Monthly Archives: August 2010

I leave my life to ride the mindway!

Lately I’ve been playing more PC games than I had been thanks in part to finally getting my first Xbox 360 “red ring of death”. Luckily I (barely) made the warranty so I got a replacement free of charge. While that was being taken care of though I’d been focusing most of my precious gaming time on games that I could pick up and play quickly and in relatively short bursts such as Battlefield: Bad Company 2 multiplayer. I’ve also been playing a little bit of Defcon which I’ll probably talk more about in the next one of these. The game that has most captured my attention lately though is Audiosurf.

Can you forgive me? I never knew...
“Can you forgive me? I never knew…”

Audiosurf has actually been out for a while now (2 years now?) and I had heard only great things about it, mostly on gaming forums and the like. In fact based on those recommendations I’ve almost purchased it on several different occasions. I finally bought it as somewhat of an afterthought during the last big Steam sale and now I’m wondering what exactly my reservations could have possibly been. It’s a total mystery.

I absolutely love music. It has been a nearly constant companion of mine since I was a kid. It has helped me through so many of the bad times in my life and was usually involved in or at least present for the best ones as well. These days are no different and I’ve been digging out a lot of my personal classics for some much needed escape recently. Enter Audiosurf…

And I will advertise it.
“And I will advertise it.”

Audiosurf is like the display of a graphic equalizer or some other, equally effective form of music “visualization” that, while nimbly dancing through the rhythms of your favorite songs, tripped and fell into the nightmarish dark void of a sci-fi space epic effected by an unhealthy dose of psychedelics. That’s what Audiosurf is. Wait… what the fuck did I just write? Let me start over.

Audiosurf analyzes music and dynamically maps it fairly precisely to a represent a race track, using the tempo to dictate the turns, curves, and elevations of the track. The tempo will also control how fast you move during your trip. It uses other sonic blips, typically those caused by instruments of course, to add other elements to the track – rings you fly through, colors and shapes bursting through the space all around you. Most importantly though Audiosurf uses some of those audio queues to fill the track with little blocks which make up the core of the actual gameplay itself. You steer your small craft along this funky space highway (which as an aside brings back fond memories of SkyRoads) avoiding and gathering these tiny colored blocks to the rhythm of the music in an attempt to combine them into a unit which will then grant you point bonuses, not unlike block stacking in some puzzle games.

Stop crying for what you've done... it's only the past... it's only life.
“Stop crying for what you’ve done… it’s only the past… it’s only life.”

So yeah, it sounds like a neat toy right? Actually it is surprisingly compelling. I find myself wanting to play just a song or two and end up playing a 7 or 8. Why?

First of all, as I implied, the visualization is actually quite good, depending on the song of course. You really feel like you’re riding the rhythm, moving your ship to the beat to hit the blocks representing it – it is often extremely effective. I find myself playing it in full screen and getting lost in it quite easily. Crucially, not only can you use Audiosurf’s built in “radio” soundtrack but you can pick any song from your hard drive in a variety of formats. It even has direct iTunes and support. Screw buying songs you already own as in Rock Band or Guitar Hero and while we’re at it screw being constrained by the music tastes of others! Play whatever you want! Finally, when you complete a track your score is uploaded to a central server where you can see what other people achieved on the same song. This adds a whole social element to the game which I find quite intriguing especially when it comes to the aspect of representing your musical tastes. I’m personally the “champion” of some pretty obscure stuff though I of course owe that in large part to a lack of competition. 😉

Dodge the bullet or carry the gun... the choice is yours!
“Dodge the bullet or carry the gun… the choice is yours!”

There are a few different game modes all based on that same theme. I prefer the “mono” variety as the easiest to really zone out in and focus on the music itself – you still have some potentially challenging twitch gameplay but you don’t need to focus quite as heavily on what is going on nor deploy any advanced tactics to score well. In fact I enjoy zoning out and getting into the music so much this way that I intend to play through all new albums I buy from now on.

Songs with drastic tempo changes tend to make for wilder rides, and as I said some songs are interpreted a bit better than others, but most people who give Audiosurf a try tend to come away impressed. You can usually find it for sale on Steam and its regular price is only 10 bucks. Check it out!

The Tale of Garn Chapter 24

Warning: potential side quest spoilers ahead!

From the journals of Garn:

Sleep Like The Dead

Though the Imperial City is within sight I have to continue my journey around to one of the entrances in the north. Night falls quickly and despite the frequent patrols of the roads this area is teaming with wildlife, Goblins, and other undesirables that I’d rather not let catch me off guard so I decide to make a stop at the Roxy Inn. When I inquire about a room the Nord lady behind the bar, no doubt noticing my garb, says she’ll make me a deal. She has a desperate look in her eye which draws my full attention – I hear her out. She tells me that a Necromancer named Raelynn the Gravefinder has moved into a cave nearby and has been causing a lot of trouble, sometimes scaring away potential customers. She says that if I can clear out the rogue mage she will give me a room for free whenever I desire. While I probably won’t need to stay this close to the Imperial City very often an adventure is an adventure.

