The entire series of The Prisoner is online at AMC’s website. I noticed Mark Hemmingway’s post but will not have a chance to see any episodes for a little bit, as I’m still at CodeMash, which is just incredible. I definitely want to be here next year, except this time I’m doing the precompiler…
January 9, 2009
February 5, 2008
As Super Tuesday results roll in, I’m thinking about something much more important: the awesomeness of Charles Bronson. Here, for posterity’s sake, are two bits from the Simpsons involving the man who made us all want to take down criminals vigilante-style…
The first involves the Simpsons going to Branson, Missouri, but taking a wrong turn and ending up in Bronson, Missouri…
Kid: “Hey, ma, give me some cookies.”
Mom: “No dice!”
Kid: “This a’int over.”
The second bit was even funnier, involving Bronson replacing Andy Griffith on the Andy Griffith show:
Barney: “Where’s Otis? He’s not in his cell.”
Bronson: “I shot him.”
Barney: “Well, that—what?!”
Bronson: “That’s right—I shot ‘im. Now I’m goin’ down to Emmit’s Fix-It to fix Emmit!”
July 31, 2007
A classic film right out of the Bergman style. It even has helpful English subtitles.
July 4, 2007
Cause I heard it in the wind
And I saw it in the sky
And I thought it was the end
And I thought it was the 4th of July
July 4th is one of my favorite holidays because it combines the beauty of America with blowing stuff up. Today, I plan on blowing stuff up, thanks to the fact that somebody I know was able to sequester some fireworks around Christmas time. In Germany, you’re only allowed to purchase fireworks during a roughly 4-day period, in order to use on Sylvester (New Year’s Eve), so these were purchased then and we’re going to use them tonight. I hope that it will not rain all night like it did last night, as that would be a shame and un-American. And if I have to drag those clouds before HUAC, by golly, I’m gonna do it!
So on this 4th of July, I’m going to spend some time thinking about the foreigners that the US of A had to beat to become the greatest nation in the world, and follow that up with the Commie spies who got caught and justly punished. Ah, Alger Hiss, you’re still guilty…
June 29, 2007
5) Adam’s Rib is a Shiv
4) Lipstick Babylon
3) Menstrous and Undefiled
2) Sarai to Sarah
1) Heavens to Betsy!
February 25, 2007
It probably will not last for too long, but I want to note that my brilliance has been recorded in Google.
Unfortunately, this means that Handymannix will no longer have exactly one entry. Fortunately, however, I believe I have just entered Handymannix into the realm of the Google image search. Go me!
February 8, 2007
Hahahhaahahhaah! What are you, twelve? Well, it’s from U.D.’s site! I don’t remember you ever looking so n00bish. Ahhhh-haughh. Precious.
Well, I’m off to the shower. I do smell pretty bad.
February 5, 2007
“It’s like looking at yourself ten years ago when you were an awkward teenager covered in acne and wearing a Ren and Stimpy t-shirt. I mean, assuming you were that sort of loser, because I was a total stallion with hundreds of girlfriends.” ~ Zack Parsons
I hate it when people make jokes that seem to refer specifically to me.
Covered in Acne?: Yes.
Ren and Stimpy t-shirt?: … Yes.
February 3, 2007
It was about a year ago that J___ D___, a sophomore at the University of Dayton, was stumbling drunkenly through The Dark Side of campus with a friend. He and his companion were about to wander into an inter-house alley to relieve themselves when this came out of his beer-tinged maw:
“WAIT! Weee can’t piss HERE! This is DAN’S old HOUSE!”
36 Chambers: never been pissed upon.
December 2, 2006
UPDATE (2/8/2010): I bolded the game titles to make them easier to read, particularly since I’m linking to this now. I’d probably slot Europa Univeralis 3 in here too, probably at #2 and push everything else back, maybe drop Tropico. The rest is solid though.
This is sort of a reprint of a list I did some years ago, but then nobody read that list and somebody might read this one. As far you know, it’s all brand new.
My grading system: Much like my system for rating women (which you can find right here) my video game ranking system is both easy to understand and completely accurate. All categories are on a 10 point scale.
Graphics: How purty the pictures are. Technical considerations like framerate would go.
