Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bah Humbug!

I realized last night while getting ready for bed that I haven't wrapped my Christmas presents yet. Since I will need to deliver them tomorrow on my way home from work that gives me tonight to wrap them all. Can I tell you how much I hate wrapping presents? I'm terrible at it. Especially those gifts that are oddly shaped or have gaps in the packaging. Besides, you go through all that trouble just to have someone rip it right off anyway. They only time they notice your hard work is when you tape it up so much they can't even get into it. I've got a ton of presents to wrap tonight so who knows when I'll be able to get on and play. I only have 310 points to go and just over a week. I need all the play time I can get at this point.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I think I can, I think I can

Okay, I only need 439 more gamer points to reach 10,000. And since it was a New Year Resolution to do it this year that means I have only 13 days left to get that 439 points. Which comes out to 33.77 points per day. So, um, if you know any easy/fast/lazy achievements I can pick up before the end of the month I would appreciate the help. And no, I won't be playing Avatar. I think I can do it without that particular game, thank you very much.

Too sick to play

So I went home early on Wednesday because I was sick. I tried to play a little bit Wednesday night, but that was disastrous.

I stayed home all day on Thursday because I was sick, but did I get any gaming done? No. Why? Because I was too sick to play. If I wasn't huddled up under multiple layers of clothing and a couple of heavy blankets I was throwing everything off and wanting to walk around naked just so I could cool off. I even thought a little skinny dipping in my swimming pool might help at one point. Besides, I don't think I could have held up a controller. Oh well, another gaming streak comes to an end (20 days). I don't mind so much this time. I'd rather live to play another day then find myself six feet under.

I'm back at work today (deadlines had to be met). If I survive and my head hasn't exploded I'll try to play some tonight. Otherwise I'm sure you'll see me over the weekend. But if you ever don't see me online playing for, let's say 3 days in a row, and I haven't told you I'd be offline (like for a vacation or a busted system) then it might be good idea to call 911. Somebody's got to come find my dead decaying body.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One of those moods

I'm going to start this entry off with an apology. I need to too. Why? Because I was in one of those moods the other night. And I'm sorry.

I had a long day at work that day and then I had to go to my parent's house. I guess I didn't HAVE to but I like going and seeing my niece and nephews when they come over. What I don't like is that just watching my three year old nephew . . . I'll call him Katastrophe (he's earned the name) . . . makes me want to take a nap. And I don't just mean when he's playing around on the floor. Just getting him to sit still and play a game that he's wanted to play all day long can be a chore. It's enough to drive this childless girl to the doctor to ask for permanent birth control. Now don't get me wrong, I love my nephew. He just does everything at 100 miles an hour and he can be a bit much to take in my peaceful, laid back, stop-and-smell-the-roses type of world.

By the time I got home I was very tired but I wanted to play games. So I did. But there's two things you should know about me when it comes to gaming if you don't know it already. 1) I'm very competitive. While I don't necessarily play to win I do play to be better than you. Unfortunately that rarely happens. It gets frustrating to always see your name at the bottom of the list (especially when the AI are doing better than you). and 2) I can't stand special treatment. I don't want to be treated any differently because I'm a girl. Or because I don't play as well as you. Or for any other reason. If I lament the fact that I haven't gotten any kills yet I don't want to hear "Oh poor Pengwenn. Let's all go in the middle and just stand there so Pengwenn can kill us." I appreciate the sentiment but I want to get my kills because I've earned them not because you took pity on me. There's more to me and gaming than just these two facets but that's enough for what I have to tell you next.

We started playing the game and our lovely host Mad Max asked what map we wanted to play next in Gears 2. Well there was 8 people in the room and most of us had a suggestion (or a comment on someone else's suggestion) that he didn't hear what I had to say. I gave him a hard time about it. I repeated myself, but once again there was other chatter in the room. When he didn't hear me for the second time but had already selected a different match I teased him about it again. What I expected him to say was "Pengwenn we'll play your map next OK?" What happened was that he backed out of the match before it started up and changed the map to what I had suggested (even though more people had suggested the map he originally had).

I got pissed and left the room.

I sat at the dashboard or the menus (I can't remember) and fumed a little bit. Why? Because I was getting special treatment and it felt like I was getting it because I'm such a lousy player and a 'poor Pengwenn needs all the help she can get' type of thing. I know that wasn't his intentions and I know that's probably not what anyone else was thinking. But what *I* was thinking was that everyone was going to be mad because they were looking forward to playing Subway and now they have to play Gridlock and it's all because of me. I told you I'm always at the bottom of the score list, and that's when I play well, I don't need everyone coming after me to show their displeasure (team kill was on so I mean everyone). I debated about joining back in, calling it a night or playing something else.

I joined back in the game, but I wasn't going to say anything while we played Gridlock. After that I didn't say anything because I didn't want to have to explain anything and get all pissed again. Once we were done playing Gridlock I wasn't mad anymore. But I came back for a reason.

I like playing with my friends. No matter how many matches I'm on the bottom of the scoring list I still like to play with them. Don't ask me why. They're funny (just ask Johnny about Christmas trees) and sweet (Zak's new little girl might very well have some interesting first words). And every now and then their gruff exteriors crumble and they show you their soft underbellies and how much of a gentleman they can be. Like Mad Max backing out and picking the map I wanted instead of the one everyone else selected. Their laughter can be contagious . . . or evil. Their directions are always helpful even if they had to yell at you to give them. Their shots can be deadly or life saving. And they always have your back (in public matches anyway). They might kill you even if you're on the same team and they're mostly apologetic about it afterwards. So even though I don't play as well as them I always want to play with them for the entertainment value alone. I came back for that reason.

And because I respect my friends. I'll never be as consistently good as them but I respect their skills as a gamer and them as a person. I'd never want to come face to face with Hell Weasel or Evil Ric with a torque bow in an alley. And I've learned to keep El Sand Dog more than arms length away at all times while playing Gears. And if I ever hear that c5ride has a sniper and has his sights set on the area where I'm at I'm going to cower in the smaller corner I fit in and bury myself until he's long gone. I'm not going to pop my head up for anything. I'm not stupid. And then there's Fbody's shotgun. While the rest of us are still trying to figure out the nuances of the gun in the latest game, he acts like he's been reunited with an old friend. And if someone could just tie some bells around Zak's neck I would greatly appreciate it. And I still haven't seen anyone with a more spectacular boomshot than the one Johnny Blade had on Gridlock several weeks ago. That shot has gone down in history.

Anyway, I play with my friends because I like them and respect them . . . even when I get pissy. And before any of you ask I was not PMSing. So I apologize for all my past moods. And I apologize for any future pissy moods I might get into in the future. Depending on the day I had it might not take much to set me off. Just know this: it will pass. I can't stay mad at you guys forever. After all I still have Pogue Moran on my friend's list don't I?

Monday, December 8, 2008

I've been robbed!

I've been robbed! But I'm over it now.

I mentioned that I started a blog for my Xbox 360 at www.360voice.com. Your Xbox 360 "writes" entries based on how you've used, or not used, the system each day. While I know I'm not going to be the best player out there, I knew there was one thing I could be good at. Playing every day and maintaining a continuous streak.

With my recent move I wasn't sure how I was going to maintain my streak. My internet connection was still hooked up at my apartment, but my TV and all my furniture was moved to my new house. For two days I took my system over to my parent's house (much to my mother's dismay) and hooked up and got online. Sometimes I played for an hour or so. Sometimes I just logged in, opened up a game and played for five minutes. Just long enough for the system to register that I was online and playing (even if I only had the game up in the menus). It was enough for me.

Once I got everything up and running at my new place I could go back to my regularly scheduled gaming habit. My mom was relieved. And for awhile everything was working just fine. That was until Thanksgiving.

I spent a lot of the day at my parents for the big turkey dinner. I didn't get home that night until 10pm, but there was still plenty of time to play games. I booted my system up and played Gears of War 2 with my friends. I don't know if that was the night we played late, or if after a couple of matches everyone went to bed and I decided to watch a movie in my Xbox 360 before going to bed. Either way I played that night just like every night previously for the last 244 days (according to my 360's blog). But something happened and I was about to get robbed.

It wasn't until Saturday when I was playing around on my computer that I decided to go read my 360's blog and see where my ranking was for my continuous streak. When I checked the numbers my ranking was down in the 40,000s instead of the 190s range I was at before. What happened? I went back and read through all my entries and found out that the entry for the Thanksgiving holiday said I hadn't played at all. That can't be right. I played. I ALWAYS play.

But there it was in black and white. My streak was gone. My badge was gone. My rank was gone. I was robbed.

I didn't know what to do. I didn't know if there was someone I could contact to correct the problem. I was livid. After all my hard work and stress about keeping my streak going during the whole moving process only to have my streak ended in what was obviously a glitch in the system. I wanted to rip someone's head off (now you know why I like snapping the neck of a meat shield in Gears 2). I was so mad I wanted to chuck my 360 into my swimming pool. But I didn't. I walked away. Let myself cool off. And THEN started snapping people's necks.

It's been a week and a half since then and I've come to turns with it. I've cooled down enough to wonder if it really matters in the long run. I mean, any idiot can turn their Xbox 360 on every day and get a continuous streak going. There's no skill involved other than pushing a button and logging in. So I play video games every day. Do I really need a badge that lets everyone else know that? Probably not, because then I'll start to hear those "get a life" mutterings from every Tom, Dick and Harry I meet.

