Sunday, April 26, 2020

Free Cross-Platform Multiplayer Games for Old Computers



As many are forced to stay at home due to this coronavirus pandemic leading to mass social isolation, I thought I would share here some useful resources for network multiplayer gaming as a way to socialize and connect with others. While it is certainly not healthy to become isolated or addicted to gaming, on the other hand multiplayer gaming provides a means to connect with others.

I did quite a bit of research, using the following criteria:
  1. The game must be free
  2. The game must allow for a multiplayer game play over the network or internet. Local multiplayer games are excluded
  3. The game must work on slow computers
  4. The game must not require the OpenGL 3.x standard (or higher) in order to support older graphics cards
  5. The game must allow for cross platform game play across Windows & Linux
  6. The game must not be excessively violent or contain inappropriate content
Some of these games have built in chat, others do not, but that can easily be rectified by downloading a chat program such as Discord, Zoom or Skype. Old computers will operate faster on Linux. For an old computer with an old graphics card that did not support OpenGL 3.x or higher, I installed Lubuntu 19.10 so that I could dual boot between both Windows and Linux.

Regrettably I had to exclude some good games because of lack of OpenGL 3.x support on the old graphics card. But in the end I found a rather large selection of games that will provide hours of game play.  I have divided the games into the following categories:
  1. Online Board Games
  2. Turn Based Strategy Games
  3. Realtime Strategy Games
  4. MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online RPG)
  5. Arcade Games
  6. First Person Shooter Games
Some games can be installed directly through the Linux distribution, others have their own site, and others can be installed directly using the Steam distribution client.

ONLINE BOARD GAMES

If you are into old school board games, board games have been revived by several online services that allow you to play them over the internet.  And these work in a browser without any special installation. ChessKid is a site that is perfect for introducing children to the game of chess. There are websites that include all sorts of games, and from a cursory search found the following websites:
  1. Board Game Arena 
  2. Yucata 
  3. Boiteajeux 
  4. TableTopia
There are others, for a full review see 6 Best Sites to Play Board Games Online for Free!

Most games can be simply played for free, either among friends and family or complete strangers.  Some games however can only be played behind a pay firewall, but there are plenty of choices here. I prefer strategy games, a simple popular one I would probably try first is Carcassonne. More complicated ones of interest are Puerto RicoEl Grande and Scythe.

If you have that one favorite unique board or card game, you may need to look elsewhere. For example if you are into the Dominion card game, you can play it here: Dominion Online (for a review see The online board game Dominion is the only thing keeping me sane during coronavirus). Another popular game is Settlers of Catan, and you can play that online here: CATAN Universe. For an example of game play using Zoom to connect with friends, see I played a long-distance version of Settlers of Catan, the wildly popular and complex board game, with 3 of my friends. Here's how you can do it from your own home.

TURN BASED STRATEGY GAMES

Similar to the category of online board games are turn based strategy (TBS) games, which either require more investment in time or play out over a period of days. You are going to need to find dedicated gamers for this type of game. Many of these games have extra mods providing even more replayability value. Here are the free games that have clients that run on both Windows and Linux:
UFO: Alien Invasion is a bit different from the rest and is based on a popular game series, and is more a tactical turn based shooter. Demise of Nations and Age of Conquest IV are made by the same company and are mostly free, but according to Some thoughts on Demise of Nations, a 4X strategy game you may need to pay more to access their servers if you play frequently. 0 A.D. may offer more diverse game play since it is still under active development (see Waiting for Age of Empires 4? 0 A.D. is the next best thing).

REALTIME STRATEGY GAMES

If you are the impatient kind and can't stand waiting for someone to take their turn, then consider real time strategy (RTS) type of games. Everything happens in realtime, and you have limited time to make the correct decisions and have to react to rapidly changing events. If that is your style here are the free games that can be played on both Windows and Linux
  • Galcon 2: Galactic Conquest on Steam - the most simple RTS game here, very basic 2D map involving numbers. Just do the math. Really quick.
  • Istrolid on Steam - design your own spaceship and have them fight in real time. All in 2D.
  • King Arthur's Gold - this is a medieval build and kill game, with destrutible environments, that went free to play. It can be installed via the Steam client: see King Arthur's Gold on Steam
  • MegaGlest - an open source project that forked from the earlier game Glest, it is available for download in many Linux distros.
  • Netpanzer - a tank RTS game, available for download in Linux distros.
  • OpenRA  - an open source project based on Westwood Studios' 2D Command and Conquer games. They have implementations of Dune 2000, Red Alert and Tiberian Dawn.
  • Warzone 2100 - a commercial game that has been converted into an open source project, available for download in Linux distros or from Steam
Out of all these, the one that is most interesting here is King Arthur's Gold, which looks insanely fun to play. Its 2D and has different mods, and someone made a mod to make it look like Minecraft. This one was perhaps one of my most interesting finds, it is not a well known game.  Here is a review:


