Panzer General

By the 1990′s, turn-based strategy war games had become highly specialized with a very thin customer base.  Most required a grognard’s ability to juggle multiple battle statistics at once, and had a limited visual appeal.  Then, in 1994, Strategic Simulations Incorporated (SSI) released Panzer General and the wargame genre transformed into a mass market product.

Panzer General game box

Panzer General game box.

Unlike real-time strategy (RTS) games, turn-based strategy games permit the user time to ponder their next move without having to press the pause button.  The drawback is that once you’ve committed your resources you must watch your turn – and your then your opponent’s – play out.  To state the obvious, chess is an example of turn-based strategy.

Typical combat screen in Panzer General

Typical combat screen in Panzer General.

Panzer General offered players both single scenario play, in which they could assume the role of an Allied or an Axis general, as well as a Campaign Mode, in which the player attempts to win World War II for Germany.  The campaign runs from 1939 to 1945, and as units gain battle experience, they become stronger, and the player (as general) gains access to upgrades and reinforcements – assuming they are victorious, that is.  If the player achieves their scenario objectives with five or more game turns to spare, it is considered a “Major Victory,” which unlocks further game elements.  Major Victories enable the player to alter history, such as invading Britain on the heels of victory in France, or even landing an invasion force in North America to capture Washington, D.C.

The invasion of Malta in Panzer General

The invasion of Malta in Panzer General

The game was published across several platform, including versions for the Panasonic 3D0 system, MS-DOS and Windows based computers, Sony PlayStation, and for the Macintosh.  It also spawned a plethora of sequels, including: the 5-Star Series (Allied General, Fantasy General, Pacific General, People’s General, and Star General), Panzer General II, Panzer General 3D Assault, Panzer General III: Scorched Earth, and Panzer General: Allied Assault.  Clearly gamers enjoyed wargames once again!

Furious combat in Panzer General.

Furious combat in Panzer General.

Panzer General was both well-reviewed and well-received by the gaming public.  Besides receiving high review scores from the critics, gamers just kept playing the game.  To this day, there are sites on the Internet devoted to this game, with hundreds of scenarios, new units, and even new features.  Mods are the fountain of youth for classic games, and Panzer General was no exception, as they managed to keep the game fresh and interesting years after its release.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2H6pnOZCUg[/youtube]

Ultimately, the game’s fabulous gameplay coupled with its genre-changing aspect make it a classic retro game that every retrogamer needs to play!

Ascendancy

Some games are released and gain an instant cult following, yet do not find a larger audience with the larger PC gamer market.  Sometimes they are too quirky.  Sometimes the game’s instructions are confusing, and require a great deal of experimentation to learn and understand.  Sometimes the genre is experiencing market oversaturation, and no matter how good the game is, people are too tired of playing that kind of game.  Whatever the reason, great games have been released that did not find more than a toehold in the gamerverse, and disappeared into the mists of gaming history.  Ascendancy, released by The Logic Factory in 1995, was one such game.

Ascendancy - PC Games - Classic - Gameplay screenshot

Cover art for the 1995 PC game, Ascendancy.

Ascendancy was a turn-based strategy game set in a sci-fi universe, and gave the player several species options to choose from – 21 in all.  (Interestingly, Humans were not included as one of those races. )  Each species had its strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages.   For instance, some races were better negotiators, some better scientists, some better weapon makers, some better at defending their turf, and some better at invasion.  How soon you met these other species depended on how dense of star cluster you chose at the beginning of the game.  The denser the cluster, the more planets existed, and more star lanes connecting them.  Those star lanes were the key to victory, as could be controlled by a particular alien race, and that control could vary as systems were conquered.  For even more variety, the computer randomized your opponents, which meant never knowing exactly what you faced; the game was different every time you played it.

Ascendancy - PC Games - Classic - Gameplay screenshot

Title screen for the 1995 PC game, Ascendancy.

