Shoes for the shoemaker

Current music: Marilyn Manson - Posthuman

As long as my life is deeply connected to the computers and the IT industry, I regularly get requests of help with various digital devices from different people. Though I am not an IT god, I always try to make my best. Regretfully, sometimes I  need an advice or assistance from well-qualified person myself and… It suddenly becomes problematic, I may look through the half of Internet for the help but find nothing. Surely, my questions won’t be the easy ones like “how do I install this application?” or “how can I set controls for this emulator?” I always google for the solution first, read all manuals and faqs could be found before asking. As a result, all people who would like to help are incapable to do it while those who can are somewhere out of here.

I wonder if medics or hairdressers for example experience such difficulties?

New Year…

Current music: Макс Ильин - Новогодняя песенка

One more year becomes part of the endless time flow losing somewhere in the past.

All vintages and works of art will add one year of exposure tomorrow. All calendars will become useless and there will be even more people whose date of birth that drastically differs from yours. So, I can not just ignore this moment. I wish a happy new year to everybody who is celebrating now and silently support those who doesn’t count this day as a holyday. Anyway I hope the coming year will be at least a bit better that previous one for both of you.

new year 2012


Edible Masyanya

Current music: Пикник - Телефон

Masyana is a character with long and complicated history. It started in early 2000s as a joke showing the possibilities of Flash technology on the homepage of Oleg Kuvaev. He is an artist from St.Petersburg who previously worked in Animation Magic which developed Zelda games for CD-i console, NASCAR Racing and unreleased Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans. Animations with Masyanya at that time were very short and silly but soon became popular in russian segment of Internet as they presented not only new technology making web 1.0 more interactive, it was possible the first appearance of something connected with young and informal russian internet-community. Though Masyanya kept her simplistic and deliberately distorted nature all the way the quality of drawing improved much for couple of years. Animations became longer showing humorous story with exaggerated characters taken from real life instead of lonely gags of first ones. Masyanya, Hryundel, Lokhmaty became the collective images of advanced youth of their time and were understood and accepted by most of Internet users. Moreover they looked even more realistic because of “spontaneous speech” principle. Oleg Kuvaev who made all the voice acting also, didn’t just read the lines. He brought the idea speaking it by his own words “on the fly” like we speak it in real life. With all this things popularity of Masyana grew much and finally reached it highest peak. In 2002 Masyanya became the part of Leonid Parfenov’s TV show. New series came out weekly and were presented on russian federal TV channel for almost the whole season. Regretfully due to the financial problems contract was discontinued in 2003. Not much time later show itself was closed because of the political conflict inside the NTV company.

Masyanya under the yellow press PC game screenshot
“Masyanya under the yellow press” screenshot

Though TV business just could not let Masyana go and some time later that year she appeared on TV again. Without the consent of the rightful owner one cheap local analog of MTV started “Visiting Masyana” show with russian pop-musicians. It was not only copyright violation but distorted the whole idea of nonconformist and anarchist character Masyanya infact was (you may see it in “Russian punk rock”  and “Show business” episodes). Сourt proceedings took years but after all Oleg Kuvaev defended his rights officially. This case became first public precedent of copyright lawsuit in Russia.  During this time there were very few new episodes (some of them were pretty angry about the pop-music) also because of side-projects by – “Bo’s shop”, “Six and a half” and “Ezhi & Petruchio” series. However Masyanya was destined to have another youth (also known as “Third Life”). The quality of drawing raised up to another level. Soundtracks were created by friendly professional musicians. That period starts commercial animations with Masyanya as well. Some of them were not that bad as you may think commercials are. For example, “Archives of the Russian Internet” in 9 episodes sponsored by ZyXEL is rather interesting and historically true most of the time while ZyXEL really had great impact on IT in Russia. The point from where it all went downhill is 2006 when Oleg Kuvaev left studio. He kept rights to Masyanya and even domain though had no financial freedom to produce new episodes so they came out more and more rare. Low budget forced to find another ways to express the creative idea. That’s why there were short episodes, episodes with no speech at all, episodes combined from old episodes, comic strips… In the last one Oleg Kuvaev tried to gain interest from wider audience by making Masyanya pregnant (not literally of course)) but that action had opposite effect. By now almost two years passed since that without new episodes.