Sound/music: A gripping soundtrack is absolutely essential to a great game. Sound effects are less important. Sound effects are kind of like percussion or makeup on a woman: you can only tell if there’s too much of it.
Gameplay: The actual mechanics of gameplay go here. In addition, replayability is also a factor in this grade.
Story: How engaging is the storyline? If I don’t care about the characters or storyline, it better have freaking awesome gameplay to make up for it.
Difficulty: As a sidebar, the most difficult game I’ve ever played was Sub Command. I’m pretty sure an actual submarine captain can’t actually hit anything with torpedoes in that game. Difficulty is only a problem if the game is harder than it is fun.
Without further ado, on to the list!
10. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (Adventure) by Sierra
This ranking would be higher if the saved game feature actually worked with Windows XP and didn’t make the game crash. I daresay it is the greatest Sierra adventure game ever, which is high praise given the quality of the other Sierra games (other favorites: Kings Quest VI and Police Quest IV). The comic book style cut scenes add a lot to the character of an already engaging game.
Graphics: 7.5. Given the age of the game (1996), it actually has fairly decent graphics. There are no 3D graphics, but the backgrounds are very well drawn. The characters lack definition (graphically) and in the DOS version, it is nearly impossible to locate certain smaller items (like the tweezers and magnifying glass in the book store at the very beginning of the game: half way through the first chapter, I noticed I had missed something).
Sound/music: 9.5. The musical track is very epic and exciting, and very well connected to the storyline. The main theme is very well orchestrated. What really makes this game fantastic is the voice talent. Tim Curry, Leah Remini, Mark Hamill, Michael Dorn, and Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. all make substantial appearances during the course of the game. One of the game’s hidden joys is revelling in Michael Dorn, who plays a voodoo priest, slipping back into Worf on occassion.
Gameplay: 8.5. The system, like every other Sierra adventure game, has a simple interface. There are two different endings, which adds to the replayability. There’s always some minor thing you missed the first time you went through, each of which adds a little color to the game.
Story: 9.5. One of the most engaging stories I’ve ever seen in a video game. Gabriel Knight, played magnificiently by Tim Curry, is a writer in late 90′s New Orleans. While writing a book on voodoo, Gabriel discovers a hidden past involving a family sworn to fight evil. Mark Hamill steals the show as Detective Mosely, Gabriel’s close friend. Mosely is the comic relief in the game, your stereotypical street-wise cop who tries to help his friend. Gabriel develops tremendously as a character, fighting with inner demons and the revelation of his family history. Malia Gedde, Gabriel’s love interest, is the other dynamic character in the game, partly due to a split personality. The others are static, but like Mosely, are interesting.
Difficulty: 5.0. One of the easier Sierra games, mostly due to the chapter system which prevents you from leaving a section of the game without the necessary items to continue. Most puzzles are fairly simple to solve. I would estimate a ten year old could finish the game without extreme difficulty, but the story is definitely not suitable for such a young mind.
9. Tropico (Strategy/Simulation) by PopTop Studios
Tropico is one of those rare simulation games that manages to be simple to play without minimizing replay value (SimCity comes to mind; when it comes right down to it, there’s only one way to build a city). I wrestled with including SimCity, SimAnt, or Rollercoaster Tycoon here instead, but in the end had to go with Tropico due to the surprisingly robust economic system. The others all have their merits and are all worthwhile, but simply aren’t top 10 material the way Tropico is.
Graphics: 8.5. The game is entirely 3D, which makes for a graphics hungry but well designed game. It looks like a lush tropical island, which is exactly the point. Buildings all look realistic, with people looking somewhat cookie cutter (which cannot be avoided). I dislike the building animation (which is just the shadow of the building slowly turning green) and the farms can get confusing to tell apart. All in all, though, a very pretty game.
Sounds/music: 10. The sounds are well and good, but the music is fantastic. It has a very relaxed, Caribbean beat, as you’d expect from a game like Tropico. The soundtrack consists of original compositions and is very well scored.