An interesting feature of Ascendancy was the Tech Tree, which was a three-dimensional representation of the scientific advances that were available to the alien race.  As each discovery was made, new paths – branches – were opened for development.  The Logic Factory outdid itself with the names of the techno-advancements, with such titles as Tonklin Diary (which allows for Tonklin Frequency Analyzers) or Spacetime Surfing (which allows for Star Lane Drives) or Gravity Control (which allows for Quantum Singularity Launchers) or Momentum Deconservation (which allows for Concussion Shields), and so on.  Of course, you could jumpstart your research by locating and searching through alien ruins on the planets your fleet visited for lost technology, which was yet another random variable that made Ascendancy both ever-changing and immanently replayable.

Ascendancy - PC Games - Classic - Gameplay screenshot

Ascendancy was a wonderful game with a huge flaw: the AI.  Although casual gamers enjoyed the game’s challenge, more advanced gamers found the AI to be weak and easily mastered.  The Logic Factory responded by issuing a patch which greatly enhanced the game’s AI, but in 1995 few people were on the Internet, so the patch never found widespread release.   For those itching to play the original Ascendancy with the Antagonizer patch, here it is: ANTAGONIZER and README.

Ascendancy - PC Games - Classic - Gameplay screenshot

Planetary screen in Ascendancy

As could be expected in any multi-civilization strategy game, Ascendancy included a robust diplomacy element.  As new species discovered your existence, their attitudes and responses were influenced by how you reacted to them.  Peace treaties, hostilities, technology exchanges, invitations to join in current conflicts were examples of some of the outcomes resulting from an exchange of diplomatic pleasantries.  As in real life, species who considered you weak would make broader demands and reject overtures; species who considered you strong worked on making you their best friend.

Ascendancy - PC Games - Classic - Gameplay screenshot

Successful research screen in Ascendancy

Ascendancy was a quirky game, but it found a receptive audience due to its stellar gameplay.  It earned a 93% score and an Editor’s Choice award from PC Gamer, and received some high praise from the grognard’s grognard, William R. Trotter (which has an interesting story and legend surrounding the review and his subsequent strategy guide work on the same game).  Ascendancy also won a Codie Award for Best Strategy Software in 1996, in a field that included Allied General and Command & Conquer.  (Mind you, they gave the Best Adventure/Roleplaying Game award to Oregon Trail II that same year.)

Ascendancy - PC Games - Classic - Gameplay screenshot

Searching the ruins in Ascendancy

Time has passed and the prospect of a sequel remain dim.  However, a new version built for the iPhone (and iPad) has been released, and has received some solid reviews from those who game on those platforms.  But for the retrogamer, the original Ascendancy remains supreme in turn-based space strategy exploration and conquest, and well worth investing a little time playing once again!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXm6DL3D4Ws[/youtube]

DotEmu to offer Gabriel Knight Series

Gabriel Knight

We are always happy when we see classic games made available for more and more people and DotEmu is doing just that. Launched in 2007 Dot Emu offers classic games reprogramed and enhanced for use on today’s PC, MAC’s, iphone and even online.

Recently DotEmu announced a partnership with Activision to release their Gabriel Knight series for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 DRM-Free. The series includes the games: GABRIEL KNIGHT: Sins of the Fathers® ($5.99), THE BEAST WITHIN: A Gabriel Knight® Mystery ($5.99) and GABRIEL KNIGHT® 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned ($5.99).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQYuXBqR9T4[/youtube]

You can check out these titles here.

 

Windows 386: The Spy that Blue-screened on Me

Windows 386 promo video

The Spy that Blue-screened on Me

In 1988, Microsoft sent out a video tape to retailers that was to explain the benefits of Windows 386 so that they could purchase them to sell to their customers. The original video is over 12 minutes long, but this video has been shorted to where it gets “good”.

Personally, I love the part where they pretty much say they stole some of the interface from Lotus.