MMORPG GAMES

MMORPG are Massively Multiplayer online RPG games, which can be fun if you dive in with a group of friends. The caveat here is that the online player community will make the experience good or bad - they can be friendly or they can be toxic. Also after the first few introductory levels you may tend to go through repetitive grinds to level up, unless you pay for it to speed up the progress. But initially it can provide hours of fun. MMORPG games that have Linux support without requiring OpenGL 3.x include Warspear Online and Wild Terra Online. There are many others for Linux, see 8 Free MMORPGs That Run Natively on Linux and Linux Compatible MMOs & MMORPGs.  See the "honorable mentions" section below for two MMORPG that I would recommend since they include tactical turn based combat which is good for team play.

ARCADE GAMES

For faster and more simple play, the following games have clients for both Windows and Linux, and either operate off of servers on the internet or servers that can be setup locally on your own computer:
  • Altitude on Steam - a multiplayer 2D plane fighter game, a well polished game. Requires the Steam client.
  • Armagetron Advanced :: a Tron clone in 3D - remember the movie Tron and its reboot? You can now experience it in 3D.
  • Awesomenauts - the 2D moba on Steam - another well polished game, a massive multiplayer platform game.
  • BitFighter - a 2D space shooter, where you can design your own levels. It is similar to another game called Subspace Continuum, but unfortunately the latter only operates on Windows.
  • Blobby Volley 2 - you get to play volleyball as blobs of jello. Simple and fun. It can also be installed via the Linux distribution.
  • BZFlag - a tank battle in 3D, this can be installed via the Linux distribution.
  • Frozen Bubble - a simple arcade game.
  • HYPERFIGHT on Steam - a free version of Street Fighter. OK graphics but apparently fun to play.
  • ManiaDrive - a free clone of TrackMania, a 3D car race game
  • Rustbucket Rumble on Steam - a 2D fighter game between robots, where you try to capture the other robot and put him in the recycling machine to make yourself a stronger robot
  • StarBreak on Steam - this one has been described as a "Free Sidescrolling Permadeath MMO." You cannot setup your own server for this one.
  • Teeworlds - a free multiplayer platform game for up to 16 players, it can also be installed via Steam. A variant of this game has been created called Ninslash which is still under development but can be freely played right now.
FIRST PERSON SHOOTERS

And now we come to first person shooters, and from this I excluded some choices due to their violent content. Team Fortress 2 is perhaps the most popular but it unfortunately did not make the cut, it is a CPU and graphics hog and my laptop could not handle it. There are many other options to choose from, but I found most of these could run on my Linux setup:
  • Doom, a port of the old DOS classic that started it all (technically Wolfenstein 3D did).  You can install this through the Linux distribution using Chocolate Doom. There are other engines available that provide higher resolutions but may depend on OpenGL. There are also engines for old DOS games such as Hexen and Heretic.
  • Double Action Boogaloo - in this the main objective is to die like a stuntman, with style, and in slow motion. 
  • Dystopia on Steam - a cyberpunk version between hackers and agents. A mod of the Half life engine, this one has received a lot of positive reviews.
  • Hexen World - another modern port of the Hexen and Heretic classics
  • Nexuiz, Rexuiz, and Xonotic - these three share the same code base and are basic FPS games.
  • Tremulous - an asymmetric FPS between aliens and humans. This one I could not fully test due to lack of online servers.
  • True Combat Elite  - team based FPS emphasizing tactical coordination, currently has an active community
HONORABLE MENTIONS AND OTHER IDEAS?

Everyone will have their own preference here, and in a group there will always be a compromise on choice but there is something for everybody here. In my brief research I found three honorable mentions that allow for co-op play:
  • Never Split the Party, which requires OpenGL 3.x
  • Streets of Rogue which is not free but seems to be worthwhile. 
  • Wakfu, is an MMORPG which has nice cartoonish characters with a friendly community, it is most fun when with a group of friends while coordinating together in the turn based tactical combat. It seems to require OpenGL 3.x
  • Stash, an MMORPG that has tactical turn based combat, which seems to be based on Minecraft as it allows you to create your own buildings, but it requires OpenGL 3.x
If we drop the requirement for Linux or old graphics cards, the field of options opens up even wider. Other options would then include Airmech Strike, Brawhalla, Expendabros and Unturned. This is by no means complete, if you have a favorite game to share please drop a note in the comments.

In terms of guidance, video games can become an addiction, so some balance is required here. However if the proper choice is made games can offer a way to get together with friends and bring people together. Strategic games such as Chess and Go improve cognitive abilities. But if you are introducing someone new, start first with something simple.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Where are the online New Church (Swedenborgian) Communities?



