Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Michael Vick = piece of shit.

More details have emerged about Michael Vick and his dog fighting "hobby". I will keep this short, because I could go on and on about this asshole and how I would like to see him die. One thing I will say is that if for some unfathomable reason the Vikings sign him to be their quarterback at some point in the future, I will cease being a fan after some 35 years. I will burn every piece of Viking paraphernalia I own and the organization will be dead to me as long as the people who are responsible for running it are still around.

Fallout 3 update. Back to playing now...

Bethesda Softworks Announces Creation Kit and

First Downloadable Content for Fallout 3

Editor to be Available in December;

Downloadable Content coming for January, February, and March

November 25, 2008 (ROCKVILLE, MD) – Bethesda Softworks®, a ZeniMax Media company, today announced plans to make both its editor and downloadable content available for its award-winning game, Fallout® 3 in the coming weeks. The official editor for Fallout 3, called the G.E.C.K. (Garden of Eden Creation Kit), will be available for free download in December and will allow Games for Windows® users to create and add their own content to the game. In addition, the first official downloadable content, Operation: Anchorage, will be available exclusively for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Games for Windows® in January, and more downloadable content coming in February and March.

“We’ve always seen the original world of Fallout 3 as a foundation for even more content. Some created by us, and a lot more created by users,” said Todd Howard, game director for Fallout 3. “It’s fun to create your own character, but it can be equally fun to create your own adventures. We can’t wait to see what the community does with the G.E.C.K.”

The release of the G.E.C.K. provides the community with tools that will allow players to expand the game any way they wish. Users can create, modify, and edit any data for use with Fallout 3, from building landscapes, towns, and locations to writing dialogue, creating characters, weapons, creatures, and more.

Three downloadable content packs will be coming to Xbox 360 and Games for Windows Live starting in January that will add new quests, items, and content to Fallout 3.

  • Operation: Anchorage. Enter a military simulation and fight in one of the greatest battles of the Fallout universe – the liberation of Anchorage, Alaska from its Chinese Communist invaders. An action-packed battle scheduled for release in January.
  • The Pitt. Journey to the industrial raider town called The Pitt, located in the remains of Pittsburgh. Choose your side. Scheduled for release in February.
  • Broken Steel. Join the ranks of the Brotherhood of Steel and rid the Capital Wasteland of the Enclave remnants once and for all. Continues the adventure past the main quest. Scheduled for release in March.

Released on October 28 in North America and in Europe October 30, Fallout 3 has been hailed as one of the most anticipated games of 2008, and received a 10 out of 10 review score from Official Xbox Magazine, a result then repeated around the world with perfect scores by some of the industry’s most influential and respected critics including: Gamespy, GamePro, UGO, the Associated Press, MSN, The Washington Post, Guardian, FHM, G4-TV, The Toronto Star, and Eurogamer. MSNBC’s review offered the observation that it viewed “Fallout as a no-brainer for game of the year.” The Daily Star in the UK echoed that conclusion, saying “You can hold all bets on game of the year – I think we have a winner.”

Fallout 3 features one of the most realized game worlds ever created. Set more than 200 years following a nuclear war, you can create any kind of character you want and explore the open wastes of Washington, D.C. however you choose. Every minute is a fight for survival as you encounter Super Mutants, Ghouls, Raiders, and other dangers of the Wasteland.

Fallout® 3 has been rated Mature by the ESRB. For more information on Fallout 3, visit http://fallout.bethsoft.com and www.prepareforthefuture.com.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vikings beat up Saints

The Minnesota Vikings beat up the hapless New Orleans Saints last night 30 - 27. The score was closer than the play on the field would indicate as the Vikings manhandled the Saints in all aspects of play. Even with the Saints getting all kinds of questionable calls going their way, the Vikes were able to overcome the obvious bias of the officials and bring home the win.

I think it is obvious now that the Saints should be disbanded and the franchise given to another city who would hopefully attract more intelligent fans. I mean, what a bunch of Cro-mags! Seriously. I don't think the average Saints fan can count as high as the the number of points scored by both teams. I have heard rumours that the Saints ownership is actively trying to bribe the NFL so they don't have to play the Vikings any more since they get pwned every time.

Actually, that was one of the weirdest games I have seen in a long time and I think the Vikings were lucky to win. Good luck next week, Rikathos!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The game that will own my life for a long time...

Dragon Age.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Saints pwnage continues...

Thoughts on the game to follow soon, but I thought I would post more of me torturing the Saints.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Me, owning Deuce.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Props to the Madden producers

I have to give Phil and Ian at EA Sports some props for entering the Lion's Den and answering questions from rabid Madden fans and eliciting feedback from the restless mob that is teh Internets. Phil et al are haunting the forums over at Operation Sports and making quite a few posts. The plans they have outlined for this year's Madden are making me optimistic that we are finally going to see some good "next gen" football this year. Let's hope they can come through and meet the goals they have set for themselves.

I won't be getting Madden at Midnight tonight like some folks, but I will be picking it up tomorrow. I'll have some impressions shortly after that. Hopefully, Lucy won't pull the ball away as I am about to kick it again this year. Time will tell.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog goes to Comicon

Hilarity ensues.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Time to get schooled.

Wizard 101 came to my attention a few months back and I kind of just let it slip by without paying much attention. It's billed as an MMO for teens and that pretty much limited my interest right away. That goes to show you how good my instincts are. While the game MAY be targeted to that audience it certainly isn't limited to said demographic. It turns out the game is very deep, has great production values and most of all, is pretty damn fun.

You start out as a young student brought into a school for magic ala the Harry Potter stories. In fact, the game has obviously drawn a lot of inspiration from those books as well as World of Warcraft. By answering a few questions reminiscent of the old school Ultima days, your wizard type is given to you. These include Fire, Life, Storm, Death and many other types of magic. Then it is off to see your school master to get acclimated to your new environs. Movement is very much like the standard MMO fare using either the WASD classic set up or the arrow keys. You gain quests by talking to various NPCs throughout the starting city. It sounds rather run of the mill so far, but stay with me.

Combat is decidedly different than other MMOs. It consists of "duels" in the center of a fixed combat area that comes up when you encounter an enemy. The player earns spells by gaining cards they can add to their spellbook, and their deck of cards can be customized at any time. New cards and spells are acquired via combat, exploration and quest solving. The battle plays out sort of like a Pokemon meets Magic the Gathering contest as you strategically use your cards against the enemy. You can summon monsters which have great animations, cast spells directly on foes, friends, or yourself, and use one time use adventure cards. The strategy comes in to play when developing your spellbook and your wizard type. Different types of wizards have access to different spells. The school of magic you specialize in is the most powerful, but you can have a secondary school to focus on too.

The combinations of schools are huge. On top of all that customization, you can gain loot and items to equip on your character that help him in battle and look really cool to boot. I only got to play up to about 4th level before I went to bed, but the initial outlook for this game looks really good. It is something different and unique. It also has a great style and appeal that speaks to gamers of all ages. The game is in open beta right now so if you want to give it a try, click here.

Edit: I forgot about the mini games! When your character is low on mana and health you can go back to the city and play mini games to earn it back quicker (you can also find health and mana wisps by exploring). These mini games are re imagined from well know games like Dig Dug, Bejewled and Castle Defense. They all fit nicely into the theme of the game and are a blast to play. So what are you waiting for? Give it a shot. The game client downloads really fast and the game runs nicely on a wide range of computers.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

That was me.

