Saturday, November 29, 2008

SKG GiN podcast episode 2

The second episode of the podcast is going to be recorded tomorrow. Hopefully we learned a lot from the first one and aim to make this one a LOT better, both technically and content-wise.

We will be discussing the FPS genre. Its impact as a genre, games we like(d), atypical FPS games, and where we hope to see the genre go in the future. It should be interesting.

Stay tuned to the blog as we hope to get the podcast on here by Wednesday next week like with the last one.

Those of you that did download and listen to the podcast, we would like to get your feedback and suggestions, so if you aren't a friend or family member of mine and you listened to it, do post a comment here and let us know what you think.

Also, spread the word!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The trouble with PHCN

I thought that by now I would be able to have done a couple of posts on armored core 4: for answer, fallout 3 (which niyi so generously lent to me), and mega man 9. But, guess what? The power holding company of nigeria (PHCN) is not supplying us with electricity! In the last couple of days, we have had in total, maybe 20 hours maximum of light, most of it in the wee hours of the morning.

And I have been too broke to justify (or hell, even afford) the purchase of diesel for the generator. This all equals zero play time for me.

I would have used the opportunity to play some more etrian odyssey or bangai-o spirits, but the heat and humidity knocks me out before I can do anything fruitful.

Ah well, it did force me to sleep earlier and think a bit more about our upcoming podcast which is going to focus on first person shooters. It is a genre that I have had a very long relationship with, all the way from when I first played Doom at a friend's house to the late-night halo 3 games I participate in from time-to-time. It is oneof the genres that I can say I have some talent for, although I am getting a bit tired of fragging people non-stop. It's why I am looking forward to left 4 dead. The idea of an fps where you are part of a team where survival is paramount really appeals to me. It's also why I am looking forward to killzone 2.

Anyway, enough rambling. This weekend I am going to catch up on the gaming I missed out on as I finally have some money for diesel!

Look forward to my review of armored core and if I manage it, mega man 9 (just 4 more robot masters to go!). I am also working on playing through panzer dragoon orta and ikaruga again in preparation for a feature I want to do on my favourite genre, the shmup.

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

Monday, November 24, 2008


Well…I’m sure everybody has read Yegwa’s glowing review on the new game-currently out- on the Xbox 360 and also available on Steam, so I won’t have to say much about the game developed by Valve and published by Electronic Arts except that, so far I’ve heard nothing but praise and excitement from reviewers and friends about how good this game is or is going to be and I have to admit it’s a little difficult not to get caught up in the whirlwind threading in the aftermath of such high praise. So, I’ll be here anxiously waiting with an itchy trigger finger and the game better be gaddamn terrific or I’ll have a bone or two to pick with quite a few people and I’m telling you it ain’t gonna be pretty. On that note: Bring on the frenzied zombie killing gore and violence…let them scream!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fable 2: part one

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but now that I’ve finally finished the game, I’m ready to give the special review I promised on what may very well be, the most highly lauded RPG of the year. For anyone who hasn’t played the game already and doesn’t want any spoilers of any kind, I suggest you skip the first section of this review entitled: "The Beginning".

