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The GTA SA Nostalgia Run

I played out GTA SA a few days ago. For like the forty-ninth time - but for the first time in a long time too.

It was one of the games I feel like I grew up on, and possibly the game I have at this point played the most of any one game...

That might not be true, there are some strong alternative contenders to the total-gameplay-time throne - like the other two GTA installments that came before it, but either way I have fond memories of GTA SA in particular.
And GTA 3. And GTA VC, which I've played through way more recently.

Mostly on PC, but I got VC for Android a few years back too, when I finally bought a phone that was capable of such games, and the mobile anniversary edition of it had just come out.

Not sure GTA SA ever did come out for mobile (Edit: It did), but if it has it's not worth it y'all! The visual acuity and quality's severely limited with these mobile ports - as is the gameplay experience overall considering you play it on such a tiny device, though it is impressive that such tiny devices actually pack the power to play such games these days!

And it's pretty fun being able to relive the game with swipe-based controls when you're used to keyboard and mouse. Even if the latter's considerably better in all areas, not least precision.

But anyway, the reason I haven't gotten back to GTA SA as much as I have GTA VC - and even GTA 3, is probably because it's just so big compared to the other two.

If you want to go for a full completion of the game it takes considerably longer to do so - the game world is like three game worlds in one compared to the previous two - and that factor might've made me the most overjoyed when I first tried that game. And the reason I still feel like it's my favorite of the three. It was HUGE! Just when you thought you were nearing the end of the line a whole new city opened up to you, and the game world expanded incrementally and impressively as you went along; providing more adventure than you could ever imagine you were bartering for when you got it.

They even have that brief throwback to Liberty City! To Marco's Bistro. Even though the flight there was considerably shorter than I remembered.

I remember the world being bigger too, though it's still immense.
And maybe the size is just right, considering how lost I am with the newest segment of the franchise.

Whereas this one provided expectation-surpassing adventure and breadth, the new one seems to just have too much, plain and simple. The world's either too big or too cluttered. Or too dynamic.

I was blown away by the visual improvements, but somehow not as blown away by the world itself. Something about the dynamics or aesthetic of it all just seems too smooth. Too good. Now that I've been back to the nostalgia realm of GTA SA again the notion's reinforced on me again.

There's just something they did so flawlessly with the first three games - and with VC and SA in particular - that the newest ones seem to have lost.

But then again maybe I just haven't played them enough.

Maybe I poured so much time into these old ones that the game worlds there are imprinted in my mind to the point I see them differently.

I still do get lost occasionally along the mountainous roads of GTA SA - especially between Los Santos and San Fierro, but you figure it out after a while. It comes back to you. The map has an immensely simpler overview too compared to the new ones. When you look at that terrainial cheatsheet it almost seems like the world is smaller than it seems there.

Like - akin to for example how they made 2D sprites seem 3D in DOOM just by rotating them - somehow they managed to make this world also seem even bigger than it is, be that by mechanical or architectural design.

It's so balanced.

The time it takes you to get around is just right. The distance from one place to another is just right. Everything's so calculated and polished and... natural.

And Grove Street truly feels like home.

Even though they say you can't relive your childhood memories I had a really good time with this re-run, and from it I currently have... a few hundred GB and hours worth of game footage in video form I'm planning to chop up, and merge, and occasionally speed up for repetitive road or exercise-related segments, as to make for one long-ass walkthrough from start to finish, just to make it feel like the time I spent going through this game again was worth it after all.

Lately game time just does not feel like worthy time unless I record it.
I realize that argument is just like being out on a real world vacation and typing away on a phone or laptop as to make the best possible use of that time - and thus making said vacation all but the retreat and recuperation time it's meant to be. A game's meant to be enjoyed too. Nothing more.

But it's not entirely the same is it?

With games the recording process doesn't need to distract you.

At least not as much.

You can have it running in back without paying the recording a second thought, just making sure you start the recording process when you start the game and to stop it when you stop it... and maybe consider being a bit more efficient with your gameplay time as to not waste viewer time on unproductive rampages and joyrides around the block.

Though of course I've done a fair share of those too.

Wouldn't be GTA without 'em.

