Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Budgetting my gamer score

So I finally finished disk one of Lost Odyssey. And I got 125 points for it too. If I had known how close I was to the end of that disk the last time I played, I would have continued on. It was nice to see something happy happen for a change in the game. As I watched the shower of flower petals fall all I kept thinking was I wanted to see Kaim smile at least once before the game was over. He didn't but it was close. I've played the game for just under 20 hours so it looks to be around 80-100 hours before I finish it. I heard the last disk was very short on game play so maybe the other disks will take longer.

Lost Odyssey is one game I have on my list to finish this year. Although I already have those 1,000 points in my plan towards my 10,000 point goal for the year it's nice to see my gamer score jump up in a large chunk. The 340 points I got from Scene it? help too. It's actually starting to look like 10,000 points are doable before the year's out. All of my planned calculations would come up 200-300 points short. I never figured in Scene it? because I didn't own it yet so things are moving long nicely.

The sooner I can finish Lost Odyssey and BioShock the sooner I can go back to Mass Effect. I don't like playing too many RPG type games as the same time. Sometimes it gets too hard to remember where you are in the story and where you need to go next if you haven't played the game in a while. If the story is in a different genre, like Lost Odyssey is fantasy and BioShock is science fiction, it makes things a little easier. I still have to finish Final Fantasy VII too. I reminded dain of that fact last weekend and he just kind of shrugged it off. Hello! He was the one who picked the games out and agreed to finishing them.

So if I can finish Lost Odyssey, BioShock, both Lego Star Wars games and pick up a couple more achievements in Scene it? all I've got left to do is pick up some achievements in some of my Arcade games. Anyone up for a little Gauntlet or Bomberman Live? Come on I've got this all planned out. I just need one or two achievements in a bunch of the Arcade games and I'll be passing 10,000 in gamer score before you're tired of eating turkey at Thanksgiving. I've budgeted my gamer score increases for the rest of the year so why can't I budget my bank account just as well?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's been nice knowing ya

To all my friends who are going to purchase Grand Theft Auto IV (or have already) I've got a couple of things I want to say to you. 1) It's been nice knowing ya. 2) Don't forget me. And 3) when you come up for air (in a couple of months or so by my guess) look me up on your fiends list and reintroduce yourself. Who knows, I might even send you an invite to play a game with me . . . if I can remember who you are. :)

Monday, April 28, 2008

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

Okay the new poll is up. What game are you most looking forward to? I'm sure there's other games out there that might be tickling your fancy so be sure to tell me what they are . . . after you vote of course.

By leaps and bounds

My gamer score shot up by leaps and bounds over this weekend. Why, you ask? Because I got a new game.

I picked up Scene it? to have something the whole family can play when we get together. It worked . . . kind of. My mother spent most of the time in the other room trying to get her infant grandbaby to sleep. And my sister-in-law spent most of her time wrangling her other two kids and the controller they were suppose to be sharing. It was chaos and bedlam most of the time so I wonder if anyone had any fun.

I was able to score 340 points in three games. But I really didn't earn them all myself. While the family was playing, dain and I were sharing a controller. We were logged into my profile on that controller so anything we did I would get the credit for. My parents were playing under dain's log in and they did manage to get a few achievements for him, but not many. My brother kaiakapero picked up some for himself all on his own.

But the achievement I picked up this weekend that I'm most proud of was the Heartbreaker achievement for Portal. You get it for completing the game. The last time dain and I played Portal (side by side) we had to quit because our brains were turning to jelly. We had no idea how close or how far we were from finishing the game. Apparently we weren't far from finishing it at all. We only had about four or five areas left but we were hopelessly stuck in one area. We could see where he needed to go but we couldn't figure out how to get there.

When I was out buying my second Plug and Play charging cord I picked up a strategy guide for The Orange Box game. I figured we would need it if we were ever going to finish Portal. And we did. I told dain that we'd check to see how to get ourselves unstuck but I wanted to try to finish the game without getting any more help unless we absolutely needed it. Turns out we didn't.

It also turned out that we wouldn't have figured out how to get unstuck without the book's help. I never would have figured out that I had to set up portals to get a laser to shoot the tube releasing a cube so I can use that to get up into a small crawl space. I felt incredibly stupid for not seeing the solution to the problem. But then I finished the game and felt incredibly smart for having figured out all those puzzles and made it to the end. Of course I had dain sitting with me to help work through things. Two minds are so much better one.

Do I expect my gamer score to go up this much every weekend? Not unless I buy a new game with easy achievements every weekend. And I know from past experiences that some new games don't always handout achievements so easily (I'm thinking Blue Dragon for starters). Besides, my bank account would need to grow by leaps and bounds in order to afford all those games. Bummer.

Poll Results - How many 360s have you owned?

Okay, here's the results from the latest poll.

How many Xbox 360s have you owned?
0 = 0
1 = 1
2 = 5
3 = 1
4 = 1
5+ = 2

I'm really not surprised by those numbers at all. What I would like to know is of those five people who said they've owned two systems how many were because they got a different system back after they sent theirs off to be repaired or they bought a second system to use as a backup. Feel free to leave me a comment if you're one of them.

What I was a little shocked to see if those that voted for the three, four and especially 5+ options. It leads me to ask: "How much does loyalty cost?" The only items I've had to replace or buy backups for on any of my other systems are controllers. The original controller I got with my PS2 finally died a couple of weeks ago. Considering how much game play I got out of it it was money well spent. Can you say that for your Xbox 360?