The Beginning: I wandered through the street with my sister, the town was a strange eerie place covered with cobbled stoned streets and lined with buildings that seemed odd and crooked. Sarah and I saw something up ahead as we walked down the road. A crowd had gathered and she was curious enough so that she insisted we go and see what was happening. A traveling salesman had come to town, and he had with him an assorted number of items he claimed where magic. One of which was a box he said would grant the owner one wish. Naturally, Sarah scoffed at the idea. A magic wish granting box…? Who would ever believe in such a thing? And I agreed with her, even though I knew better. A mysterious woman in a hood seemed to materialize out of nowhere. She appeared blind and spoke in an ancient, wizened old tone. She suggested that we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the possibility of the box being magic and belief in itself…is sometimes all one needs. 5 gold pieces…the price was steep, perhaps too steep for a pair of poor street urchins, but eventually we were able to gather the pieces of gold, making a new friend –a dog- along the way and purchasing the item we hoped would free us from the poverty we had known all our lives. Sarah made her wish…the little silver box opened and a bright light shot into the sky. Once the light was gone, we found our situation hadn’t changed; we were exactly who and where we had always been: a couple of orphans on the streets of Albion. Disappointed, we made our way to the back of an alley, to a shelter we had created for ourselves and went to sleep. We woke up moments later to the sound of barking. Footsteps approached and a guard from the castle carrying a torch walked up to us. Somehow, Lord Lucien, the lord of the castle wanted to see us. We left the dog behind and followed the guards…moments later we were brought to the castle and brought before Lord Lucien in his study.
He asked a lot of questions about who we were. And then- curiously enough- he asked about the box, commenting that he was surprised we were able to open it at all, and then said something rather vague about believing either my sister or me where some sort of heroes. To discover if there was any truth behind his theory, he asked both of us to stand on a weird looking platform by a large window. I was a little suspicious of his motives, but since Sarah didn’t say anything, I followed her to the platform and took a place by her side. Energy emanated from the platform and held us both in place. Lord Lucien rummaged through a stack of books on an old looking desk and confirmed his suspicions…one of us, was the fourth Hero and he couldn’t allow that person to live. He took his pistol, pointed at Sarah and pulled the trigger. The bullet ripped through her small body and she slumped to the floor. I watched my sister die, powerless even to express my shock and heartbreak, powerless to protect her from this mad man. Lord Lucien now turned his attention on me… “I’m sorry…” he seemed to say with regret, as he shot me through the chest. The force of the bullet sent me flying through the air and crashing through the window behind me. I could feel myself falling into darkness and then…nothing.
I awoke sometime later, with a piece of cloth bandaged around my head and the feel of soft fur under my hand. I found myself in the confines of a small room, with the dog by my side and the mysterious hooded woman hovering over my bed. With revenge in my heart, I swore that one day I would avenge my sister’s murder. One day…Lord Lucien would pay.

Review: Like its predecessor Fable 2 begins with you as an orphaned child on the streets of Albion named Sparrow, and then flashes forward some years later with you playing as the more grown up “Sparrow”, as he begins his journey to get revenge for his sister’s murder and save the world from the evil and nefarious Lord Lucien. The game is brilliant, with a host of missions and delightful mini-games that actually have a real purpose other than mild entertainment. Bar tend, chop wood, become a blacksmith or take on a bounty to make money for your coffers and increase your fame. The greater your fame the cheaper thing’s will become, the more money you have, the more property you own and the higher the standard of the equipment you can purchase. Fable 2 has all the basics for an RPG and the game pretty much follows the trends and story of a Hero on a quest to save the world from some evil villain, but there are some rather interesting exceptions in the case of Fable 2 when compared to other RPG's. As I began the game, I found myself strangely trapped in a rather infuriating cycle of work-related jobs, which included smithing, bartending and chopping wood. My fixation on these mini-games even led to a friend of mine- who happened to walk in at the time I was on a job chopping wood- asking if the game I was playing was called “Woodcutter…” A remark made as he watched me chop a log of wood in half for the umpteenth time. Ironically, unlike many games of its kind, I found that Fable 2’s mini-games have a way of drawing you away from the actual story and plot of the game without taking much away from the actual appeal of the game in its entirety and once you finally make enough money and buy enough property, you find that all that hard work actually begins to pay off as you incur a certain amount of money from shops and any houses you rent out every 5 minutes and this, even while you’re not playing the game. Yes, even if you decide to play something else, like Halo 3 for instance, your properties in the game actually continue to bring in gold. Now, while I understand that living in a country like Nigeria (with our fluctuating power supply) may not allow those of us in this country to fully benefit from such a dynamic, the mere thought of it makes you realize how cool it would be if a stable power supply wasn’t a problem. Perhaps, the only real pitfall of the game, may come from those (and there seem to quite a number of them) who dislike the art design of the character’s and NPC’s in the game. I have heard people complain about the hands of the people being too large or the feet being too wide, or even the fact that bodies are strangely disproportionate. And while I really liked the rather odd looking art design (concept), there are still quite a number of people who obviously don’t and as a result have shied away from the game because of this rather trivial pitfall. All I can say about this rather meager oversight, is merely that the game more than makes up for it’s sometimes childlike or western cartoonish-styled graphics with the share entertainment of its content. From the game’s intriguing storyline and its application of the dynamic weapon and magic attack combinations-which you use against constantly respawning enemies- to the more subtle use of various expressions to seduce, scare or amuse the game world’s citizens, Fable 2 presents the player with a host of plots, subplots and pitfalls that will keep your eyes glued to the screen and your hands firmly fixed on the pad, all the way through to its ultimate and enigmatic end.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Going public

Okay, so with the release of the podcast, I have finally decided to start trying to publicise the blog.

