Friday, November 30, 2007

"Bioware has done it again"

"Bioware has done it again." That's what my brother said as he was putting in his Mass Effect disk in his Xbox 360 to show me what the game was like. I had just bought the game but I hadn't had a chance to play it yet. I didn't know what he meant at first but then he said Bioware was the developer who did Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Ah, now I understand.

But I didn't really understand. Not at first anyway. Then I watched him play. He replayed the first couple of missions so I could see how the game was set up. I was impressed. And eager to play. But his "Bioware has done it again" comment got me thinking. What else have they done? And did I like any of it?

I looked up Bioware's inventory of games and I was pleasantly surprised. I knew about almost all of them and I not only did I have most of the them I loved them too. Balder's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, KOTOR, Jade Empire and now Mass Effect. These are all great games. KOTOR came out in 2003, Jade Empire 2005 and now Mass Effect in 2007. What great game are they planning on releasing in 2009?

Usually it's the game that gets the attention and then you see who the developer is. If I mentioned Final Fantasy you'd think of Square (Squaresoft, Square Enix or whatever they're calling themselves these days). If I mentioned Crash Bandicoot you'd think of Naughty Dog. And if I mentioned Jak & Daxter you might be a little surprised to realize that Naughty Dog developed them too. And I'm sure you know Ratchet & Clank are done by Insomniac Games. These are all games or a series of games that gets you interested in what the developer is going to do for the next game in that series. But what about new games?

And then there's Bioware. Yes, they've done expansions for Balder's Gate and Neverwinter Nights but they're expansions. Other than that each new game that has come out has been a new entity. A new world to play in. A new chance to be blown away again. I can't wait to see what they come up with next. I hope the next time I can say "Bioware has done it again" . . . and again . . . and again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Squad Pride

You already know I'm a member of a squad for the game Chromehounds. If not, well you haven't been reading my blog then. Our squad name is "Dark Matter" and lately we've been tickled pink about something. Out squad leader might try to down play it and say "it's not a huge deal" but I know he's pleased to have the squad finally get some recognition.

No we haven't won any Gold Medals or anything like that. We're too honest to boost for 'em like other squads. We like the satisfaction of EARNING our rewards. What has us all excited is our squad is finally listed on the roster at Asher Crestfallen's Chromehounds web site. We have 12 people in our squad but only 8 of us are regulars or semi-regular players of the game (there's been too many new games that have come out for some of us to be completely regular players for a while).

We've had players join and then leave by their own choice only to come back again. Some players have been booted for having more fun blowing up their teammates instead of the enemy. And some were booted because they sold the game back but didn't bother to tell anyone. And even some who joined but never seemed to play. But us regular players like the game and like playing with each other (as long as we all have our hounds in squad colors). We've even had too many members in the lobby at the same time to have everyone go out on missions.

I've met new friends through the squad and tried out new games so I could play with them somewhere else. It's a great group of guys and now we have a little bit of squad pride at being recognized. We're not as good as some of the 100 top ranked squads also listed on the site but now we've got something to shot for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

When release dates are confusing

I love going to my GameStop store except for one very annoying thing. They know me and know which systems I have and what type of games I like. So what could be so bad as to be annoying? Release dates.

If a game is scheduled with a release date of 11/20 I can't pick it up in the store until the following day. Why? Because supposedly the release date is the day the game ships not the day it's available for retail. Well, if that's the case then why were a lot of my friends playing Mass Effect yesterday but I can't pick mine up until today?

When Assassin's Creed came out I took a day off just so I could play the game for hours on end without interruptions (little did I know I'd actually spend that day running errands and such and got very little time to play anything). Everything I came across said Assassin's Creed was to be released on 11/13. I scheduled the next day off but when I went to my local GameStop to pick it up on the 13th they said they couldn't sell it to me until the next day. In the mean time I went home and watched friends rack up achievements in a game I wasn't allowed to purchase yet.

Now the same thing is happening with Mass Effect. It's starting to get a little annoying especially when the wait to get a new game was unbearable enough before and now I have to wait another day? It makes me want to make all my pre-orders somewhere else. But I like the people there, it's right on the way home from work and there's a Chick-Fil-A nearby if I can't wait for dinner until I get home. Tonight I'll swing by to pick up Mass Effect (a day later than everyone else) but I think I'll stop at House of Yang instead. I don't want chicken today if I'm going to have turkey tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Call of Duty 4 orphan

I don't have Call of Duty 4. Yes, I know that's hard to believe. But it's true. Because of that little fact I haven't played with any of my friends online in two weeks. I'm a Call of Duty 4 orphan.

I have Call of Duty 2 and 3 but I've had a hard time getting into the games. When Call of Duty 4 came out I was ho-hum about it. It's one of those games that if it's any good I'm sure I'll get it eventually. Just not at release.