 

MS DOS 5 Upgrade Song

MS Dos upgrade rap

I really want this video to speak for itself, but in a nutshell this is an promotional video that was sent to retailers to get them to purchase the MS Dos 5 upgrade to sell to their customers. This was done using a rap video, a horrible, horrible, rap video.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxC6PytZMqc

 

SEGA Dreamcast: Must have Collection

Sega Dreamcast Collection Box
Sega Dreamcast Collection Box

Mark your calendar Dreamcast fans February 22nd is the day for you. Sega will be releasing a special package compilation featuring some of the most popular classic titles from the Sega Dreamcast. Not only will you be able to get these if you have an Xbox 360, but it is also being released for the Microsoft Windows PC digital download.

Let’s talk games. This package include:

  • Sonic Adventure
  • Crazy Taxi
  • Bass Fishing
  • Space Channel 5 Part 2

The collection will feature enhanced graphics in addition to achievement’s and online leaderboards for Xbox Live.

“The Dreamcast console is still remembered as a pioneering console for online gaming,” commented Gary Knight, VP of Marketing at SEGA of America and SEGA Europe “We are delighted to be able to offer to our large community of dedicated fans a collection such as Dreamcast Collection for them to enjoy old favorites on this Xbox 360 and Windows PC.”

Vern Jensen: ActionSoft

Action Soft logo
Action Soft logo

Name: Vern Jensen

Company: ActionSoft

Profession: Programmer / Game Designer

Favorite Classic Game: Super Metroid

Quote: “It’s hard to pick just one game actually. Super Metroid pretty much ties with Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I had first gotten into game programming around age 8, making simple programs in Basic, eventually culminating in a maze game and an explore-the-castle game around age 13. It was at this time that I first saw someone playing Zelda on their SNES. The graphics were incredible. The special effect this game had, from rain, to warping between light and dark worlds, were astonishing at the time.

I felt like everything I had done programming was unworthy compared to what I was seeing on the screen. And, once I got to play the game, the gameplay certainly matched the special effects. Super Metroid wins by a couple of points though, just because when I played it, I couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. Everything about this game was awesome, from the graphics to the power-ups to the secrets and bosses. It really had a cohesive “mood” to it that was well fleshed-out. I even own the Boston Pops orchestra soundtrack of music from this game, which is also incredible.

Bio: ActionSoft (www.actionsoft.com) ActionSoft is basically just me. I write retro shareware games. Since I grew up on 2D games in the 80’s, my fondness for those games has remained. I haven’t really gotten into 3D games. My goal is to make the kind of games I would want to play myself, and bring back some of the games from an era long ago that have been forgotten.

Midnight Mansion logo
Midnight Mansion logo

Project: Midnight Mansion port to Windows and iPhone.

Project Info: Midnight Mansion was my first game, released in 2005, and it has gained a following of loyal fans. However, it is Mac-only. My project is to port it to Windows and iPhone / iPad. In the process, Midnight Mansion 2, which was released this last August, will also be ported.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankenstein Computers Make Little Girls Cry

Family Guy Six Million Dollar Man
We Can Rebuild Him

Frankenstein Computers Make Little Girls Cry

Contrary to how much of a dick I portray myself to be, I am not a heartless monster. Normally when I decide to help someone it is usually to get them to shut up and stop nagging. There are a few occasions in a given year where I actually truly help people for the hell of it. Some of those instances are rather memorable because of the outcome and how good I felt inside from helping someone in need.

Of these far and few times, I remember the night I was asked to create a computer overnight for a little girl who just came from Cuba. She was the daughter of the cleaning crew at my mother’s office, a family struggling to get by during this tough economy. Their daughter had begun school and some way or another she was qualified to be given a computer so that she may do her homework and studies since a lot of textbooks and assignments are now done via software. Of course, when someone is given something for free it is normally a bag of dicks and is made from some E-Machine abomination in the late 90’s. It was only a matter of time before it exploded into a nuclear mess.

