Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When do you play a sequel?

So you play a game and like it. Maybe a year or two later a sequel to the game comes out. You buy it intending to play it as soon as you get home only to realize that you haven't finished playing the first game. What do you do?

Do you put the game in and play it anyway even though you don't know how things ended with the first one? Or are you like me and just tuck it away in a game case for that time when you know you'll (maybe) get around to finishing the first game?

I don't like it when the ending of things (movies, books, games) gets ruined for me. It takes that emotional punch away after all your hard work to see things through until the end. I watched my brother finish Final Fantasy X. I was fascinated with how the story was unfolding, but I wasn't close to finishing the game myself. By the time I got to the end it was still great but it didn't have that "blow me away" factor. Been there; done that.

I can trace this aversion to spoilers to a specific incident all the way back to when I was seven years old. Star Wars had come out and me and my older siblings wanted desperately to go see the movie. Unfortunately my mother couldn't take us when it first came out because she was pregnant with my youngest brother. After he was born she still couldn't take us because she had a new baby. My older sister (13 years old) concocted a plan for her, my older brother (10 years old) and myself to take the bus to the movie theater. We had everything planned out when we presented it to my mother. She agreed. We were thrilled we were finally going to see what everyone had been talking about all summer.

What we didn't figure on was that the bus schedule we used was out dated. When we got to the spot where we needed to transfer routes there was no bus to be seen. We waited for 20 minutes. Still no bus. So we started walking in the direction of the theater. We paused at each bus stop along the way but still no bus. When we were half-way between 2 stops a bus drove by. We waved our arms, screamed and ran after it but it wouldn't stop. We ended up walking the whole way there (I learned later about 2.5 miles). When we finally got to the theater and bought our tickets the girl said the movie just started.

She lied.

We crept in and sat down and started watching the movie in the middle of the cantina scene. Now if you've seen the movie you will know that the cantina scene is NOT at the beginning of the movie. It's about 30 minutes in. I didn't know who any of the people were on the screen. Who were the bad guys? Who were the good guys? Why should I care?

By the end of the movie I couldn't figure out why everyone liked the movie so much because I didn't know what was going on. My sister called my mom from a payphone (yes they did have payphones back in those days) and told her about the buses. Because we had missed a bunch of the movie we were all crying. My mom suggested we talk to the manager to see if he could let us stay to watch the part of the movie that we had missed. I guess looking into the faces of 3 crying children was enough for him because he agreed. We ended up staying for the whole thing. And now that I had seen the WHOLE movie, from beginning to end, I knew why everyone liked it so much.

But when the movie started I also knew a lot of other things as well. I knew what would happen to Obi-Wan by the end of the movie from the moment he walked out. I knew to fear Dark Vader and the Empire even before that Star Destroyer crawls across the top of the screen. I knew Luke was more than a whinny farm boy and that they would save the princess and Han wouldn't do it for the money. I knew the ending. Before I had seen the beginning. Because of that Obi-Wan has always been my favorite character. But since then I've never liked to know how things end before I had seen how things started.

I have video game sequels to Ape Escape, Halo, Dark Cloud, Grandia, Legend of Legaia, Xenosaga, Kingdom Hearts, .Hack, Jak & Daxter, Rachet and Clank, Metal Gear Solid, Spyro, Wild Arms, Suikoden and many other games. And I haven't finish any one of them. Their sequels sit in my large disk chase just waiting for me to play . . . the originals. I have enough games to play a new one every day of the year but that's not going to help finish any of them. And I couldn't play some of them because their sequels.

So when do you play a sequel? I wait to play mine.

To play Halo 3 or to not play Halo 3?

Yes, the biggest sequel in gaming history was released yesterday. And no I don't have my copy yet. I was going to spare myself the trash talking fanboys and wait to pick up a used copy. Why? Because I haven't even the first one yet. But with all the stories about metal Limited Edition cases scratching disks I think I'd rather pick up a new copy thank you very much. But when will I play it?

The only part of Halo 3 I would play right now would be the multiplayer. While I"m sure this would be a lot of fun I wouldn't want anything . . . or anyone to spoil the ending of the saga. There's nothing like letting the excitement build up over a good story only to have someone spill the beans (intentionally or accidentally, it doesn't matter) and have the story ruined for you.

