Johnmhammer
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John Hammer Consulting provides services to non-profit organizations in the areas of board development, management, planning, finances; science exhibition and program creation and evaluation; recruiting, workforce training, and human resource policy.

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Johnmhammer rated on 04 Nov 2013
[Version 8.0 US]



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+2

Johnmhammer reviewed on 06 Nov 2011
First, let me say that I am a middle-aged guy who has played relatively complex historical table-top wargames and miniatures since my pre-teens. For those familiar with such things, Eupopa Universalis III is very close to the Avalon Hill classic grand strategic board game Empires in Arms, with far more detail and control available to the player in all areas except combat itself (which is much simpler in EU3; I loved the Empires in Arms system where player-chosen tactics were key for each battle). Anyone looking for a long thinking game with a strong historical basis and flavor will probably be happy with EU3. I am, even though there are many caveats (which I'm going to list below) with the game itself and this port.

Be aware that this game was produced by Paradox but has been ported to Mac OS X by Virtual Programming.

A previous reviewer, Richko65, notes that the game version from the Mac App Store is 5.0. Before I made my purchase, I sent an email to Virtual Programming and they assured me that the game version here in the MAS is the latest available, regardless of what it says in-game. So I bought the game, took a screenshot, sent that to VP, and again they told me that the version is the latest available. Is it? There's no way to know other than to trust VP. If it *is* the latest version, though, why doesn't it show 5.1 instead of 5.0 in the in-game version display? The player-created FAQs for EU3 available at various places online state that 5.0 has a major bug with alliances that makes the game nearly unplayable once war is declared (some cascade issue where any declared war results in Total World War) so it's kind of important to know if this is actually 5.0 or 5.1. I've played the game a bit, and I do seem to be getting stomped by big alliances a lot, but I have nothing to compare this with; is it because I'm seeing the 5.0 bug or I'm just a bad/new player? I don't know yet.

The game comes with all the expansion packs, but it is not possible to play *without* the expansions. For people who already know the game well, this doesn't matter as you can choose any country and starting date you like. However, each expansion also added a layer of complexity. For people new to EU3 (or even EU the series) like me, it would have been nice to have played the "vanilla" game first and then added the additional complexity from the expansion packs later. Just as an example, Divine Wind (the last expansion pack) adds the ability to construct individual buildings. That doesn't sound like a big deal, except there are a lot of different buildings all of which have different effects on all sorts of aspects of the game which a new player will have absoluely no feel for at all, not to mention having just one more thing to think about when learning a game with literally hundreds of non-combat options not all of which are easy to remember or laid out in an interface which is easy to pick up.

The little window that pops up when the game is launched each time allows the player to choose mods. Or at least, it's supposed to allow the player to choose mods, but when I click on the dropdown menu all I get is the default game, not other options.

In order to earn public in-game achievements, one has to register with Paradox. To do this, you first have to get a forum account with Paradox. Then you can register the game. Except registering the game also requires a long code which is not provided within the game itself. I had to send an email to Virtual Programming, and they gave me a code to use. But this is silly; there has to be a way for Mac App Store purchasers to get a code without having to jump through the hoop of emailing the company that ported the game and put it in the MAS.

The game's tutorial is pathetic. Paradox offers two kinds of tutorials with EU3: A "video" where the game just proceeds from slide to slide with a bunch of text and arrows pointing to things on the UI, and a few (3 or 4) too-simple and too-fast scenarios where you supposedly learn the skills needed to play the game but actually learn only the most superficial things such as building and moving units. The "video" tutorial elements are OK, but there's no way to back up to see something you saw earlier other than ending the tutorial and starting from the beginning. And in any case, the "video" elements are *not* a substitute for a manual. There are manuals available online, but they are not in easy and obvious places. Plus it's hard to tell if whatever manual you are reading refers to the base game or the Chronicles version sold here which includes all the expansions and therefore all the additions and changes they make to the game. This is the single most frustrating thing about this game. I don't mind having a huge manual to read, but make it possible to read it in-game *and* give me a PDF that I can either print or read on my iPhone while I'm in flight or on the train or something. I shouldn't have to rely on my ability to find the *right* manual somewhere on line using Google.

In full-screen mode it is not possible to go to different Desktops (or as we called them in the pre-Lion days, Spaces). I know this is a common issue with many applications with their own full-screen mode, but since Lion was released in July and this game was released in October, it should have been addressed by the porting company. Things work fine in windowed mode.

I have a mid-2007 20" iMac which has a 256mb Radeon 2600 (pretty old for a computer used to play games). That and my 4gb of RAM play this game very prettily, smoothly, and quickly. The game does take a while to launch each time, but once launched and playing it's great.