If you were wondering what that girlish squeal was just now, it was me after reading the latest producer blog for NHL 09. Here is the thing. The guys who have been developing the NHL series over the last few years get it. They know hockey inside and out and they also know how to create a compelling video game counterpart to the real life game. Here are some things you can expect from this year's version:

David Littman
Electronic Arts

Hey guys, David Littman here, Just wanted to say hi and sneak a couple of features out to everyone.

This is the most realistic game of hockey I have ever played in a video game. Obviously you guys will have to judge it for yourselves (and talk amongst yourselves about how we say that every year), but there are so many moments that just feel like hockey. We have balanced offense vs. defense to a point where there are some games where you will get lots of great scoring chances, and there are some games where you will only get a few. It all depends upon how you play.

More than ever you have to change up your style. Some CPU (and user) teams will play more of a trap style where you will have to dump and chase just to get the puck over the blueline. It is not a game of "take the puck down the wing all the time and gain the zone every time". You will also notice CPU defensemen are much more aggressive in front of the net, especially on the two higher skill levels. Even on Pro (default skill level) you won't always feel like you are on a power play like last year.

The other realistic part of the game is that for the first time I can remember, it is tough to get the puck out of your own zone. With the more aggressive CPU AI and the new forecheck strategies you can actually forecheck and cause turnovers. CPU players block passing lanes and sweep their sticks (which users can do also) to block and intercept passes that also make it tougher to leave your defensive zone. You can create your own breakout strategies to counter this, or like real NHL defensemen use the net as an obstacle, make smarter passes and when in doubt...dump it out. When an opposing team goes into a 3-2 style forecheck (3 forwards attacking the puck) which the CPU teams will do when they are down a goal with a few minutes left, dump the puck out (so you won't complain about catch-up AI).

Here are some other bits of info:

1. The default defensive control setting is:

Right stick is checking
Right bumper (R1 on PS3) is poke
Holding down the right bumper/R1 is an auto poke sweep
Holding down the right bumper/R1 and using the right stick is manual poke sweep

You can switch (basically reverse of above) to a different defensive control setting:

Right stick is defaulted to poke and sweep
Hold right bumper/R1 plus right stick to check

With the choice of control you can default to the set up you will use most. Some users check a lot, and some poke a lot. Checking is NOT easier this year (as I joked with Brian on a recent podcast). It is actually harder, and that is why Brian could not throw a check. happy We got rid of the hip checks and the big warping checks. Basically checking is similar to when you have the puck. Your left stick is your skates and skating direction, while the right stick is your upper body. Last year the right stick controlled your direction when hitting, so it just did not feel right. This also makes clearing the front of the net easier. Your defensemen can stand still and just use their upper bodies to clear the slot, while they still stay in position.

2. Loose pucks and one on one battles

This is the first video hockey game where I have seen users with the puck slow down on odd man rushes to see what plays develop and to see if they can bait the D-man into being overly aggressive. It is the first hockey video game I have seen where players bump and battle as they try and get loose pucks (there are way more loose pucks this year with our much improved puck physics and bounces, and blocked passing lanes).

3. Passing

Passing is not always tape to tape like last year. Although if you have a clear passing lane and you are facing the receiver, most passes will be great passes. We tried to put error on passing (based on passing attributes), and believe me, it is frustrating (there is a bit, but probably not as much as the realism junkies want). We did put more of a penalty on passes behind your back, and there is a huge penalty when trying to pass out of the one handed protect puck.

4. You can set period times by intervals of one (from 4 minute periods to 20 minute periods).

5. Demo - Yes we are doing one, and we are looking at giving you a small taste of Be a Pro, and a harder skill level.

Madden 09 Patch details

Ok, I took a hiatus for a while, but the petitions for the site return got to be overwhelming so I decided to come back. My first post back is just an update on the status of Madden 09. Not surprisingly, the game needs a patch. In this case two patches and downloadable content. At any rate, if EA actually delivers on their promises then this could end up being a really good game. Why they couldn't just wait until the middle of September to release the game is beyond me. Oh and yes, I realize that Madden cover is "shopped" as the kids like to say, but sue me. I don't care for Brett Favre.

Here is the update from Madden producer Phil Frazier:


There's been a lot of discussion around rosters and patches so i wanted to go ahead and post an update.

For those that manged to get an early copy, you may have noticed that a roster update was recently made available. Many of you also noticed that Brett Favre was listed as the 2nd QB for the Packers. This roster was posted up as a final test of our roster update capability. We're actually prepping a more final roster update that should be available on 8/11.

As for our roster update frequency... Our current plan is to update rosters about every two weeks. This could change based on major roster movement but expect us to drop rosters on an average of twice a month through the Super Bowl.

Yes, I'm finally going to discuss the state and details of the patch.

Regarding the patch status... Yes we submitted a patch to MS and Sony about a week ago. They are currently going through certification and all indications point to them going live some time next week. Please understand that it's very easy for issues with the patch to delay the release of the patch. For example, if MS finds a new bug with the patch, it would easily be delayed by 2 weeks. We're hopeful the patch will drop on or around 8/14.

What's in the patch?

There's a number of changes in this patch. Most would never be noticed by the average consumer but some were targeted at improving the experience as quickly as we could.

1. Changed default quarter length of online leagues to 5 minutes.
2. Solved a very rare stability issue that occured when using a couple of playbooks.
3. Eliminated a button mashing glitch during high latency online games.
4. Eliminated a stability issue that sometimes occured while viewing the player HUB in online leagues.
5. Fixed a tricky disc eject glitch that occured at specific points of online games.
6. Kick Return Tuning - made improvements to help reduce frequent long kick returns.
7. Safety Tuning - eliminated issue where safeties in deep zone coverage would sometimes not react to a run to their side.
8. The game skill slider for interceptions was tuned to amplify it's affect.

What about some of the other early feedback on the game? Keep reading, we're not done.

Patch #2 & DLC
Now that some details for patch #1 have been discussed, it's important to note that we're not done. We think it's very important to continue to improve the game even after it's release. We're actually very happy with the non-patched product but having the ability to patch the game to make it the ultimate experience is fantastic capability that we definately want to use.

We're already hard at work on the 2nd patch and are also evaluating releasing a FREE DLC. Here's a sneak preview of what you might expect in future updates.

Patch #2 Possibilities
Please understand this list is under construction and won't be finalized until we've received more feedback on the final game from the community.
1. Ghost Juking OOB fix - aka CPU players running out of bounds
2. CPU Accuracy tuning
3. Amplify the field degredation effect (the system is currently working but is hidden by some of our late added post effects)
4. Other post-release community feedback

DLC Possibilities
The same warning comes with this one. We're still evaluating these changes and are working hard to get them out as quick as possible.
1. Accelerated Clock
2. CPU Sliders (you would have the all new human sliders as well as a brand new screen of CPU sliders)
3. Legacy Gen Controller Config
4. Madden Community Gamerpics (a variety of gamerpics that will show what community you belong to. make sure your community managers know you want an OS gamerpic.)

We're targeting a mid-September release for patch#2 and the DLC but will give constant updates and screenshots as we progress.

I look forward to seeing all of your very constructive feedback next week when the game is released and will do my best to answer additional questions here.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Spore Creature Creator is here.