When the Star Wars prequels came out I had to stop paying attention to news reports and all that internet chatter because I didn't want anything to cheapen my experience with the movies. I did the same with the Harry Potter novels. It was kind of hard to live in a world the two weeks before Deathly Hallows came out where everyone wanted to talk about whether Harry lived or died or whether Snape was good or evil.

I've only briefly played the first Halo game. I've also only briefly played a few multiplayer matches on Xbox Live in Halo 2. It's not like I didn't like the game, it's just that I had so many other games to play at the time. I go through phases in what type of game I like to play and when Halo came out I was in my "nothing but RPGs" phase. Where does a shooter fit into that? When I finally got into a shooter mood I was playing Star Wars Battlefront every night on Xbox Live. Was I suppose to stop playing with my friends so I could play alone? I was having too much fun to do that.

Now Halo 3 is out and everyone is playing it. I got on briefly last night and 12 of 17 friends were playing the game. And I noticed some of them were friends who said they would never get the game. Now I want to play with them. That is why they're on my friends list after all.

In order to get caught up in the story I'd have to play through Halo and Halo 2. That's a lot of game time to make up before someone ruins the plot for me. I've already had to skim through reviews so I wouldn't be given too much information on the story line. And with just a couple hours of gaming available each night I would be consumed with playing nothing but Halo. Do I really want to do that?

I'm sure I'll eventually get a copy of Halo 3. It's hard for me to pass up a good game in a genre I like. I just don't know when or how much of it I'll be playing for awhile.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I want my gaming websites at work!

Don't you hate it when you click on a website at work only to get the "games filtered" message in your web browser? Or how when a site is accessible one day only to be blocked the next?

My job is boring and the only excitement I get out of my day is the occasional click of a website that just might happen to have video game related content. It's not like I'm playing a game I just want to read up on news in the gaming industry. If people can spend all their time biding on items on ebay why can't I read articles on Halo 3's release?

And when I do find a video game related site that I can view I'm never sure how long that will last. I could access Asher Crestfallen's Chromehounds site for months until suddenly it was blocked. I could never get to but through Asher's site I could get to the forums page. Now I don't even have that. And Game Stop's website is hit or miss. One week I'll have access. The next week I won't.

With the help of a friend we figured out how to bypass the companies restrictions with a proxy server. Everything was open to me. It was all glorious. My days at work were no longer boring. They were tolerable and sometimes down right enjoyable. That is until they blocked proxy server access.

I've worked with people who spent all day watching ebay and refreshing the page every 5 minutes to see if anyone bid on their items. If you ever went over to their desk all they wanted to talk about was why people were not bidding on their items. And if people were bidding they'd talk about how much of a profit they were going to make because people are suckers for the right item description. And if I'm allowed to spend my day adding things to my wish list on Amazon and refining my recommendations by rating things I've bought why can't I read a preview for Mass Effect? Or a review of games shown at E3?

It only takes a couple of minutes to read an article. I read it; then move on. If I can read my video gaming news I'll be a happier employee. I'll actually enjoy coming in to work instead of feeling like this job is sucking the life out of me as I waste my time sitting behind a desk when I'd rather be gaming. Make me have a reason to come to work instead of a reason to rush home at night. Come on. What do you really want me to do as I sit here? Work?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Finished a Game?

My brother and I popped in Gauntlet Legends for the N64 this last weekend as I tried to refresh my memory for a favorites list. After looking around for a bit (and breezing through the first level) we picked a level (in the middle of a circle of Runes) and dived in.

Apparently it was the final battle and we were faced battling Skorne. Our characters were level 80+ but we had a hard time getting his health bar down. I guess we should have warmed up more than just that first level. And while the style of game play was familiar I had a hard time remembering when we played the game.

Did we beat Skorne and finish the game? Did we get this far and decide to take a break and come back later? Did we try (repeatedly maybe) to beat him and failed? Why can't I remember if I finished a game?

We hacked away as best we could and argued a little bit about whether we finished or not. He said yes. I'm not so sure. I can't imagine either one of us just giving up on a game this close to the end. Yet I don't remember what happened at the end. Did we find other games to play instead? Maybe other systems? I'd love to cross one more game off my list as "played-completed" but can I rightfully do so if I don't remember doing it.

