Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New Poll - Have you played BioShock?

Here's my new poll:

Have you played BioShock?:

My name is Evil Ric and I will play this game before the poll closes or Pengwenn will delete me from her friend's list

Let's see what happens, shall we?

Poll Results - What kind of soldier are you?

A little late, but here are the poll results:

What kind of soldier are you?

I melee; therefore I am = 1 vote
Double barrel action for me (shotgun)= 1 vote
Robin Hood to the rescue (bows)= 0 votes
A single shot is all I need (sniper) = 1 vote
Call me 1-800-FLOWERS (frags) = 1 vote
Don't call me fat (heavy gunner) = 3 votes

I think I voted for the heavy gunner option. But to be honest things have been really hectic around here (which is why I haven't posted much) so I can't remember if I voted at all. Oh, the shame!

I know, or can figure out, some of the choices of what my friends picked. Kaiakapero is on a sniper kick right now so I know what he voted for. I have some friends that I'm sure didn't vote but I know how they would have voted if they did. El Sand Dog would either vote for grenades (since he was always tagging people in the first Gears of War) but he might vote for the heavy gunner now (because he seems obsessed with the mortar gun, even if he can't pronounce it properly). If Hell Weasel voted I think he would have picked the bow. He's one mean shot with the torque bow.

For me, the two weapons that I can use most effectively in Gears of War 2 are the Scorcher and the Boomshot. Every other weapon is hit or miss . . . but mostly miss. I prefer to stay back from all the fire fights and work on firing as a distraction or a disturbance. I love going on the bridge on the Ruins map and firing across to the Torque Bow/Sniper corner of the opponent. If I time it right I can usually get someone down. Unfortunately I can't get over there to finish them off. But since you automatically die when you've been downed for the third time he's already got one strike against him when my teammates catch up to him.

Now if Gears was like Star Wars Battlefront with up to 32 enemies on a side I would love to just run in there and start firing. It would be double barrel action for me then. But with teams limited to 4 or 5 characters (and no respawns) you've got to be a little more carefull about how you go after the enemy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Introducing my psychotic dog

You will pay attention to me...

I'm sorry I haven't posted much lately, I've been too exhausted. Part of that has been keeping up with my psychotic dog Zoe so she doesn't destroy my house or the rest of my clothes. The bugs she can have. She likes chasing them, so I don't mind. She loves stirring up the bugs in the grass and then chasing after them. If they hop away (like grasshoppers and crickets do) she'll hop too. It's quit funny to watch.

She thinks that if I get up from where ever I was sitting it instantly becomes her chair. It's hard to persuade her otherwise. And she's figured out that the best way to get my attention while I'm playing video games is to come and put her head on my controller or to start licking my hands (and if she can get her tongue on the controller even better). What does she want when she does this? Someone to pet her and play with her. If I put my feet up on the ottoman and lean back so she can't get to my hands she'll walk back and forth underneath my legs and rub her back on the back of my legs. Like a cat would.

She also thinks she's a lap dog. When I recline back to watch TV she'll jump on my lap and want to sit right on my chest. But first she has to stand and stick her butt in my face for awhile before sitting down. Of course, by then I can't see the TV screen anymore.

She's found of barking at the creepy crawly pool vacuum as it starts to come up on the walls. She loves chewing up my clothes. And when she can't do that she'll start pulling things off of the top of my dresser and throwing them around the room. Or she'll get on the top of my desk and hunt around for a pen to chew. And then there's one dog that shows up every now and then at my parent's house that she growls and barks at. The only problem is that dog is just HER REFLECTION IN A MIRROR. To her, getting from point A to point B is always a straight line, even if she has to vault over furniture (or people sitting on said furniture) to get there.

She's a handful. Extremely friendly (except with kai). Funny. And psychotic. But I'll keep her anyway. It's hard to image what I did without her. Oh, I know, played more video games uninterrupted. I told my mother it's like having a two year old: she's old enough to know her name and what you're telling her, but young enough that she doesn't really care about what you think she should be doing, she's going to do her own thing anyway. That's Zoe.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Where are my achievements?