Besides I was more excited for Assassin's Creed than anything else. Now there was a game that piqued my interest. Would it live up to the hype? Would the movement be as revolutionary as they say? Call of Duty who?

My brother on the other hand is all ga-ga over Mass Effect. I didn't know much about that game but the more I found out the more I started to like it. So after I picked up Assassin's Creed I put Mass Effect on pre-order. Was it possible to have two great games in one month? We're about to find out. There's no way there could be three great games in one month.

But all my friends are talking about Call of Duty 4. And they're playing it too. Most nights 90% of the people on my friend's list online are playing Call of Duty 4. At least they're not sending me invites all the time when they know I don't have it. (My friends did that when Gears of War came out. They would send invites to people who didn't even have an Xbox 360 to entice them to buy it so they could play. It was most annoying . . . until I got my own 360 and started doing the same thing.)

On the forums at all my friends are talking about how great this game is and based on some of their comparisons I think it's time I finally broke down and buy the game and trust that I can get in to it as much as they have. There's a couple of problems though.

1) I can't seem to find the game in stores now that I want it.


2) All my friends said they would play Call of Duty 4 until Mass Effect comes out and then they're moving on to that game.

Mass Effect comes out today so what are my chances of playing Call of Duty 4 with them? I have friends who are working on their second level of prestige, whatever that means. I hate being a late comer to a game that requires skill and practice to play well. While they know all the secrets and layouts of maps I'm left bumbling along getting shot in the head before I can even figure out where it's coming from.

Maybe it's one of those games I'll have to pick up and play on the side until I get good enough to take my skills into online play. Or maybe I'll just stay a Call of Duty 4 orphan; abandoned by my friends in the cold cruel world of assassins and Lego Wookies until someone comes to save me. I wonder if Angelina Jolie is willing to adopt a 30-something video game addict . . . better yet if it was Brad Pitt who adopted me instead.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Xbox Live is 5 years old

So Xbox Live was 5 years old as of yesterday. How long have you been on Xbox Live? Me? I can't remember exactly. I think it will be 3 years in January. If not 3 years than it's only been 2 years since I joined Xbox Live.

That doesn't mean I've only been playing video games for 2 years. Far from it. It's just that I was always too timid to join in the online community of gamers. Also I didn't have the right connection speed with my internet. Now that I think about it I'm pretty sure it will be 3 years come January.

I'm really glad I decided to join the ranks of online players. I've met some really great people through various games. Some of them I would never have the opportunity to meet otherwise. Some I just wondered why I'd never met them before.

I've been really lucky about meeting great people too. I think it goes back to the games I played when I first on online. Star Wars Battlefront is a great game. And it's filled with great people. I only ran into the occasional idiot while playing that game. Most of my friends from those old days have followed me to the 360 era of gaming. We were not just gamers we were Star Wars fans and I think that is what added to our fun, excitement and respect while playing.

So Happy Birthday Xbox Live! Gamers might have been playing online with their computers long before you came around but you changed the face of online gaming forever. When people's only compliant about a great game is that it doesn't have online multiplayer game play you know you've made an impact on the gaming world.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wii does like to play

So I have a Wii now. Wasn't really planning on getting one that's just how it worked out.

You see I finally finished crocheting the last afghan in a project that has taken me about two years to complete. As a reward for myself I budgeted to get a Nintendo DS Lite. When I got to the store I was curious about how the sales of Wiis were doing with the upcoming holidays. I asked if they had any in stock and they did. Just one system left. I said I'd think about it and walked around looking at DS games.

I was calculating how many DS games I could get (along with the system) and still be under what I would play for a Wii. She told me that I could come back and get a DS Lite any time but they might not have Wiis in stock when I really want to get one. I thought about it some more. There was only one thing else I wanted to know. The Wii comes with one complete controller but if the store didn't have a second complete controller I wasn't going to buy it. Fortunately for me (but unfortunately for my bank account) they did. So I walked out of the store with a Wii, a complete second controller and my collector's edition copy of Assassin's Creed.

I took the day off so I could play Assassin's Creed, but I never even took it out of the box. I took the Wii over to my parent's house to hook it up instead. They have a larger living room than what I have at my apartment. Plus there's so many people and coming and going over there it would get more use than at my place. So there it would stay. Besides a minor hiccup with the S-video cable we finally got everything worked out.

After creating my own Mii I had my mother create one for herself. See really liked it. My brother had come over and he did his. Then it was my father's turn.

"Why would I want to create a Mii?"

"So you can have your own character when you play."

"But if I never play I wouldn't need a Mii."

I eventually convinced him to do it and I think he liked it. We started out with my brother and I playing a game of bowling in Wii Sports (the only games I currently have for the system). I led most of the game until he was able to beat me by 2 pins in the last frame. Now the Wii faced its toughest test: my parents.

We had them set up a game of bowling with their own characters and while my mother kept claiming she didn't know what she was doing she almost doubled my dad's score. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard either.