There's only one way for me to make sure I really did finish that game and that's to play it all over again. On Sunday, back at my place, I hooked everything up and breezed through the first 3 levels. Everything came back to me. I knew what the levels looked like, where the tough guys would be and how to get through the whole thing without wasting keys or magic potions. I still couldn't remember how it all ended. But I did remember how tedious hacking and slashing through all those levels were. Did I really want to go through all that again just so I could say I finished the game with a clear consciences? Especially when I have so many newer . . . and better looking . . . games I want to play.

I don't think Gauntlet Legends is a bad game. I loved playing the original Gauntlet in the arcade and I remember when this game came out and the top down 2-dimensional world came alive in this 3-dimensional game. But the graphics haven't held up very well. The style of game play is still around in games like Hunter the Reckoning, Balder's Gate and the likes. It's just your typical hack and slash. But I don't know if I'm ready to progress through all those levels staring at out dated graphics with a controller that no longer feels as comfortable in my hands as it once did.

So, did I finish this game? I'll have to think about that one and let you know.

Dusting off the old systems

I dusted off my old Super Nintendo system and replayed a lot of my games in preparation before complying my list of favorite games for that system. It was nice to play games I hadn't played in quite some time. Years even. It brought back some good memories.

This last weekend I tried to do the same thing with my N64. Notice how I said "tried." Things didn't go so well. I packed up my system and almost all of my games (except Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask and Magical Tetris Challenge) and headed to my parent's house. My brother was going over to do laundry and I wanted another person to help out with some of the multiplayer options in the games. I was a little disappointed to find that I only had 12 games for the system. That didn't seem right, but that's all I had.

Once the system was hooked up my brother popped in Gauntlet Legends and went to load a file from the memory card that was still in my controller. Apparently I had saves from games that I didn't have the cartridge for. At least for none of the cartridges I had in front of me. Did I sell some games back? Do I have a stash of games somewhere that I haven't unpacked?

Yes, I have lived in the same place for 5 years now and still have boxes I haven't unpacked. At least unpacked completely. I have a lot of boxes that are partially unpacked because I couldn't figure out where to put things so it was best to leave them where they were. I thought I knew what treasures were in those boxes but maybe I don't. I've always meant to unpack them and now maybe I have the motivation to do it. I've got games that are missing people. I need to find them!

But since it's been a long time since I played my N64 I was wondering if I sold any of those games back. I remembered owning Aidyn Chronicles (it was a black cartridge) and I have a save for it but did I sell it back? I think I remember owning Turok too. I didn't have a save so where's that game? I've gone through a list online of N64 games and I think there's 10 more games I should have . . . somewhere. Unless I sold them back of course.

I remember when I got my N64. I was just out of college with very little money to spare. I couldn't get every game I wanted to. Even when I found Game Stop and their used games for less money. I had to pick and choose which games I would get because every game was a splurge and my budget couldn't afford too many of them. I also remember picking up a bunch of older Super Nintendo games during that time. They were cheaper.

So I guess I'm going to have to spend some time unpacking boxes and looking for N64 game cartridges which I may or may not still have. I don't feel comfortable putting out a "favorites" list of games for the system if I don't even know what games I have anymore. Maybe I should have dusted off those old systems more often.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bad Day at Work = Profit for Game Stop

Okay, whenever I have a bad day at work I need something to make up for it. What that usually means is a trip to my local Game Stop. I'm finding the worse my day went the more I spend. And that I've been to Game Stop four times over the last week and a half. Thankfully only this last time was a really bad day.

The last time I was in I wanted one game and one game only. Unfortunately they didn't have it. So I walked out empty handed. And in a worse mood than before. This time I called ahead.

I picked up Bioshock, Blue Dragon and Odin Sphere. All new. If I would have stayed longer I'm sure I would have picked up a bunch more.

Bioshock wasn't a game that caught my attention as something to look for before it came out. I had my sights set on Assassin's Creed and my brother kept talking about Mass Effect. When Bioshock was released it didn't even register on my radar. That is until a bunch of my friends started playing it.

