Playing: July 28th

I have interest in tinkering with this site again, hehe. Entering a general gaming lull: there’s not a whole lot new or interesting releases coming until Fall. WoW wise, I think expansionitis is setting in for half the server o_O. I want a beta key!

Resistance
At some point I might pick up Resistance Fall of Man whenever the Playstation 3 greatest hits come out. The viral marketing for Resistance 2, its sequel piqued my interest (well, partly because the videos feature Katee Sackhoff, aka Starbuck from the most awesomest show on Television). It sounds intriguing and seems to have been reviewed highly. I find most console shooters and their cludgy controls a turn off though.

…continuing my Metal Gear fixation

I find MGO interesting though I haven’t played it a whole lot. It’s not quite a shooter and integrates some of Metal Gear Solid’s stealth elements into the online gameplay.

Errata
I have this… inability to play full screen games for long periods now without having to check my email, check my news feeds, IM’s, guild forums, etc. That is, unless they really grab me. Windowed games (like WoW) as well as console games are nice because they don’t require full focus of my computer.

Playing: July 14th

I feel like blogging again.

Super Stardust HD
SSHD is an arcade style shooter (destroy anything that moves, collect power-ups, dodge anything that moves and isn’t a power-up) available on the PSN. Oh God it’s crack…and has over the past week or so, admittedly occupied more of my free gaming time than I care to admit. I miss this game genre.

Shadow of the Colossus
I was reading an interesting discussion earlier this week on games with sad plot lines and this title came up multiple times. I know that it has received extremely high regard when it was released in 2005, but I never picked it up for whatever reason. It’s only like, $15 used at Gamestop; Might pick it up this week.

Metal Gear Solid 4
I have a huge strictly metaphorical gamer hard-on for anything Metal Gear. I consequently adore all aspects of the game/story, including the parts that make abso-fucking-lutely no sense. I was going to type out a lengthy afterthought review but I’m sure that at this point, anything that I could possibly ever say regarding the gameplay and plot has already been covered a hundred times over.

Among all installations, 4 by far has the best gameplay and control scheme. They really polished and streamlined it to the point where it is *gasp* actually valid as an action game. But that said, you really do have to play through all of the previous Metal Gear Solid games in order to fully appreciate and understand MGS4.

WoW
*Thinking about going to BlizzCon this year* I am, to be honest, not really much of a convention goer though…

Happy June

Happy umm June! I had five or so half-completed entries milling on Google Docs for two months. By the time I got around to editing and reviewing them, all were out of date/irrelevant; Meh. Gaming stuff:

  • I updated the guild site/forums. Note to self: Update the homepage recruitment, kills, etc.
  • Bought a Playstation 3, GTA IV, and HDMI/DVI adapter the other week and have spent every free moment fawning over it.
  • Speaking of PS3 games, Metal Gear Solid 4 comes out soon. I should really wait until I beat GTA IV before buying it, but we’ll see how temptation goes. My gaming life follows this pattern: Buy a game, half-complete it, buy another game, ignore game one. Consequently, I have a stack of unfinished games. Though, most of them are left unfinished because they sucked or were a giant waste of time (*cough FFXII*).

Workspace obsession
My living space is becoming a dump. I’m on a small quest again to organize it but I cannot find office furniture that fits my exact needs dimension wise. Everything is either too wide, too tall, or does not match. I want a relatively narrow drawer/filing unit. No wider than 12″ & no taller than 27″.

This one from the wonderful world of Ikea might work. I very badly need more storage space to organize guitar cables, charging cables, USB cables…Everything at the moment is on the floor.

Other things/WoW

  • I am bent on learning how to play every single tune from Mega Man II on the guitar. I tabbed around half of the Wily Castle theme, but got lazy and just googled the rest.
  • A guild member pointed out this site. Handy quick gear check/reference /App vetting tool.
  • I have a growing stack of badges and nothing to buy for my tanking set. I should just blow them all on Emp Saph’s and epic gem out the rest of my slots. There’s not a whole lot of gear that I’m going to be upgrading any time soon (until Hyjal).

The Belkin n52te

100_1487Earlier this year Belkin released the n52te, an updated version of the n52 gaming keypad that I wrote about last year. I caved in and bought it recently. The n52 is comfortable because it has an ergonomically designed hand rest (if you have the n52te, it’s coated in rubber). Out of all the gamepads that I’ve tried, the n52 was the only comfortable peripheral, in my opinion at least.