I just wanted to be good at something. Better than my peers. It's not going to happen in the games I play, with the people I play. So why not pick something I CAN do and maybe be better at than others. I know I have friends that play online every day too and if they had a blog at www.360voice.com they'd have a continuous streak just as long as mine. Maybe even longer. But for now, I had all my friends (who are on the site) beaten. Oh well.

Since my streak has been broken sometimes I haven't felt like getting online. What's the point? I don't have a streak I have to maintain any more. If I do get online I know I'm going to be wrapped up in a couple hours of game play. But now I've got a house that needs some attention and other hobbies that I'd like to spend some time doing. But not playing online makes me miss some of my friends. They can be a pain in the you-know-what but I love playing with them anyway.

Maybe getting robbed of my continuous streak was a good thing. Maybe I'll find the time to finish reading a book I started over the summer. Or get some more cross stitching done on the pattern I'm making for my mom. It's a large one and it would be nice to get it finished before she dies. (Not that she's going anywhere, it's just that big of a project.) Either way I'll still be playing video games. I can't image a life not playing video games. Besides I HAVE to play some move video games. I have a New Year's Resolution to break the 10,000 point barrier with my gamer score (I'm currently at 9,531) and I'm running out of time to do it in. So I'll see you online. Like always.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The high art of poetry

Here's a gaming limerick just for you:

A gamer once played for the thrill
Without any particular skill
She'd run and she'd shoot
and pick up the loot
All for the rush of the kill

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Linkin Park has it all wrong

I'm a huge Linkin Park fan. I have all their CDs, blast their songs when I hear them on the radio and sing loudly along with them while I'm driving. One of my favorite songs is "In the End", but I have to tell you they've got it all wrong . . . as far as gaming is concerned.

If you don't know the lyrics to the chorus here they are:

"I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn't even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn't even matter"

How do I know they've got it all wrong? Because in "The End" it DOES matter.

Just ask my brother kai. He recently just finished playing the story in Call of Duty 4 and he was over the moon at having finished his first video game. I know how he feels. I've finished a few games in my life too. And I have four more I should be finishing sometime (along with my brother dain --hint hint--).

There's something magical about getting to see "The End" pop up on the screen after long hours of game play. After saving Little Sisters . . . or harvesting them. After finding out your father is Sin and defeating him . . . and then realize who/what you are? And finding out long lost friends, who became enemies, become friends again in death and their Dragoon orbs await another hero. It's a sense of accomplishment. An achievement without a musical note and a score of points . . . unless you finish Portal than you have your very own musical score to listen to.

Finishing a game means your hard work paid off. Hours spent agonizing over how to finish a level and move on to the next one are answered with a "Ta-da" instead of "our Princess is in another Castle". It's a show of mental powers as well as physical endurance. You can prove that you can go days, weeks or even months between gaming sessions in a single game and yet still follow the story line to get done what needs to be done. You've endured the button mashing and you might even have the bruises or calluses to prove it. It's wonderful.

But once you finish a game that has more than one difficulty setting every gamer is faced with the same question. Do I go back and replay the game on a harder difficulty? I know some gamers that go for the hardest difficulty the first time around. In a lot of games that unlocks all the achievements on the lower difficulty settings at the same time. Even then, in a lot of games the "insane" setting doesn't unlock until you've beaten the game once before. So in order to get those achievements you would have to play the game twice. But we're not talking about finishing achievements here. We're talking about the game itself.

As much as getting "The End" message on your screen after a long gaming session, it's even worse getting the "Game Over" message. You don't have "to fall" to get to "The End" . . . at least not in any of the games I've finished. And with save files it really doesn't matter if you do. Do you remember when "Game Over" literally meant your game was over? There were no restarts from the last checkpoint or loading last save file. When your character died he was . . . well, dead. But as much as "Game Over" is devastating "The End" is just as rewarding.

So Linkin Park might not have got it right when it comes to gaming, but I'm still going to be belting out their tunes on my drive home even though I hear the shower has better acoustics. And once I get home I'll be working on that elusive "The End" and the rush of euphoria that comes with it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Poll Results - Game Anticipation

So here are the results from my last poll:

What game are you anticipating the most?

Gears of War 2 = 7 votes
Call of Duty: World at War = 5 votes
Other = 1 vote

I voted for Gears of War 2 because honestly that is the game I was most anticipating based on the poll. If I had had a poll like this a couple of months ago than Fable II would have been top on my list.

Neither game stands out as a knock out killer sequel. Gears is just too much of the same thing and well, Call of Duty: World at War is too, although done by a different developer than the last one. Yes, they add new maps, but that's a given on any shooter sequel. And yes, they add new weapons. Gears adds a couple of grenades and weapons and Call of Duty adds a lot of "new" weapons but keeping the gun play realistic to the time period. And yes, there are some new game play features. Gears now has the ability to stick grenades on the wall, chainsaw your opponent from the bottom up and several different finishing moves for after knocking the enemy down. The fact that that enemy can now crawl out of harm's way is also a new feature. Call of Duty has attack dogs instead of a helicopter and tanks to drive around and blow things up with.

Nothing too innovative in either one of the sequels. We've seen tanks before in Star Wars Battlefront. Along with mines (stinking grenades). We've seen finishing moves too. There's more to games than just the game play though. There's graphic!

While both games show an improvement in the graphics departments I'm not sure it's all a good thing. At least with my eyes. When I was trying to describe the maps to my brother kai while playing the beta of Call of Duty I had one word for them: MESSY. There was stuff everywhere. Places to hide, which can be a good thing, but then again that makes a lot of places to get snipped from. It seems there is a lot more snipping going on the the latest Call of Duty than I ever saw in the last one. And while the "flashback" maps in Gears of War 2 look impressive they also look flat. At least to me. The look of grass and weeds overrunning everything looks more than a splash of green paint than anything realistic. There was something stark, realistic and eerie looking about the mangled areas of Gridlock that just looks abandoned with the new version. And while the new lighting inside the Mansion looks impressive it makes game play tricky sometimes when facing enemies.

Love 'em or hate 'em these two games feel like more of the same thing while playing them. While I enjoyed playing the previous versions and I'm enjoying playing the latest installments I'm not sure how much I would enjoy them if the next ones come out just the same. It's like buying a novel one chapter at a time. Eventually you have to ask yourself if it's worth it to shell out $60 a chapter. So far I think it is, but that might not last much longer.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One season at a time please!

Enough with the Christmas music already. There's only so many times and versions of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" I can take before I want to blast that glowing orifice right off his cute furry face. Just so you know. Now back to your regularly scheduled lives.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008



I hate spoilers. And I especially hate the people that divulge those spoilers. You know what I'm talking about. "When you get to the end of Fable II you'll have the choice of resurrecting your sister or your dog." What? What happens to the dog?

The sister I knew about because I was past that point in the story, but the dog was something I'd only suspected. I had heard some people in another game talking about their dog dying in Fable II. I wasn't really listening as to how the dog died (I was trying to kill the enemy) so I just figured one of the players was very evil and starved it or beat it to death. In a morality game like Fable, I wouldn't be surprised if that was an option. But when I was playing with my friends and they started talking about the end of Fable I had someone spoil it for me. My dog can't die. I love my dog. I play fetch with my dog any time I'm in an open area. Whenever he finds a treasure or starts digging I make sure to reward him. I've got a pampered pooch and I'm not going to change that.

Except now when I play with my dog I feel sad. Now I know that something is going to happen to him and he won't be around anymore. Yes, I know that happens in real life but I don't have a dog in real life. I have a dog in Fable II and if my character can survive through anything then my dog should too. Every time I throw the ball I'm left wondering how much time I've got left with him. Considering how I'm still very early in the game I'm sure it's a lot. But knowing that the end of my dog's life is coming if I continue to play doesn't really make me want to play at all any more.

Do I think MadMax deliberately told me my dog would die? No. He was talking to someone else on our team about the game. He knew I had it, but he just didn't know how far in the game I really was. I don't fault him for the innocent slip up that first time. But for every time after that I do. Which is why I ran around trying to kill him even though he was on my team. That will teach him to tell me my dog's going to die. I think he learned his lesson.

Fable II isn't the only game where a major plot point has been revealed to me long before I played it. The biggest spoiler I can remember concerns Final Fantasy VII. Considering as I didn't start playing this game until a year or so ago and that it has been out a long time there were plenty of opportunities for me to accidentally catch spoilers. I try to avoid ones of games I haven't played before but I came across one for this game that I couldn't help but pay attention to. I found out Aries gets killed by Sephiroth. I even saw the cut scene for it. I didn't know when in the game it happens except that it was fairly early on. What fascinated me about this spoiler and why I probably couldn't ignore it was all the hardcore fanboys saying this was the first time a video game made them cry. When I hear something like that I've just got to know how and why. Hence the spoiler.

So when I finally got around to playing this game I already knew a major plot twist. Did it effect my enjoyment of the game. Absolutely. Why spend all that time, money and energy equipping and using that character if you know they're going to kick the bucket early on. I don't care how powerful her special attacks/magic strikes are it just wasn't worth it to me. When I got to the point in the story where she's killed I was like "so what?" and "good riddance" because that was one less character I was going to have to maintain and use. Because I didn't well up with tears at her death, does that mean I'm a cold-hearted person? No. It just means I already knew what was happening and I had that "been there, done that" feeling about it. I still think it's a moving piece in the story (not as much as some of the ones in Final Fantasy X, but then again those scenes weren't spoiled for me). But because I knew what was going to happen it didn't have the same emotional impact as what I think the developers had in mind.