Also delved a bit deeper into the in-game dating realm than I was planning to - wonder if that's a reflection of some real life desires. Hmm. If I delved deeper into my subconscious mind maybe I'd figure that out too...

I was planning to write about the video tools I've been testing now that I have all this footage to edit, as Windows Movie Maker isn't a viable option anymore, and I'm not a huge fan of AVI Demux or OpenShot (the first works great more so for simple cuts, and the latter is terribly hardware-heavy even for small files so I can't imagine it working with 20-30GB MKVs), but maybe best save that for some other point! Video tool recap: later.

I'm still not entirely done with this game either.

I made it past the last mission yesterday, and feel content and free and satisfied with my nostalgia journey... but I still have some oysters to fetch, and some dates in wait, and some driving/boating/flying lessons to ace and races and derbies to stage and hoods to take-over! And I think there are two clothing chains I've yet to buy the entire wardrobe from.

It really is an extensive game... but not too extensive.

You can complete it in a week, and you can keep playing... for almost as long as you'd ever want to. :)

I considered installing the Thing To Do In San Andreas Till You Die mod this time btw, I've known about it for years now, but going through reviews I discovered it's unfortunately not bug-free, and I wasn't looking to have my game crash during any of these recordings.

Instead I opted for just the Silent Patch (couldn't get the game running properly without it - the mouse wouldn't work in-game - and the splash screens didn't show before the menu either), and the Extended Gang Wars mod by the same author, which expands the territories you can take over to all that show any hostile gangs in-game.

No drastic change, just a natural expansion. TTDISATYD had this and much more, but that's something for another time. In another ten years maybe.
The mod's still being developed; maybe it'll be flawless then...

Also big props to the Definitive Edition mod, which was also a high contender for one all-in-one mod to try the game with this time around - it includes the Silent Patch as well - and seems pretty much bug-free, but it just seems to change the visuals of the game too much for it to still feel like the original experience.

I'm not a huge fan of the ENBSeries visuals - the way they make things hazy/bright/shiny rather than just plain pretty - beautifying certain surfaces, but otherwise also somewhat distorting the natural atmosphere/scenery of the game. And that's also included.

And new textures - especially surface-related ones - generally don't make things look better to me, just messier.

I believe additional polygons and enhanced physics/particle effects would be a better thing to focus on, or to combine with these, to really change the world in a way where the high-res textures don't seem so misplaced.

Especially the grass.

The high-res grass just looks wrong to me. With the same in-game form and motion it just looks sharp and edgy, not like the lush vegetation it's intended to be.

Maybe there'll be additional improvements on these things in time though, and it'll be possible to play the game in a way that feels enhanced with these new textures, instead of just edited.

There's a mod for GTA VC that does exactly this, and adds thousands of new polygons/points/whatever-the-things-that-control-the-detail-level-of-shapes is called. I can't find it right now. I can't remember the name, but it's out there, and that one works amazingly well.

The textures don't change at all but suddenly everything in the game feels so much smoother; natural; modern. I wish someone could do the same thing for GTA SA. There's also a great corona fix for GTA VC that drastically improves the lighting. Maybe there's something similar for this game too...

When I'm all done with collectibles maybe I'll give modding a shot too!

Not all retexturing projects are bad either.

There's a set of retextured cars out there for example that look amazing - probably more than one that does.

When done in moderation such edits work well - and when they're done well, but when it's the whole world it just gets wonky without more form-related fixes. Maybe certain models (like cars) already have a larger amount of polygons too, and work well with new textures.

Vegetation seems the most difficult to get right.

I'm just repeating myself at this point though! Wanted to write a bit about my experiences with this game while it was fresh in mind, but that's about enough for one post ain't it.

There's more I love. I love the story. I love the struggle. I love the VAs. I love the music - even the country songs! It's such a balanced assortment.

I STILL love everything about this game, even if the visuals feel a little dated. The mechanics still work. The cars are still fun to drive. The missions still feel rewarding and at times exciting and/or suitably aggressive.

It's a good mix, and the main character's a good pick.

For all his flaws you gotta love CJ.

You probably wouldn't love him as much if he didn't occasionally err too. Protagonists need flaws to be relatable - but not so many you just feel sorry for them. He's a good balance. Both good and bad traits and not too much character - you can put yourself into his shoes too.

