Free Middle Earth (US only)! Other single player games I wish I was playing.

I apologise for a bits and pieces post. My husband’s band are launching an album today so it’s all a bit hectic here. (Go check out tinyfish though, they’re a prog band but despite that they are also awesome :))

Turbine has launched an amusing trailer for the Free to Play version of LOTRO. Apparently this will be repeated in TV spots in the US. Sadly for those of us in Europe, our version is delayed.

LOTRO Reporter asks for patience with Codemasters while they sort it out. But I think we can assume that the majority of EU players who are interested in F2P will not be patient and will just go and make accounts on the US servers instead as soon as they realise. That will be a great shame for any existing EU players who were looking forwards to the influx.

Other single player games

I wanted to take the opportunity to signpost a few indie games that have hit the radar recently. If I had time enough, and love …

Minecraft – it’s a sort of building game, and dungeoneering game. There are different modes of play – creative mode for building cool stuff and survival mode which is more of a puzzle game. People have built scale replicas of famous buildings (the reichstag).  If that’s intriguing to you, go check it out.

Recettear – It’s all about being a shop owner in a typical JRPG; so you do some buying and selling, and also sponsor adventurers to go get you more stock. The debt collectors are at your door, so get cracking! Tipa has written eloquently about her experience of the game’s demo. Terrifically silly fun with solid gameplay behind it, and released today via the usual downloading outlets such as steam and impulse. Capitalism ho!

Amnesia: Dark Descent – Billed as a first person survival horror game, you will be spending a lot of your time running away from monsters. Reports I have read agree that it is very scary indeed and extremely immersive. Larisa even wonders whether MMOs can learn anything from this type of play. I may be too wimpy for this type of horror myself, but if it is your thing, the game’s had great reviews.

If you are a fan of multiple choice text adventures, check out the new stories at Multiple Choice Games — choice of the vampire, and choice of romance (seems vaguely appropriate after having mentioned romances in comments on Wednesday). They also have some user submitted stories, including a rather smart one about paranoia. The web versions are all free.

Anyone tried any of these, or any other indie games you’d like to recommend?

Eurogamer Expo

I went up to town (note for non brits: ‘up to town’ means ‘to London’ if you live in the Home Counties*) for the Eurogamer Expo on Friday. It was great to touch base with some bloggers and podcasters I really admire – here’s the shout out to Van Hemlock, Shuttler, and dmosbon (and please leave comments for links to anyone else, ‘fraid I was a bit foggy with whatever mild lurgy I’ve had over the last few days.)

It was also the first time in many years that I’ve been to a computer consumer exhibition. And boy have they changed! One thing that hasn’t changed is the ratio of men to women among the punters. When I arrived at the venue and joined the queue I estimated it as roughly 10000:1, later revised to about 150:1 when I was bored enough to start counting.

This particular expo was very much for gamers to come and try out new and upcoming games. The main floor of the exhibition was filled with huge widescreen monitors, several of which were assigned to each game demo. People were being quite polite about moving on after their 10-15 mins was up so there was plenty of opportunity to check the games out. Upstairs were the indie games, and booths for devs, along with cubicles where people could get advice on breaking into the industry (presumably having people pick over their portfolios). Then further up the meeting rooms where you could attend lectures.  It’s a long long way from the computer expos I remember when I was a kid, full of stalls selling anything from hardware, consumables, software, just about anything remotely interesting to geeks, or plugging fanzines or bboards.

Anyway, the layout meant that all the non flash-bang-whizzo games content was relegated to the top of the hall, where it was easy to ignore them and most people did.

What Caught My Eye

It had never occurred to me before that console games were designed so that they were fun to watch even if you weren’t the person actually playing them. It was very noticeable that the PC games just weren’t that eyecatching from a distance.

Most standout for me was God of War 3, where I (with many many others) was staring open mouthed at the ultra-crazy and over the top stunts, so it wins my whizz-bang award. Also gave me my best laugh of the show – I was watching the main character have a big fight with a centaur. At the end, the hero slashes the centaur’s stomach and all the guts spill out, gratuitously. After a moment’s pause from the crowd, I heard a plummy voice behind me comment, “Oh how absolutely awesome.”

But when I’d blinked the virtual gore and explosions away from my eyes, it was Uncharted 2 that held my attention for the longest. Even when I wasn’t the person playing the game, I thought it was absolutely spellbinding. I’ve not seen a game that made me think so much of actually playing through a Bond movie. The other thing I noticed, just from watching, is how brilliant the storytelling is in that game. I saw a segment (from near the beginning, I think), where our hero has been in a train where the front two coaches have gone over a cliff and he has to climb up them onto solid ground. I don’t know how hard that was to play (it looked vaguely platformish, with some running, jumping, and swinging) but the game made it feel like a very exciting cliffhanger action scene. My heart was in my mouth as I watched the carriages lurch as the character swung in through a carriage window.

It was also clear, even without sound, that the story was being told through flashbacks. I was just thoroughly impressed.

Also a sidenote to Army of Two because they gave me a free T-Shirt of swag+1.

PC Games of Note

I snuck a few minutes alone with the Star Trek Online demo and I’ll be writing up my impressions of that later this week. Dragon Age was also being displayed on both PC and PS3, and it looked very sleek indeed. I guessed immediately which screen showed Dragon Age because all the characters were covered in a fine speckle of blood.

The indie games were fun and weird and different and cool, which is pretty much what you want to see. They were also much more likely to have some of the dev team turn up to chat to players about the game and where they were going with it.

Particularly eye catching for me were:

(*Geek Aside: Looking at that map of the Home Counties, I’m reminded of the Golden Circle of shadows closest to Amber.)