This shortened lifespan the Xbox 360 console has seems to have crossed over into their peripherals as well. I'm currently on my 5th headset and second Plug and Play charging cord. One of my headsets had the connecting post that goes into the controller break off inside the controller. It took some jiggling and a lot of praying before I was able to knock that piece out so I could use that controller again. How bad would that be to have to replace a controller just because a part of the headset connector got stuck in it? All of this and I've only had my system for 16 months.

So, at what point do you draw the line and say I'm not going to spend another dime on yet another Xbox 360 or it's peripherals? Or do you just naturally budget money for things like headsets and new consoles because the games are that good? I remember when my video game budget was just for games. And with games now at $60 a pop can you really keep affording new games if you keep having to rebuy all the extras not to mention new systems? At what point do you say 'enough is enough' and no matter what games are coming out on the Xbox 360 it's not worth it to you to play them any more? Do you stay loyal until the warranty runs out?

For me, I think I'm good for one more console and then I just might move on to the PS3 for good. It's not that I'm not enjoying my time playing on the 360, but it's getting to be a very expensive habit to maintain. But I guess all drug dealers, whether they're selling crack, heroin or Xbox 360s, will always remind you of the 'good times' to give you a reason to keep coming back for more.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Jack Thompson's "your mama" insult

Okay, if you ever play a video game online you're going to hear a "your mama" insult. But I think Jack Thomson's "your mama" email sent directly to one of Take Two's Executive's mother (via their lawyers) about the impending release of Grand Theft Auto has got to take the cake. Who sounds like a 12 year old now?

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Some times surprises are nice. Other times they miss the mark.

I picked up two achievements yesterday. I'll tell you about the second one first. It was Ogre Slayer in Puzzle Quest. Apparently you get it for defeating on Ogre boss. I wasn't expecting to get the achievement so it was a pleasant surprise when I heard that beep. My immediate reaction was "what did I do" and then the description popped up. It's nice to just play a game because you like it and are having fun when unexpected achievements pop up. I'm not playing the game for the achievements (although I will make sure I get them all) but for the challenges and the game play. Playing that way leaves me free to enjoy what I'm experiencing.

And now to the first achievement I picked up. It was a disappointment in two ways, 1) I knew it was coming, and 2) I earned it a long time ago. I'm talking about the Private First Class achievement in Rainbow 6: Vegas 2. Because this game is a sequel they built in the capability to recognize your save from the previous Vegas game. What that meant for this game was that you probably already achieved the rank of Private First Class so you wouldn't be able to unlock the achievement in the new game. In other words the game was broken. At least this achievement was. They had to make an update for this game so that people could get an achievement they earned a while ago. All I had to do was put the disk in and boot up the game. Achievement unlocked.

I knew the fix was coming after reading about it online. Even if I hadn't planned on playing a few matches with my friends I would have put the game in just to get the achievement I already earned. It was very anticlimactic to hear that beep at the title screen knowing it was for some previous exploits in the game. And frustrating wondering if any other achievements are glitched.

There's nothing more frustrating than knowing you've done something that qualifies for an achievement and you don't get to hear that beep because the achievement is broken. What's the point of having achievements if you can't . . . um, I don't know . . . ACHIEVE them? If you need 100 kills you should get your achievement once you take out that 100th person. Not when you kill 115 people. There are several games with glitched achievements. I try to avoid games like that but I don't avoid the comments people make on forums about them. Their frustration is palatable.

Microsoft did something right but putting achievements in games. Now all the other systems are scrambling to catch up and show off their own rewards system. PS3 is suppose to have trophies and the Nintendo DS is coming out with DGamer stuff starting with the new Chronicles of Naria Prince Caspin game. I don't expect things to be perfect, but developers know what achievements are and how to program thems since they've been around for awhile. So why can't they make them work?

The frustration of a glitchy achievement could be more than the joy of unlocking an unexpected one. It could ruin a gamer's enjoyment of the game. And it could make people decide not to get it in the first place. Now I'm glad the Private First Class achievement was fixed and I got it, don't get me wrong. But my faith in developers who put out unfinished games, broken achievements and glitched games is waning. Playing video games can be expensive (more on that with my poll results in a couple of days) but they should, most importantly, be fun and exciting and full of good surprises not bad ones.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My game case looks like a photo album

Have you ever opened an old photo album and sat and stared at the pictures? Some things you probably remember but then you see a photo of something you don't remember at all; or a photo you forgot even existed. I experienced this the other day, not with a photo album but my game case.

When I buy a game I put the disks in a folder. Four places for a disk on each side of a page. When the case is full it's about 4 inches thick. Currently it's over flowing. I have no more open slots and only disk #1 from Lost Odyssey is in the case. A couple of years ago I never thought I'd be able to fill it. Now I've got to figure something else out. I'm going to have to replace the case soon because the straps on the spine are tearing and one of these days they're going to rip right through. But having all my games in one place is fantastic and it makes things so much easier to haul them around if I go somewhere else to play.

But while dain was fiddling with my and his systems trying to get his dashboard back I opened up my case and decided to organize it a bit. All the games are alphabetically by title (regardless of system) except my latest purchases Lost Odyssey and The Orange Box which were stuffed into the last two slots open. I started at the back and started pulling out the disks and stacking them up so I could place the newest ones into order.

There were a few times when I pulled a game out and thought "hmm, I own this?" or "have I every played this?" or "when did I get this one?" Some of them really surprised me. Some of them brought back a lot of good memories and made me want to put them in again and play them. Some of them seemed like I was seeing them for the first time. And some of them made me feel guilty. Guilty that I've owned it for so long but haven't played it hardly at all.