Which reminds me: The main thing I dislike about GTA V is really the three-character selection.

It's not a revolutionary dynamic, it's just wrong. It doesn't let you immerse yourself in any one character role. It doesn't let you feel like you are any one character - since each character is living their own life while you're off playing one of the other two. And that - to me at least - is a huge detriment to the whole experience. I still can't understand how they opted for it.

You just can't bond with 'em; can't immerse yourself in the game; can't make their story your own.

But more on that in some other post too, this is getting way too gigantic...

Finna slow down with the gaming a bit now but: I'll probably keep getting back to this one for some time yet.

The Wisdoms of Worms World Party

So I've been playing some Worms World Party again.

It's a game I was first introduced to way back in middle school. Grade 7.

In my home class we had one computer in a corner of the room, which was primarily used for studies and research - I think it even had Internet access. But during breaks, and special occasions, our teacher had brought in a few games we could amuse ourselves with, one of which was this one.

Come to think of it this was probably the precursor to me and Andreas playing so much Leiro between classes later on, in the upper tier yet all the more lenient levels of our education... that's a good game too. Worms in real time. They both have their pros and cons. Leiro's definitely quicker.

My first impressions of WWP are a blur, but I remember how delighted I was with the splash screen when you booted it: Smooth visuals, a trio of cute worms with a varied assortment of bombastic weaponry, standing atop a blue and green miniature planet Earth, rotating, with bubbly clouds passing by as a tranquil but also catchy and pompous fanfare played.

And then you started a game, and started killing one another!

At this point in life it was unprecedented such a form of violent entertainment was actually presented to you by a custodian as such.
I mean a teacher. In class! In school! It was crazy, but it was cool.

Similar to how this same teacher allowed us to bring drinks (like soda) into class for important tests it seemed like a subtle way of guiding us into the adult world; giving us freedoms in exchange for trust. And I think it worked. It sombered us up somehow and made us take his classes seriously... for the most part. Though we also had fun it feels like we wanted to earn the freedoms he gave us. To show we were worthy. Of Worms, and more.

Meanwhile we were rampaging through equally iconic shooters like Quake after school - in our homes - all the more inappropriate for our age group, but that's something to speak about some other day.

Mr. Christopher - you were an awesome teacher! I don't remember much of the actual teaching - save for some Jeopardy games we arranged ourselves once - but I'm sure we learned a bundle too.

At the end of our semester Mr. Christopher moved on to another school, and auctioned out some of the items he'd brought to class during the year, of which I believe this game was one.

You bid on these these things with tokens you'd garnered from tests and other means of merit during the year (come to think of it that was probably also a reason we took his classes so seriously), so each person could only get so many. Early gamification of education hmm.

I didn't get this game then, but I did get a PSX! And a few games for it. Which was a huge deal. My good friend Luke got the class boombox and a cool hat stand... that's pretty much all I remember from the auction. I'm sure there were other items. Other classmates got other things.

I wouldn't have won the PSX without considerable help from others though. My merits weren't amazing, so my tokens were nae enough, but good buddy Mohammed reluctantly gave me the few additional ones I needed to bring it home. Did I get some from Luke too? Salim? Memory is a haze. I just see faces. And names. Contours of the classroom. A sense of euphoria when I got the PSX, and the anticipation as the auction started.

Anyway there my memories related to this great game begin.

I'm not sure how much we actually played - I think gaming sessions were highly limited - a good round takes longer than a short break after all, and everyone competed for computer time. But years later I actually got the game for myself, and I played it to death, and years later I played it again! And then I bought it on GOG, and so when my cousin and family were coming over for Birthday celebrations last weekend it just popped back on the radar again... local multiplayer games are all too rare these days.

We had a blast.

I'm working my way through the single player missions and training camps once more now, and am once again positively surprised by how much content this one game actually packs! There are so many modes! There's so much variation! There's so much weaponry! And if you actually play it to the point you get bored with all that which has been made readily availably by Team 17 staff (wonder if they made Jazz Jackrabbit too btw - the style feels familiar), you can design your own levels! And customize your own game modes! And even make your own missions! It never ends!

I haven't gotten to that part quite yet, I'm still relishing my top level in single player Death Match mode, and seeing if I can manage ten wins straight at that level.

