Dynamic Patching: Taking the Chastity Belt Off Stronghold 3

I have lead my villagers to victory in the face of the Jackal’s overwhelming numbers. Despite the Jackal’s better equipped and armored forces, my pitchforked armed farmers-of-death (peasants) and my archers in tights, have fended off his advances. I have enjoyed the first eight missions of the combat based campaign of Stronghold 3 but if there hadn’t been a timely patch, I would of waved the white flag within the first mission.

I would not have gotten up to this point in the military campaign of Stronghold 3 unless a major patch had come out a week after its release and taken the chastity belt off its game play. Prior to this patch’s release the game was one frustrating encounter after another. The real battle was not between you and the Jackal’s men but between you and the games glitches and bugs (Did you know wolves can climb ladders?). I was starting to believe the Wolf, the main nemesis of the Stronghold series, was going to defeat me before I ever met his men on the battlefield.

Thankfully Firefly Studios and publisher 7Sixty quickly realized they had a route on their hands and if they didn’t act quickly all their efforts would fall to the onslaught of negative reviews. 7Sixty made their publishing debut with Stronghold 3 and I can imagine that first impressions were something they wanted to go right – they have a lot of treasure and to a point, their company’s future invested in this games success. For awhile it appeared they too, would be defeated by the Wolf before they even stepped on the battlefield. Hope does remain for their success and this quickly released patch supports that hope for both 7Sixty and Firefly.

The core game mechanics of Stronghold 3 are strong. The additional elements added to the third game in this series add to the depth and fun of this game, when everything else is functioning correctly. The concept of needing a candle maker to stockpile candles for church services, to in turn increase the happiness of your populace, is a welcome addition to a game that thrives off what OCD game play. Having a sheep farm to produce wool so your tailor can provide you with clothes may seem tedious to some but to those who enjoy what I call step-to-step RTS game play, it is a joy. All these additions are welcomed but missed when the basic game mechanics are lost.

The improvements promised to us in the months leading up to Stronghold 3 are there. Firefly managed to cut back the problems with micromanage when it came to getting assigned peasants to do the tasks you, as lord and king, assigned them to do. Lumberjacks cut wood, farmers bring in hops for the brewers and those who work at the stone quarry get a good work out in the process of providing stone that will be used in their village’s castle walls. The physics engine does make crumbling wood walls fun to watch, even when they are your own. Dynamic housing that scales, visually and occupancy wise from large to small, based on the proximity from your main keep is a new challenge to your inner city planner.

Upon release I thought I was going to see the passing of the games fictional King, publisher 7Sixty and my desire to play Stronghold 3 within in a week. Instead, similar to the fall and rise depicted in the games military campaign, I was given renewed interest and vigor to continue my play through. During Stronghold and Stronghold 2’s heydays, digital distribution did not exist nor did automatic updates/game patches. Herds of nerds had to wait months and even years for game saving patches to be released and by that time it was too late, for the gamer and the company behind the game. Thankfully, during the age of digital downloads and daily updates, games with faults at release will live to take the throne again. If Firefly and 7Sixty continue to strengthen the castle walls of Stronghold 3 then it will still have the chance to fend off early critic attacks and receive the Abbott’s approval.

Don’t Stranglehold My Stronghold Please.

In the first Stronghold, from developers Firefly, I found out that I had an intense hate for Rats, Pigs and Wolves – Snakes, I’d go back and forth on. Now, whenever I eat pork I do so with a little extra venom. It was also in Stronghold that I was able to live out my desires to siege castles like they did in my movie memories of the eighties.

In Stronghold 2 I became as frustrated as an over taxed peasant and as angry as a King without a full coffer at the tedious process of just collecting wood, let alone defending a castle. I couldn’t even bring a friend along to help me out in co-op, so we could suffocate in agony together.

With Stronghold 3 releasing on October 25th, 2011 I am hoping Firefly will cut the noose off its castle building, kingdom reigning medieval simulator. From the information provided by Firefly it has every intention to do so. Some key issues that are being addressed are:

  • A better visual and visceral combat experience (with humor).
  • Step away from the over complicated issues that Black Plagued Stronghold 2 (Just collect wood you worthless peasant!)
  • Much improved and now adaptable castle building (see Trinigy Vision Engine) – no more distorted castle walls or frustrating denials of placement.
  • Housing will visually match its surroundings depending on location/distance from main keep.
  • Incorporation of in-game physics thanks to the Havok engine – now walls will crumble and troops will fly when they are hit by a two ton boulder.
  • Day/Night cycles, where visibility is dependent on in-game lighting from new building options.
  • Multiplayer options through Steam.
  • The Wolf is back!