One of the biggest shocks to me was looking at my Playstation games. I remember when I'd flip through the case and all I could see was Playstation games. Even after I owned a Game Cube and Xbox it always seemed like my eyes went straight to the PS and PS2 games and glossed over all the others. I always thought I'd play Knights of the Old Republic someday (I finally did) or I should give Pikmin another shot(the first couple of tries were terrible, but I love the game now). Instead I'd put in SSX Tricky, Dark Stone, Legend of Dragoon, Bust-A-Move, Dark Cloud, Time Splitters or Xenosaga. Or any number of other games. I've only finished a couple of them because I had so many to choose from that there was always something else to play.

Now when I flip through the case it's the Xbox 360 games that my eyes are drawn to and I tend to gloss over everything else. I had to pull my Game Cube games out of there a year ago. Because those disks are smaller they'd fall out every time I moved the case. Those are now sitting in a Gladware bowl that's the perfect size for them. Those games don't get looked at at all. Their like the photos stored in a shoebox just waiting for you to put them in an album.

Now that I've looked through them and really seen them all I want to play them all. You know, take a couple of days off from work and do nothing but sit in front of the TV and play games. I want to relive those glory days of the older systems and games. I want to experience memories for the first time. I want to laugh and cry and scream at the screen just like you do with old photographs. And like an old photo album my game case is a reflection of who I am as a gamer. From embarrassing baby photos (A Bug's Life) to prom night pictures (Time Splitters). It's my gaming life right before me eyes. If you ever stop by I'll have to pull out my "photo album" and show you. You'll know more about me than you ever wanted to know in the first place. But isn't that what photo albums are for anyway?

The gauntlets had been thrown down

I'm not talking Gauntlet as in Elf and Wizard traveling through a maze picking up treasure chest and destroying enemy spawning generators ("Elf just shot the food.") I'm talking gauntlets that knights wore on their arms during joust (not that game either) and fighting.

A friend of mine made a post on the website Xbox 360 Gaming World that if you wanted to play Battlefront and have someone to kill "Pengwenn's good for at least 10 kills". With a challenge like that I couldn't let it go unanswered.

It had been awhile since I played Battlefront. And I had the decision to put the disk in the 360 or dust off the old original Xbox and fire it up. Playing Battlefront on the 360 is okay with one exception. Water effects. Whether you're running around on Kyshyyyk or in the ice caves of Rhen Var. Looking at water can be distracting. I decided to fire up the old system, but that took some doing since I have to find all the chords to connect to it. Man, it's been awhile.

I played for about 40 minutes before I had to get off early for the night. It only took one map to get back in the swing of things. And only twice did my deaths get into double digits. I didn't get to play two of my favorite levels: Jabba's Palace and Kamino. And I never got the chance to use a wrist rocket. Man, I love those things. I might have to go back and play that game more often. How many games do you know that have been out for some time but still have a community dedicated to playing the game. There's not as many people playing Battlefront as there use to be, but there are still some people who play it every night. Good games like that don't come around that often. And the fact that it's Star Wars is a bonus.

So after my brief game play last night I think it's safe to say that I might not have been the best player in the game, but I picked up those gauntlets and showed I wasn't some easy kill either. Oh the memories.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I am a genius

I am a genius. Which is probably why I don't work for Microsoft support.

We had a dashboard update recently and my brother dain's system tank after he updated and rebooted. The first time he tried to update it stopped before it was over and gave him a message that he couldn't finish. The second time it worked but he was unable to get to the dashboard on his 360.

He called Microsoft and after talking to several different people they said he needed to send his console and power supply back to the repair shop. Needless to say this didn't make him very happy. This is a replacement system for his first console that got the red ring of death. He had a lot of problems with arcade games with the new console and he wasn't looking forward to that again with new console they might send him.

I met him at my parent's house on Saturday and after trying a few different combinations between his system and hard drive and my system and hard drive we still couldn't get anything to work on his console. Although his hard drive did work in my system. I asked him what happens when you format the hard drive since he's done it before. He told me that everything on the drive gets wiped out. I suggested he try that and see if it works. He moved his profile and some of his game saves that he didn't want to redo (like Portal) to a memory card and reformated the drive.

This is where I'm a genius.

It worked.

When he connected his hard drive back up to his system he could get to the dash board and log in. Something must have happened when the first update failed to finish that made it so when the second update finished it wouldn't recognize anything. And after I got a message from another friend today who hadn't been on in a couple of days it sounds like he might have had the same thing happen to him.

Why couldn't Microsoft figure this out? What ever happened to quality control? Don't they have someone who's job it is to try and break things so they know what's wrong with something so they can be prepared to fix it? I've been a tester on a new system at work. We were told to do everything we normally do and then to try things that we wouldn't normally do. We were suppose to run the program through the gambit of things that we might want it to do even if we never have the chance to do it. I then had to write up a report saying what I was trying to do, what I wanted it to do and what the system actually did. We're now using this system live for our work and although we didn't get the system to do everything we wanted there have been very little surprises when it comes to actually using it. For a computer company I would have thought that someone would have asked 'what will happen if the update fails to complete?' And then they could figure out a way to fix that. Like, I don't know . . . maybe reformating the hard drive perhaps.

