Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 3 and beyond of Xbox 360 Purgatory

So, my first couple of days didn't go so well back on the PS2. It's certainly not the consoles fault. I'm just a little rusty with the system. Everything will go much better now. Right?

Not exactly. I gave up on Half-Life. I just wasn't in the mood to replay the opening part again for at least the 4th time. Time for a new game. So I put in SSX Tricky. If there's any game that could get me out of this funk that would be the game to do it.

Except I couldn't get my controller to activate. No matter what buttons I pushed or how many times I plugged the controller in and out it just wouldn't do anything in the game. So I took the game out and put in another one. After all the controller worked during Half-Life so that couldn't be the problem. Right?

I put in TimeSplitters. If SSX Tricky couldn't do anything for me TimeSplitters should be able to pick up the slack. When the game booted up my controller wouldn't work in that game either.

Maybe there's nothing wrong with the game, but something is wrong with my controller.

So I now I had to figure out where my extra Playstation controllers were kept. I still have boxes I haven't unpacked, could they be in one of them? Or maybe there in a box or plastic crate that I have opened up, but just haven't done anything with. And then it hit me. I unpacked a bag of extra controllers for all my systems, along with extra cords of all kinds, and placed it behind the TV. After pulling out the bag and rummaging around for a Playstation controller I finally found one and plugged it in. I was ready to play. And it worked.

I played through the first mission in the story mode of TimeSplitters before I got bored (it's just not the same playing by yourself) and then went back to SSX Tricky. I picked the character Zoe (because of my dog) and headed down the first mountain as a refresher course. I was starting to hang of it so I started the second race. That was when the real Zoe decided the only place she wanted to be right then was sitting on my lap. And the only thing she wanted to be doing was licking my hands. I couldn't get her to stop. And I couldn't play while she did it. So I turned the system off, turned the TV on, and let my dog get comfortable in my lap. Twenty minutes later she was off to play with her Wubbie, but I was too tired of hassling with things just to play a video game that I didn't bother turning the system back on.

The next day, after work when I had a chance to play again, I decided I was going to play an RPG. And old RPG. The kind of game that got me hooked as a gamer in the first place. So I took some time and flipped through my book of games trying to decide which game to play.

I wanted a game to get lost in the story. If it was something I had already started I didn't want to be too far along in the game because I either wouldn't know what was going on or I would have to restart it and play through parts I had already done. That left a lot of the Final Fantasy games.

I also didn't want to play a game that was on 4 disks. I wanted something quick and not something that would take months to play through. That left out .dot Hack, the Final Fantasy games (again), Xenosaga (even through their multiple "games" it's still one story line to me) and number of other games as well. I also eliminated the Grandia series even though their not 4 disks in length. If I played the first one I might very well want to move on to the later ones as well and then when would I play my 360 when I get it back?

After a couple of other elimination rounds I had it narrowed down to my two Arc the Lad games or Chrono Trigger (and then Chrono Cross if my system was out that long). On the one had I had played through Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits and I think I got to the end but I couldn't beat the final boss. I didn't have the right armor or weapons and I was caught in an area that wouldn't let me leave to go find them. So I had restarted the game (see, I'm always restarting games) making sure I keep the required weapons/armor for that final boss. And then stopped about a quarter of the way through the game. I didn't want to start from scratch again, but since I've already played the game it didn't have that much appeal for me this time.

On the other hand I really wanted to play Chrono Cross, but that's a game I've started at least 3 times that I can remember. I love that game. But I have a problem with that game. I'm a completionist at heart so I want to collect every single playable character there is in the game. But once I have them in my party I have a hard time managing all their skills and growth. I get overwhelmed. Find out I missed picking up another characters. So I restart the game with a specific game play in place for when I pick up new characters. I love working with the battle system and field effects. But I have a hard time picking the right characters for the right battles. If I played this game I know I'd want to start all over again, but the first 2-3 hours of that game are boring because I've played them so many times.

So after looking at all the pros and cons I decided on playing Chrono Trigger. It's a game I don't think I've played (although the first 10 minutes looked a little familiar, but maybe I just watched dain play the game) and I didn't have a saved game file for. I could start fresh. Yeah!

I put the disk in, played for 41 minutes (according to the save file) before I got to a good stopping point before going to bed. But before I went to bed I remembered I had the strategy guide for this book and I should probably get it out to have handy just in case I get stuck. Once I got it out I started flipping through it and found out that I had missed exploring half of the opening area, missed out on half of the mini-games at the fair, and didn't do one of the things I would need to do later on in the game. Great. Re-start anyone?

I went to bed debating whether I should re-start the game (great, another re-start) or just make do with what I've done so far. One of the things I failed to do (win a clone of yourself) I could do later on in the game but would be harder to get. Plus I had spent all my meager gil on items that I didn't have enough to fully equip myself when I set out. If I had explored the other areas mentioned in the book I would have had the money to get everything I wanted and I would be better prepared for battles to come. What to do?