The specifics weren’t given but the computer died. I can only assume they spilled Materva on it since that is what I believe little Cuban children sustain themselves on. It could also have been a faulty power supply. I don’t know. I like labeling people. Her school wouldn’t supply her with another computer and her parents couldn’t cover the repairs or the cost of a new one. With most of her work being done on the machine she couldn’t get anything done and was marooned in situation a lot of families nowadays must be experiencing.

Her parents told my mother their sad tale and she decided to tell them I could build them a computer for free. She knew I had junk parts all over the place. It wasn’t a secret that I hoard shinies in the computer chassis in my room. I was involuntarily volunteered to create a new but stable atrocity from the discarded parts in my possession. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded doing this but I was given a single night deadline for some reason. You don’t ask my mother for an extension because she assumes you can find compatible components and install everything in the blink of an eye. She was under the theory that this would only take me a mere two hours to complete. She was so far from wrong.

Grabbing an old Dell unit that used to belong to my sister, I thought this would be an easy task as well. My heart and mind told me otherwise, constantly reminding me that nothing is easy when you believe it will be. I was going to just delete all of my sister’s files, remove her profile, and create a new one. Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am. Am I right or what?

No, I was wrong. There was something seriously wrong with my sister’s old computer. Out of nowhere a blue screen erupted forth, the harbinger of ill omens. Being the totally awesome guy I was, I knew it was the memory being a dick so I switched the sticks from some other cadaver unit sitting in my closet. The storm had cleared and the unit booted into Windows. As I began my purging of the registry I noticed there was a virus in the unit. Well, let me rephrase that. There were 28 high risk trojan viruses and I could only remove 14 of them. Normally after running three different antivirus softwares, if you fail it is wise to just reformat the computer since it is the easiest resolution. For this who know me, though, I hate reformatting a computer because it means I gave up on finding a true solution to the problem.

After attempting to remove them multiple times manually, I managed to have only two viruses left that would not go away. I googled many operations I could conduct to remove these annoyances but I couldn’t figure out how to do so. I spent a good four hours trying to avoid the inevitable. I decided to reformat.

It wasn’t until after I reformatted using my own Windows 7 CD that I realized I should put Windows XP on the system and use an old COA from one of my trash units. Unfortunately, I lost my Windows XP CD and this is where I began to curse to the Heavens. Why would God do this to me? Why would he make children in Africa starve and I had to suffer a similar fate by losing my Windows XP CD? What a cruel maker, I thought. The only option was to torrent the Windows XP software and burn it to a disc. As I torrented I began to search for a CD to burn it to. Turns out I ran out of CDs. I made the ultimate sacrifice and burned the operating system onto my Hulk VS Wolverine disc. My heart was shattered and broken.

Once the unit had Windows XP installed, I decided to put in the stable software I normally put into a freshly made computer: AVG, Malware Bytes, Google Chrome, Flash, Open Office and VLC Media Player. As I made my attempt to connect to the internet to install the drivers for the video card, I realized I couldn’t establish connection and that I didn’t know the name of any of the components on the damn system! My blood boiled with rage! It was already 4 am and I began my quest at 10PM! This was a travesty!

Murder filled my thoughts as I traversed the Dell Support site looking for the components that matched this unit. I couldn’t pin point the make and model specifics and I ended up having to mix and match the drivers till I found the correct ones. After multiple attempts at trial and error, the unit began to function. Hastily, I installed all the software and made sure the unit worked.

There was one thing missing though. I forgot this little girl needed a monitor, mouse, and keyboard since her school took her computer and all the components associated with it. Scurrying through my treasures I found an old mouse, keyboard, and an old 17″ LCD I thought I lost. Being the paranoid person I am, I made sure about three times that the system booted up, everything worked, and that all the components were properly functioning. Finally, I turned off the unit and put the entire thing on the table for my mother to pick up and take to her office. It was 6:45AM and I collapsed in bed.