The Spore Creature Creator has been leaked to the Interwebs and I just happened to get a copy to check out. I don't think there is any real problem with that since it is a free thing EA is letting people experiment with until the game comes out in September. The idea is that over the next three months people will make thousands of creatures that will then populate the game's "Sporeopedia" and thus be available to the community at large on launch day. It's actually a very good idea and I am sure it was something Wil Wright thought of and not some marketing punk at EA. Anyway the editior is really easy to use. I am including some pictures of some creatures I made really quickly as a test.

The editor gives you complete control of your creation right down to its spine. You can quite literally create anything your fevored imagination can think of making. You start with a blob representing the body mass and you can stretch and shape that any way you want by elongating the spine or increasing and decreasing the mass along the spine using the middle mouse button. Once you have the body the way you want it to be you can go about adding limbs and appendages the same way. Each part can be modified to a high degree. The program is very good at fitting each part logically onto the creature. Once you have added the mouth, eyes, legs, hands, etc you can go into a paint section and give the creature a very detailed skin. I would not be surprised to see some people take hours to perfect a creature, but you really can make one very quickly.

Once it is made you can take your creature into a little holding pen and have it go through a series of emotes and gestures to see how it will animate. I haven't made anything that would break the laws of physics, but I am sure there are people out there who will try. You can even hatch "babies" to see what the creature will look like when they are young. If this demo is any indication of the end product, I think Wil Wright has another hit on his hands. There are still some doubts about what kind of shape the actual Spore game is going to take, but even in a sandbox "what-if" form it is going to be loads of fun. Here is a link if you want to download the demo and try it for yourself.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Future plans for Age of Conan. Sounds interesting.

PvP evolved – To the Death
The great combat system in Age of Conan has taken MMO fighting to a new level of fun, and Player versus Player combat plays a major part in this. As a result, a massive new PvP update is planned for late June. Aptly called To the death, this update brings more consequence and rewards to PvP, and an important part of it is the Fugitive system. The more lower level players you kill, the easier it is for others to hunt you down. In addition, ten PvP levels with additional ranks will be introduced, as well as specific gear and weapons for PvP.

Guild Alliance Warfare
Preproduction has started on a MASSIVE free update which will come later this year. Currently titled "Kingship!", large clusters of guilds will be able to form alliances, and rule and conquer on a massive scale. Everyone in a guild alliance will play a part in this system, and together they can even erect unique looking alliance Battlekeeps. The alliances can also fight over, and build, culture-specific "wonders of the world", with a direct link to higher powers! As part of the system Funcom will also facilitate larger amounts of players in massive battles.

This fall, a unique reward and character evolution system called Powerpoints will be introduced. This rewards active in-game behavior, and allows for gathering points through numerous methods, including owning a Battlekeep, playing the end-game at level 80, winning PvP matches, or simply being an active guild member or subscribing to the game. There will be many ways to obtain Powerpoints, and numerous rewards, ranging from exclusive Powerfeats to weapons, armor and potions. Powerpoints may even allow you to level faster!

New areas and dungeons
You won't need to wait for an expansion pack to explore exciting new areas. In the next period, Funcom will include several new areas, as well as evolving already existing areas. This includes a brand new dungeon in Aquilonia, reshaping three dungeons in Stygia, and an entire mountain range in Cimmeria!

Improved player-made villages and Battlekeep systems
While the guild alliance system brings a whole new level to the game, Funcom will continue to expand the existing player-made areas and the systems running them. A focus on evolving the massive elements of the game even further continues, ranging from placing NPC's in the cities to more choices and benefits.

Social updates
An MMO is nothing without a good social scene. While Conan is all about crushing your enemies, social enhancements are also getting some love. A fun example is the combo-based dancing system which is now coming to the game, and it's entirely motion captured by professional dance artists.

More adventures
Age of Conan has received tremendous praise for immersion and the great voice-over quests. This is but the start of the adventure, and numerous new quests are coming into the game, spread across the entire world and across the level ranges. Soon 60 additional quests will also get full voice acting, further improving immersion.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NWN 2 Suddenly becomes relevant....

I was going to talk about Civilization Revolutions for the Xbox 360 today, but I was unable to do any multiplayer. The demo doesn't let you create a match with a friend. You have to search for a random game and I wasn't in the mood for that. I will have to put my thoughts about that game on the back burner until it comes out in a few weeks. I am still getting the game, so I will report on it after it is out.

A bit of surprise news comes in the form of a newly announced NWN 2 expansion called Storm of Zehir. I have heard good things about the Mask of the Betrayer expansion although there were still some issues that kept me from playing it. Along comes the following announcement from Atari and my interest has been rekindled:

Game Features:

  • Travel the Sword Coast and Samarach using the open-ended exploration of the new Overland Map. Use skills like Spot and Survival while on the Overland Map to avoid ambushes and even find hidden locales and lost artifacts.

  • Create your own full party of adventurers. Devastate your foes with a squad of fireball-flinging Sorcerers, form a solid wall of steel with a party of Fighters, or strike the perfect balance in your party by spreading out the classes you choose for your characters.
  • Improved party gameplay including streamlined party conversations, a new Teamwork Benefit System, and powerful party feats.
  • The world's economy reacts to your adventures and choices. And, through trading and quests, you can expand your merchant company into a massive trading empire.

That sounds a lot like an updated easily moddable version of Baldur's gate. It always annoyed me that your party was stuck in the set path that the module maker determined. This feels more like a D&D session to me and less like a linear video game representation. The inclusion of party feats sounds a little bit like 4th Edition, but we will have to wait and see when more details come out.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Battlefield: Bad Company. Booya!

From the IGN description:

Battlefield: Bad Company drops gamers behind enemy lines with a squad of renegade soldiers who risk it all on a personal quest for gold and revenge.

Featuring a cinematic single-player experience loaded with adventure and dark humor, the game delivers the series' trademark sandbox gameplay in a universe where nearly everything is destructible. Battlefield: Bad Company also features a full suite of the franchise's trademark multiplayer options with deep gameplay designed to take full advantage of the game's massively destructible environments.

I downloaded Battlefield:Bad Company the other day on the urging of my friend, Rikathos. I finally got around to playing it a bit last night. I have only played it for about two hours, but my initial impression was very postitive. I logged in last night fully prepared to get owned like I did in CoD 4 and my expectations were pretty much spot on. I got killed left and right for a little while, but then something happened. I got the feel for the game and the layout of the level. More importantly I got the feel for what the objective was and I soon began to do better. The game has nicely varied classes and I spent my time with Demolition, Assualt, and Support mostly. Oddly enough, I think I did the best with Support. The game is still frenetic, but to me it has a slower pace than CoD 4. The fact that you can use vehicles and a wide variety of fixed weapons was a big plus for me.

Once Rikathos left, I focused on trying out the vehicles and I have to say the tank was my favorite. It reminded me somewhat of the old days of playing M1 Abrams Battle Tank. I got the hang of the controls and what it could do. I then proceeded to wreck havoc on the enemy's base. For a while I was even leading in points score. That is new for me since I usually don't do so well with these games. The brief time I spent with the demo convinced me that I want to buy the full game when it comes out. I understand there is a good deal more to the game than what I have experienced so far which is a bonus. I'll report back with some specifics once I get more play time in, but the game holds a lot of promise. Check out more details here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Kill screen coming up!

This is a little late and I said I was going to talk about something else today, but I can't help myself. I finally watched the movie: King of Kong. What a great movie! When I first heard about it, I thought that a documentary about someone beating the long held Donkey Kong high score would be a little boring, even for a gamer like myself who grew up in the Video Arcade era. I couldn't have been more wrong. I fired up the trusty ol' Netflix streaming and settled in to watch. What followed was a funny, touching, sad, and eminently enjoyable film.