After a long day at work I decided I would re-start the game, explore all the areas available to me, have a hand at all the mini-games in the fair and win myself a clone. Like I said I'm a completionist at heart. When I got to the same point where I had saved before it had only added 20+ minutes to my game, but it was well worth it. I had enough gil to buy anything and everything I wanted and I had mastered two Techs, whereas the book recommended one. And every since then that is all I have been playing. When I get further into it I might post a review.

I should have my 360 back by this weekend, if not sooner. Until then I'll keep playing Chrono Trigger and maybe I can finish it. And maybe I'll just keep my PS2 out so I can play other games. Every now and then.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Days 1 and 2 of Xbox 360 Purgatory

So my Xbox 360 died and I had to send it back. This leaves me in some kind of purgatory. Do I wait until my console comes back? Do I buy (another) back up because it's going to be awhile? You knows.

What I do know is that the first time I had to send my original console in for repair all my friends who had done them same said it took them 1-3 months before they got their system back. I couldn't wait that long. So I bought a back up. Who knew that I would get my original system back a week and half from the date I dropped it off at the UPS store?

It worked out to kaiakapero's advantage when I let him borrow my original, while I played on my backup. Then within in the last couple of months kai's died (again) and I had to make arrangements to send that back. That time also only took a week and half to two weeks for the total turn around time (even though he was out of a system much longer because I didn't send it in right away).

So how much time will it take this time?

Who knows.

This time it's a different error. The dreaded "E 74" error. And probably related to the graphic chip set. This isn't going to be an easy fix. Will they repair my console, which could take awhile, and then ship it back? Or once they receive my console, ship back a different one that they have already repaired? I hope not. In the mean time I'm left to wonder how long it will take before I have an Xbox 360 back to play on.

In the meantime I've decided to pull out my PS2 and catch up on some old games. It hasn't gone well so far.

Day 1:
After watching TV and eating a relaxing dinner I pulled out my PS2 and dusted it off. Then I had to hook it up. Apparently that wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. The TV cable wasn't connected in the back and I didn't feel like moving everything around to get back there to connect it. The multi-cable system I had in the front didn't seem to want to connect all the way in. I couldn't figure out which TV a/v input channel to put the TV on. I had a hard time finding a controller. But finally I got to turn it on and start the gaming. At least that's what I thought.

I realized that I needed a game disk in order to play something on the PS2. I know that sounds funny, but with all the Arcade games I own on the 360 there's tons of games I can start playing immediately without having to bother with a disk. And don't get me started on carrying around a CORDED controller again.

I pulled out my binder with all my PS and PS2 (and original Xbox) games and had to dust that off as well. Then I started flipping through all those pages of games. So many choices . . . so little time. I finally decided on Bust-A-Move '99. Why? because it was towards the front (alphabetically) and it would be a quick, easy transition into the Dual Shock controller. Except that it wasn't quick.

The load times were terrible. I think I sat and waiting for screens to load longer than I actually played the game. If this was what the system was like for a simple bubble popping game what would an RPG or FPS be like? I couldn't remember.

After my frustrated warm up I decided to put in a game that would give me a greater sense of achievement (unfortunately without the beep and a little pop up box). I pulled out Final Fantasy Tactics. I loved that game and I've played it recently on my PSP so the game mechanics were familiar to me even if I hadn't played it on the PS since 2007 (according to the save game file). Even though I didn't spend a whole lot of time getting familiar with my current cast of characters I picked some out and jumped into my first battle. Big mistake!

On the map there was a high wall that separated my team from the enemy. Unfortunately I didn't have anyone with a high enough jump skill to get on top of that wall or anyone with a range to cast a spell past that wall (or more than a couple of squares away). Within three rounds my whole team was dead except for one and he wasn't going to last until his next turn. I killed the power, called it night and went to bed.

Length of gaming session? 30 minutes (at most)

Day 2:
This day I was going to be prepared. I thought long and hard about what I was going to do and I had a plan. I was going to play Half-Life. I've started it several times (like so many of my older games) but hadn't gotten very far. If I just focused on that game and played it every night for a week and a half (based on past experiences) I could be well into the game to continue once my system was back . . . or will have finished the game by then. And if I finished? I could play Half-Life 2 on my Xbox 360. Win-win situation right? Not so fast.

After putting the disk in I got a message that it couldn't read the disk. Oh great. Is my PS2 going to die too? Or maybe there's just too much dust collected inside for it to work properly. I took the disk out, made sure there wasn't anything on it and blow into the disk tray. I put the disk back in and after a very long time for the system to be "reading the disk" it finally loaded up. Yeah!

Then I was left with a decision. I had a saved game file but I didn't know where I was in the story (and I couldn't remember the controlls or story line). Do I start over? Or pick up where I left off? I decided to start over.

I rode the tram through the facility and listed to the announcements and sat through annoyingly frequent load screens. I finally got to a put where I could move around and I started off on my merry way. Got my hazard suit on. Headed down the hall. Tried to access a terminal. And got stuck. Literally.