It baffles me sometimes the level of quality control that goes into a lot of things, not just Microsoft and their Xbox 360. It's like 'just get the product out there' is the motto of some places. With games some are released way before they're ready. Their glitchy, unfinished and just plain difficult to play. Or maybe they promised you a certain game play feature would be included, like co-op or multiplayer and when the game's released it doesn't have it. I would rather wait much longer for a better polished and finished game than to have a poorly made game rushed to market to meet a deadline. Final Fantasy games are notorious for the "pushed back" deadline. They take their time to finish the game the way it should be. And it shows in the game play and loyalty the fans show for the series. Yes, we might grumble when the next game is pushed back month after mont or year after year but in the end it's worth it.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only smart person out here. I'd rather have quality than quantity. And I'd rather have a support and service team who knew what the problem might be because it's come up in testing. Just because they found a bug in testing doesn't necessarily mean it's going to come up in a live environment, but it's nice to know that someone has thought it through and come up with a solution. Otherwise we're left to people like me to be the geniuses in solving the problem and that could be a very scary thing for the rest of you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Following in my brother's footsteps

You know when you see something really odd that you just have to stop and check it out. I had that moment a couple of days ago. I saw dain playing Puzzle Quest. And he had achievements in it.

Now I had that game downloaded as a demo and tried to play it once but I just didn't understand it. Was it an RPG or a puzzle game? It was too confusing and I gave up after about 5 minutes. I didn't delete the demo because I thought one day I would take some time to really concentrate on the game and see what it was about before I officially and permanently threw in the towel.

So what's so strange about dain playing Puzzle Quest, and that he had achievements in it? Maybe because I don't think dain is much of a puzzle gamer. I've tried to get him to play Jewel Quest, but he's never seemed interested. He says he's played Hexic, but he seemed reluctant to admit that. Is this a guy thing? I don't think so.

What I do know is that he does like what I'll call "outfitting games". Games where you can change the outfitting of a character or vehicle to fight a certain way in a battle. He loves building hounds in Chromehounds. I can't tell you how many matches we had to sit and wait for him to "tweak" his hound for just a little more speed, or more ammo, or more range. He's got a hound for every occasion but he doesn't keep them for very long because he likes to fiddle with them. Even the ones that work for him. Outfitting a character is the same thing. Every time we start a Rainbow 6 match I have to stop and look at dain to see what he's changed on his character this time. It might only be his weapons, but it usually is his hat, or armor or maybe some new tattoos. It really doesn't surprise me that he likes to do this. As he was growing up he always liked to rearrange his bedroom every couple of months it seemed. He might not have liked to clean it but boy did he like to rearrange it.

Dain's also a thinker. He likes games where he can think and plan. Carcassone and Catan are good Arcade games for that. And the Rainbow 6 games suit him better than Call of Duty type games. He'll sit and wait. Thinking and strategizing about the enemy's moves. Last night I think he was always the last one left alive in our terrorist hunt missions. He's patient. And while he's patient, he's thinking.

So when I saw dain playing Puzzle Quest I thought it was a demo like what I had. When I realized he was earning achievements (I'm not worried about him passing me any time soon - hee hee) I figured there must be something in the game that appealed to him. I figured if he liked it I should give it another try. I played the demo again and it was a little better the second time (partly because I stopped to read the instructions and hints). So I decided to follow in his footstep and download the full game. I was surprised to find it was 1,200 ms points. That's pretty steep. I had points to spare so I unlocked the full game and started playing.

At first I was still hung up on the the 'is it an RPG or puzzle game' that got me the first time. Once I figured out how to battle and plan what I'm going to do instead of just moving same colored shapes around I started to like it. The more I've played it the move I've liked it. The dialogue scenes between missions still annoy me some what because their jarring to the flow of game play. But I can see why dain would like the game.

You have to think about your moves. What's the best one for you? What move would you make that might give your enemy an advantage? What move could hurt him? For me I just want to play. Like I want to run into a room guns a blazin'. Dain, on the other hand, will sit outside the doorway and repeatedly peek into the room picking off anyone he see. He's a sneaky little devil that way. Give him something to think about or outfit for a battle and he's a much better player than I ever could be.

I'm not one of those people who only like a certain type of game and I'm not going to try anything else, thank you very much. I like trying new things, but only if I trust the judgement from the person who recommends it to me. He might not have recommended Puzzle Quest to me personally, but looking through his recently played games and seeing him play it is enough for me. When it comes to trying new games I trust my brother dain. So I'm glad I followed in his footsteps with Puzzle Quest. Now if he'll just trust on on Jewel Quest we can call it even.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why do we replay video games?

Gamer Informer online had an interesting article about why we replay video games. I had to stop and think about it for a bit to try and see why I replay video games. Here's their eight reasons and my take on them.

#1 - Financial Limitations
It's been awhile since I've had some financial limitations on my game buying experience. It's not that I make a lot of money or I've won the lottery, it's just that I've refined my tastes in games a lot better. There was a time when the Game Cube and original Xbox came out that I wanted both but couldn't afford them. My brother dain and I compromised. He was making more money than me so he bought the Xbox and I bought the Game Cube. We'd meet up at my parent's house and share systems. Once I realized that I just couldn't play Xbox games once a week I re-examined my budget and found away to buy an original Xbox (refurbished).

I've bought several games because they were popular (Grand Theft Auto III) and haven't liked them, so I eventually sold them back. Since then I've tried to be informed about games and only buy the ones I think I'll like. I have gone out on a limb for games that looked interesting without knowing anything about them (Pikmin) but now I do a little bit of research before buying.