Gameplay: 8. The interface and some of the interactions between your people and the buildings are somewhat non-intuitive, but the tutorials do a very good job of explaining how the game works. The political system is surprisingly sophisticated, allowing you to rig elections, knock off other candidates, or create a model democracy. As I stated before, the system of economics really shines. While prices don’t change much, every game builds a new financial structure due to the resources available and the character you select. What maximizes the replayability are the customizable character options, giving El President flaws like Flatulence, a background of Rum Baron, or a Charismatic asset (even all three). Each adds popularity (or subtracts it) from various factions, gives production bonuses for certain buildings, or allows you to set aside more money in your slush fund. Different game goals (to be rich, to salt away the most money, to make people happy) and scenarios (build an airport, increase the tourism rating) keep the game interesting long after you’ve mastered it.
There are two major weaknesses in the game that keep it from getting a 10. First, game mechanisms make playing as a Castro sort very difficult. You can only imprison and execute rivals for so long, and eventually your economy will break down because of the gigantic military presence you’ll need to keep on the island. Second, tourism is all or nothing: either you begin designing the island as a tourist paradise, suffering tremendously in the early going; or tourism will never be anything more than a tertiary source of revenue. Tourists are far too picky, and establishing a successful agricultural/industrial economy will always run counter to a tourist-based economy, due to factors like worker housing and pollution.
Story: n/a. As it is a simulation, the only story is the one you create yourself.
Difficulty: from 3.5 to 9.0. The various options at your disposal for customization and gameplay can make the game either very easy or very hard. The scenarios can be very simplistic, especially the early ones, with goals achievable in a couple of years. On the other hand, being a ruthless dictator while trying to make the island fit for tourism… well, it makes one understand the difficulties that Fidel Castro had in the past.
8. Call of Duty: Game of the Year Edition (First Person Shooter) by Activision.
One of the most authentic and interesting World War II games. The only other real contender, in my view, is Battlefield 1942, which is more strategic than tactical and more multiplayer than single player.
Graphics: 9.0. The soldiers and weapons are very well animated, as are most of the backgrounds. However, there are issues with foliage that many games suffer from (the cardboard tree syndrome, as I like to call it). Everything looks authentic, right down to the final scene with the Soviets seizing the Nazi flag from the Reichstag building.
Sounds/music: 8.5. Everything is authentic, with the disappointing exception of Soviets speaking Russian and Germans speaking German. They all speak with accented English, especially if they are in the main story. This is one thing that Battlefield 1942 did well that this game did not. Music is forgettable, but this is due to the intensity of the game: you don’t have time to admire or dislike the music.
Gameplay: 9.5. One of the best military simulators I’ve seen in some time. Your soldier cannot carry a Doom-style arsenal on his back, and ammunition is far from plentiful. The computer is pretty smart, making use of machine guns when available and using squad-level tactics like laying cover fire. The computer even uses grenades, but not as frequently as they probably should. At certain points, it can be difficult to figure out where to go next, but these are thankfully few and far between. Replay value is somewhat minimal, as it is with all first person shooters, but within the context of that genre, it’s very replayable.
Story: 8.0. At one level, it’s the story of World War II. (The Nazis still lose.) However, the intricate mini-stories from the American, British, and Soviet perspectives are more objective oriented. The Soviet story is the most interesting, especially the initial part of Stalingrad, where you cross the Volga river and have to dodge enemy fire until you can find a dead soldier with a rifle to use. The American and British actually dovetail nicely towards the end of the game. Failure to incorporate a German storyline and the somewhat overused material of World War II keep the game from getting a higher score.
Difficulty: 6.5. The game has a steady learning curve, with the most difficult battle (appropriately enough) being the Battle for Berlin. As mentioned earlier, some of the difficulty comes from finding where to go next.
7. Myst (Myst-style game; sort of an Adventure) by Red Orb Entertainment
Myst is one of the most fascinating computer games from a history of computer standpoint. Myst was one of the first games to really push computer graphics. Unlike any other game before it, you are essentially dropped in a beautiful world thanks to a book “you” find at a San Francisco bazaar. Your “goal” is to get out, but you are very free to do whatever you like. It spawned a number of imitators (some more successful than other) and four sequels.
Graphics: 10.0. A visually stunning game. The others in the series are obviously even better, but the world itself is so interesting and well created that it still stands up to the test of time. Today’s computer can run it with virtually no problems.
Sounds/music: 9.0. The sounds are very important to this game (as anybody who has suffered the rocket puzzle will attest to) and are very well done. Music appears only in brief stings from time to time. Some areas (in fact, the majority) have no music whatsoever, but that is fine from a game standpoint. My only compliant is that some of the ambient sounds are too repetitive (indicative of the way the game’s backgrounds are created: essentially treating them as movies.)