So I saw my friend Evil Ric playing Blackjack the other day and it said he was joinable. I went to the marketplace and the Community Game Blackjack game was only 200 Microsoft points to download. I downloaded it and joined his game.

Now, I might not be very good at Texas Hold'em but I know how to play Blackjack. Within a couple of minutes I had my $100 starting chips up to over $3,000. And every so ofter I would get a small box that popped up saving I got some kind of reward for something I did. Yeah achievements!

Except they weren't.

When I switched back the the dashboard and checked my games there were no achievements listed for this game. How could you have an Xbox 360 game without achievements? That just doesn't make sense. Yes, I know I played games long before achievements came about. But the Xbox 360 has become synonymous with achievements. You can't have one without the other. So where are they?

I don't know if it has anything to do with Blackjack being a "Community Game" or not. I read an article online where a developer of a Community Game was whining that his community game wasn't making any money because Microsoft was failing to promote such games. To be honest this was the first time I had even heard of Community Games. When I check on's forum list of all the Community Games I found out there are actually a bunch of them. But even if they are "Community Games" shouldn't they have achievements? Ones you can earn and show off to your friends?

Now, there might achievements with this game and for some reason my system is glitched. Why do I think that? Because every time I start playing the game it starts me off with the default chip count and the rank of 1. Evil told me that as long as I stop playing and my chip count is above $100 I should keep all my chips and my rank. Apparently it's not doing that for me when I play. I don't know if this is because I haven't played the single player game yet or a glitch in the system. Either way, no achievements and no carryover chips doesn't make me think fondly for this game.

Except, or course, when I'm beating Evil Ric. You see he steals all my chips when we play Texas Hold'em. With this game I was winning more than he was (even if I wasn't playing to help the table like he thinks I should). Even without achievements in the game (for whatever reason) I think I still might play this one, but only with Evil Ric. I'll just have to make my own achievement for the game:

Monday, April 6, 2009

My new addiction

So I've found my new addiction. It use to be Jewel Quest. It got so bad that I'd have to play one board in the morning before I left for work instead of having breakfast or I couldn't think straight the rest of the day. Or, after a long night playing Gears of War I would need a game to help me unwind all that pent up emotion I had so I'd start up Jewel Quest and ease my way into a restful (but very abbreviated) night's sleep. It hasn't gotten that bad yet, but it might.

My new addiction is Peggle. It's such a simple game. It's like pinball, but once the ball goes out of play all the pegs and blocks you've hit go out of play. The object is to get rid of all the orange colored pegs and blocks scattered throughout a bunch of blue ones. Simple and addicting. No matter how carefully you plan your shot and where you think the ball will bounce it will take a different hop and end up somewhere else.

There's lots of different levels and characters to play with. And a different special attack with each one. If you want to use the flippers you pick that character. A fireball? Choose that other character. And there's multiplayer action too.

Every so often I find a game that I just love to play and waste hours doing so. It's usually an arcade game because they're so easy to get in and play really quick without having to worry about save points and such. If it hadn't have been Peggle it would probably be Crystal Defenders. That game is a little harder to describe. But for now, it's Peggle. Simple. Addicting. And just a lot of good fun. And when you find out big, tough, burly men are falling in love with a game filled with rainbows, unicorns, and symphonic music from Beethoven you know it's addicting. But I'm not complaining.

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Poll - What kind of a soldier are you?

So here's my latest poll. Just in case the draft is reinstated.

What kind of soldier are you?

I melee; therefore I am
Double barrel action for me (shotgun)
Robin Hood to the rescue (bows)
A single shot is all I need (sniper)
Call me 1-800-FLOWERS (frags)
Don't call me fat (heavy gunner)

This is not about what type of weapon you like to use the most, but what type of soldier you are. You might like to use the sniper rifle, but does that really reflect the type of soldier you are (especially if you're just using the sniper rifle as a baseball bat)? More when I post the results.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Poll results - New ranking system in GoW2

So here's the poll results:

What do you think of the new ranking system in Gears of War 2?