I don't want to go into too much detail lest I spoil the movie for people who haven't seen it yet so I won't talk about specific things concerning the movie or the controversy (yeah seriously) surrounding it. I would like to discuss the feelings and memories the film evoked within me. Back in the day, during the video game craze (it really was a craze) I spent many hours in the local arcade. The games were not as involved or sophisticated as what we are used to these days, but what they lacked in sophistication they more than made up for in charm and difficulty. I say that in a good way. The games were more difficult. They were designed to eat your hard earned quarters. It was only the best of the best who could play extended periods of time on a specific game - especially Donkey Kong. High scores were a badge of honor and seeing your initials on the high score list at the arcade was a satisfying accomplishment.

There is something about playing a game knowing you only have a limited amount of lives that heightens the tension dramatically. Add on top of that the atmosphere of the arcade with people watching and a high score at stake and you have a recipe for fun. It speaks to those of us who are compulsive which I think, is common to gamers. I remember thinking I would spend just one more quarter and then it would be an hour later and I would be broke. We don't have an arcade locally that let's me relive these memories. However, the Funspot arcade where many of the scenes were filmed is within driving distance of where I live. Maybe I will just have to convince my fiance to take a trip down there. I'll tell her it's to vacation at the world famous Lake Winnipesaukee. After you watch the movie take a look at the Twin Galaxies website to see some of the "official" high scores for various games. It takes some serious skill to do stuff like that.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hope remains...

Sorry for the lack of posts today, my fiance and I are in the process of buying a house so I haven't played much to talk about. Some good news though, it looks like the proposed buyout of Take Two by EA has been put off longer while the FTC investigates. Click here for details.

On Friday I will have some impressions of the Civilization Revolutions Demo if I am lucky and Monday I want to talk about the new Battlefield: Bad Company demo if I get a chance to try it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

New Fallout 3 Screens

The kind folks at Bethesda sent me some new Fallout 3 screens, I guess in order to stoke my already raging game boner. Seriously, this is like gaming Viagra for me with the side effect of an extremely prolonged erection. It looks like you can make called shots if the image to the left is any indication. I have to say that I think they definitely have nailed the feel of the game world. the graphics are highly reminiscent of the old Fallout games. I guess that is the relatively easy part though. Gameplay and content will be the real judge. It has been years since I played Fallout 2 and like anything else the memories are heightened by a great deal of nostalgia. This is going to be another one of those times where I have to make up my mind about whether I want the game on PC or 360. I won't buy both like I did with Oblivion you bastards! I know that the lead development platform is the 360, but the great memories all come from the PC and I think it will be much easier to control with a mouse. Mods will be readily available for the PC and if the past is any indication they will be some great work by inspired people. Here are a couple more shots to whet your appetite.

UPDATE: Here is a picture of what the collector's edition will contain:

Friday, May 30, 2008

MMO Musings

Saying that I have tried a lot of MMOs is like saying that the ex Governor of New York likes hookers -- in that it is true. At least one specific hooker anyway. I have been thinking about what drew me the most to the particular MMOs that I tried. Was it the universe the game was set in or the game mechanics that the MMO offered? Also, did I overlook some glaring faults in game mechanics because I was so enamored of the game universe?

My first MMO was Ultima Online. Back then there were grand ideas of what an MMO could be. There was talk of persistent worlds that the player would shape and create. There were grand discussions about good versus evil and PvP warfare. Ultimately (pun intended) I was drawn to that game because it was set in Britannia which was one of my favorite gaming settings up to that point. I had no expectations about game mechanics because the genre was just being invented. Fast forward a few years and the next MMO to catch my eye was Everquest. I had grown weary of the isometric graphics of UO and the game mechanics that allowed for PvP gankers and for other players to steal your hard earned items. Call me a care bear if you will, I don't much care. There was no lore associated with EQ that I could identify with. It was being invented out of whole cloth for the purposes of the game. I had no expectations of what the universe was going to be like. The game mechanics were much different than UO however, and I looked forward to the changes. I played both games for about three years each being pretty much equally addicted.

It was at that point that a new kid on the block called Dark Age of Camelot was being touted. The game had similar mechanics to EQ, but was set in Medieval England which is of particular interest to me. The game appeared to be the Holy Grail (pun intended again) of MMOs in my book. It had game mechanics that I had grown used to and was set in a game universe that was right up my alley. I played DAOC for four years or so mainly because I loved the universe so much and really only left it due to most of my friends moving on to other games (mostly World of Warcraft) and from being tired of the genre in general. Nothing changed about the game or the universe, but I had gotten about as much out of the game as I figured I could. I hesitantly moved to the WoW universe again more for the change of pace, and promised enhanced game mechanics. The WoW universe was something I could live with or without. I only lasted a couple of years in WoW, reaching the level cap and had some stints with City of Heroes. In the "tween" years I had flirtations with many and varied other MMOs.

What kept me coming back for more and trying all of the different MMOs was the initial promises that were made that the player was going to be living in an alternate world and effecting the shape of it. As it turns out that promise has never been kept. The genre has stilted and been distilled to an essence by Blizzard and now WoW is what most people think of when the MMO genre is mentioned. Looking back at my time in MMOs I realize that what most attracted me to the games was the game universe. The game mechanic never REALLY changes. Sure, publishers tout new and "unique" ideas, but it all boils down to the same thing in the end. It all became evident to me when I played Age of Conan. AoC was touted as being really different due to its unique combat system. The jury is out on that one, but from my limited experience it is like all of the other innovations promised in MMOs. It is a bit different at first, but in the end you are doing the same things you did in any other MMO. However, I am a huge fan of the Conan universe.

So to finish up what has turned out to be a long rambling post, I think what initially draws me the most to MMOs is the game universe they are set in and marginally the game mechanic. I have lasted the longest in MMOs where I was really into the game universe. I tried many others for the sake of a promised different gameplay mechanic. I suspect that is why my friend Rikathos played CoH for so long. The game was no different than any other MMO, but he is enamored with the superhero world. That isn't even a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with these games. I was gullible enough in the beginning to buy into the over selling of the genre and expected more than was realistic. These days I haunt MMOs whose worlds intrigue me and stay only as long as I am enjoying exploring them. I no longer try and level four or five characters to max level. It is all about experiencing the world to me. That is why I am continuing with LOTRO and why I will cave in and try AoC. In order to keep this from being like an abusive relationship, I meter my time and make sure that I don't burn myself out. If someone makes a Hockey MMO I may be doomed.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gamefly I CAN quit you.

I canceled my Gamefly membership because of low availability and long turn around times so I had to send the one game I had left back to them. I sent it back on Tuesday and I got an email today saying they received it. That is a record for them. It is at least five days quicker than they ever acknowledged receiving anything else I ever sent them. I am so glad I dumped them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Penny Arcade Adventures

Episode one of the Penny Arcade Adventures entitled: On the Rain Slick Precipice of Darkness has finally been released and I got a chance to play a bit of it. For those of you who don't know, Penny Arcade is a web comic that has new comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The comic is mostly about gaming with a few other things thrown in on occasion. It was created by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Jerry does the writing and Mike does the art work. They are both very talented in what they do and have a razor sharp wit when discussing games and the gaming community. I guess one day they must have decided to put their money where their mouth's are, so-to-speak and make a game. I am sure the long title was Jerry's idea. I will refer to it as PAA:ORSPD from now on for brevity's sake.