It's difficult.

If the computer begins the round, and one or both of your two worms (versus their sixteen or so?) are positioned at the edge of the water, then that's easily 50% of your armada blown away from the get-go.

But I'm doing alright still. I thought I'd share with y'all a quick list of the observations and wisdoms I've gathered from this game, and how you can easily best the Deathmatch mode specifically. The missions all require their own strategies, and the practice and time-based runs are DIFFICULT. Precision's yet another level of mastery. But as for the strategies involved with this one particular mode...

Cyberdevil's Ten maxims of WWP:

1. If the opposing worms are smart, then they're by far more predictable, and thus easier to beat.

Be careful with the low-intelligence ones, since they don't just occasionally miss or bounce a grenade back at themselves, but also often accidentally hit you! Even when you're hiding among their brethren.

Don't get too close since you just don't know how they'll react; what weapon they might attempt to use even in confined spaces. Though if you play long enough I'm sure you'll start to see patterns here too.

But this brings me to...

2. Team players don't hurt each other, and they don't switch!

If you find yourself vastly outnumbered: hide among the ranks of your foe!

They won't shoot each other, and since it's a turn-based game where only one of your foes gets a turn each round, before you get a turn again, you can easily move between them, and make sure to stay close to one that won't be able to do anything in a while yet.

Throw projectiles at other foes while you stay close to your safe worm, fortify yourself, or go in for a close-range battle, moving from worm to worm; gradually decreasing their health as you do.

In the older Worms games - at least in the second one, you were able to switch Worms at the beginning of each turn - the computer too, but fortunately that doesn't work here, and they never switch.

You can however switch worms yourself as to move both of your own worms closer to an enemy on for example the first turn, keeping both of them in-game as long as possible.

3. Computer-controlled worms are sedentary and predictable.

If you just keep a distance, you usually don't have to worry about the enemy coming in close-range and doing something unexpected.

For the most part they'll just throw grenades or bazooka shots at you - or snipe you with the shotgun - with impeccable aim! BUT they don't move much. They won't parachute, or bungee, or rope their way across the level as to invade any safe space you might've made for yourself there. So use digging tools and natural barriers to your advantage.

4. Bazooka shots are inescapable with wind.

If you're on open terrain - this implying at least one side of the terrain around you is open to incoming fire - then they can hit you.

If the wind is favorable, the most intelligent tier of enemies can easily hit you from even the furthest side of the level.

If you want to avoid bazooka fire you need barriers both above and to your sides. If you want to be able to leave your safe space temporarily to lob a projectile, make sure you're holed up in a manner where the ground slants upwards into your shelter, and does in no way provide an open route for a projectile, assuming the wind is made favorable.

You never know when it will be.

5. Water is wicked, and worms are wonderfully mobile.

The best and most satisfying way of ridding yourself of enemies is simply to maneuver them in a way in which they plummet to a cold and cruel depth in the abyss of the watery void that surrounds you... and the way there is best reached by means of fire punches, dragon ball blasts, baseball bats or with other means of high-impact explosives!

If you have a surface that slants slightly downwards you can easily bat off a dozen worms with the bat, or with a blast of choice. An Uzi works well too.

If there is a hump in the land, then the fire punch works wonders, and if there are multiple humps slanting downwards you can possibly get a domino effect going there too, with worms bouncing over multiple hills, causing a landslide of devastation.

If the distance is too far you can lower gravity to amplify the impact, and don't forget that you can use your fire punch mid-jump as to reach foes even when there's a high gap between you. Plus it cuts through ground like butter, making it possible to reach the foe even through a safe barrier.

Dynamite, sheep, banana bombs - all kinds of power weapons - can have a devastating water-reaching effect if you position them right.

6. Fire barrels, mines and bridges help you, not kill you.

The more of these you have on a level the better! Get the foes in close. Blow up the barrels when they're on them to send them flying. Shoot a mine into a cluster of worms and barrels for greater damage. Throw a rain of fire down onto a mined bridge with worms on it for quick watery death.

The more foes you're fighting, the better your chances of defeating great hordes at once. Just gather 'em together. If the slopes slant inwards, then shoot them down the hillsides so they're all stuck at the bottom, and bombard them collectively, preferably taking down the ground under them at the same time.