The first step in this quite frankly scary enterprise, was to create a facebook page. So, do check it out and become a fan on there if you can. The website's posts will appear there as notes too, so if you're one of those people who only uses the internet for facebooking, then you can stay up-to-date with what's going on!

To all those who are currently subscribed to the blog/have been watching, thanks and stay tuned. We hope to be doing great things, maybe even as soon as December/January.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Some Kill Giants' GiN Podcast Episode 1 is Live!

The podcast is live ladies and gentlemen. The podcast is live.

The streaming version of the podcast is a lower quality one and we are still experimenting with bitrates and so on, but I think this is still quite ok and is small enough for people to grab it even on some of the crappy connections we got here. Although I will make a higher quality (64kbps) one available here soon.

Enjoy, and let us have your feedback.

Direct Download here (low quality - 32kbps)

P.S. We already know about the fan noise and vow that it won't happen again on the second episode!


Here are some more things to keep you busy while we wrap up on the podcast post-production.

1. via gamesetwatch an interesting animated music video featuring Space Invaders which I am embedding below.

2. The Interactive Fiction Competition for 2008 is over and here are the winners! I am hoping to enter the next one as by then I should be properly conversant with Inform 7. Who knows? Might be able to submit Mindstar by then.

3. Also via gamesetwatch, an article on the state of the shmup by Edge Magazine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Left 4 Dead available on Steam

Left 4 Dead is available from Steam today! Shame, I still have to wait until I can figure out a way of getting it when it launches for the 360 in just a few more days.

Almost all the previews and impressions from the demo have been glowing, and there is a bit of an early review from the guys over at shacknews and they also like it! Plus, don't you look forward to this?

Or running away from them?

I was tempted to get this via steam since I do have steam on my PC and have a system capable of running it, but the fact that I would have to play it online or on a LAN makes me balk at the thought of it. I want to play this with my friends and be able to see and hear them screaming or laughing.

Well, hopefully, it will just be a few more days. I was talking with a friend about a courier service that helps get things down to Nigeria fast. If it works out, will post about it on here so that you guys can know too.

I have actually been looking into bringing games in for sale, but have been having challenges, if this works out, maybe I will roll with it.

While you wait

While progress on editing the podcast is going smoothly, I decided that I wouldn't leave you all without posts until we get the podcast on here. So, here is a link to a very awesome stop-motion video of mega man.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Some Kill Giants' GiN podcast

So, we were able to record the first episode of the podcast yesterday. I am actually really happy with the quality of the recording and more importantly, that the content came out pretty well.
Of course, this was thanks to our great guests and my co-host, all I did was shout a lot and sound overly excitable...


Well, I can promise that the next one will be even better. Working on editing and cleaning up the sound over the next couple of days so do look forward to it by this weekend or maybe even earlier!
We discussed whether or not we were finishing our games, super mario world, veered into difficulty in gaming just a bit and what we were playing and looking forward to.

We aim to keep improving as this episode is by no means perfect. Your feedback would be invaluable to us, and if you have anything you would be interested in having us talk about, let us know in the comments.

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the podcast. Mike Majic, El Cij, Wale and Niyi. It wouldn't have worked without you guys.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

For Answer

Ok, before any of you get scared that I became a mecha pilot while you were not looking, what came before was a glimpse into Armored Core 4 Answer.

I got it recently for the ps3 when I went into Mega Plaza to see what the new games they had were. I wasn't planning on getting anything, but when I saw the case I couldn't resist.

I have been playing the game in small bursts over the past couple of nights and I finally came up against the signature NEXT (that's what they call the mecha in the game), White Glint. I was given a wing man to go up against it and had a blast.

The first three times I tried the mission I failed miserably, surviving up until the point when the lynx (the pilots of NEXTs) with me is killed.

But, once I got my head around the way I had to compensate for my craft against the white glint, I had a great fight and took him out in record time!

When I checked online I found out that there is speculation that the pilot of the white glint is supposed to be the player from the previous game - armored core 4.