Hey look it's... nah, just teasing.
“Hey look it’s… nah, just teasing.”

Since I’ll likely be in the dark the entire time anyway I decide to go ahead and visit the necromancer’s cave now. She almost certainly won’t be expecting unwelcome visitors of the adventurer variety at this hour and, if I’m lucky, she’ll even be asleep. I’ve heard and, to some extent, seen myself by now that rogue mages and other outlaws often prefer to live in groups so the possibly that Raelynn isn’t alone doesn’t escape me. I carefully creep up to the cave, putting my torch out 25 feet or so before the cave’s entrance as to not cast any light that might give my approach away, and slip into the entrance.

Just point me at her...
“Just point me at her…”

The cave is much larger and more open than I would have suspected – now I’m even more concerned that this might be some sort of a necromancer coven’s base of operations. Soon, despite my attempts to remain stealth, my presence is detected and I hear the telltale signs of a summon spell being cast. A reanimated corpse comes charging at me. As I hack at the decomposed body mindlessly swinging at me I catch a glimpse of the necromancer behind it – and it isn’t a woman. After defeating the animation I charge the necromancer and despite his attempts to flee I finish him off. Hmm.

Sure, stand there smugly behind your burning skeleton... thingy..
“Sure, stand there smugly behind your burning skeleton… thingy..”

The next coordinator leads to a double door way. As I prepare to quietly open it the doors both swing open with great force. I only narrowly avoid being bashed in the face by one of them. Two summoned skeletons rush me and I prepare for a tough fight. Obviously two separate necromancers are behind this attack as each animation is quite powerful. After downing the skeletons I rush the first necromancer I see. She screams at me, something to the effect that she knew they’d come for her eventually she won’t go easily. Indeed she doesn’t – we trade spells until I am able to corner her and finish her with my blade. Raelynn the Gravefinder is dead yet I barely have time to take in the kill as the second necromancer attacks. Wounded from my battle with Raelynn this fight is quite a struggle. This necromancer seems to be much more powerful and I only narrowly survive his constant summons and lightning attacks.

Raelynn the Gravefinder curses you!
“Raelynn the Gravefinder curses you!”

Although my job here is done I believe I’ll explore this cave system just a bit more, after all, if any necromancers remain then the Roxy Inn’s troubles will too. The next chamber I enter contains three necromancers, though thankfully not nearly as powerful as the last one. I summon a Daedroth who quickly dispatches one of the spell casters before he can even summon an animation. The Daedroth and I quickly dispatch the second as well, though the third proves more elusive and begins running down a far corridor away from me while at the same time hurling all manner of spells and curses at me. The necromancer and I trade magical blows evenly for what seems like minutes. While she did a good job of keeping me at bay I eventually gain enough ground to charge her and land a fatal blow, cleaving one of her arms cleanly from her body and sending her staff quietly rolling down the passage.

Behind you!
“Behind you!”

I loot the bodies of their possessions. There isn’t not much in the way of treasure but rare and valuable magic supplies are numerous. I move on to the final large room in the cave and am greeted by another necromancer and his summon and I can see another, more powerful necromancer further in the room who also begins to send his animations at me. I land a fireball squarely on the first necromancer and slide my blade through his side for good measure as his screams, burning to death, then kick him off of my sword and charge, shield raised high, to the necromancer lord. The lord summons additional animations and animates some of the nearby bodies. Soon a wraith joins the battle as well. Obviously this necromancer knows he is the end of the line and is giving it all he has. Unfortunately for him so am I.

I skillfully block the attacks of my opponents by employing a meat shield.
“I skillfully block the attacks of my opponents by employing a meat shield.”

As I summon another Daedroth to distract some of his summons I pepper him with fireballs and advance on him. As I hear the wraith’s agonizing yelp of defeat beside me I charge further at the necromancer, this time bashing him with my shield and following through with a swift sideways strike. Despite my crushing advance he is able to block my blow with his staff though it is cut cleanly in half, its pieces flying to either side behind him. This time I lunge my sword towards his belly and it hits its mark. While the necromancer is obviously mortally wounded his finger tips still crackle with lightning as if he is going to strike at me a final time with his dying breath. Taking no chances I draw my sword from his belly and with one powerful strike cleave off his head. The cave seems vacant once again.

Now perhaps I can finally get that room at the inn I was after…

I know I suggested that I was finally going to be doing some Imperial City quests but this entry and the next will be me cleaning up a couple of other minor side quests I missed along the way…