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The Election, Part 1
I tried to see if I could shoehorn the reactions from the hard left I was seeing into the standard "5 stages of grief" that most people are familiar with (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance). No, it wasn't quite working (especially with the lack of "bargaining"). They've come up with their own stages, it seems.

First did come Denial. This is what first led me to try this experiment. To be fair, a lot of fault for this can be placed onto the terribly skewed exit polling data that seems to have been leaked early. And all the mainstream news outlets use the same company for their exit polling, so they all came up with the same numbers. "Let's just wait for all the votes to be counted," the Democrats said when the actual precincts started reporting in and things looked good for Bush. "How could W carry Ohio? Inconceivable!" Some are still in this stage.

I think what I saw following denial was mainly Depression. People dazed and shocked, saying how sad they were and how much they wanted to cry. Or at least move to Canada. This stage appeared to actually be very brief.

Next comes Blame, smashing through depression rather quickly. The great thing about this stage is how scattershot different Democrats have been in assigning blame:

"It's Kerry's fault, because he wasn't a good candidate. Yeah, I never really liked him to begin with. He didn't listen to his advisors. He really did flip-flop a lot. You could never know where he stood on a position. He said different things to different people."

"Kerry lost because of his campaign managers. They were incompetent. Bush ran a much better campaign."

"You can blame this all on the Republicans for brainwashing people into believing all their nonsense. Kerry is a saint, but those damn Bushies made up all these lies and they're responsible for this travesty."

"Those Swift Boat veterans did this. It's all their fault."

"Those red-state voters have ruined our country."

Then there's the Anger. Oh boy, is there the anger. For example, read this rant from a London "news site". Or this recent "protest". Or this other recent protest. Or this site, which is not too fond of southern states (conveniently ignoring both the non-southern states that backed Bush and plenty of facts that counter his points). Or any of the savage diatrabes delivered wherever the hard left gathers en masse. "Red-necked racist bigots." "Ignorant homophobes." "Retarded religious fundamentalist hicks." Apparently you can't vote for Bush unless you are, in some manner, mentally defective or fascist. A vote for Bush (apparently) means you hate blacks, that you hate gays, that you hate poor people, that you want to kill abortionists. Ah, so this is the famous leftist tolerance I'd heard so much about!

(I guess everyone should cut them some slack; the wounds are still raw. But I don't have a lot of patience for idiocy. More Democrats backed Bush (11%) than Republicans backed Kerry (6%). Those Bush voters who considered "Moral Values" the most important issue made up only 17.6% of voters and even this encompasses a wide range of issues.)

Some have already started on the Accusations. "The voting machines were rigged." "Voter intimidation! Disenfranchisement!" "They did it again. They stole another election." In fact, there is growing discussion over voting irregularities across the nation. Of course, these happen every election, but only since 2000 has anyone actually cared. Not that they are excusable; it's embarrassing that after all this time, we still can't run a flawless election. The problem is that you're going to see lefties obsessing over every possible, theoretical extra vote for Bush in the "red" states while ignoring every single irregularity that occurs in a state that went to Kerry. Why don't we fix the system so we can stop worry about it at all?

Final stage: Acceptance? Maybe. For some, though, there will never be acceptance. For nearly all of them, I think, the final stage will be determination. A drive to win in 2008.

(Updated Tuesday, November 9, 2004 3:20 PM)
Permalink   Filed under: Politics, Rant

StarCon 2
With Evil Genius and Farcry completed, I've returned to my retro list once again. This time it's StarCon 2, the classic sequel that's part RPG and part space combat action. This is all possible on a modern Windows XP system through the use of DOSBox, a DOS emulator that, so far, has run StarCon 2 perfectly. This really is a classic great game, with imagination and humor combined with a sense of wonder, exploration, and achievement. Though it pre-dates the widespread use of digitized voice work, it does have some good sound effects and great use of different styles of music (each race has their own kind).

You can download StarCon2 from Abandonia.

Permalink   Filed under: Games, Review

Evil Genius
The demo got me itching for Evil Genius. Hell, it got me itching for Dungeon Keeper, so I played some DK2 goodness while I waited. Once I finally got to Evil Genius, I found a game with a good idea but some poor design decisions.

This is actually a pretty long game, considering the situation. Unlike DK2, it's not a series of scenarios. It's one long main objective, achieved by completing a series of smaller objectives (many of which have their own smaller objectives). Near the end, you will get a chance to relocate to a second island with a much larger space for building, but unfortunately it also has greater distances to the depots, which means construction projects take longer.

Base design is one of the strong points. It's quite enjoyable to plan your layout and decide what kind of design you want. Something geared towards presenting an innocent front to agents that sneak in? Entrances that lead to a series of traps for disabling or killing agents? Or something ultra efficient, designed for speed and easy access? Each has its strengths and its weaknesses. My own design was a mix of the latter two. My three entrances had non-lethal traps for disabling intruders. I had a number of "honeypot" entrances: the doors in lead to corridors of traps which end at a door leading back out.