All they talked about was Bioshock. I would try to warn them of a sniper on the top of the building across the LVU campus but they were more interested in talking about their latest encounter with a Big Daddy. Eh? The more I listened the more I got curious about the game. I did some research and found glowing reviews everywhere I looked. How could I have missed a possible Game of the Year winner? At this point I figured I had to have the game . . . the only problem was I could never find it at Game Stop. Sold out. All the time. That's why I called ahead.

Blue Dragon was one that I was interested in getting but would have waited for a used copy and a discounted price before getting. I love RPGs and this game was getting a lot of praise for what it could do for the Xbox 360 in the Japanese market. But since I was in a bad mood I really didn't want to wait to get this game sometime later; I wanted it now! That was the only way I was going to feel better right?

I'd heard some good things about Odin Sphere but have never seen it on the shelves. I'm an optimistic person so I think if a video game store is having a hard time keeping a game on the shelves (like Bioshock) it means there are a lot of people who play it, like it and don't want to give it back. To me that says I should look into the game. That doesn't necessarily mean I'll buy it, but it's one to keep my eye on. Half-Life for the PS2 is prime example of that. I finally got my copy a couple of weeks ago (another bad day) and that's the first I'd ever seen it on shelves since I knew I wanted it (I've had Half-Life 2 for the Xbox for some time now).

I hope any bad days at work and subsequent trips to my local Game Stop all coincide with the release dates of Call of Duty 4, Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect and Halo 3. Otherwise Game Stop is going to have a very nice profit margin . . . and I'm going to have a very empty bank account.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Wheel of Time has claimed its own

The Wheel of Time series of novels was to readers as Everquest is to gamers. A MMORPG with endless places to explore, limitless characters to get to know and story plot lines without end. Unfortunately The Wheel of Time has lost its creator. Robert Jordan has passed away. His stories were immersive and complex. His characters heroic and flawed. His world varied and real. Robert Jordan will be missed but his legacy lives on in every book he wrote. If you haven't read any of his books I would encourage you to do so. The first book in the series is The Eye of the World.

Monday, September 17, 2007

My Favorite Games - Super Nintendo

I first started playing video games at my sister's house. I'd come over to babysit my niece and once I put her to bed I'd stay up and play on my brother-in-law's Nintendo. I would play Tetris for hours. And if I grew bored of that I would put in Mario Brothers for another couple of hours. I liked Duck Hunt too, but the gun always seemed to be broken. For Christmas that year I asked for a Nintendo system. I didn't think I'd get one because my parents didn't see much use in playing video games. When I opened my presents Christmas morning I was surprised, but not in a good way . . . at least at first.

I got a Nintendo system but it was a Super Nintendo system. I was disappointed. I thought I'd never be able to play the games I'd come to love. Now I've got a system that I didn't know how to use and didn't know any of the games I could play on it. My disappointment was obvious to my parents 'cause they kept apologizing all day that they couldn't find a Nintendo system and that the guy in the store said this one would be better. Whatever.

I was young. And I didn't pay any attention to what was going on in the world outside my own neighborhood. I figured this would be one of those Christmas gifts that you play for a few hours over the Holiday break from school before it finally finds a more permanent place in the back corner of your closet. Little did I know that one disappointing Christmas gift would change my life forever and I would cherish for a long time. Thanks Mom and Dad!

To refresh my memories and make sure I had all the right games in the right order I spent the weekend playing almost all of my Super Nintendo games and boy did that take me back.

#1 Super Mario Kart
I learned how to power slide from Mario. I learned that racing and throwing banana peels behind you is a blast. And once I mastered the art of firing red and green Koupa shells there was no one who could stop me. I do love racing games but since I started out with "kart" racing games the realistic stuff doesn't appeal to me very much. I can see that type of racing everyday on the freeway.