It wasn’t until that night that my mother told me she gave the computer to the little girl. I really didn’t care what the girl’s reaction was. I just wanted to make sure the computer didn’t break or explode or something and all my trials were in vain. Turns out, the family was shocked I actually did it and that it was running better than their old computer. They thanked my mother for being so generous and asked her to thank me for staying up all night to build this perfect abomination for them. I don’t like to be thanked. It feels weird every time someone thanks me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s some crazy psychological thing. Maybe I was molested by Mickey Mouse at Disney World and he thanked me for the feel up which I just blocked out but subconsciously get defensive when I am thanked. Crazy shit man… crazy shit.

Anyway, the part of this story that actually made me feel that I did something positive for this girl was what my mother told me next. She said the girl cried when she received the computer. She wasn’t used to people being so nice for nothing in return and broke out into tears. I felt good inside. Not because I made a little girl cry. I’m not some sick freak that enjoys watching children lose control of their emotions. I felt good because the “thank you” I got from this girl was genuine. This humdrum activity which I thought was more trouble than it was worth actually repaid me in full and I felt good about it.

I never met these people and I don’t really need to. Just knowing that I may have actually changed this girl’s life by showing her not everyone is a communist dickhole is something I will always remember. Sometimes not being a total douche and actually accepting someone’s need for help while not being promised anything in return pays you back in ways you didn’t really expect.

There Are Games On Macs. It’s True!

PC vs Mac Steam
PC vs Mac Steam

For those late to the party, Macs are finally getting some PC gaming love from Valve’s digital gaming distribution service called Steam. With this new cross-platform addition to the Macs arsenal, the chic liberal Starbucks drinking hippies can now play Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal, and other Valve games built on Source. For those who weren’t aware, there was an offer to get iPod ear buds for the purchase of a Mac copy of Team Fortress 2 which could carry on to your PC version as well since the Steam Cloud works cross platform. I mention this because it also means that whatever saved state you have on your PC will move over to the Mac and vice versa so you don’t have to start all over again.

One other neat little quirk is that Mac players don’t play with only Mac users as some other games seem to segregate them to their lonesome selves. The battle against the PC and Mac can now take place with more than just words. Someone in your L4D2 team using a Mac? Let a tank flip a car on him while you rush to the safe house. Tired of the shit talkers on the PC talking down to your little apple? Become a spy, pretend to be his friend, sap his sentry and take a nice stab to their back. Finally, the war can be waged.

The scenario I described does sound a bit immature but I assure you that the internet is serious business. From personal experience, playing TF2 since the Mac launch I have seen Mac and PC users alike verbally assault one another in a brutal fashion and even personally attempt to dominate the OSX or Windows lovers specifically. It has brought a new flavor to gaming online in Source games and it’s a welcome rivalry that I think many are glad to finally play a more aggressive stance in. The only downside I find in all of this is when someone asks me if they should buy a Mac I can’t say “There are no games on a Mac.” With World of Warcraft and Source’s amazing multiplayer online games that’s all you’d really need to have as a Mac user. Before someone begins the debate that Call of Duty is better than Team Fortress 2 and that is reason enough to not buy a Mac… you need to eat a bag of dicks. Team Fortress 2 is superior to Call of Duty. I know this may cause some internet rage but that’s my stance on it and if you haven’t given Team Fortress 2 or any Valve games a chance yet you can purchase the entire Valve Library for $66.99 this weekend. That’s 22 games for the PC and 6 are available for the Mac. For those who have yet to play Steam on the Mac, what are you waiting for? Let the shit talking and rocket flying begin!

SteelSeries – Pro Gaming Laser Mouse & Pad

SteelSeries logo
SteelSeries logo

I’m going to change things up a bit. Everyone has a way of doing a review or talking about something they used or liked and though there is a formula for doing so I say the heck with that. I will just tell you what I got, how I used it and what I think, simple enough?