So where exactly are people of the New Church hiding throughout the world?  There are few of us here and there, and it is hard to find a local church that teaches the new revelation of the Second Coming as there is opposition to it from tradition churches, as declared in the prophecy of Revelation 12. Church offers a community where we can share with each other, and now it has become harder to gather together due to the coronavirus pandemic as many are forced to stay at home or in quarantine. But the problem was there before that, as more and more people have become isolated from each other in their individual homes.

So I looked around, I did find this if you want to view live stream services of the New Church within your home: Find live-streamed New Church Services.

To interact with others there are some Facebook groups as well (just look up "New Church" or "Swedenborg").  But for more direct personal interaction, I recently found a couple of online Discord chat groups. As luck would have it - but there is no luck, perhaps it is Divine Providence, I was cleaning out my email and found an invite to one of them.  Here they are:

New Church Discussion

Swedenborgian Community Online

My Discord name on those chat channels is "Nebulous."

An excellent Youtube channel which discusses many New Church teachings and ideas can be found here, which I highly recommend: offTheLeftEye

I have been considering hosting an online Google hangout meeting, where I can leave the agenda open. If interested, please contact me and introduce yourself and I will see if this is even feasible, as we all have busy schedules. All should take some time out and connect if possible.  This blog is sort of a one way channel, and I live too far away from any local New Church group. But perhaps there will be some good coming out of this pandemic - it will encourage non-localized people who share a common interest to come together online, wherever they are.

And this is the way of heaven.  In heaven there are myriads of heavenly societies, and we will automatically dwell in a community in heaven with those whom we regard the closest of friends. This is some of what Swedenborg wrote concerning the heavenly societies he encountered in his waking visions:
"All who are in similar good also know one another, just as men in the world do their kinsmen, their near relations, and their friends, though they have never before seen them; for the reason that in the other life there are no other kinships, relationships, and friendships than such as are spiritual, thus such as are of love and faith. This has sometimes been given me to see, when I was in the spirit, thus withdrawn from the body, and so in company with angels. Then some of them seemed as if known from childhood, but others as if not known at all. They whom I seemed to have known from childhood, were those who were in a state similar to that of my spirit; but they who seemed unknown to me, were in dissimilar state." (Heaven and Hell, n. 46)
"By brethren in the internal sense are signified those who are in similar good and truth, that is, in similar affection for good and truth. For in the other life all are consociated according to affections, and those who are consociated constitute a brotherhood. Not that they call themselves brethren, but that they are brethren by conjunction. Good and truth themselves in the other life make that which on earth is called consanguinity and relationship, and corresponds thereto. For goods and truths viewed in themselves, do not acknowledge any other father than the Lord, for they are from Him alone. Hence all who are in goods and truths are in brotherhood; but still there are degrees of relationship according to the quality of the goods and truths." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4121).
Face to face is always best when meeting others, but for a while this will have to do.  Eventually this pandemic will end, and our isolation will end and we will emerge from darkness just as Jesus emerged from the tomb.

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Spiritual meaning of the Plague and the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse



Due to the present coronavirus pandemic, I am seeing an interest in the meaning of the prophecy of the four horseman of the apocalypse, as explained in the post The Prophecy of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  The Bible, in general, is concerned more about our spiritual life than our physical life.  The fourth horse, which represents the punishment of plague, is called death, and ultimately represents spiritual death in the afterlife after truth has been destroyed (represented by the red horse) and a state of famine which signifies a lack of good (represented by the black horse). When we disregard spiritual truth and follow falsehood, good then declines by which we have conjunction with the Divine. The final state is then spiritual death, and this occurs when we block the internal Divine influx in our soul by rejecting good and truth, upon which our spiritual life depends. Hell, in the other life, is the state of spiritual life that souls prefer who are selfish - it is falsehood which becomes darkness, and hatred which becomes burning fire. When there is a lack of truth and good in the church, spiritual death prevails, and then a new revelation is given to establish the New Church, which is the Second Coming (see Is the Second Coming a Physical Event or Spiritual Event?).

The Bible has multiple levels of meaning. The lowest level is the literal level. Hidden behind the literal meaning is the spiritual meaning. Thus when "death" is mentioned in scripture, its true spiritual meaning is spiritual death, which happens in the afterlife. Spiritual life is living a life of love and service by obeying God's commandments and rejecting evils as sin. Consider this Biblical passage:
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. (Deut. 30:19-20) 
The promised land here is not the land of Israel.  It is the promised land of heaven, God's true heavenly kingdom, and the country of Israel was a representation of that. The Jews were God's people only as long as they represented the true spiritual church.

And Jesus said not to fear physical death, but one should be in fear of spiritual death:
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28)
In the other life, it is not God who condemns, but it is our own evil desires which condemn ourselves. Those who love evil, hatred and revenge, or are constantly jealous of others, they are attracted to the place that is most agreeable with their desire.  The desire of our will is what determines where we go in the other life.