Apparently I tried to access a terminal at the same time a NPC walked up and stood right in front of it. When I tried to walk away my character couldn't move. When I tired hitting the access button all it would do was talk to the NPC. So I decided to wait until he moved off. Surely I could move then. Unfortunately he couldn't walk away because I was stuck right behind him. Great. I can't move until he moves. But he can't move until I move. I'm having so much fun.


I decided to load the save file and see where that put me. Apparently I didn't make it through the training the last time I played.

Power off.

And goodnight to ya all.

Length of gaming session? 30 minutes (at most)

I think this is going to be a long week and a half. And for my own sanity I hope it doesn't take longer than that before I get my Xbox 360 back. If any of you have any suggestions of other, more productive, things to do with my time let me know. Or if you have older games you'd like me to play and review/chronicle my woes in drop a line in the comments. Who knows what I'll play tonight. If I get to play anything at all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Zombies!? Are you kididng me?

Okay, I promised you a post about zombies . . . and it's going to be a whopper. But first I think you need some back ground info.

On a writing forum I'm a member of we've been having a discussion about the appeal of vampires (and how they've changed through history) as they're portrayed in the media (books, movies, etc.) these days. The more we talked about it the more I realized that from a geek/nerd perspective, it's not vampires, but zombies. We love our undead. Just look at all the zombie killing games that are out there. Hunter the Reckoning, Resident Evil, Left for Dead, Zombie Apocalypse, Dead Space and even Call of Duty: World at War. Just to name a few.

But unlike vampires, the undead have remained creepy. There's no love story between a lonely female human and the undead, but handsome, creature she stumbles across. If one of the undead (handsome or not . . . and usually not) stumbled across a human (male or female) the only thing going through whatever passes for their brains would be "Mmmmm, warm flesh, me hungry". And that doesn't bode well for the human.

With that said, that very same night I had that brilliant epiphany (I thought it was brilliant) I got an email from Borders Books with the subject line "Star Wars and Zombies". Eh? At first glance I thought they were trying to put those two ideas together, but then I figured it was poor editing/proofreading on someone's part and what they were trying to say was "we have new Star Wars books and new Zombie books". It is, after all, the Halloween season. And there's no shortage of suckers for anything Star Wars. As a geek AND a nerd (and a sucker) when it comes to Star Wars I opened up the email and found this book:

My first thought was "Oh, it looks creepy". Then I read the plot details.

Apparently the subject line of the email was not an error, but in fact there are now zombies inhabiting the Star Wars universe. Zombies? In Star Wars? Are you kidding me?

The story is about some virus that spreads rapidly through a prison transport space barge and turns troopers/prisoners into zombies. Seriously? We've seen that before. Hunter the Reckoning happens with inmates in a prison. Dead Space has zombies in space. Now you mix those two together, throw them into the Star Wars Universe and WRITE A BOOK ABOUT IT? Are you kidding me?

Have the geeks and nerds of this world become so infatuated with zombies (like teen girls and the Twilight novels/movies) that we have to tarnish the most Holy of all geek/nerd-doms with zombies? Is that what is going to keep the Star Wars universe relevant to today's kids? Or is Lucas Arts that hard pressed for fresh original ideas that they decided one day "let's add zombies to Star Wars and see what the fans think"?

Well, this fan (and one who buys everything/anything Star Wars related) was revolted. I wanted to throw up. I felt like my innocent childhood of big dreams and epic space operas had been violated . . . by a lurching mass of the undead. Yes, I will most likely read this book. After all I am a Star Wars geek/nerd to the tenth power. Do I think this book will be an entertaining read? Possibly. Will it be great literature? I doubt it. But then again someone did put zombies in Pride and Prejudice. I guess they had to do something to get kids these days to read.

Monday, October 19, 2009

And she's down for the count

I just got the dreaded E74 error message on my console. I played some zombie matches with Pogue, MadMax and Genghis Khan and was having some graphical difficulties. As long as I didn't look around or things moved in front of me I was okay. Once things, or I, started to move around things would get all wonky on me. We took a break for dinner and when I logged back in the dashboard was all wonky right from the get go. I turned it off, made sure every cord was connected properly and then I got the E74 error message. I tried several different things but it wouldn't go away. So I set up a repair ticket, printed off the shipping label and will stop my the UPS Store to ship it off tomorrow. Hopefully it won't take long (and I'll get my same system back). I hope you all don't forget me.

Now I guess I have no excuse for not hooking up my PS2 and getting back to some of those games.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Poll - Make new friends?

Hey, look it's a new poll. 8-) Yes, I know I haven't posted in awhile. Maybe more on that later. Until then I have a new poll for you. Here it is.

Have you ever befriended someone based on their gamer picture or avatar?

Yes, their gamer picture was hot
Yes, their avatar was hot
Yes, their gamer picture AND avatar were hot
No, I don't like making friends

So, which is it? Vote now and we'll see what the results are in a week. I promise I'll post something before then. I'm working on a whopper of an idea. It has zombies.