#2 Tetris Attack
This was the first game (and probably only game) that I was instinctively better at than my brother from the first moment I picked it up. He always been able to preform better than me in any type of game as soon as he starts to play. If I practice and work at it I will eventually get the better of him more often than not, but that wasn't the case with this game. I don't know why I'm better at it than him. I just tend to see moves way ahead of the move I happen to be making at the time. Because of my natural skill at this game I got to see my brothers competitive side come out. Which of course brought out MY competitive side. (My gamer score is higher than his gamer score)

#3 Super Mario All Stars
Here I was afraid that I'd never be able to play Mario on my new Super Nintendo. Shows you how little I knew of Nintendo. With this game I got the original Mario game plus the hidden levels and Mario 2 & Mario 3. I felt better about owning the latest game system and even bragged to my friends that I have all the games on one cartridge. There were plenty of worlds to jump and explore through and I was loving every one of them.

#4 Super Star Wars trilogy of games
Finally instead of just watching the movies you actually get to play them as well. I figured the Star Wars game would be like the original Star Wars game that I loved to play in the arcade. I was wrong. But I liked being wrong. These games really frustrated me more so than anything else I had been playing. If you wanted to make it up to that top platform you better be sure to make perfect jumps all the way up. One slight miscalculation and you'd find yourself plummeting down to a valley of spikes or some other nasty death. It was all about being careful and precise . . . and I hadn't learned those skills yet. Still working on them too.

Honorable Mentions:
Donkey Kong Country, Frogger, Ms. Pac Man, Space Invaders, Clue

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fuel for Gaming

I'm starting to see a lot of commercials for the new Mountain Dew product Fuel. It's being advertised as game fuel for Halo 3. I tried drinking Mountain Dew in college when pulling an all nighter. Unfortunately there's just way too much caffeine in the soda for me. I got wired and jittery and then about a couple hours later I crashed and was zonked out for 12 hours. I'll stick with Pepsi, thank yo very much. But seeing those commercials got me thinking about a couple of things.

1) Although it's a commercial for Mountain Dew it's also a commercial for Halo 3. A video game. And I'm seeing these commercials where I wouldn't expect to see commercials about video games. Have video games finally gone mainstream? Instead of a gamer being a slimy, oddball who lives in their parents basement are gamers turning out to be you normal average person? I hope so. If true then things look better for me.

2) What is my "game fuel"? Do I have a food or snack that I like to eat when playing marathon sessions of gaming? I had to think about this one. And nothing jumps out at me. I like to eat a variety of things. Peanut butter M&Ms are always good, no matter what the situation. The problem is eating a lot of chocolate makes me thirsty. That's where a tall cold glass of milk comes in handy. But it's much easier to flip the mute button, pop a few M&Ms in your mouth and keep playing than to pick up a glass and take a drink while trying not to get killed.

I do tend to eat a lot of pizza while I'm gaming. But only once I'm dead. That usually means that a slice of pizza will last me a half an hour. It starts out hot but ends up cold. But that's okay. Pizza is one of the few foods that tastes just about as well cold as it does hot.

I tried eating Chinese while gaming once. Big mistake. My chopstick stills are average at best but combine that with button mashing on a control and there was Kung Pao chicken all over the place. You would think that I could stop gaming for 20 minutes to eat a meal. Or at least to eat before I start gaming. But sometimes when I walk in the door the first thing I want to do is start blowing people's heads off.

I'm not much of a potato chip person. Too greasy and salty. I have tried popcorn, but that doesn't fill you up. And since I like mine with extra butter my buttons end up getting slimy and slick. When you go to take someone out and your control slips from your hands it's time to try eating something else.

So my search for the perfect fuel for gaming will have to continue. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What do you play when you're not in the mood?

I had a very strange day yesterday. I wanted to play video games . . . but I wasn't in the mood for anything.

I tried a racing game (Burnout Revenge). Nothing. I tried some arcade games (Pac Man CE, Texas Hold 'Em, Hearts, Catan) but I wasn't really in the mood for any of them. (Although I did finally come in first place in a $4,000 buy in tournament after being short stacked for awhile. I always finish in the money but I've never come in first.)

I got a couple of invites to play Rainbow 6: Vegas and although I wasn't in the mood I thought it wouldn't hurt. Boy was I wrong. I sucked. The other team was creeping up behind me and taping me on the shoulder before blowing my head off. If I thought I was in a good snipping position I'd find a guy right next to me . . . but on the other team. I died. I died again. And then . . . I died some more. Even when I somehow made it to their spawn point I couldn't kill them when they spawned before they'd get a single shot to blow my brains out.