I hope that Virtual Programming is going to keep this updated with the latest from Paradox and that both Paradox and Virtual Programming work out the registration and tutorial/manual issues. I'm looking forward to a lot of fun hours with this game, but I can't give it more than 3 stars due to the issues documented above.
[Version 1.0.0]


1 Reply

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+1

+14
Johnmhammer replied on 16 Nov 2011
The just-released 1.0.2 update brings the game itself up to version 5.1 (so yes, 1.0.0 was 5.0...) which addresses a host of bugs (including the big one I noted above) and adds manuals in PDF format (and easy ways to launch them). I'll revise my review later, because with these two changes the game certainly deserves at least four stars.

The game itself is actually spectacular, and possibly the best computer wargame I have ever played. I have only the most minor quibbles with it, such as the font is difficult to read in some places.

The tutorials still stink, but since the manuals are now available in PDF format (and in actual paper for anyone who buys the box instead of downloading from the Mac App Store as I did) that doesn't matter so much. The tutorials might be useful for someone who's never touched a computer or played a wargame before; pretty worthless otherwise.

I don't seem to be earning any achievements, even though I've performed the tasks or reached the goals needed. Maybe they're only available when more then one human player is in the game (so far I've only played against AI opponents) or when the difficulty is set higher than I have it. Or maybe, as I suspect, the game is not properly communicating with Paradox because the code Virtual Programming gave to me didn't link my unique game installation to Paradox – even though the game insists I am logged in and whatnot.

The game stores its data in ~/Library/Application Support/com.vpltd.EU3Chronicles-MAS and in there one can find a mod folder. Virtual Programming needs to include instructions, both in their description of the game in the Mac App Store and accessible from within the game itself, for using the mod folder and installing mods. Especially since Apple now hides the Library folder from the average user, Virtual Programming needs to go out of their way to hold the hand of the less technically inclined player. That should be easy to do by adding another button labeled "Instructions for Using Mods" or something similar right next to the buttons provided to display the manuals.

I've already lost quite a bit of sleep to this game and am enjoying it tremendously. I think that Virtual Programming has addressed most of the issues with their first release of this port and just a few small things are left before I can wholeheartedly endorse it: Do something about the registration with Paradox for achievements and MAKE SURE THEY WORK; and add instructions for getting into the ~/Library folder and using the mod folder so that the buyer can make use of the many mods available for this game if he doesn't already know how to work around Apple's hiding of the Library folder (not to mention know to look for and how to find the com.vpltd.EU3Chronicles-MAS folder).
burypromote
+2

Johnmhammer reviewed on 21 Aug 2011
Pros: Expands on TextEdit with additional features, most important of which is footnoting and endnoting. There is even a feature which allows the otherwise-proprietary footnotes to appear in other RTF reader applications, albeit at the end of the document.

Cons: Whenever using this app, I miss Bean's one-button alt-colors mode and Bean's really great one-button full-screen-and-alt-colors mode, which is soothing and otherwise a great writing environment. But Bean can't do footnotes at all, so...

Summary: The best free text editor/word processor I've ever used is Bean (bean-osx.com). It's a perfect replacement for TextEdit. Unfortunately, Bean purposely (according to its developer) has no support for footnoting or end noting; and it's just not possible to create any academic or scholarly document without footnotes.

iText Express has most of Bean's functions (except the beautiful and functional alt-color and full-screen mode) and includes full footnoting support within the standard RTF format. While it's true that other RTF editors cannot see the "true" footnotes, iText Express has a clever way of exporting all footnotes to the end of a document so that they can at least be read, albeit not on the same page as the reference was made. And of course, the footnotes can be seen properly on the printed page, whether that is an actual paper page or a print-to-PDF document. This makes iText Express useful for serious writing and yet you won't completely lose your footnotes if you need to - someday - continue or edit your work in another word processor.

Both Bean and iText Express work under Lion, but neither has yet been updated to take advantage of Lion features such as Full-Screen (although Bean has its own full-screen mode), Versions, and Auto-Save (although both have their own simple timed auto-save function).

If you don't need footnotes, go for Bean - you can't beat it in the free category, and I find it better for most work than more complex and complete (and expensive) products such as MS Word, Pages, or Nisus Pro.

If you do need footnotes, iText Express is your best choice in the free category. And unlike nearly every other text editor or word processor that has footnote support in the RTF format, you can preserve your footnotes (albeit only at the end of the document) for viewing and editing in other RTF editors or importers.

If the developer of iText Express adds the new Lion features (especially a scaling full-screen mode) and a simple and quick way to "alt" the colors (one-button change of background from white to black, and text from black to white), it will not only be a fine TextEdit replacement, but can take the place of Bean as well - not to mention being a perfectly usable text editor/word processor for the vast majority of people who need one.