#2 - Nostalgia
Yes, I go back and play older games because I miss the game play. They also remind me of when my life wasn't filled with so much responsibility. Games can be an escape not just with their game play but also with the mind set they can put you in. I will always love Legend of Dragoon and I think as long as I've got a system to play it on I will always be going back to play that game. Final Fantasy IX and X are also like that for me.

#3 - Old Games/New Tricks
I'm not a glitcher. I don't use cheat codes (unless I absolutely can't get through an area without one). So picking up an old game just because someone figured out how you can get through one area without dying doesn't do it for me. I might pick it up because the first time through I struggled to beat a boss using wind based weapons but then I find out fire based weapons work much better. I like replaying games to see if there was a way I could have gotten past a point a little easier without using any cheats. Games that now have downloadable content will get a second play through by me. Same game but new stuff is always a good thing.

#4 - Unlockables
Unlockables are good. Playing a game where the choices you make determine what future missions are available is also a good thing. I like the fact that how you play the game and the decisions you make effect what actions and story lines are available to you. If you pick the good story line (being a saint in Fable or good in Knights of the Old Republic or a by-the-books soldier in Mass Effect) and having that determine what you can and can not do (even if only in dialogue choices) makes playing the game a second time to see what things are different a good game. And the "New Game+" option I first encountered in Chrono Cross (I think) is fantastic. How much do you hate getting to the end of the game and finally getting that ultimate weapon but there's only one battle left to use it in? Let us keep what we've got and start all over with the enemy adjusting accordingly.

#5 - Difficulty, Co-Op and Multiplayer Modes
I will never play a game the first time on the hardest difficulty. I'm just not that good of a player. I always start out at easy or normal. Once I've gotten a feel of the game I usually can do better but it takes me a while to get to that point. I like playing Co-Op games. I don't have to start at the beginning with someone but jumping into a level with someone else is so much easier then doing everything yourself. And if you're playing a level ahead of where you are in your single player game once you get up to that level you'll know what to do. I can't tell you how many times this has helped me in a game. For multiplayer games I will always enjoy going back and playing Star Wars Battlefront. Partly for nostalgia but partly for the fact that you can get more people in a Battlefront game than you can in a Gears of War game. The more the merrier I say.

#6 - Achievement Points
There is one thing I don't like about difficulty level achievements. If you play a game through on Hard you get the achievement for that but also the achievement for Easy and Normal as well. To me (maybe because I always start on easy) you should have to play the game at each level to get those achievement points.

And what are you going to do if you finish BioShock and realize you're missing a journal or two? You could load up a previous save or you could restart the game. Either way you're replaying the game to get that Historian achievement. A lot of games have achievements that aren't possible to get in just one go through. Mass Effect is a perfect example. If you like a game enough to replay it for achievements then why not? If you like the game have fun with it and enjoy it second time around as well.

#7 - I can't quit you - addiction
For a while there I was addicted to Star Wars Battlefront. I had to play it every night. It didn't matter what kind of mood I was in or what things I should have been doing after I got home from work (like laundry), I just had to play the game. I went through a similar thing with SSX Tricky for the PS2. There are certain games that strike just the right chord in you at just the right time and you just have to play them. It's a drug and you need your fix. And there's nothing wrong with that . . . unless it interferes with living in the real world. It's a lot safer addiction than tobacco or alcohol or other drugs. And those people that are dying playing World of Warcraft have a lot more serious issues than just a game addiction.

#8 - Who the hell needs a reason?
Exactly. A good game is a good game no matter how new or old it is. And there's nothing wrong with playing a good game.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Poll Results - RRoD and New Poll question

Okay, I'm rolling the poll results and the new poll all in to one entry. Why? Because it's my blog and I can. So there. But also because the two are related. Just keep reading.

Poll results:

Have you gotten the Red Ring of Death on your 360?
Yes = 7
No = 2

Okay, I'm not surprised by the amount of yeses. I am surprised at the nos. If you voted for "No" it's either a) you just got your system and haven't hooked it up yet, b) you don't play on your system very much at all so it hasn't had the chance to fail yet, or c) you're lying. For the two of you who voted "no" I'd like to know why you think you haven't gotten it yet . . . because you will.

I think everyone is going to get the RRoD eventually. Here's my reasoning. I bought a pair of really cute sandals a couple of month ago. I loved them. They were comfortable and adorable and went with a lot of outfits. And the fact that I got them cheap was a bonus . . . or so I thought. I wore those sandals for two weeks before the sole of the shoes started to come apart. Why? cheap shoes means cheap manufacturing or materials.

Now an Xbox 360 isn't cheap, but I think that Microsoft's desire to be the first next gen console out there made them cut corners on the manufacturing process or the parts themselves. If you make something cheap it's bound to fall apart eventually. It doesn't matter how gentle you treat it, it's going to fail. Now Microsoft has said they've fixed the problem and all new machines won't experience the same thing. But if you read all the reports of how much Microsoft is losing on the Xbox 360 through production costs and now repair costs do you really think they aren't trying to save money somewhere. That really cheap bit of manufacturing is now upgraded, but that could just be something "not so cheap as before". I know people who have sent their same system back to Microsoft multiple times. For me I would have happily waited another year for the system to come out if it meant there wasn't a possibility of the RRoD.

So the new poll question is:

How many Xbox 360 have you owned?

