Feeding the Gaming Beast

Song of the moment: My Moon My Man Feist

Hey, galleons. Well, I’ve been suffering through some serious video game withdrawal, so I decided to finally, seriously investigate what games are available for Macs.

I know all the jokes made at the expense of Macs. And I tend to chuckle at them, because there’s a lot of truth in their statements:

Still, life’s getting better for Macs. A little at a time. After all, Valve recently announced that many of their game titles are soon going to be available for Macs. Yes, my darling Left4Dead is moving to the land of Apple, along with great games like Half-Life. Hell, Portal 2 is looking at a simultaneous release on PCs and Macs.

Hallelujah.

I mean, it’s still probably going to suck for me. I’m sitting on my old Intel MacBook, with 1 GB of RAM and, what is perhaps the bane of my gaming existence, a GMA 950 graphics card. I know, it’s truly cringe-worthy. But, it’s nice to know that, when I do finally get around to purchasing a new computer, my dear Macs will be supporting more of the games I want to play. Yet another check mark in the column of awesome that is the side of Mac.

Till then, though, I still want to play games. And so, I’ve spent the last few days on a quest to examine the best Mac games the internet has to offer. I’ll specify whether they are download or browser games, pay-to-play or free, and link you to the game’s site.

Without further ado, here are my findings:

Action/Adventure

This genre has always covered such an irritatingly diverse group of games. As far as real games go, I found two that I bothered trying (and could get to successfully download).

Armand and the Foppish Hat: If you enjoy the old Gameboy/NES Legend of Zelda titles, you’ll enjoy this short game. It’s a bit light on actual combat and exploration (like… three encounters), but the story is entertaining. The main character is a pompous gentleman adventurer who, after a drunken night with some lusty town wenches, awakens to find his precious hat (and his gold) has been stolen from him. Short and silly fun. [Free/Download]

Angband: An ASCII-text dungeon/exploration game. The story is based on Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. The story’s fine, but I couldn’t get into the ASCII character world. If you select the tile graphics from the menu, it’s a bit better. There are a lot of commands to learn, and the character creation screen is a bit confusing. Shops were reminiscent of shops in The Oregon Trail, though, so I got a bit nostalgic. [Free/Download]

FPS

I rarely play shooters on the computer, preferring to play them on consoles. Still, I decided to give a few a go. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed myself.

Cube 2: Sauerbraten: The sequel to the ever-popular Cube (a free FPS running a modified Doom/Quake engine that is optimized for outdoor maps… it’s very popular among computer gamers), Sauerbraten is exactly what you’d hope a sequel would be- better than its predecessor. Modifying the engine from the original game, Sauerbraten offers better graphics and more precision. It’s a very elegant engine, and the game runs extremely well. It takes a little bit to get used to movement (especially when using a touchpad instead of a mouse), but once you’ve got it, it’s fun as hell. I highly recommend this one. [Free/Download]

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory: A WWII shooter that’s pretty fun, actually. The only drawback to it is that it’s online multiplayer- there are no single-player campaigns. Well, that’s disappointing for me (I like single-player shooter campaigns). Still, if you enjoy games like the Call of Duty series, you’ll probably enjoy this one. [Free/Download]

RTS

I always feel action/adventure and shooter games appeal to a broader class of gamers than strategy games. Still, I love them (and so do plenty of other folks).

StarCraft: It has to be on here. StarCraft is the best RTS yet made (hopefully, its sequel will blow it out of the water). Great storyline, phenomenal characters, the races are well-balanced. Also, the cutscenes prove that Blizzard remains the king of the computer cutscene (even all these years later, they are fun as hell to watch). [Single Payment, technically, though it’s really simple to find a torrent, so long as you don’t want a battle.net hookup/Download-Install]

WarCraft III: My second favorite strategy game. This one has four playable races (as opposed to the 2 of the preceding titles). In my opinion, it’s not quite as good as StarCraft, but it’s still a solid RTS. Same type of gameplay, just set in a fantasy world instead of a sci fi one. [Single Payment/Download-Install]

OGame: No, it’s not Hentai (seriously, don’t mess with that shit, anyway), despite the rather… provocative title. It’s another space strategy game, though this one is mostly text-based. It’s a slick-looking game, but nothing I haven’t played before. It’s technically an MMO, but I’m classing it here because of basic gameplay. Personally, I’d say it makes more sense to go get a copy of StarCraft- it may be older, but it’s superior. Still, if you are dead-set on a free game (and won’t torrent), give this one a spin. [Free/Browser]