Anyway, the fight inspired me to write about it and use it to experiment with a way of writing about videogames that is a bit more visceral (get ready to see more of that once I get my hands on left 4 dead, albeit not in-character).

I added a bit too many embellishments I think, and I will probably be focusing more on what 'I' felt as opposed to what the game character would have felt, but I am happy with it I guess. Let me know what you think.

Well, I haven't finished the game yet, but I am definitely having a blast and enjoying being a lynx for an hour or two at night. If you enjoy mecha games and are not bothered by slightly complex control schemes, this should be up your alley! It is also available on the xbox 360.
Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device

The Glint In My Eye

The White Glint was a legend amongst Lynx. The NEXT that tore through whole armies all in defence of Line Ark. It was said that its pilot sometimes showed mercy to troops, giving them an opportunity to escape if they agreed never to return to Line Ark.

Some said it was because its pilot was tired of war and only killed because of some higher duty. Others said its pilot only enjoyed killing worthy opponents. It would explain why any NEXT that had come up against it had not returned. I wonder how many NEXTs and Normals lay sunken beneath the waves of the sea surrounding Line Ark's headquarters.

I wasn't that bothered. I didn't believe in myths. No Lynx, and especially no NEXT, was invincible.

Omer insisted that I take along a pilot that they would recommend. I was a bit irritated by that, after all, I work alone and had not had any trouble so far with the jobs I had undertaken.

After waiting around a bit in the Omer base near the remains of Lagostown, a lynx walked in. It was Otsdarva. Hmph. Looks like Omer was serious about eliminating the White Glint. Well, that's if the stories I had heard about Otsdarva were true anyway.

We head out for Line Ark at dawn and got there about thirty minutes later. We were greeted by the White Glint's operator. Turns out Otsdarva knows her - Fiona Jarnefeldt. He also made some reference about her being responsible for the fall of Anatolia.

That was interesting...

We made it clear that we were not backing down. Otsdarva had already activated his overboost and headed straight for the White Glint. I was still expecting some sort of reinforcements from Line Ark, but none came. Not that I wasn't grateful though, the White Glint's pilot, whoever he/she was, was a beast.

I tried getting Otsdarva to slow down so we could plan properly and limit the White Glint's mobility. Maybe get it into the structure we were fighting around, it seemed like it was geared around aerial maneuverability. But no, he insisted on chasing the NEXT every which way it went, playing to its pilot's tune. It was obvious this was personal for him, as the number 1 rated lynx in Collared, he probably felt threatened by the White Glint, whose pilot was officially rated 9th and yet still more feared than he was. Knowing this, I was even more annoyed that Omer sent him along with me.

My HUD told me that I was running low on AS missiles. I switched to my right arm weapon settling in for the long haul with my rifle. Missiles were too expensive to waste trying to hit the White Glint anyway. Better to rely on my plasma cannon and the rifle.
Initially, the White Glint focused almost exclusively on Otsdarva, throwing a few missiles and shots my way whenever I got too involved in their dance.

I quick boosted out of the way again as the White Glint sent a few missiles my way once more. As I shot down the remaining missiles chasing me, I noticed Otsdarva moving erratically. What was he doing?

I then saw what was wrong, his main generator had been destroyed. Looks like the pilot of the Glint had crippled him completely. He fell out of the sky towards the sea. I thought about going to try and catch him, but the White Glint sent more missiles my way and forced me to dodge some more. Moving further away from Otsdarva.

The Glint then activated its overboost and disappeared behind some buildings. I hovered over the water warily watching the direction the White Glint went in and scanning for any sign of Otsdarva. Maybe he would be able to escape in time.

I heard his voice over the comm, he was congratulating the pilot of the Glint!

"Get out of there man!" I yelled into my mic. I got static in response.


Kasumi came in over the comm-link confirming that Otsdarva was dead. She also let me know it was just me and Glint left to duel. Not that I was expecting any backup at this stage in the fight.

I gripped my controls and began to scan the skies for the NEXT. My NEXT's cameras were not the best available unfortunately, even though they had served me well in the past. I vowed to upgrade my headpiece if I got out of this alive.

I saw a flash of white to the right. It was the White Glint. I opened fire as soon as my auto-targeting system picked it up and began boosting towards it. Maybe if I could get in close I could damage its boosters, give me an edge and maybe deliver some sort of karmic justice for Otsdarva.

