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.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Here's Johnny!

He's back, safe and sound. And back to his Xbox gaming glory. Welcome home Johnny! And thanks for serving!

Monday, June 9, 2008

A universal truth in Gears of War

There is some truth in Gears of War. Not the whole Lucust raising up from below the surface and running amok on civilization kind of truth, but something much more annoying in the game. I'm talking about sticking to walls. Stay with me here people.

I was leaving the bathroom (aren't you glad you know that?) when I was just coming around the corner (hugging the wall as closely as I could to save a half a step on the turn) when I ran into someone face to face. We both stood there for five or ten seconds just staring the other person down seeing who was going to alter their path to get around the other. Then it occurred to me. I was stuck on the wall. Just like in Gears of War

Of course I wasn't carrying a chainsaw fitted onto a machine gun (I think that's very important for you to know that) and being hunted by Locust (although a demanding boss comes awfully close if you ask me). But I'm sure if Marcus Fenix (although I prefer to play as Dominic Santiago, he's much cuter) were a real person (and yes I know the difference between real life and video games) the feeling I had would be much like what he would experience when trying to get into and out of cover while fighting across Sera (you know, the name of the planet they're on).

I held my ground (had no real choice in the matter) and she walked around me and on her way. So the next time you complain about the "stickiness" in Gears of War just remember that the programmers might have been basing that off of real world experience (either that or I think about video games too much) so it's a universal truth and one that we, as gamers, are just going to have to accept it. Now doesn't that make it so much more bearable?

In the heat of the moment

I don't know of any game that doesn't get intense. Even Uno. But maybe that's just the way I play games or the friends I play with. And sometimes when things get a little intense, people can get a little heated. In actions and words. And usually I don't mind.

I think any game where you don't respawn after death automatically makes the game play more intense. If you've only got one life to play you want to make sure you play it well. And when you get killed (with a spectacular shot or a lucky one) there's bound to be some words spoken in the heat of battle. Yep, I'm talking cuss words. Now, I'm not a prude as I've been known to say a few cuss words myself in the heat of battle, so I don't usually mind the expletive explosions that usually come at one's own death. It's free speech right?

What I don't like is the swear words that get bantered around usually at the start of a match or when you're playing with strangers and they start using them in anger or hatred. The words don't have to be hate words either. Call of Duty 4 is a game that seems to get a lot of jerks playing and chest-thumping their own skills or the lack thereof in their opponents. Those matches just turn me off. I ran into quite a lot of that over this past weekend. I think the "double EXP points" weekend brought all the loonies out of the woodwork. When those words start to fly the game's no longer fun for me any more, especially when I become the target for no other reason then people think my name is funny for a guy (and then they find out I'm a girl which only fuels their fire).

But not all swear words are said in anger or hatred. Some are used towards a comedic effect . . . at least with my friends. Gears of War is a game we all like to play except for all the glitches in the game (sticking to walls, host advantage, etc). So the frustration levels can get very high. And when someone dies . . . well there might be a few words spoken that sound just the same as the angry words spoken in a Call of Duty 4 match but the laughter that usually accompanies them lets everyone know it's all in good fun. And it is.

I certainly don't take it any other way. And if you've ever seen me play you know that I've got more to be frustrated about than others, since I'm usually the first kill or one with the lowest score. After I die, I get to watch others play and then hear the burst of laughter as someone just got their head blow off by a well placed sniper shot. Or my personal favorite, the desperation Boomshoot where you take yourself out to make sure you get who you're aiming at as well.

There is another problem I have with swearing in games and playing with my regular group of friends. The problem is they're good guys. Gentleman all around. And when they play with a girl they think they should moderate their language. And if they forget to they end up apologizing for everything they say. There are certain swear words I just don't like to hear and if I heard one I'll let them know, otherwise they're free to say whatever they'd like. I don't expect to control them or dictate what they can and can not say. When one of my friends got a little carried away in a Call of Duty 4 match I just left. I'm free to do that too. And since I know these guys are gentlemen I know they don't mean anything by it, but then again the laughter usually gives them away.