I've had bad days in games before. It's usually been 'cause I wasn't in the mood to play that particular type of game. Or my eyes were just to tired to focus and concentration on the screen. But a whole night were there was nothing I wanted to play?

I even switched systems. I pulled out the PS2 and loaded a few games trying to find what matched my mood. Metal Gear Solid? Nope. Abe's Exoddus? Not tonight. Half-Life? Not quite right. Gradius? No. God of War. Now that one was a little closer to what I had in mind. Unfortunately by then I was too tired and just shut everything down. A game like that deserves my undivided attention and right then that wasn't going to happen.

I flipped channels on the TV for awhile. Read a book for a while as well. But nothing seemed to satisfy the mood I was in. Hopefully this mood will pass cause I can't imagine what I'd do if I didn't want to play video games.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Rewarding Myself

I finished a game the other night. No it wasn't one from the list that I should be finishing. It was an Xbox Live Arcade game. Carcassonne.

My brother was excited about this game when it came out. I, on the other hand, had never heard of it. I downloaded it so we'd have something in common to play together. (I find our arcade tastes very greatly.) After I figured out what I needed to do to get more points (lots of little cities by a farm instead of one big city) I realized I liked this game. Probably not as much as my brother, but then again who cares.

I was wondering how I was going to to get the "score 50+ more points in a 2+ player game" or whatever it says. Apparently you don't have to win the match by 50+ points, or even win the match at all, you just have to score 50+ points more than someone else in the game. Also a "player's match" doesn't mean you have to have all human players for it to count. If someone drops out and an AI takes over that's okay.

So, 200 achievement points earned calls for a celebration. How do I celebrate? By buying more games. I picked up 3 games for my PSP, 1 for my GameBoy Advance and 1 for my PS2. I know, I know, the more games I own the more games I have to NOT be able to finish due to the distraction. Too bad. I like games. And I'm not going to stop buying them. Besides it could have been worse. I wanted to pick up BioShock and Blue Dragon but I exercised some restraint and passed on them this time around (and to be honest that's only because the store didn't have any in stock).

I accomplished something so I can reward myself, right?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My Favorite Games - PSP

Okay, this isn't going to take very long. I don't have that many PSP games. When I purchased my PSP it was a spur of the moment decision. I was having a bad day and decided, what the heck (I tend to spend large amounts of money whenever I'm having a bad day). I was always going to get one, I had just planned on waiting a little longer before I did. The problem with getting it then was that I didn't have any money for games. Every time I went back into my local Gamestop was to look for a game for one of my console systems. The PSP has always taken a back seat to the console, poor thing. I'm trying to rectify that situation as my budget . . . and bad days allow

#1 Lemmings
I remember watching my brother play Lemmings on our computer a long time ago. It looked fun but complicated. I only played it a little bit but I liked it. I found a version was released for the SNES but I was never ever to track down a copy. When this came out for the PSP it was a sure bet. Lemmings can be the most laughable and yet thoroughly frustrating fun you'll ever have outside of Pikmin. I've wanted to toss my PSP through a window many times during the game but I always want one more crack at it before I do.

#2 Tokobot
It's fun to order your minions around to fling you across open spaces or scale impossible walls. Get them to do the dirty work for you and you can reap all the rewards. Learn to control the camera angles and you'll have lots of fun.

#3 Daxter
A sidekick getting his own game? Yeah, we've seen that before but who wouldn't love the wisecracking ottsel (a hybrid of an otter and a weasel) over a weak kneed plumber? There's nothing newly inventive with this platformer (that I've seen so far) but it sure is a lot of fun to play as Daxter and listen to him toss around those zingers.

#4 Untold Legends (both of them)
My first foray into "fighting" type games was through Hunter the Reckoning. A standard hack and slash. I fell in love. Untold Legends is in the vein of Balder's Gate and Champions of Norath but now you get to take it anywhere you want to go. A portable hack and slash. That style of game play suits me perfectly and I love whipping the PSP out on my lunch hour and slicing a few heads off (it beats doing that in the office).

Honorable Mentions: Ape Escape and Lumines (I have others but I haven't played them enough to pass judgement beyond the "this doesn't suck yet" phase).