Spore: Oh, Spore. It was because of you that MSU dinged me for piracy (true, that was after my fourth torrent of you). Spore’s a lot of fun, but it can be a bit of a bitch to operate on older Macs (like mine). It won’t run on the Mac side- you have to use Bootcamp to install Windows on your machine and play the game from the Windows partition. In the end, that didn’t work out for me, as I didn’t have the space to keep the partition. Still, I did get a chance to play Spore. And it was great fun. The creature creator is addicting, and the gameplay’s entertaining. It starts out as a pretty basic action/adventure game, but it eventually works its way up to operating like a full-on RTS (namely in the civilization and space stages). Very entertaining. [Single Payment/Download-Install]

MMORPGs

You knew this was coming…

World of Warcraft: Oh WoW, how I love thee. I do a lot of praising, but I wouldn’t laud it so if it wasn’t worthy. With 8 original playable races (and 2 more in the Burning Crusade expansion) and 9 original character classes (and the hero class in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion), there’s a lot of room for character customization. Tons of items, quests, and dungeons to run. The community’s pretty okay (no matter what MMO you play, there are serious gamers and there are irritating jackasses in chat), the graphics are sweet, the world is expansive, and the story is great. It’s epic and worth every penny of the monthly cost. [Pay-to-Play (with free trials for the original game and all the expansions)/Download-Install]

PlaneShift: PlaneShift has a few things going for it. The graphics are so-so. The gameplay itself is pretty basic. It has a really nice tutorial to get you on your feet. I’m not a fan of the lack of a real combat system (I like to have more control over combat in MMOs). The character creator is simultaneously amazing and awful. Physically, there aren’t many options for your character. Quite a few races, but half of them aren’t ready yet. But the character creator really shines in the creation of a backstory. Unlike most MMOs, your character’s race doesn’t immediately dictate a racial backstory. Instead, you get points that you can spend in order to flesh out your character’s life prior to you playing the game. You create their parents, outline their birth and childhood, and determine their skills. It’s great. PlaneShift really tries to focus on the roleplay aspect of the MMORPG. Still, that pretty much dissolves once you enter the game- chat is no different than any other MMO. Also, the game’s a bit hinky (hinky, wonky, and snarky are my triumvirate of silly adjectives) on my old computer, but it would probably run smoother on a newer Mac. [Free/Download]

EVE Online: I have fallen in love with this game. It had me from the first line of the first cutscene (“You are about to become what all men should fear”). It’s a very well-crafted spacefaring MMORPG. You get to choose from 4 races (which are really more like political/idealogical alliances than anything). Within each race are 3 bloodlines, and then 3 ancestry selections after that. So, you get quite a few options on your backstory. Lovely avatar creation, but it doesn’t really matter. See, your avatar only is shown as a headshot in the upper corner of the screen. You actually play as your ship. The game takes place in open space, battling other spacecraft and upgrading your vessel. I like to think of it as all the parts of Mass Effect I wasn’t allowed to play. Still, I wouldn’t mind it at all if they followed through on their plan to make your avatars playable within space stations. In fact, doing so would make the game pretty perfect. It also has a great tutorial, and once you get the hang of it, gameplay’s fun. Mostly, it plays on my love of space, and it’s stolen my little gamer heart. [Pay-to-Play (with a free trial)/Download]

Second Life: I hate this game. I had to play it for two weeks in TC 339… I played for a day and lied about it. The graphics are so-so, the gameplay sucks, and the character generator is godawful. Seriously, I have no idea why people play this. The free content is atrocious, and the prices of premium content are ridiculous. Give me WoW any day. [Free/Download]

Kingdom of Loathing: Christ, I think this game is awesome. It’s a text-based MMO, and it’s hilarious. The quests are bizarre, the dialogue is silly, and everything is just plain weird. Goofy and strangely addicting. [Free/Browser]

RuneScape: I’ve barely played this one, but it seems enjoyable enough. Okay graphics. Gameplay’s pretty easy to get used to. I’d have to play more before I gave a solid opinion on it, but thus far, it doesn’t seem to be half bad. Not great, but not Second Life. [Free/Browser]

Other

These games don’t fit into any of my broad game categories but were certainly worth mentioning.