You can rope down to a mine to make it explode without forfeiting your turn too, or nudge one while on the jetpack, or after you're jetpacking away at the end of your turn - all these obstacles are mobile bonus points when it comes to turn time damage.

7. Gatherings do maximum damage.

There's a domino effect in death, as well.

In crowds, worms that die damage the worms around then, or move a mine, or set a barrel ablaze, or undermine the ground beneath them. Use this to your best advantage. If you can just kill one, then the rest can best-case kill each other.

The best place to get 'em is in a small confined space where they easily gather at the same end, or the bottom of a crevice.

8. Computer-controlled worms like to shoot crates.

Akin to barrels, crates combust into a ball of flame when triggered, so unless you get them yourself you'd best stay clear of them!

For some reason AI enemies prefer to shoot these crates rather than get them - unless they're very close. Refer to #3.

If you want you can leave said crates for potential extra damage if and when they do blow them up. It seems the AI doesn't always factor in the wind when it comes to both crates and barrels, and they can sometimes burn both themselves or their team-mates.

If they're at the edge of the map it's possible they'll spontaneously kill themselves while they try this.

9. Sudden Death is not worth waiting for.

After a certain number of rounds, if no one party has been victorious in wiping the other off the map, a thing called Sudden Death kicks in. Here your health is reduced to one - along with the health of your foes, and the water level starts rising a bit for each turn.

You'd think it might be a benefit to hole up somewhere and hide while you wait for this event to occur, especially when you're facing insurmountable odds, but it really takes a looong time to get there, and chances are the projectiles that keep raining on your hide-out will kill you long before you have an opportunity to wipe out said enemies.

If there are more than two of them, chances are they'll easily get in a hit that takes away that one HP you have left at the end too. It happens all too easily. Not worth it. The odds are better when there's HP to spare - even if they are plenty. Just #2 it.

10. Shotguns for the finale.

If you have just one worm left, and little health, and there are two or more worms remaining in relatively close-vicinity to each other, then in most cases the shotgun is the best way to end the level.

You can move between foes as you wipe them out one by one, until finally there are just two worms left to alternate between, and then you bring their health down to 25 or lower each, and end the round with two well-aimed shots on your final turn.

Master the shotgun and you can easily use #7 to your advantage here, and for example have one worm with less than 25 HP bring one with up to 50 HP down to 25 in the same round, ready for the second shotgun blast.

Don't get greedy though. Be sure you have a good aim, and that you can maneuver the remaining worms as you wish when you really close in for the kill.

Aaaand that's it!

There's probably more wisdom I could offer but I'm getting tired of writing these. Those be the essentials.

If you're playing other variants of Worms these may all not apply. When you know the loopholes things suddenly get much easier, but considering the enemies impeccable precision you'd have no chance if they:

1. Didn't mind sacrificing each other to get to you.
2. Had a more imaginative approach to their attack strategy, and used both obstacles and terrain to their advantage too.
3. Truly used all weapons they have at their disposal.

But go frag some worms y'all!

It's a great game.

I just wish the new elements of actual on-level water, lava, fire etc could've been implemented with this old engine too.

I don't like the style or mechanics of the more recent editions as much, but they do add some really cool updates both when it comes to the weapon array and the physics. They re-envisioned the game nicely, but why'd they have to go make those worms so chunky while they were at it?! And smarter too, I think...

Also: Master the jump. And the rope - you have multiple shots in one swing, and you can easily swing yourself just about anywhere.

And save distance-based weaponry for last if you have remaining foes that'd be easy to take out that way.

Happy fraggin'.

Random GOG Giveaway: Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Collection (2015)

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Collection

It's a blastin' classic! Get it here if you want it. One copy free.

Random GOG Giveaway: Dex (2015)

Dex (2015)

Here's what next! A little Dex. Cool/enriching. Here's the gifting.

Random GOG Giveaway: STASIS (2015)

STASIS (2015)

Since that's pretty much what the STATE IS of the blog these days. It's free if you want it! First come first TAKES IT. Now back to the oasis places...

Random GOG Giveaway: Flashback (2018)

Flashback (2018)

It's another classic y'all! Get it here if you want it. One free.

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