masyanya cookies
Cookies with Masyanya’s face

Thankfully, Masyanya found new niche – casual flash games. At the moment there are four of them. “Masyanya under the yellow press”, “Masyanya in a complete Africa” and “Masyanya. Eurotrip” have similar gameplay, something like downgraded (to be simple enough for anyone) traditional russian quest mixed with “hidden object” concept and arcade mini-games. Other one, “Masyanya and the beach stuff”, is a decent clone of “Farm Frenzy” series with few jokes and mere plot. I don’t know if she will become the competitor to Nancy Drew but I hope Masyanya will live long for those who still remember her triumph no matter the form. Not so long ago I found nice cookies with her mischievous face on. That’s actually the cause I wrote this post. I doubt that small local bakery paid something to the author as it was in many small cases when Masyanya suddenly appeared here and there (she took part even in campaign by russian road police once while Oleg Kuvaev was unaware about) but it’s good to know that such a colorful character is not forgotten yet.

P.S. Sorry if I occasionally translated some titles wrong, it’s not easy for something that was never widely known outside of Russia.

Legend of the North: Konung

Current music: Аквариум - Гиневер

Platform: PC
Year: 1999
Developer: Snowball, 1C

Today I want to tell you about the “Legend of the North: Konung” or “Knyaz: Legends of the Woodland Country” (Князь: Легенды лесной страны) as this game was called originally by russian developers. Some differences between two versions can be found not only in title and names but all in all it’s the same thing. I have beaten original version so my review is based on it. Game take place in alternative world very similar to Eastern Europe of early medieval period as it was presented in legends and fairy-tales. Pretty impressive opening movie shortly tells us the story of a conflict. In times long-long ago Earth was ruled by race of mighty titans. They knew magic and made wonderful “singing things”, artifacts. Titans left the most powerful artifact, bracelet Lord, to the slavs tribe guarded by dragon and watched by half-titan Ar (Orr in english version). Ar possessed the special amulet which allowed him to control the dragon. Once slavs were attacked by ancient enemies, yellow dogs clan. Forces of those destruction-hungry creatures heavily outnumbered defenders of artifact. At this moment Ar divided dragon amulet into three parts sending each to one of his friends. First part was sent to viking Sigurd who was meanly killed by angry berserk Dragomir (Eric). Loner hunter Wolf got second one after he shot hawk bearing it to hero Vseslav. Only third part turned up to be in the hands of addressee, byzantine knyaz Mikhail (Konstantin).

Legend of the North: Konung pc game screenshot Legend of the North: Konung pc game screenshot
You can play for any of these three. Main goal is the same: get other parts and reach the ultimate power with Lord bracelet. Chosen personality affects on starting location on the map and attitude of the people around. Contrary to all the logic Dragomir is the most popular here. NPCs trust him and deal kindly. Mikhail’s way is the hardest. He can not get most of the side quests, everybody calls him byzantine stranger and villages don’t let go in. So Mikhail has to fight through the obstacles. Suspicious Wolf is somewhere in between. There are four classes to choose for your character. Warrior uses sword as weapon and his primary attribute is strength. Hunter is very dexterous and relies on ranged attack with bow. Merchants are tough guys with the best vitality and stamina to carry all the loot. They wear best armor and are allowed to use most deadly weapons – heavy axes. Leader hasn’t any talents by himself but is able to hire more people in party to make all the job by their hands. Regretfully there are no magic casters at all.

Choosing your class you should remember that searching around the land with constantly repopulating monsters, looting and leveling-up is the 90% of gameplay. So think about how your character will act in battle first of all. Roleplaying system is poor and primary attributes is the base. You can also improve fencing and archery skills by using appropriate weapon but I didn’t feel it affected gameplay much. There are five social skills: identification, trading, healing (to make potions), smithery and constriction. Last two however usable only for NPCs because it’s not a job konung will do. Developers said there are more invisible parameters but it sounds like lie. On each level character has maximum limit for every primary attribute depending of class. You can raise them at the cost of experience earned. When all of them reach the limit character raises level. After 13th level there are no more limitations. One more caprice of game mechanics is that everybody in Woodland Country has 100 health points. Weak red ant, village elder or dragon… all of them. Charming, isn’t it? By the way, monsters here are mostly taken from slavic culture. You won’t meet vampires or elves while playing. Forests are guarded by leshys, moroks and aspids attack here and there. Prepare for something new.