I sent a cloud of missiles to its left and came in hard from the right, machine gun fire wailing over the sound of explosions. I fired flares, expecting a retaliatory salvo from the Glint, and I wasn't disappointed. I had gotten in close enough to hit the main boosters when suddenly I noticed it's engines glowing brightly and the unmistakable halo showing the discharge of kojima particles. My heart got caught in my chest. The NEXT was getting ready to release its assault armour attack. I quick boosted and flew into the air to get out of its area of effect. I watched as the field of deadly energy came towards me as I ascended. A stray thought passed through my head as I pushed my engines to their limits, In this moment, I was truly in a place reserved for a few. This feeling of riding the edge of death at over 200 km/hr, it was one of a kind. The zone.

I made it. I didn't get away completely unscathed though, the attack ripped right through my primal armour and damaged my armour plating directly. It wasn't enough to put my readout in the red though.

I had to act fast. The White Glint purging its assault armour gave me a window of opportunity, its primal armour would have been depleted and it would take a few seconds for it to recharge. Now was the time to strike.

I turned around quickly, targeting the White Glint and letting rip with my plasma cannon and rail gun. With no primal armour to defend the NEXT, it didn't take long. A couple more shots and it was over.

I could hear Fiona, the White Glint's operator over the comm. She spoke to me and said something about me being as good as she feared I would be. I didn't know what to think about that. How could I? I had just beaten the White Glint.

I got an S-rank for that mission from the match ranking computer. I stared at it for a while wondering how much luck played a factor in what just happened. After a few seconds I realised it didn't matter. Luck was always a factor in battle.

I had a few job requests waiting for me when I got back to base, the one that caught my eye was to bring down two of Algebra's lynx's, the pilots of Red Rum and Starka.

Before I accepted the mission, I thought about why I kept on taking these jobs from faceless corporations, adding destruction to an already blasted earth. A lot of people think that lynxes were insane or just desperate to justify their training and the amount of money spent on keeping our NEXTs in working order. I think it was more than that, but I didn't know why.

Part of the answer came to me as I managed to complete the battle against the two NEXTs, Red Rum's four-legged NEXT shorting out in front of me. The planning, the preparation of the NEXT for battle, the high speed ballet filled with the thud of bullets, the crackle of plasma and the sighing of missiles through the air.

I continued fighting in this war because it was something I was good at and my NEXT allowed me to do. Not that the loss of life was something that pleased me, but there was something, something that caught the eye in-between pushing the side-boosters to their limit as one weaved to dodge a missile barrage, something that captured the imagination as I soared through the skies watching the subtle electric crackle of kojima particles in the dead of a snowstorm.

I am sure the pilot of the White Glint understood that and that was why even as he/she sank, they didn't say a word. They didn't need to. We had already said everything there was to say.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Grim Fandango Design Document Released

I have been meaning to post about this but just didn't get around to it. The design document for Grim Fandango, one of the last great adventure games from LucasArts back when they were more than just a front for Star Wars related ephemera, was recently made available for free online by Tim Schafer, the lead designer.

I haven't been able to have alook at the document myself, which is supposed to be 72-pages long, but I think it is a must-read for any aspiring game designer, even if you are not interested in the adventure genre.

You can also visit Tim Schafer's website here and catch up on what he is currently working on and to see more of his great life lessons and observations of being a gamer dad like in this post and this one.

Mobile Phone Game Development

I realise that I haven't made that many game development-related posts in a while so here's one.

According to wikipedia there are about 3.3 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world. Of course there are people with multiple subscriptions, just like in our wonderful country where people have up to four or five lines, but even if half of that figure is the real number of handsets in the world, that is still 1/6th of the world's population. That's a number that cannot be ignored. Now, of course, I am only advocating that we should start developing for a subset of that group. Mainly, the group that has iPhones, and the group that has and will have phones powered by the Google Android OS like the T-Mobile G1.

The sales of powerful, media savvy phones has risen tremendously in the last couple of years. Just recently the Apple iPhone overtook sales of RIMs blackberry with a total of 6.9 million phones sold this year and I am sure that that number will increase. The G1 also saw pre-sale figures of 1.5 million and definitely that figure will rise once the phone is released around the world. All this figure crunching means is that there is a huge market out there, and with the availability of easy-to-browse application stores for both the iPhone and Android OS, there is a huge opportunity for Nigerian developers to sell their wares to the world. 