Love it! = 3 votes
It's okay = 1 vote
Hate it! = 0 votes
I don't play Gears of War 2 any more = 2 votes

I have to admit that it's nice to finally see some progress for all the hard work I put into Gears matches. That being said I will admit that I voted for "It's okay" and not "Love it!". I'll tell you why.

The reasons why I like it is the fact that you actually get to see what you're working towards. There's your progress. There's a goal. And there's a sense of accomplishment when you level up. Yes, I know there are people who'd play Gears online just for the fun of it whether there was a ranking system or not. I'm not one of them. Mostly anyway. I do enjoy playing online with my friends but sometimes the monotonous nature of online matches can get boring after awhile. When that happens I'd turn the game off and probably never come back. With a ranking system (and one you can actually see working and you understand) it's nice to come back to the game and see if you can "level up" one more time before going to bed.

Just the other night I was 7 points from leveling up and we were about to call it a night. Well, I just couldn't leave my rank that close and just go to bed so the group decided to play one more match so I would hopefully get those 7 points. Unfortunately the match we were in didn't turn out very good. We had 4 people in our party so we picked up a "FOUND PLAYER" and started the match. By the second round all players on the other team had dropped out and we were running around shooting bots. We were cruising to a very easy victory when with 1 win away from winning the whole match we got the "host disconnected to the game" message. Apparently that "FOUND PLAYER" was the game's host and he didn't want to stick around for 1 more round and an easy win. He would rather take a 1,500 point loss than play another minute against bots. Game over.

Unfortunately that meant I didn't get my 7 points to level up. We all wanted to see if we'd be penalized the 1,500 points for "quiting" the game just because the host quit. We stuck around for one more match and I was able to level up. We also found out that we didn't lose the penalty for dropping out. But that's not always the case.

I've played a couple of games where I've left early. One I willing took the penalty instead of sticking around in a laggy game. The other times I've lost connection to the host or that other error message (something about timing out). Sometimes I've gotten the penalty and sometimes I haven't. After talking to my friends that's happened to them too. One of them lagged out of a game due to his internet connection and got the penalty. It's wasn't his fault, but I guess a computer system wouldn't recognize that.

As much as I like the fact that you can now see where you stand, the random penalty assessment is very annoying. But does it matter anyway? If you play long enough everyone will be able to max out their rank in the game. A higher rank doesn't necessarily mean you're better than the person next to you, it just means you've played it long enough to accumulate a lot of points. Now, for some people it might take them one month to get to rank 20 (like me) when someone else can do it in a couple of days. That is a differentiation in rank but that doesn't show up when you get into a public room. You don't know if that "15er" has been playing a couple of days or just a couple of hours. I know the system that everyone has compared the new ranks in Gears 2 to is Call of Duty. But with Call of Duty it's the same way. I'm on my third level of prestige in COD4 and I'm not that good of a player.

Even though we have the "experienced" based ranking that you can see in a game lobby the developers said they still kept the "true skill ranking" for better matchmaking, but it just stays in the back ground. While I like the idea of playing against similarly skilled players instead of facing a room full of zen masters, it bothers that they say "you're a 13 ranked player but we're going to treat you like a 2 ranked player because of your skill". If I'm a terrible shot than just all me that. I can handle it.

And how can we be sure that "true skill" rankings are accurate. My friend Genghis Khan leads all friends in almost every single category on my friend's leaderboard, but he never achieved a gold stripe in the original ranking system. Evil Ric, who's not far behind Genghis on many of the boards, got a gold stripe and kept it for a very long time before losing it and then never being able to get it back. Then there's other players that got the stripe, lost it, got it back and lost it again. And they couldn't figure out why. Where's the consistency in that?

I think this new ranking system is a huge step in the right direction, but I don't think it's perfect. The "true skill" ranking is too much like Halo's system (which is Microsoft's baby) so there should be no surprise that it's used in this game. But it's a system that I don't think anyone's ever really understood. It's just now that the gaming population has cried loud enough for someone to do something about it. And while I will probably never max out my prestige levels in Call of Duty games there is some hope that I can max things out in Gears of War 2. It just might take me until the next game comes out before I do. Another year or two should give me enough time.