The game itself is a mix of genres, but predominately an RPG/Adventure game. They say you should write about what you know. I guess the same holds true for making video games. Those two genres seem to be favorites of the two gentleman at Penny Arcade. PAA:ORSPD starts off in the town of New Arcadia in the 1920s. You are outside of your house when a giant Fruit Fucker comes by and demolishes it. The rest of the adventure is about you getting revenge and meeting up with Gabe and Tycho the alter egos of Mike and Jerry in Penny Arcade. If you are a fan of the comic and their humor you are in for a treat. The game has one of the funniest support characters I have ever seen. I won't spoil it for you.

I haven't finished PAA:ORSPD yet so I can't give a full review, but I will give you some of my impressions. First of all, the character creation is nice and you can make many different types of character looks. There are no stats to distribute or classes of any nature, but the look of your avatar can be wildly different from someone else's. Moving around the screen is done by pointing and clicking where you want to go and there is a nice map system to get around quickly. Combat is much like many console RPGs with the addition of some mini-games to use special moves. So far I have run into monsters like the aforementioned Fruit Fuckers, Mimes (they are really funny), and Hobos. The combat itself varies a bit depending upon which system you purchased the game on. The PC version is a bit more RTS-like and the Xbox 360 is akin to most console RPGs as you can imagine it would be.

PAA:ORSPD has a really great Penny Arcade vibe to it and is really funny. So far it's a nice break from the kinds of games I have been playing. I don't know how long it will take me to finish it (perhaps this one will be the first one I finish since I made The Pledge). I have heard it takes about six hours to complete. It's the first in an episodic series so if you like it, you can rest assured that there is more on the way. I initially purchased it for the PC, but having heard that the Xbox 360 version is more like a console RPG, I tried the demo out. I ended up buying it on the 360 too and I will play the series there. I wish I had known that there was a difference in play between the two. Oh well, I consider the twenty bucks spent a good way of supporting Mike and Jerry and a small amount of thanks for their great comic which I have read religiously (by lighting candles and everything) for a few years now. There are demos for both the PC version and for the Xbox 360. If you are a fan at all of the series, I suggest you check it out. A small bonus: the demo includes the support character I was talking about. Oh and one small tip... Don't forget the block button if you play it. You can save yourself a lot of frustration that way.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Pledge (Do you finish every game you buy?)

Just glancing over at my shelf that contains my console games I have over 50 games. Some of them are sports games so I can't really count them as the sort of game one would finish. However, I would consider completing at least one season in a sports game to "count" as a game being finished. So including the sports games I would say I have finished exactly one of them. That would be Oblivion for the Xbox 360. Looking over at my PC collection reveals another ratio of finished to owned games that is rather sad. I should say that I don't trade in games for the most part. I stopped doing that some time back. I imagine the ratio would be a great deal worse if I still had the games I traded in over the years.

Am I spoiled? Maybe. Games aren't like movies and books in the sense that one fully expects to complete them when they are purchased. I do expect to enjoy them and if I don't like a game, I don't hesitate to return it. This works for console games for the most part, but not PC games. Stores refuse to take back PC games for fear of piracy. I don't blame them, but it makes me be a bit more discerning when purchasing a PC game. That might be part of the problem the PC gaming industry is facing lately. At the very worst, if I don't like a console game, I can trade it in if I am not able to return it for some reason.

In the past there may have been good reasons for people to not have finished a game. For one, it may be that the game was just too difficult to finish. I am thinking about Ghouls and Ghosts or games of its type. It could also be that a player gets to a certain point in a game and realizes that they just don't like it anymore, that it has become repetitive or too difficult to put in the time to finish. I remember playing some Lucasarts adventure games that had some parts that I thought were just impossible to solve. It turned out that with concerted effort and perseverance I was able to complete them. I can't think of any movie or book that I purchased that was too difficult to finish. Some of them I didn't like so I stopped reading them. These days video games have gotten a good deal easier. Their are pros and cons to this phenomenon. Players for the most part no longer have to worry about screwing themselves over so badly that they can't finish the game and need to restart. However, there can sometimes be so much hand holding that it makes your choices irrelevant or uninteresting.

There is no good excuse to not finishing a game these days. They are designed to be finished. High scores as a measure of skill are gone and games have many levels of difficulty so that they can be played all the way through at various difficulty levels. I guess the bottom line is that I have no excuse for not finishing the majority of the games I own. I purchased them in the first place because they have something about them that I like. I have played them enough to know that I don't want to return them. With that in mind I have made a pledge to myself. Over the summer, I am going to dedicate my game playing time to finishing games. I want to raise the ratio of completed to owned games by a big margin. I'll report back with my progress and give some thoughts about whether playing all the way through these games was worth it.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Wii Fit and living with four women

My Fiance has been excited about Wii Fit since she first saw a commercial about it. I figured it would be a good way to continue my plot to make her into a gamer so I played along. I still have a few contacts with Electronics Boutique so we were able to get the device when it was released the other day. We had a softball game that night so we didn't pick it up until later in the evening. We were pretty tired so we decided to just set up our Miis with the system. In case you didn't know Wii Fit uses the Mii you created for the Wii and then asks you your age and height. It weighs you and then calculates your Body Mass Index or BMI. I am the only guy in our household. Our family unit consists of myself, my fiance, my soon-to-be step daughter and two exchange students. One is from Vietnam and the other is from Korea. Anyway, we all got together to calibrate our Miis for the game and I went last. The four women all had a "normal" BMI and then it came to be my turn. I made them all look away because I knew if I was going to be even close to normal it wouldn't be by much. Well, as it turns out I am not even close to what Nintendo considers normal. Great. So to add insult to injury, all of our Miis are calibrated, but mine is now a pudgy little guy running around the screen. Thanks Nintendo, I really needed that.

That got me thinking that they might have a good marketing ploy on their hands here. What if now that my Mii is calibrated and appears pudgy, it was that way for all Wii games that use Miis? That would be a pretty good motivator for geeks like me to get their Miis skinny. Imagine if in Wii Sports your Mii was now pudgy and couldn't run around as fast in Tennis or Baseball. I have heard that Mario Kart takes into account the weight of your Mii when determining how fast your kart can go. The problem is no one ever creates pudgy Miis. Assuming someone gets their head out of their ass and makes a good follow up to Wii Sports or incorporates Miis in a game in a compelling way, this would be an ideal way of getting people in shape.

As for Wii Fit itself, I have to say I am pretty impressed with it. The device is sturdy and easy to hook up. The balance games are fun if simple (kind of the hallmark of the Wii). My Fiance did a work out and even though she is supposedly "normal" (I'm still bitter) she said she was exhausted and could really feel it the next day. I purchased Wii Ski which uses the Balance Board, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet since I can't get the girls off the damn thing. I went into this thinking that it was going to be another gimmick, but I have come away impressed. I don't think it will replace a good gym or trainer, but it's a good way to get people up and moving around while having fun at home. Oh and Nindendo? It's on now suckers! We'll see who is normal...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Have the Halcyon days passed?