One of the great things about Xbox Live's service is that you can go and see what games your friends have played recently and which ones that haven't played in awhile (yes, Zenra, I will be going back to spend more time in The Force Unleashed so you can stop asking me about it). You know what games you have in common with your friends so while you play Gears of War 2 you can talk about Fable II. The problem is unless you look at their individual achievements you don't really know how far in the game they really are. Or how far anyone else listening in are in the game. So you might accidentally spoil something for someone else. I had to play a game with my friends with the headset volume all the way down because they kept talking about games I haven't played. I still left my mic open so I couldn't tell them where the enemy was but I couldn't hear anything they said. Every now and then I'd turn the volume up to see what they were talking about now, but I had to quickly turn it down again once I figure they were still at it. It's nice to listen to get help and pointers about getting through an area in a game, but it's not nice to hear your dog is going to die.

As long as you play games and have friends that do so too you'll run the risk of hearing spoilers that you didn't want to hear. You'll have friends that get the game on launch day whereas you'll have to wait a day or two due to budget constraints. Or you get it at the same time but they can sit down and crank out 3-4 hours of gameplay while you might only be able to do 1-2 hours. They'll be ahead of you and will want to talk about the game. You will be trying not to listen because you don't want to spoil the fun of discovery yourself. It's a burden all gamers have to face. Some of us just face it more violently than others. You spoil something for me and I will shoot to kill. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Election Poll Conspiracy

Every election poll period as a conspiracy or two, doesn't it? Well, I think the poll currently on my blog has something going on I don't know about. When I voted it wouldn't register my vote. It took a couple of attempts before my vote registered with the final numbers. Was I casting a provisional ballot or what?

The way I knew I was having problems was I clicked the "show results" link to see what the total numbers were and then I clicked "vote on this poll", voted, and the numbers didn't change. Now I wouldn't want you to think I was casting my vote based on how everyone else was voting. My vote was going to be my vote no matter what anyone else voted for. You'll just have to wait until the poll is closed to find out what it was. But I wouldn't want you to try this for all my polls because I want your vote to count for what you really think.

So there must be some kind of glitch or problem with Blogger's polling gadgets. If you think your vote wasn't counted slip me a $20 . . . I mean feel free to double check the numbers and vote again. But no stuffing the ballot box. That's a conspiracy I could do without here. After all, in the grand scheme of things isn't this vote, and only this vote, the only thing that matters now-a-days? At least until I post the next poll for you to vote in.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

New Poll - What game are you most looking forward to?

Okay, a new poll is up and this one is going to be a quickie.

What game are you most looking forward to?

Gears of War 2
Call of Duty 5
Other (please specify in comments)

Vote and tell me what game and maybe even leave a comment as to why. The Call of Duty 5 beta testing seems to be going really well, yet everyone has been anticipating Gears of War 2 for so long. If you can't have them both (at least not right away) which one would you buy first? If you're budget is tight like mine you might be able to only afford one.

Poll Results - Wireless 360?

Here are the latest poll results:

Do you use a wireless connection for your Xbox 360?

Yes = 6 votes
No = 11 votes
Never heard of wireless = 0 votes
Don't have an Xbox 360 = 1 vote

Okay, so who doesn't have an Xbox 360? Come on, fess up now.

Anyway, I'm finally moved into my new house. Sometimes I regret the decision and sometimes I love it. We'll see what side wins out when the utility bills start coming in and I have to make my first mortgage payment.

My gaming internet set up is still a wired connection for now. I don't have the money or the time to shop around for the best wireless receiver for my Xbox 360. From the comments I've heard so far from friends, I don't want to get the Microsoft wireless receiver as it doesn't work very well. Maybe in a couple of months I can start looking at options.

Right now I have an ethernet cable running along the floor through my house. It crosses the hallway to the bedrooms and crosses in front of the doorway from the front room, but otherwise it's pretty much out of the way of general traffic. The cable is not long enough to snake it up over the doorway or hallway, but I guess I could get a longer one for that. But if I'm going to go wireless eventually I'm not going to be spending my money on longer ethernet cables now. If I was still renting I might, but every penny counts now. And I've been spending a lot of them lately just to get in there and fix some things up.

I've hosted a couple of Gears of War matches and I do notice a little improvement with my connection. It's not enough to make me a better player, but it's easier to get those "host" kills that all my friends really love dying by. Just ask them; they'll tell you.

I really love being able to turn the volume up as loud as I want while playing. It's allowed me to stop and listen for the enemy before charging into things like I did before. At least now I don't have to worry if someone is going to pound on my walls about the noise. No, I'm not blasting out the neighborhood either. I've got wood and tile flooring throughout the main living areas so any sound gets bounced around and seems louder and cavernous than it would if I had all carpeting. But it's nice to not have to worry about the volume as I play.

If anyone knows the type, brand and price of the wireless receiver you're using for your Xbox 360 I'd like to know how it's working for you. Leave a comment or send me a PM on Xbox Live. I'm not looking to buy right away but any fore-knowledge before I do will help.

New wireless receiver: approximately $100
Look of surprise on store employee's face when a girl walks in and knows things about wireless receivers: Priceless

Saturday, November 1, 2008


I now own and live in my own house. Would someone please tell me why I did all of this? Besides all the little things like garage door remotes, nonfunctioning phone jacks, dead cable outlets and improperly ordered/delivered refrigerators I now get the pleasure of spending the next thirtly years listening to my backyard neighbors blast their music on a Saturday night. Isn't that why I wanted to get out of an apartment in the first place? If I was still in an apartment and my neighbors were blasting their music that loud the whole complex would hear them. People four apartments down would be pounding on their walls to make it stop.

Like I said, can anyone tell me why I did all of this? 'Cause right now it all feels the same . . . except for my bank account. That is considerably lighter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The early bird gets the game

Okay, so I have two rants to give you today. They're both related, kind of like ugly half-siblings of each other so you're going to get them all in one package. Now who said America wasn't a melting pot any more?

Rant #1:

Gamerscore cheaters on new games.

Yes, I know people will do things to boost their gamerscore. You know, play in matches with friends only and doing things specifically just to get an achievement. I've done that occasionally. But only on the hard to get achievements because nobody plays the game (thanks Kralon for playing Spyglass Board games). The Bog map in Gears of War was the exception, but then again NOBODY likes playing that map.

What irks me is that people were getting 200 out of 200 gamerscore on Fable II Pub Games long before Fable II came out. How could they do that when one of the achievements in the Pub Games is to play as your character from Fable II? If you don't have Fable II there's no way you could get that achievement unless you cheated somehow. And even if you had the game you're still cheating because Fable II wasn't suppose to be until today. Which leads me to rant #2....

Rant #2:

People who get highly anticipated games long before they're available to the rest of us.

A couple of days ago I noticed one of the friends on my list was playing Fable II. When I saw him playing the game I got mad . . . and jealous. It's a big convoluted story that he knows someone who works in a game store and sells him a different game for $60 bucks but gives him the Fable II game instead. His inventory doesn't match up but his books will at the end of the month. To me that's cheating. And it should be illegal. If a game isn't suppose to be out until October 22nd there shouldn't be people out there playing it on October 21st or any earlier.

Then last night while playing Gears of War one of my friends said someone on his list was playing Gears of War 2. They were online looking for matches. Excuse me? Doesn't Gears 2 come out sometime in November? Last time I looked it was still October. And did he really think he'd find someone to play with this early? The rest of us just sit in growing excitement and anticipation until when the game is really suppose to come out while cheaters get the game early and get to play it? That is so not right.

Microsoft made a huge deal about banning anyone found playing Halo 3 prior to the release date. Everyone who got it early had to make sure they didn't log into Xbox Live until after the release date so nobody would know when they got the game. Of course that meant they couldn't play online multiplayer matches. Don't you just feel for those cheaters? I know Halo 3 was Microsoft's baby but don't you think they could do the same thing for Fable II and Gears of War II? Those are huge games for Microsoft. They might not be games Microsoft owns or developed themselves but I think they've done more for the system than the Halo series has. At least more good. If someone refers to a "trash-talking gaming idiot" must likely they say "trash-talking, Halo gaming idiot". I'm just saying.

So while the rest of us are abiding by the law and will wait (impatiently) until the official release date to pick up a game why can't those who cheat get some kind of punishment? How about a ban from Xbox Live for a week? I'd like to hear them say it wasn't their fault they opened up the game, stuck it in their Xbox 360 and started playing when they didn't know they weren't suppose to. Come on. Any gamer worth their salt is going to know the release date of games they're interested in. And any store who sells games early (legally or otherwise) should be fined.

The early bird might get the game, but I hope they get banned as well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wireless for Dummies

Let me start off by saying I know what a wireless connection is and how it works. I just had to say that because I didn't want you to think I was any more stupid that I actually am.

I'm getting really close to the end of this house buying process. If all things go according to plan I should be in my new house in a couple of weeks. Maybe by then I'll have some mental energy left to post more here.

One of the issues I have with my house is that I will either need to string a long Ethernet cable through out the house from my router to my Xbox 360 or go to a wireless connection for my gaming enjoyment. In my research of wireless connectors for an Xbox 360 it says two things: 1) your Xbox 360 should be within 30 feet of the wireless router, and 2) it should have a clear "line of sight" to the router.