I think that many people are put off by the fact that the n52 doesn’t have as many keys as some of the other popular gamepads. If you are wise about using both the n52 shift states (red, green, blue) and the normal keyboard shift states (shift, control, alt, and any combination of such), you will have MORE than enough buttons to bind everything that you could possibly want. Anyways, the n52te:

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The keys on the n52te are a huge improvement. One of my only gripes about the original device was that the keys, especially the circular button, were very stiff and took quite a bit of time to break in. The new buttons are way more responsive. They are soft and quiet, I’d say somewhere between laptop keys and normal soft keys “feel wise.

The scroll wheel was also significantly loosened up so that it feels more akin to a normal mouse wheel. I own a Razer Diamondback, it feels pretty similar in terms of click and looseness. The dpad on the n52te comes with a “joystick” on it, kind of similar to the ones on the Playstation Dual Shock controllers. It’s made of plastic and doesn’t grip your thumb sufficiently. It is however, easily removable if you do not like it.

I don’t know why Belkin/Razer chose do to this, but the null shift state was eliminated. Consequently, that is one less set of keys that you are able to bind. So if you use all 4 (null, green, red and blue), you are kind of SoL. Rumor is that the null state might be re-added in a future driver update.

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The orange rubbery non-slip pad has been replaced by 6 rubbery feet, which grip better. The orange pad though adequate, still slid a bit, especially when my desk was dirty. Earlier n52te models had problems with the pads being uneven and rocking. Belkin seems to have resolved the issue since my gamepad is fine.

The profiles now load onto the controller’s internal memory, allowing you to plug and play it without having to install anything. The software, now powered by Razer, is completely different now. The editor and the loader have been integrated. A few people have complained that the new software was hard to use. It doesn’t bother me, but I don’t extensively use the macros so, *shrug.*

To be honest, the $70 price tag for the Tournament Edition is a bit much (the new keys really really do feel much nicer though…and it matches my keyboard and mouse lol). If you already own an n52, it’s not a huge upgrade. If you don’t own one, if you can get past the learning curve it is an invaluable gaming tool. Highly recommended!

Tips:

  • Bind your movement keys to the cursor keys instead of WASD. That way, you will be able to chat AND move, even if the chatbar is active. No more: “wwwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa fuck.”
  • It was also suggested to bind all of your most commonly used spells to non printing keys.
  • The LED backlight can be toggled on and off with a switch on the bottom of the pad.

WoW Update 10/30/07

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I’ll get to responding to people and what not within the next day or two, after I tend to guild administrative stuff, which I am also behind in lol. Last week was hectic: I had to evacuate my residence on Monday and Tuesday of last week because of the wildfire situation in Southern California. Everyone and everything is okay thankfully, but ugh…

I’ve been putting off the Halloween events and finally had a chance to do the Headless Horseman event (by do I mean farm) last night in Scarlet Monastery. Picked up a spell damage ring, a healing ring, and a neat looking pumpkin hat (will post screenshot later, I don’t have them at my work machine). Fashion > All.

My WoW playtime has been somewhat reduced as of late because Fall marks the start of game season. Game season means that I am distracted by the multitude of triple-A releases between October and Christmas. As a consequence, my 2.3 badge farming endeavor is going rather slowly. I want my legs and I want them the very second 2.3 goes live (whenever that is)!

So the Crysis demo: I had an eyegasm. You won’t find a more visually stunning game anywhere, it’s beautiful. Hell, it even looks great set at medium on a low ass resolution (WTB new video card). Everything is interactive including the trees and buildings and the AI is reasonably smart. I wasn’t really blown away by the storyline or the gameplay, but that’s an unfair evaluation given that it’s just a short demo.

Beyond the graphics and amusing myself with the physics engine, I am very interested in seeing how the plot, pacing, and gameplay size up to some of my old standbys (ultimately, I like well rounded games). Depending on how well executed those elements are, I smell a possible new contender for 2007 game of the year. I think I am going to need a new video card in order to enjoy the game properly.

Gaming Rant: Stop Boring Me

So I have this big problem: I buy games but don't finish them. My shelf is full of first person shooters, RPGs, strategy games and the like for multiple platforms, all collecting dust. This was just going to be a short blurb with a list of reasons why I never finish games, but it kind of turned into a long ass rant. I swear I'm not full of ire, I'm just bored…

Single player time-sinks are not fun anymore because I have no time to sink. I consider myself an average gamer demographic: working age adult in my twenties. That means that I have a couple of hours at most every night that I am willing to dedicate to a full screen game (as opposed to WoW, or another game where I am doing something else most of the time).