But first we have to build them, and build them well.

When I first returned to the country in 2004, I spoke with a few people who were into software development about whether or not they would be interested in developing games for consoles or the PC. Without exception, all of them told me that even though they might be interested, that they didn't feel there was a big enough market for games in Nigeria for it to be worthwhile. I tried explaining to them that they didn't have to limit themselves to only Nigerian consumers, but most of them wouldn't listen. The ones who did just thought that they didn't have the skillsets and that no publisher or investor would be interested in financing such a venture.

Well, here I am now hoping that this should be a lot easier to get into.

The Android OS is java based and I believe that most Nigerian developers picked up java at some point, and the SDK and in fact the entire OS are available for download from the Android Homepage. There are also loads of tutorials with advice and techniques for building Android apps, and more pertinently, there are quite a few forums springing up for Android game development.

Making games for the iPhone is a bit more difficult, but the rewards are potentially a lot greater as the phone has a huge fan base at the moment and has success stories for games that can be used to sway potential investors. I believe you need to work on a Mac, and you have to program in Objective C which is developed by Apple and used on the Mac OS X. There are loads of tutorials on the net for learning it though, and from what I understand, if you know C, it is not much of a leap to learn it. Once you can overcome these hurdles you can then get to the hard work of making a game and ensuring that it sells. You can get Apple Macs in Lagos at very good prices from Superior Equipment and they offer a full bevy of services to go with that as they are an official Apple reseller.

Of course, this is not to say that once you choose your platform or even decide to code for both that your game will automatically be successful. A whole slew of challenges await you. Assuming you have a kickass game on your hands and there are no bugs at all, it will still have to find the audience. You have to remember that there are loads of people from all over the world jumping on these platforms, so it is important to be able to market your game effectively over the internet via gaming sites, and so on. There is also the problem of actually being from Nigeria which could make it difficult to collect payments and so on, but I am sure that all these things are surmountable. 

So, go out and make some games so that we can get on the map for something other than the usual. I would do it myself, but for now I am too busy working on PC games via Game Maker 7 and Inform 7 and writing comic books!

Helpful Links -

Friday, November 7, 2008

Online Gaming in Nigeria

I was talking to a friend the other day about what games we were interested in this Christmas, and I mentioned Left 4 Dead . He then proceeded to ask me whether I was planning to try and play L4D online with our terrible internet connections. Now, even though I am primarily getting Left 4 Dead for system link fun (hopefully I will be able to convince everyone in our 360 LAN circle to pick it up as well), it did get me thinking about what games we can play online from Nigeria.
One game that came to mind was FFXI . Now, even though you will probably lag like hell, it would be playable and you would be able to get a lot out of it. I remember that when I first moved back to Nigeria, I was able to play it over a 56K connection and it was okay. The main problem of course would be how to pay for your subscription. It would be worth investigating to see whether they accept Nigerian credit cards. I guess the same would go for World of Warcraft although if you can actually figure out a means of paying, by all means give those two a try. They work quite well on our connections.
So, I have decided to make a short list of good games that I feel are quite easy to get and play online. This list is of course by no means definitive, but I hope it will be able to introduce more people to the joys of multiplayer gaming.
For this list, an ideal online game that would be suitable to playing from Nigeria would have the following characteristics:
1. Be playable over a slow connection and not be too dependent on having low latency, low ping connections. So that rules out the majority of first person shooters and some RTS games.
2. Not require a subscription fee. With all the hullabaloo of Nigeria being the king of credit card fraud, most companies are unwilling to accept any of our bank issued VISA or Mastercard credit cards even if we are willing to send proof of identity and ownership. So, this is of course going to be a factor. In the case of games that accept our credit cards, I will make a note of that in the short write-up describing it.
3. Not require system specifications that are too high. This is mostly related to PC/Mac gaming. This is because high-end systems are quite hard to come by in Nigeria from my experience with shop owners going wide-eyed when you request a system with more than 2GB of RAM onboard and no clue what video cards are. Any game on this list will be playable with a very basic system. By basic system I mean a computer that has at least a pentium III (or equivalent processor), at least 512MB of RAM, and a graphics card with at least 64MB of RAM onboard.