Legend of the North: Konung pc game screenshot Legend of the North: Konung pc game screenshot
Unlike Diablo, where you have to go back to the same point all the time, Legend of North: Konung presents geographically wider space with lots of settlements. In the village hero can find usual adventurers’ services like healing, repair of the weapons and armor, shopping and even take tribute regularly but only in case people reckon him as ruler. You can get the village by completing the quest elder may give or taking it by brute force but if specialists die in battle services they provide would be unavailable. However it is allowed to take any inhabitant to your party and leave anybody as well. As example, blacksmith may be killed while defending his village but another one can be trained in other village and taken there instead. Too bad unexperienced blacksmith often broke items. I think it’s quite a realistic and fresh idea that raises gameplay difficulty and attraction at the same time.

So far everything looked like normal for diablo-like mouse-clicker rather typical though. Well, we get to the worst part because now I’m going to tell about the way game concept was implemented. Interface is terrible. There is no pause at all. You can speed up or slow down time but have no chance to stop and look arond. It may sound not so bad but believe me when you have big party with retard-like AI that forgets your orders in few seconds pause become necessary. Next bad thing is that some actions can be performed with hotkeys only. Inventory is one of the worst I ever seen. With unnecessary big icons (while 800×600 is the max resolution) but without animation (items don’t scroll but change on the screen, so you don’t even know at which end you are) it presents just one line on hero info screen. Items have no description. Seriously, like in games of the early 80s you find something and don’t know what is it and why do you need this thing. Game manual doesn’t change situation because items weren’t described there either. Journal is completely useless. Hardly ever few words about new quest are added there so you better to have a good memory. Though graphics is not bad especially for system requirements it was oriented to, quality of animation spoils the impression of good-old 2D landscape. Human characters are deprived of softness in movements and act like robots. Monsters animation is monotonous and dull. The music is quite annoying. It plays some kind randomly not being attached to some place or situation. Locations here have little differences at all so until you look at ugly global map you won’t know exactly where you are. Sound effects are unprofessional and unpleasant. For example, navs when get hit scream not like tortured undead but more like cheap sluts from bad porno movies.

Legend of the North: Konung pc game screenshot Legend of the North: Konung pc game screenshot
Writers didn’t work hard enough. Storyline doesn’t match introduction. Mighty slavs hero Vseslav don’t apper. There are no one from numerous yellow dogs clan either so I don’t even know how do they look like. Plot is short and straight as erected gnome penis. Find other pieces of dragon amulet, kill bearers to get them together and here you are. Everything else – usual quests to kill somebody or to find some objects in order to take control over villages in peaceful way. It’s not needed because you can take villages by force and experience you get for completing quest is similar to just one bottle of wisdom potion marketed everywhere. Furthermore you will not want to help those paperboard characters with no distinctive feature. Dialogues are very miserly and lack of trustworthy emotions. Silly jokes ruin any semblance of atmosphere. If it’s a medieval fantasy world then what it has to do with quotation from soviet comic movies or references to other computer games?!

Developers made just one final no matter what hero you played and how good or evil you were. Violent thug Dragomir and noble Mikhail both get the same. Even worse it’s open-ended. Snowball and its publisher 1C planned to turn Konung into a big franchise. However, this planes couldn’t become reality. Russian market was too young at that moment and the percent of legal copies in sales was negligible to get back enough revenue. English release didn’t bring much too. Game supposed to compete in hack’n’slash action-rpg genre from all the points of view was worse than its starter, original Diablo, not to speak of later and more technological products. The next part of the universe should become Fatherdale. It was announced as “russian Baldur’s gate” but because of some problems with foreign publisher was never released. Only four years later Konung 2 appeared. Snowball by that time switched business from developing games to localization and didn’t participate. So idea of plot development in next games became another mistake.