The visual and physics updates are exciting but the ease of multiplayer, rather co-op versus or group vs. group, will be much appreciated and very welcomed by the Stronghold community. For during the days of Stronghold and Stronghold 2 multiplayer was a trial of patience and usually you ended up playing the role of the court jester for thinking you would actually play a satisfactory game against a friend or anyone. Just like how the invention of gun powder changed the overall picture of castle sieges so has cable/DSL and online gaming stores/digital distribution networks changed the fluidity of multiplayer. Stronghold 3 will be the first in the series to be released in the middle of the direct download and social gaming grouping options by making Steam its priority launch pad.

So who is afraid of the big bad Wolf? Perhaps I am (because of a wolf’s ability to hunt in the dark) but I will gladly let him put my neck in a stranglehold while I enjoy the Renaissance of improvements that will makeup Stronghold 3. Lets hope publisher 7sixty’s first release blows our houses down on October 25th, 2011.

Gun Shy: Games to get your girl gaming

“Shoot‘em! SHOOT’EM! How did you die? That is the easiest enemy in the game?” -That is a brief scenario that I believe scares away too many potential female gamers from the enjoyable world of video games and FPSs [first person shooters] in particular. Above, a well intentioned male gamer attempts to bring his significant other into the world of video gaming so it may be something they can enjoy together but the approach is all wrong. You will never get your female friend involved in video gaming if you shove them in front of a quick twitch shooter then hover over their shoulder yelling at them. You very well could scare them away from what could have been decades of enjoyable gaming and, at the worst, you.

So what route should a male gamer take to bring his girlfriend/wife into the nerd herd?  How do you market games to a newb*? Much like you would talk her into a threesome, you want to ease her into the idea first. Have her watch you play a visually stunning game to capture her attention. Answer her questions regarding the game you are playing in detail and not quickly as if she is a bother. Once you have peaked her curiosity then let her experience a game for herself.

So where do you start? What type of game should you suggest for her to play? Well a quick survey of the female board members of GamingNerdHerder mentioned these aspects as appealing qualities in games that first got them clicking:

  • multiple challenges: not just kill this and kill that (i.e. make $, keep citizens happy and accomplish multiple tasks in-order to succeed at an overall goal)
  • violence is not the focal point: can include violence but it is held at a distance (this also seems to hold true in society; violence can be tolerated more when it is viewed from a distance)
  • creative juices will be used: construction and design with some added tinkering

So if you have some knowledge of the gaming world then you can already guess what type of game you should suggest (or if you are looking to score points, purchase) for your girlfriend to play. City builders! Real time strategy games were you build your city, amusement park, empire etc… from usually a top down view. These types of games all include the qualities mentioned above with some totally devoid of violence and others that include a heavy, from a distance, war aspect (see the Sid Meier’s Civilization [Civ] series).

Where there is city building there is city destroying.

Some other city builder series to consider for your lady friend:

  • RollerCoaster Tycoon: Amusement park builder now in its third iteration with a 4th likely.
  • Pharaoh: An ancient city builder with ancient graphics but great game play.
  • Zoo Tycoon (1 & 2): Always wanted to manage a zoo but not fond of human sized feces? Here’s an alternative.
  • SimCity: Reviews for the 4th and most recent edition were solid and it also has a strong online community for extended play.

  • Stronghold: An engaging castle builder with the 3rd game in the series on the horizon (likely to release this year).
  • Tropico: The 3rd game of this series is available now, all you have to do is decide if you want to wrap yourself in a red commie blanket or kiss the feet of the capitalist dogs.

Lay out your [city] plans right and you can have a gaming companion for years to come and another nerd to join the herd. Hey ladies! Have other games that brought you into video gaming? Let me know about them in the comments.

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*Newb is leetspeak for an inexperienced gamer who is capable and willing to learn. Not to be confused with noob: a gamer who is unable to learn and unable to improve at gaming.