Now depending on what bedroom I turn into my office the 30 feet rule shouldn't be a problem. However, the line of sight one is a big problem. Unless I put my router in the same room as my Xbox 360 there's no way I could get a "line of sight" system set up. I could always leave my consoles wired and convert my computer to the wireless part of my router but I will feel more comfortable if my personal information is not open to anyone walking by looking for a connection. And before dain starts in on me, yes I know there are ways to secure your connection. I'm just saying that's how I feel.

You see, my tech suaveness comes from the actual use of technology. I can make really interesting and complicated Word documents of Excel spreadsheets. Once you start getting into Visual Basics and other more intense programing I start to get lost. That's what my brother dain is for. He's the resident family go-to guy for anything tech related. If anything were to happen to him my whole (Arizona) family would be up a creek when it comes to anything that you plug in. He knows it. And sometimes he can't stand our lack of knowledge. If anything needs to be done to my house to make my gaming systems playable online he's going to be the one to do it.

So if any of you are using a wireless system for your Xbox 360 I'd love to hear how it's working for you. Do you have it in the same room as your router? Does it have a "line of sight" to your router? What's your online performance like? Do you have lag issues? Anything you can tell me I'd really appreciate it. I might know a bunch of things about a variety of subjects but when it comes to technology even the yellow "dummies" books are sometimes over my head.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I've been relicensed

Well, I finally figured out (and took the time) to change the licensing on three of my Arcade games that I haven't been able to play since I sent my system back for repair. The process was very easy and enlightening. I just wish the gameplay could have been the same.

If you go onto xbox.com's website and their support page there's a link to the relicensing instructions. I followed the steps and I can now play Double Dragon, Golden Axe and Sonic the Hedgehog without the game reverting to the trail version. If anyone is having problems with their arcade games, either through having a different console or other wackiness I'd suggest you give the link a look-see. The only down side I saw was that you can only change your licensing once every 12 months. Hopefully that won't be a problem, but with Microsoft you never know.

I got one achievement in Golden Axe but didn't do so well in the other two. If anyone has these games and needs someone for some co-op play send me an invite and I'll see about joining you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fable II cheaters - my speculations

I was going to comment on Zenra's comment on my last post but I realized I had more to say than just a simple paragraph or two. So here it is.

First off: this glitch was discovered immediately once the game was out and the next day someone at the developer said a fix would be coming but then . . . nothing. Not a word, not a fix. Now I don't know anything about programming or game design but this glitch seems like an easy one to fix compared to say turning a chainsaw into a shot gun. So I think one of two options happened:

1) the person who spoke out that a fix was coming (and would be out soon) shouldn't have because he didn't know what he was talking about because this was planned from the beginning. If this is the case I'd like to know what happened to him. Did he get reprimanded? Or maybe after working to try to fix the problem they found out it's more complicated than originally thought. Which might lead to...

2) they decided AFTER THE FACT to incorporate the glitch into the game (since Fable is all about morality) when it's released. That could mean you have a warrant out for your arrest from the moment you start the game; or your patron comes after you for their share of the money because they funded you; or that no one will sell you anything because they don't want "dirty" money. That last one would be hilarious. You've cheated to get all that money to buy everything in the game from the get go, but no one would take it because it's "ill-gotten gains". That would teach the cheaters. I would even wait longer if the game is delayed in order for them to make that last option an integral part of the game. As much as I'm looking forward to playing that game I'd love to see those cheaters get what's coming to 'em.

I've visited message boards ever since the game was released and at the beginning there were a lot of people that were bragging about glitching and 'earning' lots of credits. They said if their credits were reset or if they had to start off playing as an evil character first "no big deal". Their next play through they'd just be good. But what I noticed the longer time passed without a patch or a word from the the developer most of them started to get worried. They wondered what kind of ramifications they'd have to face once they got the game. Would it lock up and refuse to load because they glitched? Knowing who this game is coming from, and the fact that Moyneux likes to push things and challenge gamers, they all figure something is up with this glitches, either from the beginning or as an after thought.

There is the possibility that nothing is going to happen and this is all a publicity stunt to keep gamers excited about a game that's not going to come out for awhile. I wouldn't put it past anyone to consider that. But just from the fact that the original Fable was a morality game (and it appears Fable II will be the same way) and that there is no obvious reason to create and release The Pub Games as an Arcade game besides to generate interest about the real game I have to think that something else is going on. It takes time, money and a lot of work to create an Arcade game so why go through all of that if it's just for publicity? Molyneux has said he likes to push the envelope and challenge gamer's thinking. I think releasing an Arcade game to tie into a retail game qualifies in that respect. But Molyneux is ambitious and I don't think an Arcade game tie-in is the extent of what he wants to do with his games. I could be wrong.

I will be playing Fable II at least twice; once as good and once as evil. I may even play it a third time to see if I can remain neutral. It might be boring but I like a challenge. Whether I have to play evil first because dain made me take a glitched win doesn't really matter to me. I just want to play the game. But since I don't play sequels until I've finished the first one I guess I need to get back to playing the original. And believe me I'm not complaining . . . except that I've just picked up The Force Unleashed and want to play that . . . and I've got Gears of War 2 on pre-order as well as Fable II. Okay, so maybe I'm complaining that I don't have enough time to play the games I want to. But then I'm always complaining about that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fable II cheaters will be punished

HA! I knew it. Molyneux: Fable II Cheaters Will Be Punished. Whether they planned all this or someone missed the glitch in the quality control I would love to see all those cheaters suffer somehow when the game comes out.

Oh wait, maybe not suffer TOO badly since I was showing the glitch to dain, with no intention of actually taking the huge payout it offered me, when I accidentally hit the wrong button and won big. If anyone should be punished it should be him.

I'm playing the game fair and square (except for that one hand) so maybe I should just get off with a warning. That's right, a warning. AND I'm paying my debts off before I log off. That's the kind of responsible-imaginary-fantasy-world-thrill-seeking-gambler I am. You got a problem with that?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Who changed the rules on me?

On Wednesday I saw someone on my friends list playing Gin Rummy. Eh? When did this game come out? Apparently just that day. Without even playing it or finding out any information about it I bought it and downloaded it. Come on, it's Gin Rummy. How hard would it be to learn how to play that game?


I've been playing Gin Rummy since I was about 8 years old. I still remember the first time I starting winning against my older sister and brother. After I won three or four hands in a row they suddenly didn't want to play any more. I think Gin Rummy was the only game, besides Canasta, that me and my siblings could play without some kind of argument breaking out over how someone was playing. It was a game we took seriously and we play it competitively too. When my sister was in labor with her first child we played Gin Rummy to pass the time. She almost always won. When I started to win more and more I knew her labor was increasing. I could have played much longer than we did, but after a while my sister couldn't keep up the pace.

I know how to play Gin Rummy. I love playing Gin Rummy. But all that came crashing down when I played the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game.

In the first game I never even scored a point. And whoever heard of "knocking"? When I started the game I thought it was laughable that there would be a "tutorial" for the game. You either know how to play it and so you'd want to get the game or your not interested. But after the first game I didn't have a clue as to what was going on. The second game wasn't much better and yet I still refused to go through the tutorial to figure out how they changed the rules on me.

I played it a third time last night and finally figured out what "knocking" was. And I don't like it. Gin Rummy is all about the patience and strategy to get a complete hand and go out before anyone else does. It's not about going out with a less than complete hand, i.e. "knocking". It feels cheap to "knock" and I don't like it. I did manage to get "Gin" on one hand and go out completely. No extra cards. No leftovers. Nothing. THAT'S the way Gin Rummy is suppose to be played. I won the hand and picked up a couple of achievements but there was a time there when I thought I had made a huge mistake in buying the game without playing it first.

I think I will have to spend some time in the tutorials just so I know how the system is going to play the game. I hope their convoluted rules don't ruin my love of the game. But I should warn you if you ever play a game with me online. This is the first game I ever got competitive about and so my competitive drive in Gin Rummy is stronger than anything else I play. If you know me that's saying something. They only way you're going to be able to beat me is because I don't know the rules the developer put in this game. Until then, be prepared to be annihilated. Who said card games can't be deadly?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My (latest and multiple) Obsessions

So I've been thinking about what my next Arcade games was going to be. I have lots to choose from. You see, I need some small little game to focus on whenever I need a break from the larger, harder and usually more time consuming disk games. Backgammon, Puzzle Quest and Jewel Quest all filled that need. So I've been looking for the next one.

Then I found it.

I loved playing Fable on the original Xbox. I've never got very far in the game because I spent too much time exploring and robbing people (I love doing that). So when I found out Fable II was coming out I was very excited. Then I found out that there would be an Xbox Live Arcade game that you can get before the game comes out that would have mini games from Fable II in it. And THEN I found out if you pre-ordered Fable II you'd get a code to unlock the Arcade game for free. I was there.

From the very first note on the opening screen I was hooked. I love the music of the first Fable game. I even have the soundtrack and listen it to quite often at work. Then I started to play the games. While I haven't figured out any strategy, besides random chance, in the Spinnerbox game I love the other two, Fortune's Tower and Keystone.

When I first started playing I couldn't win anything in Fortune's Tower. Keystone on the other hand was a gold mine for me. And no I haven't been using any of the glitches that make you win big even though you bet small. I finally figured out a strategy for Fortune's Tower and I've been doing well ever since.

The problem is all the games are so addicting. When it's time to go to bed it's just so easy to tell yourself you'll play one more pyramid, or archway or just one more spin. Next thing you know 30 minutes have gone by and you can barely keep your eyes open. Or you find yourself just wanting to get in one quick game before you go to work only to find yourself in a mad dash out the door trying to get to work on time (or maybe arriving late and sneaking past your boss).