Argonaut 2149: If, like me, you loved the classic arcade game Asteroids, you’re gonna adore this game. It’s just Asteroids with nicer graphics. Good old fashioned fun. [Free/Download]

Braid: I mentioned this puppy before. While it doesn’t play on my Mac (curse you, graphics card), it will play on newer models. In order for me to try it out, I had to hijack my brother’s PC and download it onto that. And it was fantastic. It’s a platformer that allows you to manipulate time in various levels in order to undo mistakes and solve puzzles. It looks like a painting. I mean, this game is breathtaking. And the music is unbelievably lovely. And the story is great. A short game, but well worth it. [Single Payment (cheap, too)/Download]

Constellation: A puzzle game (and the closest I get to casual gaming). It’s a board game for the computer, basically. Kind of like Risk meets Chinese checkers. Or something. It’s pretty, it’s challenging, and it’s a bit addicting. I’m also incredibly bad at it. [Free/Download]

BONUS: My Favorite Browser Games

Mac or PC doesn’t matter to browser games. Most of them are stupid, frankly. Some, however, have caught my eye, for any number of reasons. I figured I’d share them with you.

Plague of Kittens: Kittens are falling from the sky. You have a mattress. Save them or launch them, yowling, into the air? Must be played with sound for full hilarity.

Pandemic II: The goal? Create a super disease that wipes out the entire globe. Great to play when you are really pissed at humanity. The music is mind-numbing, though. And, after you play a few times, you’ll understand me when I say: Fuck you, Madagascar.

Don’t Shit Your Pants: Totally immature. Strangely hilarious. There are 10 ways to “end” the game. Have fun figuring them all out.

Whack Your Boss: Life in a cubicle sucks. Take it out on your boss. 17 ways to kill him. Very cathartic.

5 Minutes to Kill Yourself: The title’s self-explanatory. You combine dangerous items around the office, trying to injure yourself so badly that you die before the 5 minutes are up. Twisted and thus great.

You Have to Burn the Rope: “There’s a boss at the end of this tunnel. You can’t hurt him with your weapons. To kill him you have to burn the rope above.” Pure genius. Stick around after the game for the greatest end credits number since Still Alive for Portal.

Achievement Unlocked: Not so much a game as a series of achievements. A funny look at how the accumulation of achievements has started to take over the gaming world.

Every Day the Same Dream: You can’t really lose this little game. Explore the areas to find options to try to burst out of the daily grind a bit (and listen to that old woman on the elevator). Slightly existential and quite bleak.

Today I Die: I freaking adore this game. Great soundtrack, great message. It’s basically a piece of interactive poetry. Cute and rather inspiring.

Endless Zombie Rampage 2: Come on, there had to be one zombie game in this post. This is a simple, fun, and fucking addicting game. And there’s lots of blood. I remember spending an entire night last August playing this while sitting with Sean while he was at work (when he totally broke his stupid vegetarian diet). Good times.

Colour My World: Straight-up adorable. Love the music, love the message, love the gameplay. It’s absolutely heartwarming.

Coil: This game has the potential to drive you a little bit insane, but I think it’s pretty great. Very artistic, very poetic, rather dark. Mouse movement controls the game (in case you needed help figuring that out). Mostly circular movements. The game’s “story” can be interpreted a lot of different ways (I still think the story is about a rape or an abusive relationship, and you play as the embryo of that union), making this one uniquely thought-provoking.

Flow: Aw, Flow. Ascend and descend through various levels of the sea, encountering larger and larger creatures. I mostly just think this one’s pretty.

Peasant’s Quest: I play this one about once a year. It never ceases to amuse me. Goddamn Trogdor.

Thy Dungeonman 3: And finally, some text-based hilarity.

I know that this isn’t a comprehensive list of games available for Macs. It’s mostly a list of the ones I enjoyed (and the ones I played and wanted to warn you about). Some games I tried wouldn’t run on my computer (like WWII Online, which looked like a sweet MMO), and some I didn’t care to play once I’d opened them up (FreeCiv comes to mind). And some just wouldn’t download (I’m impatient, so if they didn’t work the first time, I stopped caring about them). So, you should keep looking around for good Mac games and report your findings back to me.

And I know this list doesn’t have anything like Quinn (the Mac version of Tetris) or Solitaire or whatever on it. That’s because I have very little patience for casual games, and I sure as hell won’t download them. Sorry, casual gaming community. Those hidden object games and fashion games and weird word games aren’t really my thing. You’ll have to search for that crap on your own.