The List - 

1. Lusternia (or anything else by Iron Realms ). Lusternia is a text-based MUD (multi user dungeon) that is part of a group of text-based games from a company called Iron Realms. They are known for creating games of quite a bit of depth with rewarding gameplay and social systems. Wait! Come back! Just because there are no graphics does not mean that it is not fun! Honest, I promise!
Ok, settled in?
I chose Lusternia to highlight their stable of games, even though all of them are definitely worth at least trying, because it is the setting I liked the most. The dark, almost faerie-like setting with trees being places of power and bards that destroy things just by strumming a string on their harps is quite absorbing and a little bit different from the standard Tolkeinesque fare that most other text-
based MUDs bring to the table. You can play any of these games using the standard windows/mac terminal which allows you to connect to their server and play the game, and all of the Iron Realms games have a java applet that can be launched from the various game websites, but if you want a bit more customisation and cotrol over your play experience, then you can get one of the dedicated software solutions for playing these games. zMUD , GMUD , MUSHClient , all these and more allow you to interface with the games at a level that the java client or windows/mac terminal cannot even offer.
There are a few problems though. With our high latency connections, combat at the higher levels can become very troublesome to get right, where timing and making decisions based on what you see on the screen and with our connections, if you get hit by lag, it could easily result in death. However, it is possible to pay cash in order to advance if combat proves too difficult, and I believe they accept Nigerian credit cards.
So, if you are interested in playing in fantasy worlds with hundreds and even thousands of other players politicking and fighting with the best of them, you should try out Lusternia or at least one of the Iron Realms games. I am sure you will find something you like. And if you don't care for fantasy, there are loads of sci-fi, horror and urban themed MUDs that are also a lot of fun. You can find them at the MUD Connector or Top MUD Sites .

2. Dofus . Dofus is a graphical mmorpg (massively multiplayer online roleplaying game) made by a French company called Ankama Games. It was built completely in Flash and is quite beautiful. The reason I put it here is that the combat is turn-based and so is not explicitly dependent on quick inputs and the client itself is quite lightweight at 150MB compared to the monsters of World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XI which are both close to or above 1GB. I did download and try out this game but didn't get very far in it. There is a block on the amount of content you can access if you don't pay a subscription, but I will check and see if they accept Nigerian credit cards. They are also working on another game called Wakfu which is based in the same universe, as well as a TV series.
It is quite a successful game with about 10 million players on different servers. Whichever way you slice it, that is huge and speaks to the popularity of the game.
So, even if you can't go past the beginner stages due to credit card payment trouble, you can still enjoy a part of the game.

3. Kingdom of Loathing . Kingdom of Loathing is a browser-based morpg (multiplayer roleplaying game) run by Asymmetric Publications. This is a very funny game typified by its use of stick figures and humorous writing. You take on the role of an adventurer, just like in the previous games mentioned here, and you fight monsters and get treasure all while cracking up at the silly writing and situations. You are allocated a set amount of adventures a day which can be augmented by various items with the number being reset at 2pm GMT. Each adventure allows you to battle a monster or do some other activities. This helps limit your play time as one can only do so much in any given day and can be of huge benefit to those who might get addicted and not do any work at all.
It is quite interesting and although I only dabbled in it, it was actually quite interesting.

4. Trackmania Nations Forever . Okay, though not strictly an online gaming experience, it is enhanced tremendously by having other players to compete with, either by racing directly against them, or indirectly by trying to beat their lap and track times. It's hiscore table is collated from all over the world allowing you to play offline and do time trials and then upload your scores and see how you did.
Trackmania Nations is a racing game focused around the art of time trials (racing on a particular track with the aim of getting the fastest lap and/or track time). It is such an addictive game and it scales very readily to very slow systems. As long as you have a suitable graphics card to show it, it will gladly run at a smooth, crisp state for your entire play time.
It was one of the games that we tried to participate in for the World Cyber Games 2008 that I wrote about in a previous article and in fact this is more of a reason for us to play it more. As at the last time I checked, we had 80+ players from Nigeria on Trackmania Nations Forever. I hope we can get more and even get on the global rankings board.

Oh, did I mention that it had a track editor allowing you to create awesome, zany tracks for both you and your friends to try out?