I use to think that swearing was for the unintelligent that just couldn't figure out anything else to say. But sometimes swearing happens because that's the only thing that's going to express the emotions in the heat of the moment. Do I have to mute everyone who does so I don't hear any of it? No. Besides, sometimes those heat of the moments comments make for a F-ing good laugh, at least when you play with my friends.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

This just keeps getting better and better

Okay, you might not care about the rumblings of Jack Thompson who seems to be on a crusade against video games, but the more I hear about him the more fascinating his shenanigans are becoming. That doesn't mean I like the guy; he's just providing better comedy than anything on TV lately.

His latest stunt was at a hearing about the recommendation that he be disbarred for 10 years for 27 violations of conduct. Besides the fact that he looked like he was throwing a hissy fit when he didn't get his way, his grasp of the English language is atrocious. I read his entire objection and it was painful to get through at times. Not always for what he was saying (comparing himself to Jesus) but for the terrible grammar he displayed. And if the workings of the legal system are predicated on "facts" why is his lengthy objection (14 pages) more of an emotional rant than examples of facts concerning the charges? It read like he was throwing a temper tantrum in words instead of what a professional legal document objecting to something should read like. I'm no lawyer but I would be embarrassed if that was the kind of work I was submitting in court.

I have to question someone's intentions when they bring a written objection to court but have enough copies to hand out to reporters and spectators in the audience as well as the a copy for the courts. And the fact that he named dropped all over the place AND worked in a press release of one of his upcoming public appearances was just priceless. I lived in Provo for almost five years and I know the population is a lot less than 250,000. And the fact the Miley Cyruss is preforming at the event is going to draw a lot more attention than his attendance will. This just keeps getting better and better.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New Poll - Favorite Gears of War weapon

Everybody's got a favorite weapon in Gears of War. What's yours? It might not be the weapon you're best at, but the weapon you enjoy using the most . . . even if you kill yourself in the process when you do. Not that I have any friends who do that mind you, I'm just saying. :)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Poll Results - What plasmid do you want?

Okay the poll has closed for the poll "What BioShock plasmid do you want?". And I finished the game but I still have achievements to get.

Here are the results:

Telekinesis 4
Electrobolt 0
Incinerator 0
Swarm of Bees 0
Winter Blast 0

I didn't vote in my own poll. Yes, I know that sounds bad but I just couldn't make up my mind which one I would want. I'm a girl so having a plasmid to fit my mood would be nice. If I was feeling like an ice queen I could use Winter Blast. If I was feeling everyone was being annoying I'd use Swarm of Bees. Or Incinerator if I got hot under the collar. And for those happy electrifying moments of my personality I'd have Electrobolt. The Telekinesis I would use to mess with people's minds. "You car keys? Why there over there. Oops. Now they're over there." You know, that kind of thing.

When I got the end of BioShock I was surprised at how easy the final confrontation was. Yes, I was playing on Easy but after some of the Big Daddy encounters I had this was a piece of cake. I did go back and replay the ending on Hard and boy was that tough. I think I'll keep that save and try to finish just the final battle on hard and see if I get the achievement for finishing the game on hard.

I'm a little surprised at how many achievements I had left to earn when I finished the game. I missed fully researching the Bouncer because I wasn't really researching things as much as I should have been doing at the beginning of the game. Because of that I didn't get the Research PhD achievement. I also know I missed getting to Sander Choen's apartment. I just got too wrapped up in the story to pay attention at that minor side trip. I don't know if I have a save file back far enough to do that so I might have to start the game all over again. I did miss picking up 5 journals. I've already gone back for one but another one that my menu's say I'm missing isn't where the book says it is and now I can't find it. But the achievements that I'm most surprised about is the 5 fully upgraded weapons and Weapons Specialist one. I've used every weapons upgrade station but I still don't have that achievement. And since you can only use the stations once I don't see how I can go back and get this achievement. Any helpful hints would be appreciated.

BioShock is a GREAT game. I think it's a game that everyone should play whether you like shooters or RPG or not. It's story telling is amazing, the visuals are fantastic (except for when I first got in the suit and any lines I saw got wavy as I turned my head making me nauseous--if you've played the game you'll know) and the game play is outstanding because it's customizable. I've heard a lot of advice at how to play the game by other people but there's so much freedom that I ended up playing the game my way and loved every minute of it.

If you haven't played it DO IT! If you have played it TRY IT AGAIN. I'm curious as to what the other ending is like (I saved the Little Sisters). If you're playing it now KEEP PLAYING. It's a great game and worth every award and minute you'll spend playing it.