Gameplay: 9.5. The simplest interface in the history of computer games, hands down. You could theoretically play the game with an Atari joystick. You move the pointer over certain objects, click them, and things happen. You have no inventory and can only carry one item at a time. Replaying the game is worthwhile, as you have five endings to choose from.
Story: 7.5. Possibly the weakest story of any game in my top 10, only because the story is oddly irrelevant. Once you figure out what you’re doing, the story virtually writes itself. The ending (or endings) are interesting twists on the way things work, but the almost complete lack of other people make the story boring. The other games in the series make up for this, to the point that there are actually three books based on the Myst series, very well written and interesting ones (although sadly out of print).
Difficulty: 9.0 (the first time), -1.0 (subsequent times). The game is puzzle heavy, many of which involve trial and error or reading the books in the library extensively. The rocket puzzle, where a certain melody must be played on a piano to open it, is the hardest puzzle I’ve encountered in any computer game, and I have a fairly decent musical ear. For the tone deaf, it must be nearly impossible. Finding each of the ages is pretty simple, but the puzzles within them can be very difficult. After beating the game once, however, it’s very easy to repeat. You can get the best ending in the game in less than five minutes if you know what you’re doing.
6. Call of Cthulhu (First Person Survival/Horror) by Bethesda Softworks
Many games of this genre (Resident Evil) aren’t very interesting to me. They involve killing zombies, thanks to some accident which spawned them. To make up for dull gameplay and a hackneyed plot, the creators introduce bigger, angrier zombies. Call of Cthulhu is nothing like those games at all.
Graphics: 8.5. A very well designed period piece, set in the 1920′s and 30′s. All the weapons are authentic, and the sanity system is one of the most innovative in video game history. I’ll be talking about it a lot. When Jack (the main character) is hurt, his vision fades as he bleeds. When he sees a horrific sight, he can sometimes lose consciousness if exposed for too long. When he looks down from great heights, he gets vertigo. Jack even occasionally hallucinates. The graphics aren’t cutting edge compared to contempotary games, but they are more than adequate for the task at hand.
Sounds/music: 9.5. Apart from Myst (and possibly Thief), no other game is so dependent on sound. Before you acquire a weapon, you have to listen very carefully to steps of people coming towards and from you and to conversations that might suggest where people are going. What really sets the game apart is again the sanity system. If you wear headphones (and you absolutely must: I can’t stress this enough), you will hear voices in Jack’s head, especially in traumatic situations. It is quite literally terrifying at times, as blood-curdling screams repeat during certain scenes. One complaint, the only thing that keeps the game from getting a 10, is Jack’s lack of inflection during situations. For somebody so mentally unstable (and who could blame him, given what he’s seen), he never openly panics. Even if he’s deeply affected by something (seeing a little girl die earlier in the game), his voice never breaks.
Gameplay: 9.0. The controls are the same for any first person shooter. The sanity system absolutely changes gameplay, making it far more interesting (and occasionally more difficult). The save points are not only save points, they recover sanity. If Jack loses too much sanity (and you only know this by the way the game is presented), he will kill himself, with his bare hands if he must. If he is shot in the leg, you will hear the sickening crunch as Jack tries to work through the pain of a broken leg. The injury system is very well done: Jack is no superhuman that can take dozens of gun blasts. If his arm is broken, he can’t aim a weapon properly. He will die from loss of blood if he is not treated. The game is very much based on stealth, especially early on, and even later it is often better to keep close watch on the ammunition.
Story: 9.5. If you haven’t read the Lovecraft short stories, the story line will be entirely new to you, which is all to the good. It borrows heavily from “The Shadow over Innsmouth” and “The Shadow Out of Time”, with other Lovecraft stories worked in. Jack is a very interesting character, not least because of his mental condition. He is a private investigator from Arkham, Massachusetts (a fictional town that Lovecraft uses; Innsmouth is also fictional) who is called in to investigate the murder of a store owner in Innsmouth. Having some experience with the occult, Jack is immediately disturbed by the inhabitants of the town, who look vaguely unsettling. One of the most exciting scenes in the game, especially if you’ve read “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, involves Jack running from a group of angry villagers trying to kill him in a hotel. Jack bolts doors shut, pushes bookcases in front of doors, and eventually escapes through a window. An appearance is made by a young, ambitious FBI agent named J. Edgar Hoover, which adds flavor to an already magnificent story.