If you sent your box back for repair and received the same one back you've only owned one (unless you're like me and bought a replacement while yours was out, then you've owned two). If you got a different Xbox 360 back from the repair center you're on your 2nd Xbox 360 even if you didn't buy it. Makes sense? And if you're one of those people who just keeps buying Xbox 360s when they break down how rich are you? Just kidding. But I am curious as to why you stay loyal to s system that keeps breaking down over and over again. Vote and leave a comment to let me know.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bucket List for gamers

So I'm just playing around on the internet when I should be working and I find some interesting articles at Game Informer's website. The first one is "The Gamer's 'Do Before Death, Marriage or Kids' List". It was published in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. It's a list of 150 things every gamer should do before they die, get married or have kids (all the same thing as far as I'm concerned).

I went through the list and crossed off all the things that I've already done. I was surprised that I had 67 of the 150 items already checked off. It beats the number of places I've been when compared to that "1,000 places you should see before you die" stuff. That was really depressing. Apparently I don't get out much.

Some of my favorite items I've crossed off were: 1) "Buy a game on impulse, without knowing anything about it beforehand" I've done that several times, 2) "Cry/Scream/Curse/Ignore bladder/Ignore Stomach/Ignore phone call during a cutscene. Done 'em all, most of the first ones came during Final Fantasy X. Most of the last ones came during Xenosaga I. 3) "Regret Purchasing a Game", there've been several I've regretted, but I used them for trade in value. 4) "Own more than one of the same console" thank you very much Microsoft. 5) "have your eyes glaze over playing Tetris" you could include Root Beer Tapper in that one too. 6) "Team Kill once" Yep! It was a blast.

Those are just some of the ones I've already achieved. Check out the list and tell me how many you've been able to cross off your list.

Your gamer score IS something to brag about

My youngest brother kaiakapero is borrowing my spare Xbox 360 and some of my games . . . and dain's too. I've tried to get him to play the story mode of Gears of War with me but he said he's not that into single player games. When I tried to tell him of the achievements you get and the points for your gamer score he said his gamer score doesn't matter to him.

But yesterday when we were all over at my parents house to hear about their latest cruise he comes up to me and says:

kai: "Guess what?"

me: "I don't know. What?"

kai: "My gamer score has gone up. I've played a couple of Arcade games and picked up some achievements. I'm now over 100."

me: "Well I'm over 6,000."

kai: "Yeah, well, you play more than me and have more games."

He does have a point there. I do have more games then him (especially when most of the games he has are mine to begin with). And I do play more than him. He works an evening shift and his wife won't let him play violent games in front of his young kids (wise idea) so he's usually left to playing the games he likes on Sunday and Monday nights when he doesn't work.

He said that he lets the kids play some of the Arcade games like Uno and Feeding Frenzy. Last night he started a game of Uno and gave the controller to his 4 year old daughter to play. She knows what to do, she's just a little slow before she acts. While she was playing, dain comes over to me and says she just got an achievement for bluffing. And then I think she went on to win the game. I don't know if that set to well with kai. He's tried to bluff, but couldn't. And he hasn't won a game himself. I guess it's kind of hard to get up staged by your 4 year old daughter. He should be use to it now since she can beat him (or give him a run for his money) when we play bowling on the Wii. Just don't remind him of that.

I don't know if he's a total convert to the "higher is better" club when it comes to your gamer score like I am. His play time and limited games will probably help curb any obsessive tendencies he might have towards that. But for him to go from some one who didn't care what his gamer score was to some one who took great pride in getting it over 100 I think he might be brought around to my way of thinking. For me now, a gamer score of 100 is laughable. But I remember when I broke that three digit barrier with my score. I was thrilled. It looked much more legitimate than a two digit gamer score, but not as legitimate as a four digit one. Now I'm working on breaking the five digit barrier. So your gamer score IS something to brag about no matter how much (or how little) it is.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I finished a game!

Yeah I finished a game! Okay, when I tell you it was Uno are you going to be disappointed that I got your hopes up? That makes four Xbox Live Arcade games that I've finished: Carcassonne, Backgammon, Jewel Quest and now Uno.

Yes, I know there really isn't an "end" to Uno. It's not like you get the great dramatic moment and then you get to see the credits roll. But I've finished the achievements. Now I can play the game without those hanging over my head.

I'm only two achievements short of "finishing" Catan. All I need are 500 Victory points and 1,000 Victory points. I really like that game. Unfortunately my internet connection at my place doesn't. I always lag out of the game. It use to be right after the initial placements then WHAM I'm staring at three AI faces. Now I usually make it a little longer in the game (maybe a round or two) before I lose connection. I had to stop playing it for awhile because my reputation was taking a beating from all the "quitting" feedback I was getting. I went from 98% to 80% in the matter of about a two week period. The funny thing is I can take my system over to my parent's house and play just fine. It's only my internet the game doesn't like.

With Uno there was a time when I didn't think I would ever get those 40 wins. When ever I played a four player game (all humans) it would seem to take forever for anyone to play their cards. Playing a game to 250 points could take two and half hours. I didn't want to invest that much time in something that I would probably lose anyway. When I started hosting matches with a point limit at 100 I thought would speed things up a bit. The problem was I couldn't keep four players in the room. I finally got the achievement for winning 10 four player games when I had 17 total multiplayer wins. I got my 40 win achievement when I had 38 multiplayer wins . . . but then I realized it's 40 total wins and I have some wins for ranked matches.

Now that Uno is complete I'm going to have to pick another Arcade game to work on for achievements. I know it's not as much fun playing for achievements as just playing the game. But when I pick a game I just try to play it normally but I keep in mind what achievements I might be in line to pick up. Kind of like the "don't hit any obstacles through the first 20 levels" in Crystal Quest. I know about the achievement and I try to play the game so I can get it but always around levels 13-15 I run into something and now I can't get the achievement. I could just restart the game and try again but I continue to play to see how far I can get and there might be another achievement I could pick up instead. I like having a goal to work towards. Maybe that's why I never liked Grand Theft Auto III when I owned it (rather briefly I might add).