I have posted before that I have been a gamer for a LONG time. I fully expect to be a gamer for an even longer amount of time. There is a period of time about 8 or 10 years ago that is one of the most memorable in my gaming life. Back then I was managing an Electronics Boutique and I had quite a few people to play and talk about games with. Multiplayer was just starting to kick off as a phenomenon. When a new game came in one of the first questions we asked was: "does it have multiplayer?" We are talking about modem gaming here folks, not the low latency high speed internet stuff we have today. It felt almost as if we were completing some sort of arcane ritual punctuated by the death of an innocent. I remember rollicking games of Age of Empires, Outlaws and Warcraft II (the best in the series in my opinion). The point is that back then we were all on the same page in terms of what game we were into. It was usually the latest game that offered fun, workable multiplayer.

Fast forward to now and the ease of multiplayer makes this sort of gaming easy (except if you are using a Wii). The problem is that there are all too many options for people. I guess this is a good problem to have, but I am rarely on the same page with my friends when it comes to what we are currently playing. It started out with MMOs. Yeah, we played the same game, but we were usually vastly different levels and the game offered no mechanic to allow us to group together without one of the parties suffering. I have tried going on to Xbox Live and getting random online games. It isn't pretty. Nine times out of ten the experience is ruined by a bunch of assholes being either elitist, racist or just plain stupid. I actually played a session of COD 4 where everyone on the server punctuated every sentence or expression with the word "yo". As in, "take out that sniper, yo" or "Call in a helicopter strike, yo" or "dude is a pussy, yo." You get my point.

I guess I have come full circle. In the early days gaming it was a solitary experience with little to no access to multiplayer. Now the option to multiplay is in Nintendo DS games for Chrissake. Yet most nights I sit there and play solo. I guess I miss the old days and my friends who shared the great experiences we had. Things are looking up a bit. I found a great site called Gamers with Jobs. They have matchmaking forums for specific games and the community seems on the whole to be very fun and mature. I'll report back after I have had more experience. In the mean time if you aren't a dick send a friend invite to Flying Norseman on Xbox Live.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Gaming Thoughts: Larry King Style...

  • GTA IV is not as fun to play when your Fiance is sitting next to you on the love seat playing Nintendo DS.
  • Age of Conan seems to be doing ok with their launch. I will still pass though. Keen and Graev have some thoughts at their site.
  • I decided last night that Gamefly is not worth it. With the turn around time and the fact that I have so many games that I own to play, the 20 + bucks a month is not worth it.
  • Penny Arcade Adventures releases this week. I think I will get the Xbox 360 version. Gabe and Tycho are hip to what gamers like so, I am pretty confident the game will be fun.
  • Speaking of GTA IV, I really like this game. Having not played any of the previous incarnations for any length of time, I came in with a clean slate and I am having a blast. It's easy just to fire up and do a couple of missions or raise havoc and then sign off.
  • Deca Sports is getting disappointing reviews. Hey developers, it isn't rocket science. Take Wii Sports and make each event into a coherent game.
  • Speaking of the Wii... I am so over the motion controls at this point. The realization comes when you can sit back on the couch and just waggle the Wiimote a bit and accomplish the same thing that someone standing up and flailing around can do.
  • I played against my Fiance in Sega Superstars Tennis on the Wii this weekend. When we used the easy "flail" controls it was pretty even, but when I switched to using a controller, I kicked her ass. All that training came in handy I guess.
  • Problems persist with LOTRO and SLI. I seriously don't understand why they can't iron this issue out. The game performs worse with SLI enabled than without. I can see if it didn't have any effect at all, but worse performance? Come on!
  • The hunt is on for a dart board for Man Room 2.0. The one I have from Halex is a piece of crap. I can't read the LED and it is very cheaply made. I have read of some that have a laser toe-line. That sounds cool enough to investigate.
  • I am on the fence about whether to get Mass Effect for the PC. I have finished it on the Xbox 360, but all of the new features on the PC version are tempting. I could make that kick-ass female Soldier that I wanted to make. Plus, I could support their effort to make DRM less of a hassle.
  • Bill Harris over at Dubious Quality has a console post where he uses logic and truth to illustrate how much the Wii is kicking ass over the Xbox 360 and PS3. How dare he? I mean, the Internets weren't made to be a repository for truth and logic!
  • I made a pact with myself that I would finish several of the games I own before I buy any new ones. With the exception of Civilization Revolution, that is... I need that game.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Spoiler Alert! Gamers are spoiled.

This gamer is spoiled anyway. I find that the more able I am to purchase any game or system I want, the more spoiled or jaded I become. I have been a gamer since the Atari 2600 and Vic 20 days. Back then, I had to rely on whatever money I could scrape up or try and convince my parents to buy me a certain game or system. There were games I played to death back then. I invented new ways to play them when I finished them or made up house rules to change things up a bit. But the point is that I devoured those games.

I have always been something of an impulse buyer. Those crappy items at checkouts that no one needs were invented for me. That isn't a good quality to have combined with a video game addiction. I buy games sometimes just because I like the idea of them. Sometimes I will buy a game and load it up, play it for a bit thinking to myself how cool it is and then never play it again. I bought a PS2 to play RPGs I missed out on during the "PS2 era" when I was mired in my MMO addiction. I bought Dragon's Quest 8 because I liked the idea of it. I actually even played it for eight or ten hours and had fun. I haven't played it in months now though. Why? Well, because there was some new shinny thing that came out.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, because I think this kind of endemic of the gaming review industry. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of blogs on gaming and the thing I invariably take away is that the people on them are bored. They are jaded and it takes something really fresh and unique (to them) for them to sit up and take notice. I think this creeps into their review scores and how they talk about games. These people (for the most part) have access to a huge amount of games and systems. They see a wide variety of games and end up reviewing things they probably wouldn't want to play in the first place. This leads to a general pessimism and malaise where gaming is concerned. Witness the fact that almost every review you see of a WWII shooter will be prefaced by the fact that reviewer is just, "so over" shooters set in WWII. Well guess what? Not everyone has played every shooter ever released and there are some people who have a real interest in that era.

My point is that game reviewers that work for large companies and I have a lot in common. We are all jaded. Keep that in mind when you read our reviews and thoughts on games. We are not normal people. Take our reviews with a grain of salt and avail yourself of other resources when trying to decide whether to purchase a game or not. And by all means, don't rely on review scores. They are pretty much worthless.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Age of Conan: I'll pass, thanks.

I have spent a good deal of time with the AoC beta and at this point, I will have to give it a pass. I am not even concerned about the bugs (I expected those in beta) or the lackluster quests. What disappointed me was that the combat really wasn't different enough or more fun than any other MMO. I was hoping for a visceral, dynamic combat system and this ain't it. What it boils down to is instead of your character auto attacking and you deciding when he uses special abilities, you now have to make every swing AND decide when to use special abilities (they call them combos). I never got the feeling of being in a Conanesque combat.

While I am on the subject, why is it that combat is like this in video games? Why can't we have combat where there are more blocks and parries instead of hits and it comes down to being able to out think and maneuver your opponent? A couple of real blows from the types of weapons used in these games would be enough to take down most things. It should be more about landing those blows than just striking over and over again. I would rather block and parry and get occasional hits in. It would also be nice to be able to use tumbling or an overpower move to gain an advantage. The bottom line is that Funcom has not reinvented the combat system here. They just changed it slightly.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Man-love for Bioware cemented...

The whole DRM fiasco with the upcoming release of Mass Effect for the PC has had me in a tizzy for a couple of days. I seriously hate that shit. I am also lazy enough to not want to have to find the disk I need to play the game I am currently interested in. Imagine my joy when I found these comments from Bioware... (psst are your listening Will Wright?)

