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.