Long games need to have natural breaks built in. Usually breaks are down in the form of missions, levels, episodes and what not. Such episodes must be of reasonable length, no more than an hour or two. If I have to turn the game off to sleep or head out for an errand, I can't spend an additional half hour looking for a save point or a safe place to exit the game.

Games need better pacing. If at any point I am bored for more than an hour, there is a very high chance that I will turn the game off, set it down, and never pick it up ever again. Cut the filler crap: Artificial increases in difficulty in place of intelligent AI and design is not clever. I love a challenging game, but I don't like 30 hour long jumping puzzles, I don't like ammo starvation (if you give me a shotgun I want to use it), and I don't like final bosses so ungodly difficult that it forces you to farm for hours (I know what you all are thinking and fuck you, WoW is different). That's lazy and poor game design.

New game mechanics and devices are needed, I want innovation. Given our level of technology and the resources available to developers, I kind of expect more in terns of things like NPC interaction and play. I think that some of my malcontent towards most single player games stems from the rise in multiplayer games. Human beings, for good or bad add a completely new level of complexity to a game. As a result, computer characters often seem dry in contrast. After all, the depths of e-tards and e-drama are infinite, the depths of shitty AI are not.

I swear that the gaming industry is just as bad as the movie industry at times in terms of delivering pretty looking media with very little substance. Computer graphics by nature date themselves very fast. Take a look at some of the games that were your favorites 5 years ago. Replay them and see how many are still fun (Personally, I can probably name them on one hand. Deux Ex, Half-Life, and a few others). There's something to say though about developers who put extra attention into the art direction in a game, possibly at the expense of having a new cutting edge graphical engine. I admire that.

Oblivion: Fighter’s Stronghold

I’ve written about Oblivion once or twice, so I suppose this bit of news is worth mentioning: There’s a new official Oblivion download available from the Bestheda site and it’s free until next Monday (the 22nd of October).

The Fighter’s Stronghold is a full castle for you to explore, hold your shit, hire servants, collect furniture, and otherwise live out your Elder Scrolls Sims fetish/fantasy. Features (full backstory and what not is detailed in the link provided above):

  • A fully detailed castle for you to explore
  • Knights of the True Horn patrol the castle and do your bidding
  • Secret treasure vault
  • Upgrade the furnishings in every area of the castle
  • Hire a vintner to create special wines to enhance your fighting abilities
  • Hire a combat trainer to spar with
  • Hire a taxidermist to craft lifelike trophies for your great hall
  • Purchase an ancient Dwemer Forge that buffs your Armorer skill

I am immediately attracted to anything like this for some reason. So if you still play Oblivion, it seems like a cool dig to plan world destruction from. If you’ve retired from Cyrodiil, it still looks interesting enough to pickup during server maintenance or when your ISP explodes. Did I mention that it’s free this week? I like free…

Game Review: Portal

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I don’t think I’ve talked about Portal enough or how much I love it. Portal is a first person puzzle game/comedy based off of Narbacular Drop, a game created by students at the DigiPen Institute who were later hired by Valve to work on Portal. It’s not a traditional first person game; So if you dislike shooters, I still highly recommend picking it up for legitimate and refreshing fun.

I really expected it to be little more than a tech demo of the Portal gun, for the sake of introducing new gameplay and letting the modding community have at it. In fact, since the Portal mechanics and the puzzles are so damn fun and intuitive, I would have been happy with just a tech demo. Instead, I was very pleasantly surprised to find a self-contained immersive story with a compelling narrative.

Basically: You wake up in a futuristic sleeping chamber. Guided by a snarky computer voice, you are run through a series of “tests” with only a portal gun and the promise of moist cake. The gun shoots two portals that will attach to (almost) any surface and act as a gateway between each other.

The dialogue, written by the guys who did Old Man Murray (funny gaming website of early 00’s fame), is hilarious and just bizarre. It’s a pretty simple story that you just have to play because I can’t describe it very well without giving away the fun surprises. Oh, it also has the best ending song in the history of ending songs. Just, so satisfying.

If you don’t want to purchase all of the Orange Box (why not though? 5 games for $50 is a steal), Portal is available via Steam as a standalone download for $20. I guess my only con is that the game is fairly short at about 3 hours (give or take a half-hour) for a play-through. After completion, several additional modes unlock (not to mention the possibility of fun user created mods). WELL worth prying your fingers away from WoW for one of the best games of the year.