Legend of the North: Konung pc game screenshot Legend of the North: Konung pc game screenshot
Konung had the potential to be a good game, even local legend maybe as it was first in its niche but didn’t succeed. Even the fact it worth the time spent is questionable.

Rating: 4.5

Thief Gold

Платформа: PC
Год: 1999
Разработчик: Looking Glass Studios

 The Darkest Project

Earlier I had the post with my memories of old computers where also told about difficulties with getting Thief: The Dark Project run properly. Well, it was surely worth it. Almost a month took me to finish the game and I will remember it for long time.

When the protagonist himself says “creepy” you’d better believe. Thief is scarier than many horror games with hordes of ugly mutants and lots of gore because unknown fears lurking around in shadows keep in suspense every second. Besides, Garrett is not meat-grinding action hero like Duke Nukem who attacks without any doubt. Every opponent have a chance to kill thief alone. Two or more enemies at the time almost guarantee death. On many levels you won’t be allowed to use sword at all because good thief shouldn’t leave bloody traces. Level-designers made an extraordinary job to create right atmosphere. In some places you can feel strong psychological distress. For example Haunted Cathedral mission was so repugnant I had to take pause for a couple of days before getting back to the game. I haven’t experienced such a strong emotions from playing a game since my early childhood.

thief gold thief dark project game screenshot haunted cathedral thief gold game screenshot

Significant role in creating the atmosphere is played by multimedia. Rustles and sough with some nervous music make great ambient. Heart-rending groans of undead deprive of comfort. Perfectly articulated phrases of Garrett help to understand cynical nature of thieving artist. Barely animated but very impressive cut scenes between the levels tell the player about the world, its traditions and the balance of power. Despite common opinion presenting Thief as steampunk icon, I wouldn’t say so. There are few elements of this like steam engines in basements and electricity produced by them but world is perceived like usual fantasy. Often you can find torches and magical lights rather than bulbs. People’s appearance is closer to one of medieval rather than victorian era.

You should only play at expert difficulty level in order to get all the game has to offer. It’s not nerdish perfectionism. Thief belongs to that kind of games where difficulty is done right. It means better gaming experience, interesting challenge and more playing time. Remember Rock’n’Roll Racing where on the higher difficulty levels you get access to new levels. In Thief you will get additional objectives which make exploring more exciting. It’s not like in Quake where Nightmare means much more monsters and less ammo. It also not like in Final Fantasy series when bosses have more HP and you need to spend more time in boring leveling-up. Thief offers the best way of challenge. Missions are very diverse. Sometimes you need to be sneaky to steal something, other times the main aspect is navigation in labyrinth and acrobatic skill or ability to be silent and swift death to enemies or just to stay alive. There is always some place for surprises. Idea with variety of arrows is very original and deserves respect. Water arrows can extinguish the torch. Gas arrows deactivate enemies from distance without killing them. Moss arrows allow you to be silent on noisy surface. Noise arrows distract guards while you can sneak around or fight them one by one. Rope arrows are my favorite. After shooting them to wood you can climb by rope to the most difficult places.

thief gold thief dark project game screenshot thief gold thief dark project game screenshot

This game also has one useful property. Thief will motivate you to clean your monitor. Every dirty spot on it is a pain in the eyes when you scrutinize pitch-dark areas most levels consist of.

Thief could be one of the best games ever if it wasn’t so buggy. There is inexcusable number of bugs even in Gold version with latest patches. Guards can jam in the walls, doors and objects. Monsters become invincible sometimes. Script bugs make levels impassable so you have to start from the beginning. Jumps and climbing go wrong sometimes.

All in all Thief: The Dark Project can be called gaming classic and should be recommended to any hardcore gamer. However it’s not a funny and pleasant game. Rather, it’s challenging, demanding and even irritating but you will like that challenge. True art of game development.

thief gold thief dark project game screenshot thief gold thief dark project game screenshot

Rating: 8

Living history

Current music: System of a Down - Atwa

Things change so fast in the computer’s world. It has been sad so many times but the fact still amazes. People who became PC owners last year speak about plain-looking appearance of XP and usually don’t suppose that there is something more effective than Libraries to manage their files. Those who have changed their PC once hardly believe that files with size more than 4GB some time ago were quite a problem and sound cards with ethernet adapters were not always integrated in every motherboard. Even ones who consider themselves veterans hardly recognize Norton not as antivirus software or pack of system utilities. Experience of using computer for such a long time makes one feel old and weary.