Those games are addicting and fun and I'm loving every minute of them.

And then when I feel I need to pull myself away from the Pub Games for the sake of my sanity (and my job) I've started playing Hexic HD. A simple game that can be over quick but that could also provide an extended amount of play and challenges. I wasn't expecting much while playing it but I've pick up 4 achievements in the last couple of days and now I'm getting addicted to that game as well.

I finally made my first black pearl last night in a "just one more game and then I'll quit" moment. Considering I lost 6 silver stars in two separate collapses because I wasn't paying attention before I made the black pearl I was very proud of myself. I wasn't trying for it specifically, just trying to see what I could do. Any game that rewards me with achievements when I'm just trying to have fun and experiment with game play is worth it to me.

The only down side to my latest obsessions is that they're all single player games. I'd love to have an Arcade game that I obsess about getting all the achievements in that I could actually play along with my friends. We usually have such a good time playing with each other, name calling not-with-standing, that it bothers me I can't combine the two things. Oh well, maybe someone will come up with a game (Novadrome, Marble Blast Ultra, Small Arms or something) we could all agree to play.

Until then you can probably find me in the Pub. Spinning disks, rolling dice or dealing cards. At least the din of the background noise in the Pub makes me feel not quite so alone. Now if only my patron could loan me some more money, I feel an obsession coming on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Eyes - Part 3 (The Transplant List)

[This is a contination of the story of my eyes. Please read "My Eyes - Part 1 (The Diagnosis" and "My Eyes - Part 2 (The Treatment) prior to reading this.]

When the doctor told me I would need a corneal transplant my mind went numb. Because I didn't know much about the surgery I started imagining the worst. And since I like to write fiction stories my imagination went into overdrive.

One of the possibility is your eye could rupture. For me I was picturing a volcano type eruption coming from my eye. Then there was all the science fiction horrors I imagined. Like would I see things the way the donor sees things? Would there be cellular memory in that if I saw the face of someone the donor knew would I think I knew them as well? Let your imagination go wild with the ideas and I probably already thought about them.

But the two worst ideas I ever had took a long time to just come to grips with. I even have my moments now where those old feelings come back and I have to fight off the feelings of inadequacy.

The first feeling was that I would be turned into something less than human after the transplant surgery. On the surface this doesn't make sense because the donor cornea isn't coming from a cow or anything, but another person. Still human. But when I thought of all the crowns and root canals I've had done to my teeth and the moles I've had removed and the bone they filed off from my right heel I started to think that eventually I'd become something less than human. More metal and parts than human.

I've never been one to even consider plastic surgery for breast implants, or butt implants or whatever, but I started to wonder if those people (and I felt I was becoming one of them) are turning themselves into another species all together. And once I had that thought my imagination went wild. Would I have less rights as someone who's "all human"? While this thought is a gold mine for inspiration for writing a science fiction story it's not something you ever want to consider personally.

The second big thought/fear I had was "will I still be me?" It naturally sprang out of the first, "less than human", thought. Now I was thinking I was turning into something or someone other than myself. This surgery was going to alter who I was by hopefully making it easier for me to see, but would that be all it altered?

For the longest time I didn't feel like myself. And that was even before the surgery. Since I wasn't able to wear a contact lens in my left eye I really couldn't see very much from that side. It made driving scary and difficult especially when trying to navigate around the back of an elevator in a parking garage without trying to hit a car from the other direction. $3,000 dollars later in repairs to my car (and all the elevator had to get done was a new paint job) and I just didn't want to drive any more. I couldn't play video games very well. I couldn't read without concentrating so hard I gave myself a headache. And just walking down the hall left me dragging one hand along a wall of cubes so I could keep myself walking straight. I couldn't recognize anyone's face until they were right on me. Some people thought I was being rude not acknowledging them until they were right there when they had waved from far back. That was life for me and I had to live that way until my name came up on the transplant list that they had a donor.

My name went on the list in May of 2004. By October I knew that I should be having my surgery around January or February of 2005. My surgery did happen in February of 2005 and while I was grateful to finally have a date so I could get it over with it was a long time waiting and my imagination had control of my emotions during that whole time. I spent many lunch hours just sitting at my desk crying as quietly as I could so I wouldn't bother anyone around me. When the thought that you might lose your eye comes up and that every hobby you like to do requires you to see like reading, cross stitching and playing video games you do tend to cry . . . a lot.

There was a bit of a hiccup just before my surgery. When my annual benefits enrollment came around I switch health care providers. I wasn't going to stick with an HMO that was going from $50 a paycheck to $150 a paycheck even if I didn't have a surgery coming up. What that meant was that in January when I switched to my new provider I had to run around getting the proper documentation that the surgery I had scheduled in February was something previously planned, medically necessary and that I had been under care for this condition for at least three years. I think we got everything straightened out the third week of January and my surgery was schedule for Feb. 5th.

I think my surgery was schedule for 3:30 in the afternoon. It was going to be his last one of the day. And since I wasn't allowed to eat anything for 12 hours before surgery I didn't have anything after I went to bed the night before. But then again I didn't really sleep that night anyway. That sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know you have to do something horrible just grew and grew all night and day. I might have even cried all morning long. I don't remember much before the surgery. But I do remember the surgery, but I'll save that for the next post.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Why can't life be simple?

I promise I'll get back to the story of my eyes soon. I know you're on the edge of your seats for that one (or could you at least pretend you are?). Unfortunately other things in life are messing with my concentration. For instance: house hunting.

When your realtor tells you you're not going to be able to find anything decent in your price range in the location where you're looking you end doing a lot of soul searching. Do I raise my budget and end up eating Top Ramen Noodles for the next 30 years? Or do I move the location where I'm looking and spend 1 hour or more commuting to work each way, every day, for 30 years?

I resigned myself to renting for the rest of my life, or until I win the lottery (note to self: buy lottery ticket). At least until I got home and had to listen to my neighbors and all their racket. At that point I think it didn't matter where I lived as long as it was quiet. So I'm looking again. And much farther away then where I want to be. Hopefully gas prices won't end up over $5 a gallon anytime soon. If it does I might not even be able to afford the Top Ramen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Eyes - Part 2 (The Treatment)

This is the second entry in "My Eyes" saga so please start reading with "My Eyes - Part 1 (The Diagnosis) so you know what's going on.

Okay, so there's one thing I don't like and that's uncertainty or better yet "the unknown". As much as I wanted to freak out (and I did) about knowing about my condition it helped to know that there was treatment and that things can go on for years before surgery was ever needed.

The first step of treatment was glasses. They don't fix your mis-shappened eye but they will help with your vision. When those don't work you have to move on to contacts.

The fact that I would have to get contacts and my insurance company would pay for them was exciting. The reason why, not so much. You can first start out with soft contact lenses but my eyes had already gone past that point and I had to move to a different kind.

That would be Hard Gas-Permeable ones. And when those didn't work they move you to a HGP lense especially developed for Keratoconus. Fitting a nicely curved hard lens on an eye that is not so nicely curved was aweful. It was painful and it took a couple of years to get the right fit. And then every year my vision had changed because my eyes were getting worse that we had to go through the fitting process all over again.

I can't tell you how many times I just sat in the doctor's office and cried when he would tell me my eyes are getting worse. Just the thought of surgery and the complication and the possible loss of vision in that eye (or the eye itself) was enough to make anyone break down. My doctor was great; he would sit and talk to me and alleviate all my fears before making sure I was okay to drive home. When I finally switched health providers and had to pick another doctor I wasn't sure I would ever find someone as caring and compassionate as that man. I've even recommended him to my parents and anyone still using that HMO.

The special HGP lenses for Keratoconus are meant to try and push back the coning shape of your eye into a more rounded form. They're not very comfortable and just getting through the day at work (on a computer) could be long and painful. I hate wearing shoes and those are usually the first things I take off when I get home, but some days the contact lenses had to come out before I could even think about removing my shoes.

I started playing video games long before I knew I had this problem, but I didn't start playing games online until after I had my contacts. Unfortunately because my eyes hurt so much I ended up playing games with my glasses on instead. This meant that I still had some distortion in my vision since the glasses don't do anything to reshape your eye. Sometimes I wondered if I was just a bad player or if my eyes limited me in how I played.

Eventually you get to the point where your eyes become "contact lens intolerant". That means that your cornea has thinned out so much that putting a small piece of plastic on them become extremely painful. It would be like getting an open wound and just when the first new layer of skin starts to form you keep rubbing it back and forth with a pen or a credit card. The only course then is to stop wearing the contact lenses because you run the risk of rupturing the cornea and losing your eye. If you rupture your eye and all the things inside your eye become things outside your eye . . . well, you're screwed.

I got to that point in January of 2004. I know exactly when because I went on a Hawaiian cruise in December and when I got back my allergies had gone haywire. After seeing my doctor for some new allergy medicine my eyes still weren't getting any better. When I saw my eye doctor he said it was time to start seeing a surgeon.

When I saw the surgeon he told me to stop wearing my contact lens in my left eye and to let it heal for awhile and come back to see him. When I did go back a month later he said it's time for surgery for my left eye.

If you get to the point where you can't wear contact lenses any more you're getting to the point where your cornea might thin out enough that you might rupture it just by rubbing your eye. If you do that you'll lose your eye. So around May of 2004 my doctor put my name on the transplant list for a new cornea.

The next step in the process is a corneal transplant. I was at that stage, but I wasn't ready for it. Over the next 9 month I freaked out almost daily. But I'll save that for the next post.

