Fable II’s Knothole Island: if you don’t like the weather, do a quest!

Same place, different weather

Same place, different weather

I have just revisited Fable II to play the Knothole Island downloadable content (a sort of mini-expack from Xbox Live) and actually finish the game, which I hadn’t quite managed when it was released (having been interrupted by the appearance of Fallout III).

The gaming press’s main complaint about Knothole Island is that it’s too small for the money (800 Microsoft Points from Xbox Live, currently ten bucks). Maybe so; it represents only a couple of hours of gameplay plus some new items (a couple of which however provide significant new options, so in that sense it can be considered a mod). That’s between each player and their pocketbook, however.

Knothole Island provides a new region with one questline in three parts. When you install the expack and start Fable you’ll be notified that a new quest is available at Bowerstone Market; go there and you’ll be taken to the island, which has a meteorological dilemma. It’s stuck in winter, and the keys to the totems necessary to change the weather are located in three shrines behind critters, traps and puzzles. There’s a series of books to find, which give you a rather thin backstory “explaining” this situation, and also explaining why there’s a set of plate armor whose pieces are scattered around the place. Naturally your job is to bring back the three totems. Read the rest of this entry »


Srikalanna’s Cookbook: Spicy Orange Popcorn

It’s cold and wet here in Southern California, so it seems like a good time to present my twist on that old gamer staple: popcorn.

My gamer friends are divided into two camps on popcorn. There’s the old fashioned stovetop crowd and the hot-air-popper crowd. I’m in the latter group, naturally, since it means less dishes to wash — and also a lower-calorie snack, since you don’t need oil.  But suit yourself :)

Start some popcorn popping.

In a small microwavable dish (ramekin, custard cup, teacup or the like) put a couple of tablespoons of real butter. (If you use salted, don’t add salt to the popcorn.) To this, add a tablespoon or so of powdered chili, according to taste. You can use chili powder, which has other spices mixed in, or plain ground chilis. Melt the butter in the microwave.

Put the popcorn in a bowl and drizzle over it the melted butter, which by now will be bright orange. Note: You need less butter using this method than if butter is your only topping, since it’s more flavorful.

Toss and eat :)


  • adding a little bit of cinnamon to the chili gives an interesting flavor
  • sprinkle some finely-grated Parmesan over the whole thing, after you add the butter – delicious but ups the calorie count

Sims 3 Interface Described in New Preview

Will it explode if I click this button?

Will it explode if I click this button?

Just a note — I’m not gonna be linking all the info about every game I talk about in here, that’s what Google’s for ;) But if I see something unusually informative I’ll post it.

This new article from a Brazilian fansite has an awesome description of the Sims 3 interface, explaining every button. There’s lots of other interesting info too, some of it new, like exactly what happens when you start up the game.

And best of all:

“Q: What will we do until The Sims 3 is released? Is it possible to release an independent CAS?

A: The idea is that you enjoy the most your Sims 2, because we will eventually abandon the game when The Sims 3 releases. But something really mentioned on Creator’s Camp was the release of an independent CAS (like on Sims 2 and Spore). The Sims 3′ team is really thinking on releasing something like this to the players. Now we can only wait to see if this is really going to happen.”

Puzzle Quest Shoots for the Stars: Galactrix

Puzzle em to death!

Puzzle em to death!

OK, I tried to put a brave face on it, but I was depressed by the Sims 3 delay. So I was delighted when I realized that another game I’ve been looking forward to for some time — Puzzle Quest: Galactrix — is coming out at the end of the month (look for it Feb 24, initially on PC, XBLA and Nintendo DS, though it will most likely wind up on every platform in the known universe). This one’s a space opera called “Puzzle Quest: Galactrix”, and if it’s anything like its predecessor, it could keep me distracted for a good long time. You can get the flavor of it right now: there’s a playable online combat demo and a gameplay demo available from standard download sites (I got it here).

The first Puzzle Quest game, Challenge of the Warlords, was a blend of a match-three puzzle game — think Bejeweled — with a full-fledged open-world RPG. From the RPG side, the game has it all: a class system, a long, deep main quest and lots of optional sidequests, a party system with party member specific questlines, expandable player stronghold, town sieges, mounts, crafting and more. All executed with graphics consisting mostly of still 2D paintings, and a combat engine provided by a competitive version of the puzzle game… which also, in numerous variations, serves as the crafting system, the mount taming system, the spell training system and so on.

Odd though it sounds, PQ CotW was a surprise hit. It started as a handheld game (hence the lo-tech graphics) but quickly spread to consoles and the PC. A couple of versions had an expansion, “Revenge of the Plague Lord”, which doubled the number of classes, raises the level cap and adds a large new region. Although it sounds like a “casual” title, it has very broad appeal, with my hardest-core shooter-playing, WoW-raiding gamer friends all getting sucked in by it. I suspect the secret is the combination of two different types of compelling gameplay: addictive puzzling and compelling “just one more before bed” questlines.