There has been a lot of discussion in the past few days on how the security requirements for Mass Effect for PC will work. BioWare, a division of EA, wants to let fans know that Mass Effect will not require 10- day periodic re-authentication.

BioWare has always listened very closely to its fans and we made this decision to ensure we are delivering the best possible experience to them. To all the fans including our many friends in the armed services and internationally who expressed concerns that they would not be able re-authenticate as often as required, EA and BioWare want you to know that your feedback is important to us.

The solution being implemented for Mass Effect for the PC changes copy protection from being key disc based, which requires authentication every time you play the game by requiring a disc in the drive, to a one time online authentication.

This system has an added benefit of allowing players to seamlessly play the game without needing the DVD in the drive.

Key points---

•This solution allows gamers to authenticate their game on three different computers with the purchase of one disc. EA Customer Service is on hand to supply any additional authorizations that are warranted. This will be done on a case-by-case basis by contacting customer support.

• Games are authorized to the machine when the player installs and launches the software for the first time.

• We’ve all had those times when the discs get lost or scratched and you can’t play a game you’ve bought because you need a working disc in the drive. With the new system players will no longer need the disc to play the game, but can instead simply retain the disc as back up for re-installation.


Sign up for the Mythos beta here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Game plans for the weekend

Looks like a GTA IV, LOTRO weekend for me. Sunday is Mother's Day so I probably won't get much gaming in that day. Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days, I had a minor medical procedure so was out of commission. Look for more Age of Conan impressions soon.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

GTA IV Driving Issues.

I have read some complaints from people about driving being difficult in GTA IV. If you are one of these people, try going to first person mode by hitting the select button a few times. This makes driving much more enjoyable. Keep in mind that the type of vehicle you are using makes a big difference too. I am having no problems driving around the city at speed anymore. This game is really enjoyable and I am not a GTA fanboy. In fact I played all previous incarnations of GTA put together for about 1 hour.

Monday, May 5, 2008

AoC Beta Impressions

I promised some AoC beta impressions so here are some quick thoughts. Keep in mind, I haven't had a great deal of time to play it because I have been putting together Man Room 2.0 so these are impressions from limited play time.

  • The graphics are excellent. They have captured the Conan world beautifully. The only other MMO with graphics this good is LOTRO.
  • The new combat system will take some getting used to. There is no auto attack so every attack and block you do is something you initiate by pressing a button. The only problem is I have no clue how I am supposed to go about it effectively.
  • It's an adult world, which is a nice change of pace from the cartoony games like World of Warcraft. You rescue a scantily clad chick who is chained up within five minutes of starting the game.
  • There is a night time vs a daytime play structure. During the day you do normal quests like any MMO and at night you do instanced quests in the city of Tortage with animated cut scenes which are nicely done.
  • The game client needs a lot of work. It is very buggy and the frame rate can be all over the place at times. Upon loading an instance it isn't uncommon for your frame rate to drop below 10 FPS for 30 seconds
  • The interface can't be scaled in any way. You are stuck with big blocky quickbars which can be annoying and I can't figure out how to turn off or slow down the mouse over info so it doesn't block my view of combat when I am hovering over an ability.
  • I have not grouped with anyone yet. I am having a hard enough time figuring out what to do in single combat in order to be the most effective. I don't need to worry about other people.
  • Over all, I my impression is that the game has a lot of potential. It still needs a good deal of work before the May 20th release date though. I hope the version I am playing is much older than the one the devs are tweaking right now.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Action RPG + Bind Gaurdian =

A whole lot of awesome!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


This is one of the best sports stories you will ever read. In an age where money, steroids and assholes dominate the sports landscape, this is the kind of story that gives you hope. The thing that surprises me the least about the story is that it was a group of women athletes. Read it here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A quick note...

I am downloading the Age of Conan beta as we speak. I will post some thoughts when I get a chance to play it. The thing is 12 Gigs, ladies and gentlemen... This is a crazy time with Mario Kart and GTA IV coming out in the same week. To make things worse the AoC beta starts Thursday and Mount and Blade 0.95 just got released. Grab it here. It's a great time to be a gamer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

He gets around... he gets around...

Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer just got the coveted "Game of the Quarter" award over at Dubious Quality. Bill Harris, is a keen observer of video games and often comes up with little known gems like Mount and Blade. So it is with that track record in mind I decided to give it a try even though I was skeptical.

As it turns out he was right again. The game is a lot of fun and has tons of strategy and replay value. It is "hard core" and "old school" while remaining fun and engaging. I am puzzled by some of the reviews the game gets from the established game media. It makes me call into question their other reviews. I already read them with a gain of salt. I haven't played a game like this in a long time. The fact that if you die, you get sent back to the beginning, lose all of your items and become 1st level again will be a deterrent to many people. It will be to their detriment though. This game brings back the excitement and nail-biting drama that old arcade games used to do. There is a reason why it is no longer fun to play games like Gauntlet at home. You have an endless supply of "quarters" to pop in and thus unlimited lives. The thrill of making it any distance in the game is taken away. How much fun would it be to play Dragon's Lair and be able to save before each room?

Gamesetwatch has a great article on the game that offers insight into the nature of the game as well as tips for newbies. I suggest people check it out if they are remotely interested in the game. Once again Mr. Harris, well played -- well played indeed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Potential: Thy name is NHL 08

With the NHL playoffs in full swing, I got the itch to play some hockey on my Xbox 360. I fired up NHL 08 and played a few games. I came away from the experience thinking that there was a lot of wasted potential in that game. EA have made great strides in the NHL series, but that is due mainly to how bad the game has sucked over the last few years. All of this progress can be attributed to 2k Sports pushing them with the excellent NHL 2k series.

This year was a bit unusual with NHL 2K8 taking a few steps backward and NHL 08 making some strides. NHL 08 does some great things. The animations are fantastic, the control scheme is intuitive and fun, the graphics are really good and the play by play although a bit repetitive, is top-notch. There is one huge problem though. In the NHL intensity is in the game. It isn't in EA's game, however. It's ridiculously easy to move the puck around and get out of your zone or keep it in the other team's zone for that matter. In real hockey everything is hotly contested ALL the time. It is a rare occasion where you can just waltz out of your own zone willy-nilly.

For instance, in the last game I played I was killing off penalties and each time I was able to win the face off back to my defense and then bring the puck down to my own zone behind my net. I then just proceeded to pass the puck back and forth behind the net as the computer's "fore-checkers" helplessly went back in forth like cats chasing a light on the floor. I could repeat this for every penalty kill. That is just inexcusable. How could something like this get by the QA department? In other cases, I was able to move the puck into the computer's zone and just stand there with it by the boards. My players didn't move nor did the computer players pressure me in any way.

I should explain that I was playing on the Pro difficulty level. Some people might suggest that I should have been playing on Superstar level, but I don't think it is too much to ask that the AI should play like "pros" on the pro level. The other problem is that there is a bug in the game where if you change sliders (a must in this game for realism) and then you change the difficulty level before an exhibition game all of your sliders will be reset. Again, how this got by QA is beyond me. And worse still, it has not been addressed in a patch. These things make an otherwise enjoyable game almost unplayable to me. I am so sick of having to endlessly tweak sports games just to get them to play decently. I am left with the same old thoughts about what could have been.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hockey Fight!