Minion specialization worked out pretty well. The problem was that, with the minion cap hard set at 100, it was too hard to keep a lot of highly specialized minions, and it was far far too easy to have them all killed by super-agents. Any time one of your highly specialized types is completely wiped out, you need to go through the hassle of kidnapping one and torturing him all over again. How often does this happen? Much more often than I thought reasonable. The problem is that you can't mandate that they make training underlings a priority. Your marksmen and martial arts masters respond to every kill tag, just like guards and mercenaries. Your diplomats and playboys will try to shmooze agents tagged for weakening, just like their less-skilled spin doctors and valets. The problem is, of course, that performing these duties is rather hazardous. If I had a nickel for every time a super-agent went absolute batshit and murdered all of my social minions for no goddamn reason, I'd be a rich man.

Yeah, super-agents. This was an intriguing idea with an implementation that led to more frustraiton than any other aspect of the game. Super-agents are special advanced agents that cannot be killed through normal means. Only late in the game can you find out the secrets needed to stop them permanently. Super-agents also have special powers that they can use against you and your minions. The worst, John Steele, can actually change your alert levels, reset all of your security doors to the lowest level, and start random fires in your base. And he does this all at once. Any time he wants. The problem here is that super-agents get freaked by the most minor things, and then they start killing everyone in sight. Even having a hoarde of social minions sapping their attention is no guarantee of avoiding their wrath. Trying to distract agents like this really drains the minions' endurance. So eventually, they get too tired to keep it up. This assumes, of course, that the super-agent doesn't just up and kill them before (or right after) they get a chance to do their thing. If this wasn't bad enough, there were times where I had 3 super-agents roaming my island at once. Killing with abandon. Blowing up shit left and right.

So, in the end, the only way I could continue playing the game was to cheat. I discovered a way to raise my minion max to 200, allowing me to specialize more. There's also a cheat that makes most agents (and all super-agents) leave the island after only a very brief time of looking around. Once I took advantage of these, I was able to actually focus on completing various "Acts of Infamy" and working towards the final objective.

Replay value? Very little. The game progression, as far as I can tell, will be fundamentally the same for all sessions. Differences will be minor: your choice of avatar, your choice of henchmen, your choice of base design, your choice of final doomsday weapon. I might try playing again with a very very innocent-looking base with a focus on hiding nerfarious objects deep inside. Even then, I expect that I'll eventually have to rely on the cheat again, just to keep from quitting the game in frustration. Like I said, this game is a great idea marred by some poor implementation decisions.

Permalink   Filed under: Games, Review

Jagged Alliance 2
Yesterday I finished Jagged Alliance 2 after a considerable number of enjoyable retro hours spent playing the game. The game itself plays a little like Fallout 2 without the role-playing aspect; in other words, it is a squad-level tactical wargame. You can control multiple squads of units, each squad consisting of up to 6 members. Outside of combat, the game plays in real-time at the tactical level (inside a town, for example), or can be be played in fast-forward while viewing the strategic map, which displays all of the towns and areas between them. Combat is done turn-based, with each unit having a certain number of action points that can be spent attacking, moving, or interacting with other objects.

The game contains a nice variety of modern weapons to select from. Handguns, submachine guns, rifles, and light machine guns are pretty well represented in a few standard calibers (9mm, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, 5.56mm, 7.62mm Soviet, 7.62mm NATO). I found some 5.7mm ammo for the FN P90 and some 4.73mm ammo for the HK G11, though neither of the guns actually turned up.

Your units are either straight-up mercenaries (recruited through a pretty humorous send-up of the World-Wide Web) or NPCs that have agreed to join your cause. Equipment is either purchased through a similar web-based system or it is found on the battlefield. This is, in fact, where you'll get nearly all of your supplies. The web page supplier generally offers new, advanced equipment only days, weeks, or months after you've discovered it on your own (it's really best for ammo and other basic supplies that are used regularly). This means that your own squads are often outmatched from a technical standpoint. You have to rely on better tactics and intelligence in order to win.

The game has a single goal, though there are a few side-quests that pop up from time to time. Most of these come up through the game's very crude conversation system that allows you to (try to) communicate with the few named NPCs you can find in various locations. The talk system was one of the game's major weaknesses: I like that the developers tried to incorporate some RPG-aspects into the game, but the player is given very little indication as to what the various conversation choices will do. Your only options are "Friendly", "Direct", and "Threaten", or you can try give the NPC an object, or attempt to recruit him or her. As for what these choices really in a practical sense only becomes apparent after you use them.

The game's most serious problem, however, was its bugginess. This was especially disappointing considering that this was a re-release of the game, with a new version number. Very rarely could I get through an extended play time (an hour or two) without the game crashing. Did it have anything to do with an older game and XP incompatibilities? Possibly. There were also a number of in-game bugs that popped up that could not be explained away so easily. Squad member orders would often randomly shuffle after a reload (there's no way to manually reorder a team in combat or on the move). Infinite loops popped up occasionally in the turn-based combat, usually when the AI units seemed with be "thinking", though every so often the game would display a clock and freeze on my own turn.

Jagged Alliance 2 is a great game for squad-level wargamers and fans of the combat-side of Fallout 2. In spite of its problems, it really drew me in and had me in Obsessive Mode (tm). I'd often be at the computer in the morning, before work, even if I could only get in 5 minutes of play time. This would tide me over until after work, when I'd get home and immediately bring my computer out of hibernate and start the game up again. It's a shame it took me until now to find out what a great game JA2 is. Now I have to see about the add-ons "Unfinished Business" and "Wildfire", and the various total conversion mods out there.

(Updated Monday, September 20, 2004 1:52 PM)
Permalink   Filed under: Games, Review
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