Keywords: design
What can I say? There's far too many good games distracting me right now.

Dragon Age is so good as to be genuinely addictive. I had thought Bioware was just going to make a quick buck off of a Baldur's Gate throwback, but it's really more like they advanced the state of the art of that type of game. Aside from having a riveting, epic story, a feature I really like about the game is the inclusion of Tactics, which are customizable conditionals that streamline out the monotony out of commanding your PCs to perform obvious actions. (It's almost an identical copy of Final Fantasy XII's gambit system.)

Borderlands did not have that same hold over me, but it's certainly a game worth playing. If you're willing to overlook the general infeasibility of where ammo and money comes from - hey, in the old days we'd just have floating boxes of heath and ammo in any ol' place - it's simply a highly refined and relatively open-ended RPG/FPS fusion. A surefire formula for entertainment if ever there was one.

I spent the last post complaining about X3: Reunion... then I realized that I'm talking about a 4 year old game, found a place selling the heavily revised stand-alone, X3: Terran Conflict, for $10 and (with some regret of the time I wasted in Reunion last weekend) restarted my trade empire anew.

Though Terran Conflict looks nearly identical to Reunion, it's really heavily modified and enhanced in hundreds of ways. Every one of my complaints from the previous post - inability to run minimized, not being informed when a unit needs orders, and so on - have been addressed. It's a bit like a space shuttle in itself, identical on the surface but a much different beast under its skin thanks to the constant meddling of astronomy-minded thinkers. They probably could have got away with calling it X4, and probably chose not to simply because the core engine hasn't changed much.

Terran Conflict is about a year old, but the last patch (version 2.5) was released last month. It was released with several issues, perhaps owed to the additional complexity added since the relatively flawless Reunion. Fortunately, Egosoft's diligent patching has made a major difference, and now it's a pretty solid game. The remaining holes (e.g. glitched mission difficulty, little cheats you can do here and there for profit) seem to be erring on the side of being a more open-ended experience.

Now, the main trouble with the game is that it's a grind. I can spend days or weeks just slowly making money to earn something big I want. Eventually one's trade empire becomes neatly automated, a steady credit-generating thing in the background, and I can focus on more interesting things like commanding an armada of warships. What is this if not the age old grind's possibly empty promises of a good end game awaiting you?

Of the three games, I've mostly been playing X3, Reunion until yesterday when I picked up Terran Conflict. I'm not sure what this decision in entertainment proves more. My attraction to the idea of an open-ended and dynamic game or that I can't prioritize worth a damn?

What I'm going to try to do is schedule myself to get the things I need to do done. It's tough - I've forgotten a great deal of my motivation techniques, and I haven't exercised much lately so the body isn't particularly willing either.

Truth be told, I'm on one of many sticking points in my game design. We're getting down to the nitty gritty of what it really means to be a player on the side that represents human expansion over the world in face of the indigenous forces. There's many ways I could do that, but relatively few ways I can make it entertaining to do.

It will take quite a bit of contemplation to decide on a definitive course of action. Right now I'm leaning in the direction of Dwarf Fortress-like automation in the colonies coupled by a few powerful customizable combat units which you give standing orders to.