I got my hand on the Steelseries XAI laser mouse and the 9HD mouse pad or gaming surface. Now right off the bat I realized I liked the thin flat mouse pads better because I don’t feel as if my hand and wrist are any higher off the desk than it should be. Also for curved desks it can prevent you from being pinched by the mouse pad which for some reason has happened to me a bunch of times.

SteelSeries 9HD mousepad
SteelSeries 9HD mousepad

Even though the pad is very thin it is well constructed the hard plastic is smooth on the top and has great grip on the bottom. Now the 9HD has thousands of light reflecting points and what this does is insure that if you flail your mouse around like a child thrown into the pool for the first time you don’t lose your tracking on screen. Ever see some World of Warcraft plays spaz out while PVP’ing, this is why having that and a wide surface is important.

Now let’s talk about the mouse. First off like the mouse pad the XAI is constructed very well. The mouse has a good size and weight and feels like it can take a pounding. It has seven programmable buttons for you MMO and RTS gamers and you can even download profiles used by pro gamers so you can use their setup. The size is just about perfect so if you have large hands or small ones you can still use this mouse without issue and with its slip resistant covering you won’t have your mouse flying out of your hand in the middle of a battle.

Left or right handed it doesn’t matter thanks to the ambidextrous shape. It feels comfortable on the hand which is important for long gaming sessions. One of the really cool things is the LCD menu system on the bottom of the mouse. You can configure your XAI for aim, report rate, speed and even hardware acceleration. Right above the scroll wheel you can toggle between two customizable CPI settings for adjustments on the fly. Even the mouse cord is braded so it does not tangle and it’s long enough for those keeping their desktop under their desk.

Steelseries XAI laser mouse
Steelseries XAI laser mouse

In the real world, or at least in mine I found the XAI to work well be it surfing, FPS, RTS or MMO’s. I think the key is it functions well out of the box even if you don’t do any custom setting, but if you want to get specific it has the means to do so that makes it good for gamers of all sorts. I personally needed a mouse that moved fast and glided well across the pad and the XAI combined with the 9HD does just that. From twitch moves in first person shooters to click fests in W.O.W the combo worked well for me.

You can check out more on the XAI gaming mouse and 9HD mouse pad on the Steelseries website.

Here are the specs:

Specifications for SteelSeries Xai Laser:

– Frames per second: 12.000

– Inches per second: 150+

– Megapixels per second: 10.8

– Counts per inch: 100 – 5.001 (one CPI Steps)

– Max. Acceleration: 30 G

– Sensor data path: True 16 bit

– Lift distance: ~1mm (auto-adjusting)

– Buttons: 8

Steelseries XAI laser mouse
Steelseries XAI laser mouse

– Cord: 2 m / 6,5 ft (braided to improve durability)

– Polling: 125 – 1000 Hz (1Hz increments)

– Gold-plated USB connector

– Measurements: 125,5 x 68,3 x 38,7 mm / 4,94 x 2,69 x 1,52 in

– CPI high/low indicator

– SteelSeries FreeMove Technology

– SteelSeries ExactSens Technology

– SteelSeries ExactRate Technology

– SteelSeries ExactAim Technology

– On mouse acceleration Technology

– On mouse LCD display for tweaking above technologies thru menu system

– Large pressure points that reduce friction for optimized glide

– Driverless, plug-and-play feature for LAN gamers

– Built-in memory for 5 profiles

– Operating systems: Win 2000/XP/Vista/7 / Mac OSX

*Configuration software only available for Windows operating systems

Steelseries XAI laser mouse
Steelseries XAI laser mouse

– Material: Hard plastic

– Surface treatment: Heat

– Dimensions: 270 x 320 x 2 mm / 10,7 x 12,7 x 0,08 in

– Size: Medium

– Glide: Rough

– Compatibility: Optical, laser, ball