My Eyes - Part I (The Diagnosis)

Okay I've been talking about my eyes for awhile and some of you know the story, but most of you don't. Here it is. It's going to take several posts so it's best to read them in order.

About 10-11 years ago I was in desperate need of a new pair of glasses. I even considered giving contact lenses a try . . . as long as they didn't cost too much. I didn't have any vision coverage through work so everything was going to be paid "out of pocket". So where did I decide to go for a cheap eye exam and glasses? Walmart, of course.

The assistant had me take all kinds of tests with my eyes. For one of them I had to put my face up against a machine to look inside of it. There would be a random flash of light in various places and I would need to push a button every time I saw the light. I wondered why I didn't see as many lights on my left side as I did my right but then I didn't know if that was part of the test. When the assistant pulled the results she said I failed . . . miserably. After another couple of attempts at various test that I did horribly at she said I should really see the doctor and see what he wanted to do about the test.

When he came into the room he look one look at the test results, one look in my eyes and said "Yep, you've got keratoconus." Okay, but what is it?

Keratoconus is a progressive, degenerative eye disease of your cornea. Progressive because it changes over time. Degenerative because it gets worse. What happens is your cornea (the skin-like membrane holding your eye together) thins out over time. Because of the pressure of the fluids and all that stuff in your eye it puts pressure on that thinned out cornea and it bulges out in a cone shape. So instead of your eye being nice and round like a baseball, it's more cone shaped like the end of a football. If you want to know what that makes your vision look like have a look at the photo. Since the light coming into your eyes hits your lenses at all kinds of angles you get overlapping images in your vision.

The doctor said that Keratoconus is considered a medical condition and not a vision condition I would need to go to my medical doctor and get a referral to see a specialist. Thankfully everything would be covered under my medical coverage (which I did have) but getting to that point was a pain in the butt.

It took three months before I finally got everything approved and referred by my HMO and I got in to see a specialist. He confirmed the diagnosis and laid out what the treatment options were. That was when my life started to fall apart emotionally. But I'll cover that in another post.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Otherwise occupied

July has been a slow month for posts here on my blog. There's a reason. I've been looking at buying a house. While that's not taking all of my time it is taking all of my energy and creative thought. I'd love to have my own place (with a tricked out game room) but this whole process is driving me nuts. Just thought you should know.


You might have heard a huge sigh of relief the last two nights. That was me. I finally got two achievements that I've been working on for a long time.

The first achievement was the Purdy Mouth (playing Bullet Marsh 3+ rounds and winning) for Gears of War. My friends took one night and only played that map so a bunch of them picked up the achievement in one night. Unfortunately I wasn't online that night (crazy, I know) so I didn't get to participate in the carnage. Since then my friends have been very reluctant to play that map. Mostly because we all hate it. And because no one likes getting their head popped off by someone they can't even see. Depending on who's hosting our Gears matches at night that map might not be in the rotation. I still have at least one friend who hasn't gotten that achievement yet so I guess we'll still play this map until he gets it. At least I've got it and that makes me happy.

The other time I sighed really wasn't for a particular achievement at all. I just wanted to get ANY achievement in that game. What game was it? Bejeweled 2. I know that probably sounds dumb but I'm having a hard time getting achievements for that game. For the endless one I got up to level 40 something when my save file just vanished after I got booted off of Xbox Live during the middle of a game during that whole Christmas holiday debacle the system was having. Not fun, I tell ya. Since you need 100 or some odd levels to get the Endless achievement I still had a ways to go but I wasn't happy about having to replay the levels I lost.

The Action achievement (I think that's the one) you only need to finish 17 levels. I was only making it up to level 9 before I would get that dreaded "No More Moves" message. I took a break from Bejeweled to play Puzzle Quest and I've found Bejeweled a little bit easier to progress through the levels now. I can still only get up to level 12 in the Action mode but I've earned back 30+ levels in the endless after just a couple of days of trying.

The achievement I got was for completing the Puzzle mode. I use to play that mode every now and then and if I got to a level that I couldn't figure out I would go back to the regular game. I realized the other night that I was close to finishing the puzzle levels . . . and that there were helpful hints available to you. I cruised through all the remaining levels using the hints when I got stuck and it all came down to one level that I couldn't beat. Unfortunately there were no cheats available for this level. I messed around with it one night and couldn't figure it out. The next night I thought I'd try again and after a couple of attempts I finally figured it out. Level complete. Game mode complete. Achievement unlocked!

I finally had an achievement in Bejeweled 2. I've had this game almost as long as I've had my 360. While I'm thrilled I finally got an achievement in that game I feel like the kid who gets overly excited the night before Christmas. When he finally wakes up and open his presents he's left a little underwhelmed about the whole thing. "What? That's it?" He likes what he's got he just can't figure out what all the excitement was for in the first place.

Bejeweled 2 is one of those games where it helps if you can see two or three moves ahead. Kind of like Chess. While I love playing Chess, I'm not very good at it. I can see ahead maybe one or two moves but that usually doesn't take into account my opponent's moves. If you like those types of games you'll probably like Bejeweled 2. And speaking of Chess, I have that game downloaded and no achievements. Oh well. Now I have another game I'll struggle to get an achievements in.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Focused on gaming

I tried a bunch of Arcade games this weekend and picked up a few achievements. Some of them seemed so easy (especially the "East 'A'" one in Boom Boom Rocket) that I wonder why I didn't pick them up sooner. I was only a level away from getting the RooGoo and Marble Blast achievement and just a half a level away from getting the Undertow achievement. Why I quit before when I was that close I'll never know. Or course I might not have known I was that close to getting another achievement when I was playing it the last time.

Getting the Boom Boom Rocket achievement was easy and although I didn't get another achievement I did manage to improve my score on several songs. All because of my headset. I have issues with noise and my upstairs and side neighbors. I bought a headset that has big ear pieces for both ears. It's kind of like wearing earmuffs. You plug it into your TV and your controller. And what you hear through the headset is in stereo so it's really easy to hear someone creeping up on you in Gears of War as long as you have the music volume setting turned way down. Using that headset helps to drown out the noise coming from my neighbors. Unfortunately it also drowns ou the sound of my phone ringing too. Oh well.

Because of the stereo sound and the quality of sounds, minus all the distractions, it's helped me focus more on my gaming. I think my friends in Gears of War have noticed a difference. At least now I'm not turning my head every time my chandelier shakes wondering if it's going to come crashing to the ground. Or cringing every time I can hear my neighbors speak from their apartment or when they slam their front door making my walls rattle every time they come and go (and they do that a lot). I have a little piece and quiet for my gaming and I'm making the most of it as my achievements show.

The only downside to the head set is that there's no mute feature for the microphone. If I had to cough and sneeze I've got to unplug the mic from the controller and then plug it back in when I want to speak again. For a slow paced game like Texas Hold 'Em or Hearts it's not bad but in a fast paced game, like Gears of War or Unreal Tournament 3, when even the slightest twitch can mean the difference between life and death while your fingers are still on the controllers, it's not very convenient to "mute" yourself. But the benefits outweigh the negatives so I'll live with the occasional mute/unmute distractions and hope that my friends can live with the occasional cough and sneeze from over my mic.

I may still have issues with how I see the game, but my mind is focused on gaming when I wear that headset. If you haven't looked into getting one for yourself and you think you might need one I highly recommend it. Coming from someone who'd rather play against you while you're distracted, maybe you should only use something like this while I'm on your team.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's just not my day

So I had to change one of the gazillion passwords I use at work today and I just couldn't think of anything to change it to. I finally settled on "hate5job". Can you tell how my day is going?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Poll Results - How long for a single player game?

Here's the results of the last poll:

How long should it take to finish a good single player game?

15-30 hours = 2 votes
30-50 hours = 5 votes
50-75 hours = 1 vote
100+ hours = 1 vote
0-15 and 75-100 hours = 0 votes

I can understand why no one votes for 0-15 hours. That's just way too short for any game. And if you look at the financial investment you can tell. At $60 a game and it only lasts 15 hours that means you spent $4 a hour to play it. That might not seem like much but I can remember when the minimum wage was less than $4. Now a days that's a breakfast at McDonald's for every hour of game play. Two hours of game play could probably get you into to see a matinee movie, which might also take two hours. But at least with a matinee all you have to do is sit there and be entertained. A game takes work.

I voted for the 100+ hours. You might think I'm crazy, but I have my reasons. I was mostly thinking of RPG style games. Those games usually have areas, side quests, and what-nots built in to them that require a little extra time exploring and wandering around. I certainly don't expect BioShock to take 100 hours to play. I think I did it in about 20 hours, but I'll have to go online tonight and check that out.

However long it took me, BioShock was a short game. The fact that there was nothing else to do besides the main quest didn't help. It's still a great game but it didn't completely satisfy my gaming needs. In other words I wanted more.

With traditional RPG games there's places all over that don't require you to visit them to advance the story. And just about everybody you talk to is going to either a) give you information about the main quest, b) give you the opportunity for a side quest, or c) annoy the crap out of you. In Lost Odyssey the other night I visited an area that opened up on the map but I didn't have to go to. I picked up a few cool items so it was very beneficial to do so. I didn't have to, but I'm a completist when I play RPG type games. I'll explore every option presented to me before moving on.