Yesterday I tried to run the game Thief: The Dark Project on my current gaming PC without any success whatsoever. I’ve heard and read a lot about it so my will to play this game brought me back to the past. Today I spent hours with my 10-years old computer. First I installed Windows ME (I really like this OS). Then after some dancing with a tambourine around I configured network, downloaded best suitable drivers for all the hardware. Making that aroused some kind of nostalgia. It was difficult to stop so I furnished the system with heartiness as if I was going to make my primary desktop. It took some amount of time to find outdated versions of software for long-unsupported operating system. After all I get decent machine capable not only retro gaming but surprisingly smooth web-surfing, playing variety of video and surely usual office work. GeForce 2MX can not be called powerful in any case but it easily performed FullHD in 2D mode with true color depth. Regretfully I could not use my external hard disk even with latest NTFS driver… System just freezed when it was connected. I think it occurred because computer failed to utilize such a massive disk space as 2TB.

Thief ran without difficulties but… Two minutes of training showed huge problem with partially or completely missing models of characters.  That’s what I call a really bad programming. Game was meant for TNT2 and two generations later it no longer works properly. GeFroce 2MX is too modern for Thief! It loses polygons on video card released two years after, it totally crashes on accelerators of modern era, it freezes on multi-processor PCs, it doesn’t support hardware EAX acceleration on any cards I know. To make sudden crashes more often game changes video modes all the time. You need to take a quick look on the map? Press M and… wait damn 10 seconds before monitor adjusts the picture. Then you are going back and having to wait 10 more while not seeing a shit and vulnerable to any attack.

My story has happy ending. Brainstorm, Google, manuals, faqs on fansites and hard-to-find utilities helped to run Thief the way I prefer, with acceleration, antialiasing and good display resolution on my newest computer. I’m not sure if beating the game will take more time than making it work but we’ll see…

Ice and Flames

Current music: Iron Maiden - The Mercenary

Ice and Flames is M sized map with underground for Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Shadow of Death. Take part in eternal battle of opposite forces. Both sides are playable. English language.

In order to play this map you need to download it, unpack and move ice and flames.h3m file to folder Maps in game’s installation directory. Map works in both Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Shadow of Death or Heroes of Might and Magic 3 Complete versions.

Ice and Flames map for Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Shadow of Death Ice and Flames map for Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Shadow of Death

Ice and Flames – двухуровневая карта размера M для игры Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Shadow of Death. Вам предлагается принять участие в извечной борьбе противоположностей. Обе стороны играбельны. Карта на английском языке (и для английской версии игры).

Чтобы поиграть на ней вам нужно распаковать архив и поместить файл ice and flames.h3m в папку Maps, находящуюся там, куда вы установили игру Heroes of Might and Magic III: Shadow of Death (или Heroes of Might and Magic III Complete).

Download Ice and Flames

Hi and low circuit

Current music: Sopor Aeternus & The Enseble of Shadows - La Mort D'Arthur (instrumental)

Hi and low circuit – очень длинная и очень сложная круговая трасса. Я бы даже сказал экстремальная. Для самых хардкорных гонщиков. Название вполне отражает суть: перепады высоты по ходу трассы максимальные.

Для того, чтобы покататься на этой трассе, необходимо её скачать, разархивировать и поместить в папку GameData\Tracks\Challenges\My Challenges. Трасса была разработана для TrackMania Nations версии 1.79.

Hi and Low Circuit Trackmania Nations from Planestranger on Vimeo.

Hi and low circuit is a very long and extremely difficult multilap track for TrackMania Nations game. It’s meant for most hardcore players. The title generally speaks for itself. The difference in height between lowest and highest parts of the track is maximum.

In order to race this rough stuff you need to download it, unpack and place file in GameData\Tracks\Challenges\MyChallenges folder. Track was developed for TrackMania Nations 1.79

Скачать Hi and Low Circuit Download