Galactrix takes the same formula and moves it into space… dropping the conventions of the high-fantasy RPG genre and replacing them with sci-fi conventions (think Freelancer, Mass Effect, or Spore’s space phase). As in those games, there’s a huge galactic map, with jump gates connecting dozens of star systems, which contain shops, stations, minable asteroids, and other features.  The game is classless — you develop your skills as you see fit. Instead of spells you have weapons you can equip your ship with, and you can even aquire additional ships (up to three), letting you tailor  your weapons systems for particular enemy types. Read the rest of this entry »

Sims 3 Delay Official… new date June 2

I have to admit to feeling a certain amount of glee over EA’s new press release… since many avid sims fans on various boards kept saying “if EA says it’s Feb 20, it’s Feb 20”. What if at one time EA says it’s Feb 20, and then at another time says it’s June 2? These kids need a basic course in temporal logic :)

Update: The page I linked above has been taken down, at least for now. Here is the full text of the statement that was posted. (Some fans are arguing that this is not genuine,  but I see no reason not to believe that it’s the final statement, inadvertently posted a bit early — note the time — and taken down a couple of minutes later.)

EA announces New SHIP date for the Sims 3

February 03, 2009 21:20 PM

Highly-Anticipated PC Game from Best-selling PC Franchise Slated to Ship June 2, 2009

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., February 3, 2009 – Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) today announced that The Sims™ 3, the highly-anticipated flagship game from the best-selling PC franchise, The Sims will launch across the PC, Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch and mobile devices summer 2009. The Sims 3 PC will ship to store shelves worldwide starting June 2, 2009.

“The Sims 3 is an incredible game that lets you play with life, create art and show off your creations,” said Ben Bell, Executive Producer, The Sims 3. “In the game, players are inspired by endless creative possibilities like the new Traits and Lifetime Wish features which allow players to create Sims with real personalities and destinies. Players can then take their Sim into town to interact with other Sims in the game and capture the action on video to show off online.”

“The June launch combined with the break-through game the team is building gives us the perfect runway to create awareness for The Sims 3,” said Russell Arons, Vice President of Marketing for EA. “The Sims 3 will be the original IP summer blockbuster of 2009 as we build off the success of the best-selling PC franchise of all time to create awareness with both loyal Sims fans and new players.” Read the rest of this entry »

They want a game? Let THEM make it: Spore Galactic Adventure


Looks oddly like the Sims in Spore!

My friend Jayzen messaged to clue me in on the next Spore expack, which turns out to be a quest design tool.

Spore. So full of promise. Such a disappointment to so many. What was odd about it was that the tech which players were looking forward to so eagerly was all there, and worked pretty well: the creature editor, the random worlds, and especially the ultra-long zoom from creature to planet to solar system to galaxy. The social aspect (which consists of automatic content sharing) worked well and was fun too — my friends and I enjoyed running into each others’ creations and blowing em up or cozying up and comparing notes.

But the gameplay felt patched together and shallow: a series of four quick and simple mini-games strung together, followed by Space… which was bigger and deeper, but not enough to compete with real games in the space sim/strategy/trading/combat genres.

Some of it was fun nonetheless. Creature design was entertaining, civ phase could be a blast, and I for one particularly enjoyed the terraforming aspect of space phase, where you can transform a lifeless rock into a Garden of Eden with the application of heat, moisture and life. Got a good couple weeks of enjoyable gameplay out of it, but Spore was a game we’d hoped we could play for months or years, and it came nowhere close to that.

The first expack was a disappointment as well: what the game desperately needed was more gameplay, and instead, we got decorations in the Creepy and Cute parts pack.

Expack two, however, is taking a new approach. It’s an in-game level editor that lets you transform a planet into a new minigame, something like a quest in an RPG, which will be shared via Sporepedia like your critters, buildings and vehicles. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh Say Can You DLC

People are complaining that I’m blogging too much about the Sims. Well, when Sims 3 seemed about to come out, I was… preoccupied. Now it looks virtually certain it will be delayed (still waiting on a new release date), so I’m badly in need of diversion.

Which makes it a good time to pick up the DLC (downloadable content, small game additions) that has come out for both Fable 2 and Fallout 3 in the last month. Fable has Knothole Island, while Fallout has Operation: Anchorage. Yes, both of these addons have received less than glowing reviews (Knothole/Anchorage), but since I never finished either of the original two games, it’s nice to have the incentive to go back. I’ll try em out and let you know what I think in the next few days, and talk a bit about the base games too.

BTW, Fable 2 is still Xbox-only, though it’s a good bet it’ll be out for PC eventually; the add-on costs 800 Microsoft Points, or ten bucks. (The Xbox is the only console I own, so don’t look for PS3 reviews here.) Fallout 3 is available on both the PC and the Xbox; I got the PC version, since knowing Bethsoft well from my intensive involvement with the Elder Scrolls series, I knew I’d want quick access to both patches and mods. The Fallout addon costs 800 points from either Xbox Live or Microsoft Live Marketplace.

Yeah, Fallout’s modding tool, the GECK, is out now too; it’s a free download. I’ll try to check out the mod scene while I’m at it.