Those who are natural and materialistic only fear the death of the body. Those who are spiritual fear spiritual death, and thus engage in periodic self examination and repentance.

That "death" in scripture refers to spiritual death is confirmed by Swedenborg in several passages:
"And we shall live, and not die. That this signifies spiritual life, is evident from the signification of living and not dying, as spiritual life, since nothing else is signified in the internal sense by living and not dying. For in the other world by life is signified in general heaven, and in particular eternal happiness; and by death is signified in general hell, and in particular eternal unhappiness there — as is plain from many passages in the Word. That heaven in general and eternal happiness in particular is called life, is because the wisdom of good and the intelligence of truth are there; and in the wisdom of good and the intelligence of truth is life from the Lord, from Whom is the all of life. But because in hell there is just the contrary — evil in place of good and falsity in place of truth, and thus spiritual life is extinct — therefore in hell relatively there is death; for spiritual death is evil and falsity, and in man it is to will evil, and thence to think falsity. Evil genii and spirits are unwilling to hear it said of them that they do not live, or that they are dead; for they say that they have life because they are able to will and to think. But they are told that since life is in good and truth, it cannot possibly be in evil and falsity; for these are contrary to good and truth." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5407)
Nevertheless, natural punishments, such as plagues, are given by Divine Providence to correct human behaviour. What I am seeing with this plague, more so than other preceding plagues, is that it is forcing people to stay at home because it is initially hard to detect. It is a chance to become more introspective rather than being distracted by external things which really do not matter.

Preceding the coronavirus pandemic, there was a decline in traditional church membership, and I think one outcome of this coronavirus pandemic is people will seek a more inward spirituality rather than the external appearance of just going to church while ignoring one's spiritual and moral life.  It is how we live our lives which matters more than religious belief. A moral life becomes a spiritual life when one's intent becomes spiritual, which is to serve out of love towards God and others, rather than self gain.

SWEDENBORG'S ENCOUNTER WITH THE PLAGUE AND JESUS CHRIST

There is an interesting personal story in the life of Swedenborg which I find very instructive.   In 1710 when Swedenborg was a young man he had boarded a merchant ship bound for London, but when he arrived they were told they must remain on ship in quarantine for six weeks as a plague had broken out in Sweden. Some Swedes had boarded the ship and persuaded Swedenborg to join them to go to the city, however Swedenborg was caught, and the penalty for breaking quarantine at that time was hanging. However he luckily got away with only a severe warning. This was his closest encounter with death in his entire life.

Swedenborg had many visions, and was proven to be clairvoyant by so many witnesses that this is rarely doubted even by his most severe critics.  In the years 1744-45, he has a series of encounters during which time he shifted from recording dreams to having full waking visions of heaven.  In March of 1744, he had a dream in which he met Jesus Christ, and in that encounter Jesus makes a direct reference to a plague at that time:
"There came over me a shuddering, so strong from the head downwards and over the whole body with a noise of thunder, and this happened several times. . . . I then fell into a sleep and at about 12:00, 1:00 or 2:00 . . . there came over me a strong shuddering from head to foot, with a thundering noise as if many winds beat together; which shook me; it was indescribable and prostrated me on my face . . . at that very moment I was wide awake and saw that I was cast down . . . and I spoke as if I were awake; but found nonetheless that the words were put into my mouth. “And oh! Almighty Jesus Christ, that thou . . . deigned to come to so great a sinner. Make me worthy of thy grace.” I held together my hands, and prayed, and then came forth a hand, which squeezed my hands hard. Straightway . . . I continued my prayer and said, “Thou hast promised to take to grace all sinners; thou canst nothing else but keep thy word.” At that moment, I sat in his bosom, and saw him face to face; it was a face of holy mien . . . and he smiled so that I believe that his face had indeed been like this when he lived on earth . . . he asked if I had a clear bill of health. I answered, “Lord, thou knowest better than I.” “Well, do so,” said he. . . . Wakened, with shudderings." (Journal of Dreams, #51).
A "bill of health" was given at the time to people who had arrived on ship from another country to indicate that they did not carry the plague. Here, Jesus asked Swedenborg if he had a clear bill of health - that is, was he committed to living a spiritual life, and avoided things that led towards spiritual death.  Just think, if Swedenborg had died, he would not have contributed all the writings that we can freely read today, which explains the spiritual sense of the Word. Swedenborg was allowed to live so that in the future he could fulfill his mission to reveal the Second Coming, of which many Christians are ignorant due to the falsehoods which prevail in the churches. Perhaps Swedenborg was allowed to live at that moment because of God's future plan for him.

So, now that we are all confronted with death, what kind of commitment are we willing to make? How would we want to be remembered? Is there any unfinished business we should take care of?  It is a good time to re-evaluate our life.