***

In other gaming-type news, I got embroiled in a video game debate today. And I’m gonna tell you about it, galleons, for two reasons. First, it was kind of funny. Second, this will clarify for you certain aspects of my personality.

See, I was a high school debater. A state champion high school debater. I played for keeps, and I played well. But… well, I didn’t start out that way. When I first joined our high school speech team, I only wanted to do the interp events (the acting events, if you will). Problem was, I was a mediocre actress. And both the coaches immediately recognized I was intelligent enough (and cut-throat enough) to debate. And to debate well. The only thing standing in the way was me.

I didn’t want to debate. I thought it was exceptionally boring. It was dry and required way more work than any other type of event. So, my coaches eased me into it. They kept me in a few interp events, but they also put me in Lincoln-Douglas debate (values debate). And their logic was sound- during the course of your forensic career, you can only amass so many points in interp events alone. In order to reach the highest ranks of the NFL (the National Forensic League, in case you were confused), you had to participate in both interp and debate.

Well shit, if I had to do it (because I was ambitious and wanted those triple rubies), I would. So, I was an LD debater. Then a Ted Turner (later called Public Forum) debater. Then, with the most success, a Parliamentary debater.

And in the process of participating in debate, I became a debater. I developed a real passion for it. It was so logical and calculating and a little bit devious. It was fun as hell. And I learned a few things that I still employ when arguing:

  • Know your side- This seems fairly obvious, but I mean it. Know your position, inside and out. And form a solid opinion on the topic. Don’t be wishy-washy. Your case won’t hold up if you aren’t firm in creating your ground and standing it.
  • Know your opponent’s side- The most important thing about a debate is that you know both sides. This helps you anticipate your opponent’s movements. When you can anticipate the strike, you can prepare a defense before the opponent moves. These defenses are usually stronger than those created on-the-fly and can be used to completely destroy an opponent’s point.
  • Know their points- What are the main things your opponent is focusing on? Only hit those points. Never give them ideas they can use in their defense. Focus on systematically destroying each of their arguments.
  • Crush them- Don’t be nice. Don’t give ground. You demolish their case. You have to refute every point they make while bolstering your own. Hit them where they are weak and shatter their foundation. When you are done, they shouldn’t have a brick to stand on.

Brutal sounding, I know. But debate is like war. These days, I tend to engage in more mock arguments than real ones. My favorite people are the ones that will readily participate in faux arguments with me and prove to be my equal (or my better). But, every now and again, I end up in a real argument. And I can’t help but use some of my old tactics for winning a debate to win an argument. Logic and strategy will out, after all.

That’s what this Megan girl stumbled into by posting her argument with Stauff on his Facebook wall. It’s public domain. She’s just begging for someone to step in. So, of course, I did. Now, I never would have noticed the debate if Stauff hadn’t pointed it out to me and all-but-asked for help. And who am I to desert a friend in need?

Her and Stauff had gone back and forth for a bit on the topic. Megan was trying to assert playing video games destroyed a person’s literacy, and that the only way to acquire knowledge and increase intelligence was through reading books. Stauff was trying to defend the validity of video games. I mean, sure, the topic was interesting enough, but I don’t tend to throw myself into arguments with people I don’t know.

Except that it was obviously a case of “video game hater” vs. “video game proponent.” As a member of the latter party, I felt I had to defend the honor of my beloved games. Also, this Megan chick was using faulty logic to defend her claims, as well as basically ignoring anything Stauff had to say.

And I really can’t help but derive satisfaction from putting close-minded soap-boxers in their place. So, I devised a pretty scathing argument to shoot her down. And oh, did I succeed. It was a kill shot of a digital speech. I was pleased with it (if you know me and want to read it, pop over to Stauff’s page- it’s under the status about reading being difficult).

Megan had no response beyond the “I was joking, you pretentious bitch” defense. Honey, I’ve been doing this for years. A person only pulls the “I was joking” defense when they don’t have a leg to stand on. It shifts the focus from their utter failure over to the cold-heartedness of their opponent.

But, as we all know, I have no problem playing the bitch. When your own father nicknames you Satan when you are 16, do you really think you have a problem tearing apart a girl you don’t know? No. No, you don’t. Suck it, Megan. This was a win for the gamers.

Yeah, I know. I’m awful. Whatever.

One response to “Feeding the Gaming Beast

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