I've been "auditioning" games for my next big focused attack. They are AstroPop, Bejeweled 2 (although I completely lost my saved game of 33 levels when I got dumped from Xbox Live when the new Call of Duty maps were released), Boogie Bunnies (lost a save on that one but I've since earned it back), Hexic HD & Hexic 2 (can't decide which one I like more), Poker Smash (gets a little boring after playing for a long time), Luxor 2 (I'm finally at a point in the game where it's getting difficult) and Texas Hold 'Em (although last time I made a push to get a $100,000 bankroll I got up to $80,000+ when the leaderboards were reset because of cheaters and I lost everything).

I like having a "go to" game I can play on my own. Something to take the edge off of a bad day. Or maybe just to kill time before I have to really get up and start doing something with my life (as my mother would say). And although I try to play it every day there's no way I'm going to make Brain Challenge the game I grind in. It's taking all my brain power just to get a rating of 19% on the daily tests. If I ever make it to 100% it would be a miracle. So that's one game I won't be finishing anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I just read online that Ikaruga is out for Xbox Live Arcade. I absolutely loved playing this on the Game Cube. Now I've got it on my 360 . . . with achievements. I know what I'll be playing tonight. Whoo Hoo!!!

What's a little competition between friends?

One thing I really like about my Xbox 360 is the Xbox Live Arcade. All you have to do is look at my recently played games to know that. But the reason I like it so much is that it made going to bed so much easier.


I loved playing Star Wars Battlefront right up until bed time. Unfortunately when I crawled into bed my adrenaline was pumping and sleep was a long way off. I figured out if I played something like Bust-A-Move or other mindless arcade type game before I went to bed I could calm down enough that getting to sleep wouldn't require a hour or more of tossing and turning. Unfortunately that meant changing from my original Xbox to my PS2 every night. When the 360 came out and I had those type of games on the same machine it made things so much easier.

After a grueling session of Gears of War I could load up Pac Man and try a couple of levels while my heart slowed it's beating to a more normal level. And if Pac Man wouldn't do it for me there were numerous other games I could play. For some reason Jewel Quest seemed the best game for "powering down" late at night. Uno was another good one . . . until recently.

A friend of mine bought a replacement Xbox 360 while his is in the shop and it came with an Xbox Live Arcade compilation disk. Uno is on the of the games on it. So he started playing it. Myself and a couple of other friends would join him in a room and play away. And I have to tell you it's so much more fun (and faster) to play with a full group of friends.

Now Uno doesn't strike me as a competitive game. It certainly wasn't for me. And I didn't think it would be for anyone else. I also didn't think how much my "ultra competitive I'm going to shoot everyone" guys would do in a non-competitive game like Uno. They figured out a way to play the game. They made it competitive. If you stick them with a draw four card suddenly the game is personal. Throw in the stacking of penalty cards and the "draw until you play" option and the game can get pretty heated. Who knew Uno could be an intense battleground for gamers?

The games do get intense. But in a much different way. Instead of adrenaline pumping action it's face grinning, laughing at others action. So much so that sometimes my cheeks hurt . . . and not the ones I sit on. We've laughed at others misfortunes and even laughed at our own. Although we tend to growl first before laughing when the game takes a sudden turn for the worse when you go from one card left to 16 cards all in one hand. This game is no longer the relaxing game I play before going to bed. It is a game we play to win. And hopefully screw the person to our right and left in the mean time. So, what's a little competition between friends anyway? Except now I've got to find a game I can play to calm down from playing Uno.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Call of Duty 4 is very bad for Xbox Live

If I were to ask you what game is the best representation of the Xbox 360 console in game play, what the system can do and fan base what would you say? I'm sure a lot of you are thinking Halo 3. Oh sure, it's the easy choice. The original Halo game is what put the original Xbox on the map. And at it's release that game had more hype than a Brittany Spears night on the town.

But you're wrong.

If you ask me the same question I'd have to say Cal of Duty 4. Why? Just look at the facts. There's nothing personal or preferential in my choice. I've played a lot of Call of Duty 4 (mostly multiplayer) and not so much of Halo 3. I haven't played enough of Halo 3 to really get a firm opinion of the game or the franchise. But what I have played I've liked . . . except for most of the people that I've played against. I just want you to know that because my decision is not based on my opinions of the game but what the game has done for Microsoft and their Xbox Live service.

When Halo 3 came out there were stores staying open until midnight to sell the game. And once it was out everybody seemed to be playing the game on Xbox Live. The system was a little slow for that first week but it wasn't disruptive to those not playing Halo 3. Call of Duty 4 on the other had was a whole different story.

The release wasn't so much the media event as Halo 3's was. But at the same time there were just as people playing Call of Duty 4 as there was Halo 3. There was a bit of a slow down in the Xbox Live network for COD4 but once again it wasn't as much Halo 3. What's different about COD4 is that it's audience grew by word of mouth and more and more people bought the game and started playing it. With Halo 3 you were pretty much going to get it at release or you'd wait until the price comes down or you wouldn't get it at all.

The more people who started to play COD 4 the more the Xbox Live network started to have problems. Over the Christmas holiday was the worse. You could feel the slowness of the network in COD4 and it affect not only your gameplay but everyone else's gameplay on the network.