Next up was Tennis. It took us a while to figure out how to play that one with only two controllers (the AI were just too annoying to play with). After winning 3 our of 4 matches against my brother we again turned it over to my parents. Again it was all laughter and dodging out of the way as my dad really got into it.

The last game we tried before I had to leave to go home was boxing. Only my brother and I did it and afterwards my arms felt like there were going to fall off. I was able to knock him down three times with the last being a knockout. He knocked me down once.

I left the Wii at my parents house and I hope that they take some time to play it. They're both retired and go walking in the morning so I told them they could come in after that and get their upper body workout with the Wii. We all had a blast and there was some mention of having my other brother bring his video camera over to record the hilarity for posterity. We'll see.

For this family Wii does like to play.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fast Service . . . same problems

I haven't posted for awhile because I've been busy. I wish I wasn't, but I can't change that. On a brighter note I'm talking the day off on Wednesday so I can play Assassin's Creed all day long.

One of the things I've been busy with is I got my original console back from Microsoft. It took a total of 2 weeks to ship it, get it repaired and have them ship it back to me. If I would have known that ahead of time (they said 3-4 weeks but everyone on my friends list has had theirs out for at least 6 weeks) I might not have bought an Arcade version as a backup. Now that I've got mine original system back I'm glad I bought the backup.

The Red Ring of Death was fixed because I cold turn my system on but I"m still having some of the problems I had prior to sending it in. I still can't play a ranked match of Catan without lagging out. and my system still freezes up on me but not as much as it did before.

I didn't have any of these problems with my Arcade console so I know it's not something on the hard drive. We've tried my hard drive in my original system and my brother's hard drive in my system and we still can't figure it out. My brother currently has my system and he's going to test it out with his internet connection. It seemed to do fine at my parent's house on their internet so it might be something in my internet connection. But only for that game which I think it really weird.

The other thing that has kept me busy (but not nearly busy enough) is that I decided to sign up for National Novel Writing Month this year. I've participated twice in the past and both times where a failure but for different reasons. Why I decided to do it again this year I'm not exactly sure. Oh well. I'll keep you informed as to my continuous failure where NaNoWriMo is concerned. I don't expect to do much especially with Assassin's Creed and Mass Effect coming out this month. Maybe NaNoWriMo should move to another month or great video games shouldn't all get released right at the end of the year.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Some things shouldn't be overlooked

Yes, this is a big week in gaming. Call of Duty 4 comes out . . . well . . . today. But something better comes out tomorrow and it shouldn't be overlooked.

Lego Star Wars The Complete Saga comes out on Tuesday, November 6th 2007. Call of Duty 4 will get all the press. But is it really a better game all around? I don't know since I haven't played it (demo or otherwise) but let me tell you why I'll always like Lego Star Wars Complete Saga over Call of Duty 4 any day.

1) Anyone can play this game. It doesn't matter how old (or how young) you'll be able to move around and do all that the game asks you to do. I have a friend whose 4 year old son plays Lego Star Wars II The Original Trilogy game on his Xbox 360. He loves it. Granted he's not the best player and he doesn't really finish levels like a more experienced player, but he plays the game for fun. He laughs at almost everything, but especially when the Wookie gets to rip someone's arms off. Entertainment value, pure and simple, and isn't that what games are suppose to be about?

2) You get two games in one. Yes, there was already a release of Lego Star Wars games (one for each trilogy) so what's the big deal? Instead of buying those games separately you now get them as one big package. The game for the prequel trilogy was never made available for the Xbox 360. Now you've got the chance to earn achievements for the prequels just like the original movies. So why didn't they just remake the prequel game and release just that? What's wrong with having both movie trilogy games on one disk? You can easily swap and use characters from one movie set to another. If you want to race speeder bikes on Endor you don't have to use Luke or Leia; you could use Jar Jar or Chancelor Palpatine. Or if roaming the streets of Mos Eisley as Luke and Ben Kenobi just isn't your thing you could roll around as a driodekas or Young Anakin. Think of the possibilities.

3) It's Star Wars, stupid. No matter how much you might not like a Star Wars game or movie or book or whatever you have to admit there's something special about Star Wars. A whole generation of children have no grown up with their world defined by the good and evil of the original Star Wars trilogy. It's mythic. It's phenomenal. It's Star Wars. It doesn't matter how real or life like Call of Duty 4 appears. Will it forever alter a whole generation of children's minds? No. In a couple of years it will be a footnote to gaming and looked back fondly by hard core gamers. But there will be something else to take its place. You can't say THAT about Star Wars.

So when you go out to buy Call of Duty 4 why not pick up Lego Star Wars The Complete Saga as well. When you get bored of playing yet another realistic first person shooter just put in The Complete Saga and play something satisfying and entertaining. I'm sure I'll eventually buy and play Call of Duty 4, but I see more entertainment value in The Complete Saga right now. Don't let this game get overlooked.

May the Force be with you!