There is also an iText Pro which adds some features to iText Express. At $12 in the Mac App Store it's pricey when compared to very full-featured word processors and layout programs such as Pages ($20) and Mellel ($28). However, if the developer manages the updates and changes I noted above it might well be worth it.

As a final note, for any Mac users running older machines with Mac OS X Panther 10.3.9 (which, while old, are still great for tasks like basic web browsing for research, email, and writing tasks), iText Express will run well on such a system. Even the amazing Bean requires 10.4.11, making iText Express one of the best choices for writing on older Mac workstations.
[Version 3.4.2]



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Johnmhammer reviewed on 21 Aug 2011
Pros: With the exception of Lion's new Full-Screen/Versions/Auto-Save features, it perfectly replaces TextEdit. It's just as fast but has far more features and is much more pleasant to use.

Cons: No footnoting. The developer explains his reasons for leaving out footnoting, but without footnotes Bean can't be used for any academic or much other serious writing. I hope he'll reconsider, and perhaps look at how iText Express handles footnotes.

Summary: If you don't need footnotes, Bean is the best tool for plain-text or RTF editing and straight-up get-your-words-down writing available for the Mac. The fact that it's free is just amazing, and an incredible bonus. It's a ten-star application, but the lack of footnote support keeps me from being able to award it more than four stars for features; it's not possible to use Bean for any scholarly or scientific writing because of the lack of footnote support. Students, too, will feel the pain of the lack of footnotes and will also have to look for some other application (I suggest the free iText Express).

That aside, bean is fast and light but includes every feature needed by the vast majority of people looking for a word processor or text editor. Unless you need the new Lion features of Full-Screen (Bean has its own full-screen mode, which is excellent), Versions, and Auto-Save (Bean has a simple timed auto-save feature), it's the perfect TextEdit replacement as it does everything TextEdit does and more - and just as fast or faster.

Bean's full-screen mode is simply wonderful for a writer: Click one button on the toolbar and the writing window expands to fill the screen; the text and other writing elements are zoomed to fit (fonts and such aren't changed, it's just a screen zoom for better viewing); and the colors are inverted (so that if you normally see black text on a white background, you will see white text on a black background). This makes for a distraction-free writing environment which is very easy on the eyes, even on a small 11" MacBook Air screen.

99% of the work done by 99% of people doesn't require today's MS Word, Nisus Pro, or Apple Pages. Those applications include literally hundreds of features that will never be used by the vast majority of their users. Of course, those that need those features regularly should stick to their application of choice; Bean (and iText Express) are not a replacement. But for the vast majority of writers, among whom I include myself, Bean is the best choice thanks to both its features (extensive) and price (free). The only caveat is the lack of footnoting, and in cases where footnoting is needed the nearly-as-good-and-just-as-free iText Express can take up the job.

I'm looking forward to the developer adding the new Lion features, and hope that he will reconsider his decision to leave out footnoting.
[Version 2.4.4]


1 Reply

burypromote

+14
Johnmhammer replied on 01 Sep 2011
Thanks for the Scrivener suggestion, Max. I'm familiar with it, but it's a lot more tool than I need. I really just need simple footnoting and endnoting, nothing fancy. For now, I just pop into iText Express when I need footnotes/endnotes in a document. But it sure would be swell to be able to stick with Bean for those elements of my work.

Thank you also for the reference to TextExpander. Again, I'm familiar with it and have been considering the purchase for both my Mac and my iPhone. I find the price a little off-putting, but I keep turning over in my mind how useful it might be. Your recommendation has pushed me that much closer to a purchase decision.

By the way, that's my real name...
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Johnmhammer commented on 15 Jun 2003
This is one of the best computer games ever made and it's great to see the Mac OS X port and the continuing minor improvements.

This is beginning to remind me of tabletop wargaming systems, that live on and are played for many, many years - sometimes even after the demise of the companies that published them.

Myth 2 for Mac can be found in many bargain bins for $10 or less. It continues to be a bargain even at the $15 full-retail price at Amazon or other stores, especially since you will soon be able to get all the scearios from the original Myth game from Project Magma, too. Not to mention all the incredible fan-created solo scenarios and multiplayer maps. The free, fan-created total conversions such as World War II, Civil War, "Pirates" and Sci-Fi and even such things as lego soldiers and little green army men - the quality of these add-ons is a tribute to their designers and allows nearly infinite variety of play.

The Myth series is not for the hack-and-slash crowd. Sure, you can bull your way through most scenarios and there is plenty of fun to be had watching things blow up and fly across the map in bloody bits. However, really fine mental exercise is in store if you take the time to learn to use formations, tactical synergy, maneuver, and terrain.

Computer games are finally reaching a level of maturity in their execution that changing technology does not require that masterpieces like Myth need to be abandoned. I'm looking forward to seeing Myth continue to provide excellent competitive experiences and solo / cooperative challenges.
[Version 1.4]



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