s fun to just explore the huge world and chat with people. The game is definitely great if you play it for free without the expansions. It’s pretty amazing that they can even offer the game completely free, so if you’re at all interested in this game I would recommend trying it out.

DD2 Cheats

Looking for DD1 cheats?

DD2 Cheat Menu:

To access the level editor, press Control U on the main menu screen.

To access the in-game cheats, press Control U in game.

To access the item summoning cheats, press Control U while on the character inventory screen.

DD2 Walkthrough:

The walkthrough file is available for download (note that it currently only contains walkthrough for the first 20% of the game. The walkthrough will be updated shortly to assist playtesters).

DD1 Cheats

Lookcing for DD2 Cheats?

DD1 Cheat Menu

In game, press CONTROL U. This will bring up a cheat menu. Most of the options should be self explanatory. I recommend that you don’t fool around with the flags however. Doing so can render the game unwinnable. Disclaimer: I accept no responsibility for ruined saved games due to abuse of the cheat menu. :)

DD1 Summoning Items Cheat

CONTROL U on the character inventory screen will bring up a item summoning dialog box.

A full list of item codes, compiled by DreadPirate, can be downloaded here (it’s an excel document):

DD1 Easter Eggs

While making maps for Dark Disciples, I got bored a few times and added some ‘easter eggs':

Mokepon valley : Ever fantasized about killing ‘cute’ pokemon?

Daleks : Play find-the-TARDIS and combat Daleks (yes I am a Nerd).

Nuclear holocaust: Obliterate a square mile of Middengrave swampland…

Pauline Hanson: Meet the lady of ice, Pauline Hanson…

Satan’s testicles: Recover the balls of the evil Prince of Darkness.

DD1 Hint File

If you are stuck at any point in the game, first try the FAQ style Hint file. Download it by clicking here :

DD1 Level Editor

All the maps in Dark Disciples were built with a level editor which is contained within the game itself. To access the editor, press CONTROL U key simultaneously on the main menu.

WARNING: Levels WILL crash or become impossible to complete is they are edited incorrectly. In other words, if you want to fool around with the editor, back up the levels folder first!

Welcome

Introduction

Welcome to www.dodgysoft.com (aka www.DarkDisciples-rpg.com). And welcome to the new, improved, website.

Check out the newest addition to the Dark Disciples website: a new DD2 campaign entitled ‘Temple of Eternity’ written by Steffen Hagen. It’s still in demo stage, but it’s already looking pretty awesome. Click the link above to check it out.

Announcements

31 July 2014: Finally another DD2 update! More bugs have been fixed.

Additional editor events (WildPortal and WildFight) have been added to make way for DD3 which will feature overland areas with random encounters. DD3 will be constructed entirely using the DD2 editor.

PLEASE NOTE: Save games from previous versions of DD2 (3.1 and below) are NOT compatible with this update – sorry.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I have a new new email address: laurenslafebre [at] gdodgysoft.com

Where Do You Hail From?

Played a freeware game from this site and enjoyed it? I’d love to know where you hail from – show your appreciation by clicking on the link below and placing a virtual drawing pin on the map! (thanks to Dex Stewart for finding this):

Frappr Dark Disciples world map!

Donations!

DD1 and DD2 are freeware products, and writting them is a hobby. However, if you would like to donate a few dollars to help me out (i.e. defray webhosting and domain name costs etc) then click the button below. Any donations are gratefully accepted!

Standard Freeware Disclaimer:

This is a standard disclaimer in case anything goes wrong while installing Dark Disciples or someone feels that it is my responsibility to fix their problems : All the games here are freeware and provided ‘as is’. None of these programs will mess with any windows settings and all files were scanned for viruses before being uploaded onto the net. While I am sure they will not cause any problems to your system, I do however accept no responsibility if they do.

Regarding copyright:

The games on this website are freeware and may be distributed freely, so long as they aren’t altered in any way and you don’t attempt to make any money out of them.