Difficulty: 8.5. One of the rare games that is more difficult in the beginning than it is in the middle (I have yet to complete it), due entirely to a lack of weapons. Even after you get weapons, certain areas have infinite numbers of enemies, so that killing them does no good. The save system is less than ideal, but it works so well with the story itself that you can’t argue too much. The sanity system makes things dangerous at times, especially when leaping from rooftop to rooftop when Jack is very obviously frightened of heights.
5. Anachronox (Fantasy/Sci-Fi; Final Fantasy style RPG) by Ion Storm/Eidos Interactive
The biggest selling point for this game, initially, was the fact it was on the back of the case for the greatest game in PC history (number one on my list). As I played it and beat it, however, I found it was a worthy contender in its own right.
Graphics: 7.0. If you demand eye candy from your video games, you will find it difficult to get past some of the poor graphics in this game. Facial animations on characters border on the comical, especially when the mouth moves but the rest of the character’s face doesn’t. This is only relatively apparent in cutscenes, however. The game itself has fine graphics.
Sounds/Music: 8.0. The music is well done and is one of the highlights of the game. Character voices are well done, with no major actors taking part. Sound effects are appropriate and not over-the-top.
Gameplay: 9.0. A very Final-Fantasy-esque interface, combat is menu driven. Each character has four unique abilities in combat and one in the storyline, which triggers a mini game. The special abilities give access to sidequests and aren’t truly necessary to advance in the game (especially Stiletto’s). Some of the mini games are kind of annoying (the one in the hive comes to mind), but this doesn’t detract from the solid RPG-style gameplay. The game is replayable in the sense that you can miss certain sidequests, but unless you want to revisit the story (and you probably will), it doesn’t lend itself well to replayability.
Story: 9.5. The storyline is very well written, worthy of a screenplay. The characters are all fairly dynamic, which is something of a shock given the way most games work (the sole exception is Dr. Bowman, who is the weakest character anyway.) Sylvester “Sly” Boots, the main character, is your typical film noir detective, but placed in the very distant future. Other supporting characters mesh very well with Boots. Anachronox, the title planet, is derived from the Greek for “poison from the past”, an apt description of the game. What starts out as a case to find something for an old man quickly develops into a plot to save the universe itself.
Difficulty: 7.5. Apart from some of the minigames, the game isn’t overly difficult. There are a couple of tricky boss battles (and some of the sidequests are very involved), but nothing so difficult it can’t be defeated without a bit of work.
4. Neverwinter Nights (RPG) by Interplay/Bioware
Quite simply, the greatest RPG ever made for the PC. Building on the success of Baldur’s Gate (a top 20 PC game) and it’s sequel, Neverwinter Nights was the first PC game to use 3rd edition D&D rules. The robust character creation system and intriguing gameplay are a result.
Graphics: 9.5. The graphics are all 3D and incredible, but are also a big drain on system resources. The first game in the top 10 with genuine problems with slower machines. Characters are rarely seen up close, so facial expressions are often minimal. Some of the spell effects are absolutely incredible.
Sounds/music: 9.0. There is more voice acting than in Baldur’s Gate or the sequel. The music is appropriate to the game, but nothing you’ll remember after playing it. Using alternate languages would have been a nice touch, but isn’t crucial to the score.
Gameplay: 10.0. Only Tropico is more replayable on this list. It’s a traditional RPG interface, but the character creation system is so robust, and the game so open ended, that you can replay it thousands of times. Your decisions make large impacts on the gaming world, and not just on minor characters either. Alignment isn’t fixed, allowing you to change your character as you see fit, with obvious benefits and downsides. The world is gigantic, to say the least.
Story: 9.5. The main story is a traditional fantasy storyline, with plenty of twists and/or turns to keep you interested. This is especially true of the two expansions. However, where the game truly shines is where your character is intermeshed within it. There is a main story arc, but there are so many opportunities to divert oneself that each character can have his or her own particular story.