All That Hard Work for Nothing

I love hearing that bleep and seeing that little pop up that says you've just unlocked an achievement. But come on developers, at least make it worth something!

I'm not talking about all those 5 point achievements for completing the training exercises. How much more inventive can the control scheme get for a first person shooter? You point and you shoot . . . or you die. I'm talking about an achievement that was worth 0 points. Yep, that's right. Zero. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

On Labor Day Xbox slashed the price of some of their Xbox Live Arcade games. A friend of mine took Microsoft up on the deal and bought the discounted games. Now, he's not a person that plays the arcade games so he roped in a few friends to make the experience more enjoyable. After a round of Gauntlet (one of my old-time favorites that I don't play nearly enough) he moved on to Small Arms.

Once he got the game settings taken care of I jumped in and we all started wailing on each other. (It's really very therapeutic for our friendships - honest.) During the first game I heard the bleep and earned a 2x achievement. WooHoo! Now we're talking. We pounded on each other and had an open player slot so people would jump in the game and we'd pound on them too . . . and then they'd jump out. A little while later when the game ended after someone jumped in (don't remember who) I heard that little beep and saw the pop up for the "Six Degrees of Small Arms" achievements. None of us knew what this was for so we all took a moment to look at our achievement list. And boy were we surprised.

The achievement reads something like "play the game with someone who already has this achievement." Fine. Okay we get it. It's one of those "virus" achievements. You know "the Mingler" or "secret achievement - play with someone who has this achievement to unlock." These achievements seem to serve the purpose to get people to play their games online. Mix it up. Go against real humans instead of the AI all the time. So you would think that this achievement would be worth something.

What was the "Six Degrees of Small Arms" achievement worth. You guessed it. Zero. What's the point of that. It's like saying "we want you to play online with other people but we don't want you to be rewarded for it." Is that any way to encourage people to get out there and play? Why go through all that hard work and effort (okay, maybe it wasn't that much work or effort and it was kind of fun) but then not give a payout in the end. It's almost as bad as those achievements you get in some games for just putting the disk in the machine. There's no effort in that at all (at least for most people).

Make it mean something. Or is all that hard work for nothing?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The best laid plans of mice and gamers

It's been one year since my brother and I have made a pact to finish one game for each system we own in common (see my original blog post) and still neither one of us has finished any one of those games. And to be honest, on some of them we haven't made a lot of progress either.

It was a great idea at the time and I still think it's at least a good idea but times change. People change. And there's more games out there to buy and play. If I spent all my time playing just those four games then my other 300+ are looking more and more like expensive drink coasters. Or dust collectors.

So I'm at a crossroads. A dilemma in my quest to not just play all my games but to finish some of them too. It's the start of the gaming world bonanza when all the publishers and developers start releasing their long sought after games before the holiday season. Games like BioShock, Hale 3, Blue Dragon, Assassin's Creed and Mass Effect. There's a whole lot of others coming out in addition to those that at $60 a pop your budget can take a mighty big hit between now and Christmas. And I'm trying to save up for a condo. So I'm left to decide between a condo or more games.

A place of my own, to decorate how I want or countless hours of entertainment? With a condo comes more bills and responsibility. With new games comes more that I probably won't finish. I want both. But I also want to finish the games I've already got. I could set a rule that I can't buy another game until I finish one I already have. Well, we all know how well I've been doing on that front. The best laid plans or mice and gamers, eh?

Speaking of "best laid plans" I know I promised a list of my favorite games for each system but I'm having some difficulties with my choices for some of the systems. For the Xbox and Xbox 360 I just can't seem to narrow my choices to a manageable list. For the Super Nintendo and N64 I just thought I had more games than that. I finally completed (but I'm hoping that's not true) my inventory of Super Nintendo and N64 games and I was less than impressed. Only twenty games for the N64? Was the system worth it if all I got were those twenty games? I'm still thinking about things and I'm sure I can put together a list for each of those systems. The problem I'm having with my Game Boy Advance is all the "game ports" I have. Do I only count originals? I hope to put the next list up sometime soon. Stayed tunes. And feel free to argue for or against the ones I've picked for the Playstation and PS2.