PS: For those who have beaten it, rumor is that the Valve online store will have Weighted Companion Cube toys (plushies??) in stock by this Christmas!

Orange Box: Impressions

kind of wanted to do a full article/review on Orange Box, but I am so damn tired this week from getting to bed past 1am every night (playing games of course). I need to finish reading through 2.3 PTR notes before making a commentary post (PROTECTION BUFF PALLYGASM).

I pre-ordered The Half-Life 2: Orange Box over the weekend, which was unlocked at midnight the other evening. So I’ve sacrificed nearly all of my farming, instancing, and Doombeard leveling time this week for the sake of obsessing about it. I worship Valve games almost as much as I worship Blizzard games (almost). TL;DR version of the following: Get it. Get it now.

Team Fortress 2 is damn fun, the play reminds me of the WoW battlegrounds a bit in the sense that both are class based team versus team games with similar objectives (node capture, capture the flag, etcetera). I love the art style; it’s just perfect.

Portal is unique first person puzzle game that takes around 3 hours to complete, give or take a half hour. If you haven’t heard of it, YouTube the trailer, the portal gun is endlessly fascinating to play with. I was mostly interested in it for the gameplay value, I didn’t expect it to be funny! The AI adds sadistic humor to the game while interweaving narrative (it’s set in the Half-Life universe).

Upon completion, an advanced mode is unlocked with 6 more challenges, some limiting your time and the number of portals that you can use. I highly recommend playing through the game a second time in commentary mode, it offers insight on the game’s development and design.

I can’t comment on Episode 1 or 2 because I haven’t played them yet. I need to play through Episode 1 first (didn’t buy it originally, wanted to wait for them all to come out or for a compilation). But before that, I want to play through Half-Life 2 since it’s kind of been 3 years. Orange Box is a great deal. Even if you have already purchased HL2 and HL2: Episode 1, it’s still 3 excellent games for $50. A real bargain if you ask me!

Oblivion: Custom Class

I have a Weekly WoW post stored on a text file somewhere that I will post Thursday or Friday. Thought that it would be nice for once to highlight one of the non WoW games that I enjoy playing. Yeah yeah yeah, I picked up Oblivion again and rolled a new character.

I love RPGs of all styles, but the problem is that I just don't have the time to sit and play them straight through to the end anymore without getting distracted or busy with one thing or another. Oblivion is great because it is based off of a quest system, not too incredibly different than WoW (sort of). This means that I can set it down for a month or two, pick it up, and not lose my place since it's not super linear.

The leveling system though feels counter-intuitive because it is very easy to screw your character to the point where the game is unbeatable. This is the way it works: There are a total of 21 skills in the game (blade, stealth, illusion, etc). Upon class creation, you choose 7 major skills, the rest are minor. If any any time you raise any combination of your major skills by 10 points, you level up.

The problem is that the enemies scale with your level. If you were to say, level your character a lot exclusively using non-combative skills (alchemy, security, etc), all enemies that you face will be at your level, but you will have the combat skills of a lower player.

Spellblade Assassin
I'm going to play this class as a stealth character designed around blade assassination and destruction magic kiting (for non-stealth encounters). You can either stealth via leveling illusion spells or through good ol' fashioned sneaking. I left it open for either because I myself haven't decided yet.

The skill choices are strange because I selected them around the philosophy of 100% leveling control. The major skills listed are all ones that are controllable and I will not be forced to use too often.

  • Sign: Thief
  • Specialization: Stealth
  • Attributes: Speed, Intelligence
  • Major Skills: Alchemy (int), Restoration (willpower), Marksman (agi), Acrobatics (speed), Block (endurance), Blunt (str), Speechcraft (personality)
  • Race: Male Dark Elf is ideal since it boosts all necessary stats. I will though, probably stick with Imperial for aesthetic reasons 😛

If you want, Atronach or Mage are both viable sign alternatives. Atronach though is expensive since you will be chugging down pots to make up for the 0 regen disability. It also might not be all that wise since I chose alchemy as a major skill. Mage is fairly safe, magicka bonus and no diability. Thief in my opinion is a good general stealth sign…the luck bonus is nice too.

I thought that I would try playing something different for once, rather than rolling yet another paladin. I actually love games that facilitate stealth based FPS/3rd person play (Thief is a favorite series of mine). But what can I say: I like hybrid classes.