Difficulty: n/a. The game is too open ended to really have a set difficult level. Depending on your style of play, different parts of the game are more difficult for different characters. It’s slightly easier for fighter classes and slightly harder for mage classes, but the differences are negligble in the long run.
3. Starcraft (Real Time Strategy) by Blizzard Entertainment
Before World of Warcraft, Blizzard largely made single player, story driven, real time strategy games for PC and before that console games. There is considerable debate over whether Dune, Command and Conquer, or Warcraft was the first truly successful RTS, but Blizzard dominated the industry within a few years. The Command and Conquer series was much more quirky and light hearted, involving modern weapons, with Warcraft (and the later editions) a bit more serious and fantasy based. Starcraft, which came out in 1997, with an expansion pack a year later, was a much grittier storyline than either C & C or Warcraft, while keeping the same general gameplay as Warcraft.
Graphics: 8.5. Not an overwhelmingly demanding game, it’s entirely in 2D, with no frame rate problems whatsoever (except in large battles; those are relatively minor). The graphics aren’t groundbreaking, but they’re more than adequate for the task at hand.
Sound/music: 8.0. Really engaging soundtrack; I especially like some of the tunes from the expansion pack. The voices are all very well done.
Gameplay: 9.0. A very simple interface. Unit types start out basic and become more complex as the game goes along; some of the most powerful unit types require the most micromanagement. Only two resources make resource gathering less intensive than other RTS games (Rise of Nations and Age of Empires come to mind). Mission types can get repetitive (a lot of them are just “destroy everything” missions), but there are enough changes to keep things interesting. Each race has unique units with unique challenges, strengths, and weaknesses. Replaying the single player campaigns is rewarding enough, but online play adds a whole other dimension.
Story: 9.5. A fantastic story, told from three perspectives: the Terran (human), Zerg (think Aliens), and the Protoss (Predator-esque, although more well rounded). Brood Wars has one of the most depressing endings in video games, one which almost made me cry. Certain characters are dynamic (Tassadar of the Protoss; Kerrigan of the Terrans), but most are not. Each subplot has its own nuances that are developed in the other perspectives. The basic storyline involves the humans being attacked by a race called the Zerg: the Protoss, an advanced race who has battled the Zerg before, engulf human planets in flames without telling the humans of the Zerg; the humans take exception.
Difficulty: 7.5 (original); 10.0. (Brood Wars). In the original, the Terran missions are fairly easy, only hitting roadblocks in mission 6, with one genuinely difficult mission in Mission 10. The Zerg missions get tricky around mission 4, but don’t get too difficult until they have to fight the Protoss later on. The Protoss missions start out hard, get easier, and then get harder again for the last mission. Brood Wars is more of a steady increase (since they don’t have to introduce the way the races work). However, the later Zerg missions are nearly impossible.
2. Civilization IV (Simulation/Strategy) by Infogrames.
The Civilization series has been the granddaddy of them all, with only SimCity a true contender to the throne of longest series. Previous incarnations have progressively gotten better, culminating in the best of them all, Civ IV.
Graphics: 9.5. A truly demanding game, graphically, it’s also one of the best drawn. The first Civ to go fully 3D, it is definitely noticeable.
Sound/music: 9.0. The Civ series has always had good music, and this one is no different, changing as your Civ changes. Sound effects are appropriate to the game and do not hinder it.
Gameplay: 10.0. You have to play the tutorial, especially if you’ve never played a Civ before, but even if you have it’s a good idea. The interface isn’t immediately intuitive, but a careful reading of the manual and run through of the tutorial will teach you how to play. Every problem from Civ III has been corrected (strategic resource scarcity, excessive micromanagement, so on and so forth) with lots of new features being added, the most important being religion. The seven religions in the game are the most powerful diplomatic tool until Free Religion is developed. A large part of another civilization liking or disliking you is your religion. You also get monetary and espionage bonuses if you found a religion. It is immensely replayable, more than any other game I know (except for possibly Neverwinter Nights).
Story: n/a. Unless you play a scenario, there is no story except the one you create. The scenarios are pretty well done, in terms of historical accuracy.
Difficulty: n/a. As a general rule, easier than Civ III but harder than Civ II. However, the difficulty is too customizable to be accurately quantified.
And the greatest PC game of all time (in my humble opinion)… (more…)