Yesterday a batch of new maps were released for COD4 and things went down hill from there. The market place crashed and you couldn't get to the place where you could download the maps. And some of us were kicked off of Xbox Live altogether while we were playing other games. Yes, that's right. I was logged in but I was playing Begeweled 2 when I heard that lovely little beep. I had thought I unlocked an achievement. Nope. What I got instead was "Pengwen has been disconnected from Xbox Live". Why? Probably because I wasn't really playing a game over Xbox Live and they needed the server space/power for someone else who was. Do I think it's just a coincidence that this happens on the day the COD4 maps are released? I don't think so. So what does that tell us about COD4?

To me, it says that more people want to pay 800 points for 4 new maps for that game. Enough people to overwhelm their network and make it difficult for some of the rest of us to get online. Has this happened with anything for the Halo games? Not that I'm aware of. There's been map packs for previous Halo games and the rush of users trying to download those and play them hasn't tanked the system. So you've got to see that Call of Duty 4 is more the quintessential Xbox 360 game instead of Halo 3. I know the Halo fanboys out there aren't going to like it, but it is what it is. And for some of us it means we won't be able to connect to Xbox Live through our consoles until everyone's had their fill of the new maps and have moved on.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A gamer by any other name . . .

No, I'm not thinking of changing my gamer tag. I kind of like it. At least it's readable and shows some creativity. I can't stand those gamer tags with "xX(insert name here)Xx". Yes, we know you're playing on an Xbox machine. And guess what? We are too, so you can drop all those Xs from your name. It looks stupid.

What I don't like is how people shorten my name. You see I also go by Pengwenn on some writing forums because . . . well . . . I like to write (hence the spelling). A lot of people have figured out what my first name is so they start referring to me as that in the forums. Excuse me? What's the point of having a screen name if nobody's going to use it? Is it that hard to type 3 more characters when you use my name?

Sometimes in online matches someone will refer to me by my given name. It's not like I haven't heard it before, but it always sounds funny coming from guys I haven't met. It's almost as if I want to ask "do I know you?" because to them I'm Pengwenn not that other name. Having an online name is like having a secret identity. When I load up my profile it's like I'm spinning around really fast in my everyday attire and magically change into some spandex superhero gaming outfit complete with flowing cape and magical powers. You know, kind of like Wonder Woman but without the pouffe hair. I can be the me I want to be. But if you use my given name then I'm the person that has laundry piling up in the corner, dirty dishes in the sink and bills on the counter waiting to be paid.

Now I don't mind if someone shortens my name to Pen, Peng, or Pengy. Those names let me keep the spandex outfit on even if I have to turn the cape in. I can live with that. And I'm not immune to shortening someone name either. I often refer to Evil Ric as just Evil (sometimes that name just says it all). And cyberWRAT becomes cyber. Dain Bramage becomes just plain old dain (I know that name sounds like a real name but he's my brother so I know better). And MsvHdWndHrry (Massive Head Wound Harry) or however you spell it, just becomes "massive" to me. That's not because I don't like their names but have you ever tired to say "massive head wound harry to your left" in the heat of a battle? My friend would be dead before I'd even finished saying his name.

Now as much as I want to be recognized by my alter ego online I do have some friends that don't seem to mind using their given names. For Dennis72 I'm not going to call him anything besides Dennis (unless he kills me with the Boomshot while we're on the same team in Gears of War and then I have a few other names I'd like to call him). And then there is Patrick . . . who was called Harold . . . who changed his name to Patrick. I think there was a two week period when we didn't know what to call him expect "hey kid".

As much as I'd like to think of Pengwenn as a seperate identity I think it's becoming more of who I am everyday. So much so that at work yesterday I was sitting at someone's desk when they said my given name and I flinched. Literally. I almost corrected them and told them it was Pengwenn. But I stopped myself in time. I hope that doesn't mean I play games online too much. Or maybe it just means I like the spandex outfit more than I should. But why not? Spandex can be so slimming.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New Poll - Have you gotten the Red Ring of Death?

To me it seems the dreaded Red Ring of Death on the Xbox 360 comes in waves. I'll have several friends get it within a two week time period and then no one for a month or two. Then another wave of failures hits and a couple more friends are faced with the choice of waiting for their system to come back or buying a new one (and using their other one as a back up when it comes back). Vote and feel free to leave a comment here.

Poll Results - A day to play games

Okay, so I asked the question "Have you ever taken a day off of work just to play video games?" Here are the results:

Yes: 3 votes
No: 2 votes

I can't believe some of you haven't taken advantage of a day of vacation to just sit home and play video games. I do it all the time. That might be because I don't have any kids, a spouse or a house to take care of. When I take a day off it's all mine. Mostly.

The last day that I specifically took off to play a game was for the release of Assassin's Creed. Unfortunately I let a few things pile up before that date so when I was off work I spent most of the day running around doing errands. When I had the chance to play I only put the game in briefly before I stopped and just vegetated (which is another acceptable excuse to take time off from work for, in my opinion anyway).

This year I adjusted my work schedule so I get 1 day off every two weeks. This is now "Game Day" for me. I hate going in earlier and working longer hours during the days when I'm at work but it's nice to have a day off every other week without having to dip into my vacation days. But that doesn't mean I won't take a day off here and there to play a video game. I'm even thinking about taking a half day on Friday. That would extend my weekend a little bit and maybe I could get all my errands done that day so when I have my regularly scheduled day off on Monday it will be nothing but gaming. See ya then!