5. Evernight: The Reign of Darkness . I actually used to play this a couple of years back and I am quite pleased that it is still available to play and going strong. It is a browser based turn-based strategy game where you take control of an army/nation and proceed to battle/negotiate with other players for supremacy. Every day you are given a set number of turns in which to accomplish various things. You get one turn every ten minutes and you can make a move as often as that or even once a week if you prefer and all from the comfort of your browser window!

Definitely give this a try.

That's it for now. I will probably be adding to this list in the coming months and of course, if you have any suggestions do leave them in the comments section.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Now I know that almost everybody in the world has heard of this game, even if you have been living under a rock, chances are you’re familiar with at least one of the installments in the Grand Theft Auto series. If not, you may at least be aware of the controversy surrounding the crime glorifying plot of the series. But if you still don't know what the hell I'm talking about, then checkout this link:


I’ll be honest and admit that the gratuitous violence of the GTA series was all that intrigued me about the earlier titles in the Rockstar Game series. At the time, Vice City was vastly different from the games I was used to, and was one of the first games on the new age series of game consoles- that emerged at the time of its release- that I actually played. I’ll also admit that I never really got into the earlier games (Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto II), not up until the release of GTA III. But, even then there was just something about the game that put me off. Now, I liked the fact that the sandbox styled game allowed you to roam freely around the city and basically steal any car you wanted or shoot anyone whose face you didn’t like (and no, I’m not psychotic.), but I have always been a more story-orientated gamer. Sure, game play matters, but there was always something about the flow of the game, like for instance in the case of Vice City and San Andreas, that made it so that I eventually found myself lost on unending stints of maniacal gun blasting and havoc wreaking rampages, rather than bothering with the progression of the game’s storyline. It was even worse (for me) with the San Andreas version of the game, as the game developers (Rockstar North.) added a sort of leveling system, where your character's skill with weapons and piloting certain vehicles, only improved the more you used them. Naturally, rampaging and havoc wreaking was one of the fastest and more fun ways of doing this, and so led to endless hours of car chases, Rambo styled massacres and needless explosions. All good and fun, I know.

But then, came GTA IV and I finally figured out what- in my opinion- the series was sorely lacking. Now, I know that in many circles, GTA IV is still basically considered to be a “shooter”, but for me, the latest installment in the Grand Theft Auto series is closer to the ultimate modern day RPG, and probably the only one of its kind. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s the best Role Playing Game in recent times or that it 's even an actual RPG, but only that, no other game comes even close to putting you in the shoes of a modern day (and highly believable) personality like the immigrant, former Ukrainian military man turned criminal, named Niko Bellic, who along with his trouble prone cousin Roman and the host of colorful and memorable characters you meet throughout the span of the game, immerse you in a world of drugs, alcohol, sex and gun tooting violence. Even in spite of the fact that GTA IV's game environment is the smallest in scale of all in the GTA series, the depth and detail is far superior to any of the others, owing in no small amount to the power of the consoles it was made for, I know. But the brilliant design of the mini games within GTA IV’s environment, means that players can take a break from the often dangerous criminal life of Niko Bellic and simply hang out with a friend, playing pool or bowling or have a night out at a strip club or even getting shitfaced with your cousin Roman, all the while, trying not to get caught by the cops for drinking and driving. Or you may even decide to take a leisurely cab ride around town and listen to a host of radio shows and music stations, one of which is hosted by Nigeria’s very own Femi Kuti. Or Journey to the top of a replica Empire State building (If you can find it, that is) and take a bird’s eye view of the breathtaking scope and detail of Liberty City, or go on a boat cruise or helicopter ride with your steroid junky friend Bruce, or you could simply have a quiet night in, watching a number of hilarious T.V shows on the tube. There are a host of hidden missions too, like killing the 200 or so pigeons randomly placed throughout the city, or finding the heart of the city- which is an actual heart by the way- or even finding friends around the city who send you on bonus missions. The truth is, in many ways, GTA IV is almost flawless, with brilliantly witty- even if sometimes explicit- dialogue.

Like the other games in the series, your actions often decide the path your character will follow, but unlike the other games, I found the story of Niko Bellic, an infectious enough one for me to play the damn thing all over again, just so I could find out what would happen if I made different choices from the one’s I made the first time.

SUMMARY: Rockstar games: GTA IV is by far the best game I’ve played so far this year and I vehemently recommend it to every ardent gamer out there. (If you haven’t already played it, that is.)