For some reason I don't expect a game like Gears of War or Call of Duty 4 to have extensive single player campaigns. It would be really nice if it did, but I don't expect it. Maybe because the developers know that the longevity to those games are through the multiplayer game play rather than the single player campaigns. Look at the Halo franchise. The first game was all about the story and game play. They throw in multiplayer stuff with the second one and not everybody who talks about that game focuses on that aspect only. You don't hear people raving over the single player stuff, now do you?

I remember in the good old original Playstation days games were made with really long (and sometimes very difficult) single player game play. Multiplayer game play took a back seat if it was included at all. Now a days with more casual gamers getting into the action and more interactive games on the market (Guitar Hero, anything for the Wii) more gamers are looking for more multiplayer action than single player campaigns. I guess this high profile move is taking the stereotypical gamer from their parent's basement to everyone's living rooms but I hope it doesn't do in single player campaigns and games entirely. Some days you've just got to immerse yourself and play alone in someone else's world. It beats listening to the news in our own world.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I'm a half-wit and proud of it

There are some achievements that are going to kill me. The ones in Brain Challenge specifically. I finally got the "40% brain usage" one the other day and I dont' know if I can task my brain any more. I wish I knew what the key to success in that game was. Is it answering questions fast, right or wrong? Or answering questions right, no matter how long it takes? Either way at 40% I'm less than a half-wit and I'm proud of it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Voting in poll

If you've had problems voting in my latest poll (like I was having) the problem seems to have fixed itself (I certainly didn't do anything). So take a moment and click a little white circle. Come on, you can do it. It doesn't hurt, I promise you.

I'm tired of dying

Sometimes I just get tired of dying. It doesn't matter how much fun I'm having with friends if all I ever do is just die, I'm not going to like it. It gets frustrating not lasting more than 15-20 seconds into a match before my body separates into tiny pieces from someone's well placed shot. Sometimes a girl needs a fighting chance. After all isn't that what first person shooter games are set up to do?

When I get in this mood it's hard to find a game to play with friends when all they want to do is kill people. I don't blame them. Sometimes I can't wait to get into a game and blow someone's head off. But since their skill level is so much higher than mine sometimes it's a hopeless night of repeated deaths for me. And that's not any fun.

Now, if I told my friends I didn't want to die I'm sure they'd do everything they could to not kill me; maybe not even shoot me. And if I was the last person left on my team they'd probably all stand there and let me walk up to them and kill them. While on one hand this would eliminate my dying woes, on the other hand it's patronizing and I'm way too competitive to get a kill or a win that way. I want to earn it. I take great satisfaction sneaking up behind someone and tagging them (frag or smoke grenade, it doesn't matter). Yes, I know I should just play for the fun of it and I do . . . mostly. I just want to get in on the action every now and then.

I can usually put together one stellar match per night. My aim seems to be spot on. My instincts seem to be honed to perfection. But having any control of when or which map that happens on I have no idea when it will happen. And the following map? Those maps are always worse than terrible when it comes to my performance. That's just how I play and I've come to accept it.

What I can't accept is always dying all the time. I've played Gears of War for over a year and half now and I don't seem to have gotten much better than when I started. But when I went back to Star Wars Battlefront the other night I was at the top (or close to the top) of the leaderboards every round without even putting much effort into it. Yes, I've played Battlefront longer than Gears but I would think I would be seeing a return on my time and practice investment by now in that game.

So for now until the foreseeable future you'll probably see me playing single player games like Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon or any number of Arcade games. If I'm playing a multiplayer arcade feel free to join me. But my friends shouldn't worry about me being away from the shooter genre for long. All it takes is one bad day at the office for me to get an overwhelming need to go home and blow someone to bits. As long as I can do that it won't matter how many times I die.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What I hate about RPGs

No, I'm not talking about Rocket Propelled Grenades (noob tubes in Call of Duty 4), which I do hate, but Role Playing Games. I really do love that type of game play but there's one thing that annoys me to no end.

I hate it when you do something in the game that advances the story but locks you out of a certain area at the same time. For instance, I was playing Lost Odyssey the other night I spent some time just exploring the Crimson Forest before venturing back to Numara. Once I got back into the city, before I did anything else, I walked up to the fountain area which triggered a cut scene about the smear campaign that my characters are now up against. I didn't know that activating that cut scene would prevent me from getting into the city itself. I've got crystal shards for a side quest that I've got to deliver. But I can't do that.

Of course I didn't know exactly what was going on until I pulled the strategy guide out and found where I was in the story. Then I knew. Unfortunately I don't have a previous save to go back to so I can complete my side quests BEFORE I trigger the cut scene.

I'm not much of a fan of having multiple save of a game while playing it. Yes, it would have helped in this situation, and many others I've encountered, but I think it just gets too messy. Some games store the most recent game at the top of the list, others at the bottom. Sometimes those game descriptions are hard to figure out where you are in the game play. There's nothing worse than loading a prior save and finding out you're further back than you wanted to be. Plus then you've got to go and pick up those things you've already picked up in another save file. I've used them before but they take up too much room on a memory card (PS2) and I've accidentally delete the wrong save file when I'm cleaning things up.

I did use multiple save files while playing BioShock. I saved every chance I could get. I did this for various reasons. I hated getting into a new area and finding out I had the wrong plasmids equipped to deal with things. Going back to a previous save (usually by a gene bank) allowed me to make the necessary adjustments and continue on. And even if I had the right equipment in a new area I might not be prepared to face a Big Daddy or a bunch of splicers that come on me unaware. It was nice to see what was coming, back out to an earlier save, and then jump into the action. Is this cheating? Perhaps. But it's better than being frustrated and putting the game away when you have difficulty.

But losing access to an area in an RPG game is frustrating. Especially if you're working on side quests. Now, all of a sudden, that area and those completed quests are no longer available until when? Who knows. It could be until the very end of the game or maybe never at all. Legend of Dragoon did this, Final Fantasy does this and every other RPG game I've played has this in there to some extent. When Numara opens up again for me will I remember to go back to that artist and deliver those crystal shards? I hope so but depending on how soon that happens probably not.

There are other things I might not like about RPGs, like few and far between save points in some games, but there's really not much that gets under my nerves. That's probably why that type of gaming is my favorite. I might play a lot of shooter games with friends, but my heart belongs to RPGs even if they lock me out of places I want to go. Hey, it could be worse. They could be leaving the toilet seat up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Poll - How long should it take to finish...

Okay I have a new poll up. How long should it take to finish a good single player game? This could be a first person shooter or an RPG I'm not making the distinction (if you want to, please leave a message in the comments section so I know). I guess "good" is up for debate too but we can discuss that another time if you like.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I don't like you . . . and that's okay

If you've ever been to Disney Land then I'm sure you've gone on the "It's a Small World" ride. And you've probably had that song stuck in your head the rest of the day. It's a cute ride and some of the nations are fascinating but it sends a wrong picture to the world. Yes, it is a world of laughter, a world of tears and we all experience those so it really is a small world in that sense. But in another sense we don't have to get along just because it's a small world.

You've got different views of the world from what I've got but that doesn't mean you're wrong and I'm right. It doesn't mean I'm going to hate you or even like you for that matter. You see, liking someone and getting along with them are two different things. They could be a nice guy but if they cheat at poker you don't have to like them completely. For that matter you don't have to play Poker with them ever again, but that doesn't mean you can't like them.

For instance, I have a couple people on my friends list that are nice folks. Kind, funny and a nice guy/gal to hang around with. But with those friends there are certain games I will not play with them unless I have no other choice. Why? Because of how they play the game. Maybe they cheat. Maybe they glitch. Maybe they become a raving lunatic and can't control themselves. Or maybe they are just so much better than I am that the rest of us playing just don't stand a chance and therefore the game is no longer any fun. And who wants to play a game that isn't fun?

And it's not just my friends list. There are people on the friends lists of my friends that I don't particularly like to play with. And I'm sure I've got some of my friends cringing when someone on my list joins one of my games because I invited them. Do I look down on a friend because he's got a friend that I don't like? Absolutely not. It's a free world (along with being a small one) and he or she can have all the friends they want. I might not always play with my friends when they're playing with someone I don't get along with or feel comfortable when I do play with them, but one or two bad eggs isn't going to ruin a completely separate and enjoyable friendship with my friend. And if you want to look at it from another angle you could say this friend doesn't want to play with that friend so good luck trying to get a room of friends together.

I play with the friends I want to play with at that time. Which is usually the first friend who sends me a game invite to a game I'm in the mood for. Sometimes there are people in the room I don't like or can't stand (especially if it's a public room) but I usually stay and play for awhile. I might not say much (outside of a few choice swear words every now and then) but I'm always up for some good game play.

In a perfect world (or one completely designed by Disney) we would all get along and it wouldn't matter who was friends with who. But if you watch the news you know it's not a perfect world so there's going to be people out there we just don't like. So it's okay to not like someone and not want to play with them. I might not like you, have you ever thought of that? And that's okay too. The key is when you don't like someone to keep your mouth shut. And if you can't do that why don't you just start singing the theme to "It's a Small World" ride. Here are the lyrics for you if it's been awhile:

It's a Small World

it's a world of laughter, a world or tears
its a world of hopes, its a world of fear
there's so much that we share
that its time we're aware
its a small world after all

its a small world after all
its a small world after all
its a small world after all
its a small, small world

There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to everyone.
Though the mountains divide
And the oceans are wide
It's a small small world


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Poll Results - Favorite Gears of War weapon?

Okay here are the results from the latest poll:

What is your favorite Gears of War weapon?