Fighting in hockey has been a controversial subject for a long time. However, it is an integral part of the game whether people like it or not. In hockey, players are often in dangerous positions where serious injury can occur from a cheap shot. Take Patrice Bergeron from the Bruins for instance. A cowardly cheap shot from behind effectively ended his season and came near to killing him. In order to deter this sort of thing, it takes more than a two minute penalty for roughing or a double minor. It takes the fear of getting the piss pounded out of you if you do that kind of shit. Enforcers have always been around in hockey. As great as Wayne Gretzky was, he would arguably not had as great a career if he didn't have guys like Dave Semenko and Marty McSorley watching his back. If all teams had to worry about was a two minute penalty, they would have cheap-shotted him all over the ice. I am not here to argue about whether fighting in hockey should be allowed or not. Suffice it to say that it is and always will be a part of the game. If that isn't your cup of tea, go watch another sport.

On to the point of the post. How do you simulate something like fighting in a hockey video game? Honestly, I have turned off fighting in pretty much every hockey video game I have played. The form it takes in video games is just gratuitous and does not model real life in its effect on the players or the game. First of all, it has never been fun to me. The game mechanic has always been very simple and unsatisfying. It also never has the effect on the players that it does in real life. Games can be turned around by a good fight. It gives the other players on the team a boost and builds morale. If you are sitting on the bench and your star players are getting pounded by cheap shots and questionable treatment, it gives you a lift to see one of your guys go out and beat the hell out of the player who is taking liberties.

I would like to see fighting in video game hockey have the same effect. There would be a reason to keep a few enforcers on your team this way. If they happen to also be able to play like Terry O'Reilly and Cam Neeley then that is a bonus. I would propose having an option to take the fighting out of the player's hands and let the computer simulate it. You as coach could send out your enforcer to do his job at strategic times and his ability would determine the outcome and change the morale of your team for better or worse. Not having control of the fight would make the outcome less certain. Let's fact it, the way hockey fighting is simulated now you would have to really suck to not win most fights. Fighting is a big part of hockey strategy and has been poorly implemented in hockey video games.

What do you think? How would you like to see fights implemented in hockey video games?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

They looked into my soul...

... and came out with this. Seriously though, has anyone ever bought a collectors edition just for the shit inside while not being terribly interested in the game itself? I have no idea if the game is going to be good or not. I like that they are focusing on making combat more interesting, but I have no way of knowing if they will be successful. And yet, I want to buy the collector's edition. If they have some sort of open beta, I will report back on the game.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Age of Conan is readying for launch.

Age of Conan gets ready for launch
- Pre-order programs now available in all Western territories - Get three day head-start in Hyboria -

Durham, USA – April 16, 2008 – Funcom and Eidos announce that Age of Conan pre-order programs are now fully available in all major territories, including USA, Germany, France, Spain, UK, Oceania and the Nordic countries. Conan fans and MMO gamers are already raving about the incredible pre-order items, including the War Mammoth and Killer Rhino, and today Funcom ups the ante and confirms that everyone who pre-orders may access Hyboria several days prior to the retail launch.*

Ever since Funcom and Eidos started the first pre-orders in early 2008, the program has received great feedback. The exceptional Age of Conan Collector's Edition has topped the charts in numerous online retail chains for weeks, including being #1 on several all-format lists. The most eager fans are therefore urged to order their copy of the Collector's Edition immediately as it only comes in one print-run.

Funcom now also confirms an early access program which will give customers a chance of a head-start in Age of Conan. Funcom reveals that American, European and Oceanic players may enter Age of Conan as early as the 17th of May. Mere weeks away, early adopters can now live, fight and explore in Hyboria, as well as getting an essential head-start before the hordes invade.

"We are very pleased with the reception Age of Conan has had in retail and we naturally hope that the early interest and our early access programs will materialize in an eventual success," said Morten Larssen, VP Sales and Marketing of Funcom. "The positive indications are naturally an honor, but they also bring a great responsibility. As we prepare the roll-out, we know our servers will be put to the test. We therefore hope potential players will aid us by signaling their interest as soon as possible so we can scale our servers and services accordingly."

Age of Conan launches on the 20th of May and is consistently mentioned as one of the most anticipated PC games in development. It has received more than twenty-five magazine covers and more than fifteen major awards, including numerous "Best MMO of E3" awards and the "Best Online Game of Show" award at GC 2007. Age of Conan is a key title in Microsoft's Games for Windows line-up, as well as a showcase title for nVidia.

Visit www.ageofconan.com to join the thriving community or to sign up for the Beta

For a list of participating retailers or to get more information about the game, please visit www.ageofconan.com

* The early access program is only available with certain retailers. A participant list can be found on the official Age of Conan websites. The early access is entirely voluntary, and opens up on the 17th of May for Oceanic and North American gamers, and on the 20th of May for European gamers. Pre-loading of the client will commence in advance. You need to pay a nominal 5 USD / EUR fee to take advantage of the offer, which includes client download and 10 days of subscription. When the early access offer expires you must enter the physical retail box gamekey to continue playing.

Why buy new?

I don't think PC game makers want me to buy their games new. The system requirements in order to play new games in high detail with every setting maxed are always prohibitive. There may be a short window of opportunity when you first upgrade your PC (assuming you shell out at least 2k for it) when you can run the newest games with all settings maxed. What other industry is like this? Imagine buying a movie and having certain special effects missing or diminished in some way because your DVD player can't handle it. I doubt you would be inclined to buy those DVDs at full price. You would probably wait until you could play them without the quality being gimped. It's that way with PC games. It really always has been for the most part. The thing is, I refuse to do it anymore. If I can't run a game at full detail then I will not buy it until I have that capability. It might not be for a few years and in that time the price of the game will have dropped greatly. Take Oblivion for example. When it first came out, I bought it for both the PC and Xbox 360 because I am sick that way. I played it through on the 360 and I have over 140 hours invested in that version because it ran the way it was meant to run. On the PC, I couldn't run the game at any where near the same quality as on the 360. I have just now started to play it on PC having just upgraded. You can buy Oblivion for the PC now for 30 bucks. It runs perfectly smooth on my system now with all details maxed. All I really did was give Bethesda 20 extra dollars for the privilege to have the box sit on my desk for a couple years. One of the drawing points of the PC version is the fact that user created mods can give you a whole new experience and extend your play time with the game. That content takes a while to develop and sort out. By waiting until now to play the game, I have access to a matured mod database and I can run the game the way it was meant to run. For these and many other reasons, I won't be buying PC games unless I can run them they way they were meant to be run.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Settlers of Catan

I have talked about Settlers of Catan before. In fact, I started out this blog with a post about it. The game's appeal seems to be pretty much universal. I usually play the game with a group of friends who are very good at it and we have played for several years now. I decided to buy a copy so I would own it for myself. I had the game for a long time with out even opening it. Last Sunday, I decided I wanted to try and see if I could teach my Fiance and our Exchange Student (who is from Vietnam) how to play. They both are not gamers like me. However, they do enjoy an occasional board game or card game. We set up the board and I taught them how to play in a pretty short amount of time. As it turns out I won, but the game was very competitive. They were able to grasp the nuances of the game rather quickly which is a testament to the game's designer. Actually the only reason I won was because the two other players were battling over having the Longest Road card. If it hadn't been for that I probably would have lost. They are both enthusiastic about the game and I now have two more people to play with. I guess the moral of the story is that if a board game is really well designed, it shouldn't be too hard to introduce new people to it. You then can never complain about a lack of people to play the game with.