Longshot = 3
Shotgun = 1
Boomshot = 1
Chainsaw, Torque Bow and Frag grenades = 0

My vote was for the Shotgun. I hate its limited range but it's the only weapon I feel comfortable with when I get into a gun battle. I am getting more comfortable with the Lancer and using the chainsaw but the shotgun is still my go-to gun.

My second choice would have been the Boomshot. I don't like the fact that it only has 2 shells to start with but it's always pleasurable when you drop one of those at someone's feet and they don't stand a chance.

I would really love to be good at the Longshot. It's so much safer to stay far away from your enemy than it is to run up to them with a shotgun. Unfortunately I'm not that good with it at all and someone else is usually going to pick it up before me. I don't mind that too much because they're bound to better at it than I am. Every now and then I'll pick it up if someone drops it or it respawns and I'm in the neighborhood. My teammates have even let me pick it up at the beginning of a round if I ask. But I usually die because someone creeps up on me, taps me on the shoulder and blows my head off before I can do anything with it.

I did play a match with c5ride who gave me tips and pointers about using the Longshot. I have to admit his advice has helped me get more comfortable using it, although I'm still not very good. At least now, when I pick it up, I don't feel like an idiot trying to figure out which end of the gun I fire from.

I have another friend, Hell Weasell, who plays like he was born with the Torque Bow in his hands. If you're playing with him, and he's on the other team, and you see the icon pop up that the Torques Bow has been picked up, you better stay behind cover the rest of the match. Even then you're vulnerable. I'm envious of his skill. I think all of my Torque Bow kills have been all luck. I know with more practice (a LOT more practice) I could get better but I'll never be as good as him with the Torque Bow (or c5ride with the Longshot).

Then there's Evil Ric and the Boomshot; El Sand Dog and the Frag grenades; dain bramage and the chainsaw or MadMax 723 with anything (except the Boomshot). They're all just better than me with those weapons. I get kills every now and then but it usually with the shotgun. I'd love to play more ranked matches but I always seem to be over matched when I face someone in a gun fight.

Gears of War is starting to become my "next generation Star Wars Battlefront". A game where everybody else seems to be better than me (I still don't know how to fly vehicles in Battlefront) but at times I can hold my own so I'm not embarrassed. I still love playing both games and I know I'll probably be playing both games through the next generations of consoles. I just want to be the best at something in them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Quest complete . . . or is it?

I finally completed Puzzle Quest. Yeah me! It took me long enough too.

Puzzle Quest was a game I downloaded the demo, played, but didn't really get the point of mixing a puzzle game with an RPG game. When I saw dain playing it, back when we still had a close race with our gamerscores, I just couldn't let him get the jump on me and score 200 points that I couldn't answer to. So I redownloaded the demo and gave it another shot. I liked it enough so I bought it. Then I played it and got hooked.

And that's the problem. Every now and then I get hooked on an Xbox Live Arcade game and I become obsessive about finishing it (i.e. getting all the achievements). It all started with Jewel Quest.

I became obsessed with finishing that game. And once I finished it I liked it so much that I wanted to play it again but without losing any lives on any of the levels. Unfortunately whenever I access my hard drive directly (to move my profile or game saves to a memory card) the game deletes the game save (even if I haven't touched it) so I have to start all over again. I like the game just not that much.

Then I became obsessed with Backgammon. Getting that 10 game winning streak consumed me for days because I was only willing to play one game a night so I would remain sharp. And finding someone to play online with was a chore. After Backgammon it was Carcassonne. Then Catan (I'm still having problems getting dropped from that game). Then Uno (I don't think I'd ever get to 40 wins if it hadn't have been for my friends). And lastly it's been Puzzle Quest.

Now that Puzzle Quest is over (although I'll still play from time to time as I unwind and relax) I need to find another Arcade game to obsess about. I've thought about Boogie Bunnies because I really like it but I think I might want a change of pace. Something a little different.

I've worked somewhat steadily on Luxor 2 and Zuma but only because I can't figure out which one I like best. I've tried to get back into Small Arms and I think I've got some friends that would help me with the online play stuff but I'm just too terrible at that game to ever have the hope of finishing anytime soon. Then there's old favorites like Root Beer Tapper, any of the Pac Man games or Gauntlet. I've played those games many times before so I know what I'm doing.

Or I could start obsessing about card games like Hearts, Spades or Lost Cities. Or stick with Band of Bugs since I miss playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and the games are similar. Or there are the racing type games like Mad Tracks or Novadrome. Now Novadrome is one game I'd like to see all my friends play online some time. Or I could finish up Feeding Frenzy, but I think I might want to do that only because my brother kaiakapero has more achievements in that game than I do (and because his four year old probably got those achievements).

And then there are what I like to call the "open maze shooting games" like Crystal Quest, Robotron and Geometry Wars. They're an "open maze" because there are no walls but there are bad guys (or mines) that you have to steer around. And they're shooters because you get to . . . well . . . shoot things in them.

I just don't know what I'm in the mood for. I need something I can turn to when I'm feeling anti-social or just need to unwind after a long day at work or an online match with my friends (Gears can be brutal when team kill in on). Or sometimes I like to have something to play when no one else is online. It gets kind of lonely then and it's nice to have a trusted game to turn to in the loneliness. I could just finish Crystal Quest and then I would have finished the "Quest trifecta" of Jewel Quest, Puzzle Quest and Crystal Quest. Then I suppose I could move on to the "Pac Man trifecta" (Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man and Pac Man CE). I'll take any suggestions you might want to offer. But that doesn't mean I have to follow them, just so you know. My Puzzle Quest-ing days might be over but the "quest" for completing another Xbox Live Arcade game has just begun.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Happiness is . . .

There was a book when I was growing up that I loved. Happiness is a Warm Puppy by Charles Schulz. You know, Peanuts creator. I loved the book and the truism inside. So naturally I'm going to apply that to video games.

Happiness is tagging a friend with a smoke grenade.

I did that last night and it was freaking hilarious. We were playing Tyro Station in Gears of War and I came up behind my friend Kasenga on the other team. He was crouched behind a barricade lobbing shots at one of my team mates. The first thought I had was to line up a head shot and fire away. He was moving around too much for that so I decided to frag tag him and run away. When I was almost up to him I realized that I didn't have a frag grenade and I wouldn't be able to get one. Those weapons had been swapped out for Longshots. So I decided I would mess with his mind.

I whipped out the smoke grenade, crept up behind him and dink he was tagged. Of course whenever you hear that sound you automatically try to run to the player that tagged you in the hopes that you blow them up as well. But I just stood there. It was funny seeing him try to run around and then realizing he had been tagged with a smoke grenade instead of a frag grenade. I eventually killed him but I did have some problems doing so because I was laughing so hard. After that there were quite a number of smoke taggings going on.

By the time we stopped playing I think everyone had tagged someone and had themselves been tagged as well. Some even took the time and effort to make a well placed tag too. There's nothing funnier than seeing someone run around the map with a stream of smoke blowing out of their butt. I laughed so hard I gave myself a headache from lack of oxygen.

The whole night brought a smile to my face and I went to bed happy and carefree (something I haven't always been able to do as I'm trying to buy a house). So to my friends, and especially Kasenga, I thank you. Happiness is sometimes hard to come by. But last night Happiness was tagging all of you with a smoke grenade. I wonder what it will be tonight.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

When weird works...

There's weird and then there's weird. And sometimes weird works.

For instance, Puzzle Quest is weird because it's essentially a gem matching game, but it's an RPG game with a story and missions as well. That weird works.

Yet Poker Smash, with is also a "gem matching" game, is also weird, but I'm not entirely sure it works. Yes, it's fun trying to set up a matching straight or flush but other than that it really doesn't have much more to offer the genre than a Jewel Quest or Hexic HD.

Boogie Bunnies is the same way. You match bunnies and they disappear. Try to do that before the bunnies reach the bottom and that's all you need to know to play the game. But those bunnies are just so darn cute that when they get nervous because they're getting too close to the bottom you get nervous for them. And their costumes and signing can be hilarious.

And then there's games like Yaris. Is it an obstacle course, a racing game or a shooter? I don't think anyone knows. That's weird and NOT in a good way.

Some other weird games are Cloning Clyde, Space Giraffe, Lemmings (PSP), and Every Extend Extra Extreme (E4). And then there's Roogoo. It's a recent release on the Xbox Live Marketplace. And trust me when I tell you you've played this game before.

I know what you're thinking. "I've never played this game before. I've never even heard of it before." You might not have heard of it but you've played it. You were probably 1 or 2 years old at the time. The game is really simple to describe. You have to put the differently shaped blocks through the similarly shaped holes. You know, round peg in round hole type of thing. If you go into any toy store you'll probably see several versions of this game available. You also probably out grew the game by the age of two or three. But now that game play is back.

In Roogoo (a weird name you have to admit) you have several platforms suspended under the falling blocks and you can rotate the platforms to line up the holes the way you need them. It's simple gameplay any child could do it, but it's fun and addicting. Maybe because you know a child can do it and you want to prove you're smarter than a child. As you progress in the game it gets more difficult. There are more blocks with more holes to line up, more platforms to manipulate and longer blocks stretched out meaning you have less time to change things before they reach each platform. You should give it a try. It's weird and it works.

One thing I like about the Xbox Live Marketplace is that I can download a trail version of a game and see what it's like before I spend the money (or Microsoft points) to but it. That way if something isn't entertaining or just plain frustrating (Ecco the Dolphin) you're not going to waste your money on something you'll regret later on. It also means you can try some really weird games and discover things you wouldn't normally even consider playing. Because sometimes weird works. Trust me.